Have a Pulse

By Andy Crestodina

We’ve all seen the medical shows where the ER docs grab the defibrillator paddles and shout, “Clear!” ZAP!

Checking Google analytics for website activity can be a lot like that. Without all the drama, of course.

We review Google Analytics for hundreds of websites. This gives us insight into what to look for and how to read the numbers – what’s good, what’s bad. It’s like looking at an EKG. Is the site healthy?

One thing that jumps out of anyone’s web stats: activity. An active site is a healthy site. By “activity” we mean web marketing activity – the ZAP! of the paddles, in ER parlance – as in: email marketing, social media and PR. If the website is being promoted, the spikes are usually obvious. The site has a pulse.

Looking for the ZAP!

Just as a doctor would review a cardiogram, we’ll look at actual Google Analytics charts for various sites using various techniques.

Think about it: without activity, websites just sit there, waiting for someone to visit. A website is content, packaged within a design, available on demand. But where does the demand come from?

You don’t need a lab coat and a doctorate in analytics to know: websites need to be promoted with out-bound activity. Without activity, your stats will flat-line.

There are three main types of web marketing activity that create a pulse: email marketing, social media and PR. Each will lead to spikes in traffic.

Pulse One: Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the surest ways to generate a pulse. As long as you have a list of interested subscribers and something interesting to say, you’re ready to give CPR to your site stats. Email marketing is probably your best opportunity to create a steady heartbeat.

The specific activity involves simply building your list, and writing and sending the email. The effect on your stats often looks something like this:


Even occasional email marketing leads to a pulse, in otherwise flat traffic levels. The two spikes in traffic on this chart are the days when an email marketing piece was sent.

Pulse Two: Social Media

A pulse is also visible for good social media activity. The right post or tweet can create surprising traffic spikes, often beyond expectations. Suddenly, Twitter and Facebook are the top referring sites. This kind of activity is less certain to create a spike – it’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle – but when it works, it can be big.

Social media is a marathon, not a sprint. It can seem like a time-consuming way to build traffic, but once you get started, it should become routine. The key? Be persistent! Sites that are promoted with social media may have traffic stats with an irregular pulse, such as this:

Statistics for a site promoted through social media. The pulse is erratic, but persistent.

Pulse Three: PR

The Pulse from press can be even more dramatic. Appearance in the press or on media sites always shows up in analytics as a welcomed pulse.

It can be difficult to be consistent with PR efforts. Often there has to be something going on within the business that garners attention, something worthy of getting press ink or incoming links. Creating ways to get attention is an art and a science.

One excuse to get a little press is the launching of a new site. The following is the chart from a site that got press just after the launch. There was a nice splash of traffic at first, but it wasn’t followed up with more pulse-quickening activity:

A launch announcement that got picked up by the press led to a strong pulse at first, but then traffic dwindled.

What about SEO?

In our experience, search engine optimization does wonders for your traffic and statistics, but SEO is not the same as out-bound activity. It’s not about reaching out and inviting visits, it’s about being easily found by those who are already looking. But it’s not a pulse. It’s a gradual increase over time.

After years SEO and slow, unsteady traffic increases, email marketing creates a pulse.

Keep in mind that SEO is a usually a slow way to market anything, so having a pulse can be a huge help. Also, that pulse may indirectly lead to incoming links. Search engines love that.


What the Doctor Ordered

To have a healthy pulse, we recommend getting into the following habits:

  • Connect – Grow your list of subscribers and followers, politely and consistently.
  • Write – Articles and press releases, white papers and tweets, case studies and witty comments.
    They’re all good.
  • Submit – To editors, bloggers, writers, article sites or any other places that have traffic and
    will accept your contributions.
  • Send – Email it, post it, tweet it.

Think of all of this as a cardio workout for your website. Get on a schedule and be proactive. Don’t wait for your visitors to find you. Write, reach out and have a pulse.


For more techniques on marketing content, read the 7 Steps of Content Marketing

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