Analytics and Webcomics; What They Can Tell You.
This is ultimately the story of why I just redrew the first page of my comic.
For those unfamiliar, Google offers a service called “Google Analytics” – it provides a fairly easy to use (or at least there are detailed directions) set of data tools. This is the sort of thing that someone like me would usually ignore entirely left to my own devices – but with a combined prompting from a friend of mine who works in the devil’s own business (marketing) and Google’s adsense page, I set it up and took a gander.
There are a lot of metrics that don’t apply, or frankly have little effect on my business of making webcomics. There are few that are pretty relevant to webcomics. I’ll talk about three of them:
Bounce Rate: This is people that came to your page, looked at it, and left without interacting with it.
Exit Rate: This is the page that people left your page from.
New vs Returning: How many people are hitting your page for the first time vs how many are coming back to it from previous visits.
While Bounce and Exit Rate are not the same thing, I’ll talk about them in same section. For starters – neither are necessarily bad. For returning users to bounce off of your main page is pretty typical – they just checked the latest update, read it, and left. If the average time is less than a few seconds, maybe a concern, other than that, not so much. Ditto for exit rate – if they are exiting from your main page – well, they had to exit from somewhere!
Where they are something you might want to look at is when you see something like the first page of your comic having a 60% exit rate.
Any webcomic is not for everyone – so, sure, people will take a gander at it leave. But since my landing page isn’t my first page, what this tells us is that 60% of the people that came to the comic, thought “hmm, this might be worth reading” and clicked first took a look and skedaddled (which is apparently a real word, since the spell check was telling me I spelled it wrong as “skadaddled”).
There aren’t too many levers you can pull as a creator of webcomics – primarily you have three: Produce More Content, Produce Better Content, and Promote More. Analytics can tell you which lever you need to pull the most. High bounce rate? Produce Better Content Lever. Declining Returning Users? Produce More Content Lever. No new users? More Promoting Lever. Obviously this is a dummies version – that’s because I’m a dummy; but it’s still things that can help if you’re in the market of trying to make your webcomic a profitable hobby.
What did I learn from page analytics and what am I going to do about it:
Most users that deliberately went to the first page left from that page. I redrew the first page and will endeavor to slowly update further pages to improve the new reader experience.
A high amount of new users didn’t navigate beyond the home page. This is something I can do less about – a lot of the users probably were simply not interested in the comic.
There are a few levers here – one is making sure marketing is on target; if I place ads on websites further from the style/genre of my comic, more of the people clicking on the ad won’t want to read it, if I market more carefully, more will want to read it.
Second, general homepage design is something I’ve sort of slacked off on. Developing a high quality / correctly aligned background image might help, replacing more of default menus, etc. Perhaps even testing removing the above the fold ad.
All in all it was a some lessons learned; analytics can you help you run a webcomic. Maybe someday down the road I’ll post some more about how the steps taken changed the data.
*Please note that no advanced analytics about users is currently used for this page; only general anonymous behavior data.