Four Stories: A Decade of Writing Occam's Razor!

An off-topic post this week, to celebrate this incredible outpost you’ve helped create on the web, Occam’s Razor.

This month my beloved blog is ten years old. T. E. N!

It feels more like five. But, I’ve already celebrated the blog being five years old!

I have to admit life has been a tad bit busy lately, and it took a note from a reader to remind me of the birthday. Her note read: “…. and it is pretty impressive that you’ve managed to stay relevant for a decade, it is a very long time in digital years…”

It gave me a pause. I had to go check how long I’ve been at this.

My very first post was audaciously titled Traditional Web Analytics is Dead (05/15/06). Given that title, it is amazing that the whole thing has lasted a decade! 🙂

What is frankly shocking is how topical the content seems to be. Five minutes ago, 05/30/06, in my stream I saw a tweet by Christian Bartens referencing a post I’d written on 05/19/06! The 10 / 90 Rule for Magnificent Web Analytics Success.

So today, a little bit of reporting back to you how things have been, a little reflecting my sense of pride on the journey, and an invitation to you to contribute a little story about your experience with my beloved blog. Would you please add it to the comment below? Where are you, how long have you been reading it, what value have you found in it?

The Story In Numbers.

You’ll see in a moment just how much you have been a part of my success, I have actual numbers! 🙂 I’ll share below my journey over the last decade, what it took, I think, to keep Occam’s Razor at such high quality, and the decisions big and small it took to stay relevant and keep the brand of the blog so pure.

But, first, the numbers.

Here’s the Google Analytics trend for Sessions, or Visits as they used to be called back in the day. 🙂 A nice and steady increase in traffic until 2013, then then a flattening out.

occams razor traffic

What’s interesting is that I started the blog, very deliberately, only writing two posts a week. It was quite abnormal as most people blogged multiple times a day. Then as I grew busy after the first book, Web Analytics: An Hour A Day was published, June 2007, I started writing once a week to keep the quality high. I’d switched jobs by now and after the second book, Web Analytics 2.0, Oct 2009, I started writing every other week. Then once every three weeks, then, as you start to see the curve flatten after 2013, once a month.

What is pretty surprising is that traffic that stayed loyal kept increasing. I have 80k RSS Subscribers on Feedburner (what, it is still around!). And, there is also a feed available via Feedly, which currently has 39k Subscribers.

feedly occams razor subscribers

My rough estimation is that 200k people read the blog’s content each month.

I have always been a bit surprised about this because I only write once a month now. But, having analyzed the data in Google Analytics, it turns out a whole bunch of that traffic is reading older content.

And, people engage! There are 28 comments awaiting moderation right now, eight of them are on posts prior to 2010.

Speaking of which…

You are a massive part of my this blog is successful.

Not counting this post, I’ve written 913,661 words in ten years (I still can’t believe it has been ten years!). And, you all have contributed 939,657 words on comments!!

raw author contribution occam's razor

Honestly, it is simply unbelievable.

I’ll admit that encouraging comments, getting you to engage was a very deliberate part of my blogging strategy. I would reply personally to every single person who wrote a comment (I still do). And, it would be thoughtful. I would reply on the blog in a timely manner. Etc.

But this is well beyond my wildest imagination.

Here’s a comparison of you and myself…

conversation rate full stats occam's razor

27 comments on average per post. It used to be much bigger, but like on other blogs the comments have been impacted by social media’s evolution.

Thank you for being such an engaged audience. I will honestly tell you that when the going has gotten tough, your engagement, your questions, your kind words have been a huge motivator. Merci!

Speaking of which… One number I’m very proud of is the result of the decision my wife and I made when we published the two books. We decided that since this blog is a labor of love, that rather than me making money on it, we would donate all the proceeds we make from the book to charity.

web analytics 2

As of today, that number is slightly north of $320,000.

It is an unbelievable amount of money, I don’t think I could possibly donate that much from my other earnings. It has gone to three charities: Doctors Without Borders, The Smile Train and Ekal Vidyalaya. Of all the things that I do with this blog, this is the one I’m most proud of.

Thank you again for helping me do it.

The Story Of My Decade.

I was the Director of Research & Analytics at Intuit when I started this blog (LinkedIn). Writing was a delicate balancing act between doing a full-time job, being responsible for a team and writing in the night. I could not imagine how I did it. (And, it only got crazier and crazier!)

I then did a year of consulting, via my company ZQ Insights, with a few companies like Dell and AOL, and a little entity called Google. At the end of that year, I accepted a full-time job at Google as an Analytics Evangelist. Brett deserves my eternal gratitude for creating this wonderful position for me. My second job at Google was to as the Digital Marketing Evangelist – primarily as a result of me realizing that data was not the problem, in fact it was not even fifth on the list and I wanted to go solve the real strategic problems for the largest companies on the planet.

Avinash Kaushik

My current job at Google is perhaps my most exciting yet, leading a group of storytellers who use data and strategic business frameworks as the bedrock to do something hard and magical: Changing minds.

Along the way, I’ve been on the board of advisors of four companies (two successful exits!). It was an amazing experience each time, and as you know what does not kill you makes you stronger.

I also started Market Motive to transform education for digital disciplines with my friend John and Michael. Selling it recently to Simplilearn was a thrill, we are all so excited for the hockey stick growth that we expect MM to have now.

