The community news website I’ve run for the last five years, A Little Bit of Stone, is taking part in a research project run by Nesta’s Destination Local programme, along with nine other UK ‘hyperlocal’ operations.
It’s called ‘Action research in audience analytics’ and there’s more about it in a blog post from Destination Local programme manager Kathryn Geels, which says:
Between now and February, the participants will each explore how a more strategic use of website and social media analytics might help them define and measure their success online, improve their service, audience engagement and reach, and, in turn, their sustainability and legacy within their local community.
The programme has five key questions/objectives:
- What barriers are there to hyperlocal media publishers analysing their audience and content?
- How does training, upskilling and trial participation help hyperlocal media publishers overcome these barriers?
- What evidence do the trials provide about local audiences and their consumption of hyperlocal media?
- What evidence does this research provide to the wider sector about the cost-benefit of audience and content analysis and its impact on the commercial and social value proposition of services? – including services’ ability to demonstrate their value to potential partnerships with traditional/established media groups and local services
- Development and dissemination of learning resources for long-term benefit of and use by the wider hyperlocal media sector.
Nesta’s Destination Local research showed that hyperlocal sites aren’t utilising the power of audience analytics – A Little Bit of Stone certainly hasn’t, mainly through a lack of technical knowledge and failure to understand the importance of audience analytics.
The project kicked off on Friday with a training workshop at Nesta’s HQ in London. Below is a bit of a brain dump of ideas, thoughts, tips and links from the day.
I’ll be blogging throughout the project as I get to grips with audience analytics. Please do get in touch if you have advice or tips on anything below. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find me on Twitter @jvictor7
Dave Harte from Birmingham City University, and Bournville Blog, gave an overview of the UK hyperlocal sector from his research findings. Really interesting stuff and you can see his slides HERE, including some useful figures on people’s consumption of hyperlocal news.
MOBILE, MOBILE, MOBILE
The growth of mobile has been phenomenal over the last few years, with consumption of news online becoming mobile first. Websites that don’t work on mobile are pretty quickly going to be ignored by Google.
Naturally, advertising spend is increasingly going mobile too.
Alex Kozloff and Mike Reynolds from the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) – the UK trade association for digital advertising – said the spend on digital advertising in 2014 was £7.2 billion – with mobile making up 22% of this (up 63% in just one year and forecast to be half of digital advertising spend pretty soon. Pretty amazing considering it was just above 1% only five years ago).
Most digital advertising is paid search (52%), with 32% coming in display advertising, be that banners, content and native advertising, online video, social banner etc. Interestingly, the infuriating ‘interruptive’ advertising used prominently on regional newspaper websites only makes up 1% of the digital display ad spend.
Getting your site mobile
Mark Brill gave a great snapshot of how to make sure your hyperlocal site is primed for mobile.
- Make sure your site is mobile ready, either through a responsive template or specially designed mobile site
You can see what Google thinks of your site on mobile HERE
- Optimise search and local search
- Connect your channels
- Don’t forget your existing audience
- Discover new visual formats (vertical video, for example) and look at content co-creation
Mark’s slides are here…
It’s always seemed like the dark art of the internet to me, SEO, so it was wonderful to have a run-through of some of its elements from Chris Unitt.
- Use Google Search Console
- Make sure responsive design is in place so your site is mobile
- Check and improve site speed – GTMetrix was recommended
- Good permalinks and categories
- Install an SEO plugin (Yoast SEO recommended for WordPress sites)
SEO in posts
- Use keywords in titles – don’t use puns. They don’t work online, he says
- Use the ‘meta description’ to write snappy introductions to your posts that will be displayed in Google search
- Use ‘alt text’ for images – and use key words: good for audio readers as well as SEO
- Transcripts for audio and video if possible
- Internal linking: when writing a new post, always link to other relevant stories on your site
- Use key words in posts, especially in the title and first paragraph
Chris stressed the importance of getting site visitors’ email addresses (recommended the SumoMe WordPress plugin) and of asking questions of visitors, as well as having strong, highly visible calls to action and social sharing buttons on posts.
There are lots of links HERE
Chris also talked us through analytics.
With analytics, you have a number of reporting needs, internal and external.
- Web development
- Content development
- Audience development
- Potential contributors
Only go in to the analytics and find the data that you need when you know what you want to look for, and why you’re looking for it. What question do you need to answer.
A good line from the BBC’s guide to analytics – “We should not become slaves to analytics. Data should inform what we do; not tell us what to do”. The BBC Academy has some great stuff on analytics HERE by the way.
Social analytics – Facebook Insights / Twitter Analytics. Best social metrics tool out there, says Mark, is True Social Metrics
What to do first (SEO and analytics)
- Mend the leaky bucket – check tags, categories, key words, internal linking, permalinks etc
- Sort out on-site SEO
- Do keyword research (Keyword Tool is a free alternative to Google Keyword Planner)
- Set up Goals and Reports in Google Analytics
A suggested open-source alternative, if you have concerns about giving your data to Google, is PIWIK, recommended by the people from The Bristol Cable, another project participant
- Do a content audit
Google have free online analytics courses through their Analytics Academy.
Chris also talked about the usefulness of surveys and polls on hyperlocal sites and recommended the YOP Poll plugin.
On top of all the call to arms about mobile and SEO/analytics on the day was a great presentation from Abhay Adjikari on digital identity. He talked about the concept of ‘post-demographic consumerism’ – building audiences on the basis of shared values.
With any online project, he said, always start with ‘people’ before ‘content’. What people do you want to attract to your site? What conversations do you want to have?
Don’t try to speak to everyone in a community, he recommends. It’s OK to specialise and to speak to smaller, more defined audiences.
What happens next with the Nesta project?
I have to do at least four self-assigned experiments with audience analytics over the project period, at least one each month basically, and provide Nesta with raw data. I’ll be thinking about the first experiment, to be completed in October, over the next few days. So much to digest and think about!