Market Motive was fantastic as I was also the Faculty for Web Analytics. This meant Live Class every week, new videos of the latest content, engaging with students on most days, grading their final dissertations, constantly trying to solve for the higher order bit… I cannot share how influential this was in forcing me to be not just current but two steps ahead.

A source of deep satisfaction during this decade has been the ability to influence analytics products. There are parts of Google Analytics I can point to and feel a sense of gratification that I had the privilege of working on it or initiating the creation of. There have been other tools at Google like the Keyword Tool or Webmaster Tools or even goo.gl etc. I feel so happy that, literally, millions of people in the world use something I had the privilege of working on. Beyond Google, I’ve advised, for free, many startups on their work, many of you use these tools today, bringing me great joy. Posts from this blog have also influenced many metrics, reports, and dashboards you see in other tools. In one case at least, TrueSocialMetrics, the entire tool and company started from one blog post (Best Social Media Metrics). Money cannot buy the sense of pride I feel.

The whole time, there were keynotes to be delivered around the world, new audiences to engage, deep diving into different countries, business environments, hunting for the good an the not-good, all in a constant to be the most memorable and valuable speaker for every audience! That is how you end up with more than a million miles flown in less than ten years (just on United).

Having three jobs at the same time means seventy-hour work weeks (and no keeping up with the kardashians). It was been absolutely unbelievable, an amount of professional growth, powered by curiosity I express every day to come back to you on this blog with something incredible and of value.

The Story Of Three Early Choices.

Here are some decisions that, in hindsight, had a huge impact on me and the blog.

1. I’d decided early on that I would not have any advertising on the blog, in fact I would never ask people to hire me as a consultant or speaker or anything else. I never wanted to directly make any money from the blog, that gave me the freedom to focus just on teaching by sharing my knowledge as I accumulated it.

The only commercial stuff here are the links to Market Motive or my books in the side nav. I rarely, if ever, ask you to buy either.

I think this was huge for me because I never had to pimp, and that always pollutes intent, and it brought focus. It also became easy to say yes or no to things that lead to commercial things. Guest posts. Pimping other people’s stuff. Getting you to show up at my events. Etc. Etc.

All of this made it easier to see the knowledge here is in the purest way it was intended.

2. I also decided that I would only write if I had something incredible and of value to share. Else. Shut up and post nothing.

This allowed me to serve the God of Quality beyond all else. As I got busier, I kept posting less because it would compromise quality. It also meant that I had to be very good at things before I could write about them (forcing me to be amongst the first in the industry to get into things that were not yet mainstream – mobile, social, analytics evolutions, marketing, competitive intelligence, decision making challenges etc. etc.).

This was huge for me because the reason people came, and kept coming, is because they were a little more than reasonably guaranteed to get fantastic, bleeding edge thinking in a non-pimpy environment. This is also the reason that I’ve managed to have three jobs at one time and evolve in each of them (to an extent that web analytics itself forms a much smaller part of my core).

3. I deliberately decided not to syndicate the content on this blog. This was hard for me because I know that I am lot less famous because I’ve refused to have the content of this blog on the HBS blog or one of the industry blogs or Huff Po or LinkedIn or so many other places. They are all glorious places where there is a ton of traffic and it would have benefited me.

But, the upside for me is that you can only find my content here. And, if you want to be intelligent about analytics and marketing, you’ll have to come here. My house. My terms. My customer (you!). This has turned up to be a great strategy because my presence is not fragmented all over the web and I’m not at the mercy of sites becoming famous or dying for the attention of my precious audience.

There are many other choices I’ve made, big and small, along the way. But these three have had a huge impact, and I hope as you think of your own platform (and you should have one) you’ll find them to be of value.

The Story Of Benefits To Me.

So, so, so, so many.

I have made so many brilliant friends. People out there that inspire me, Thomas and Mitch and Seth and Bryan and so many others. People that make me so happy when I see them around the world, like Marco when I visit Germany or Zoli when I’m in Hungary. My circle is huge. For an introvert to have so many people to know and to care for and engage in an exchange of ideas is an immense gift.

The blog has helped me be “famous.” As I tell my kids, medium-sized fish in a small fish-bowl. 🙂 This has brought with it so many benefits, indirectly financial and otherwise.

The blog has helped me build a unique brand for myself. For the fifth year anniversary, I’d asked folks in Social Media what three words come to mind when they think about “Brand Avinash,” this is the resulting tag cloud…

brand tag cloud non-analytics avinash kaushik-big[1]

Could a person ask for anything more? Such a gift from you all, from this blog, that I get to read those words. I was deeply touched.

But above and beyond all else, my absolute favourite benefit is the stories strangers tell me when I see them after my keynotes around the world, or in the emails they send to me.

Here’s an example:

Hello Avinash! I wanted to pass along a big thank you for your blog posts and newsletters. I enjoy reading and more importantly, learning from your experiences. I have yet to read a post from you that did’nt simultaneously educate and entertain me.

I am particularly digging your comparison of own vs. rent in the context of platforms. I am also really pleased with your recent newsletter approach.

THANK YOU for being awesome! I look forward to learning more from you in the future.

How very kind is that?

And people are so wonderful to write. Here’s another one:

Hi Avinash,

Just wanted to let you know that every time I visit your blog I spend somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes reading your articles… and 3 or 4 hours with crippling self-doubt about my own way of doing stuff.

It means you write excellent stuff and I’m actually learning something.

Cheers!

I literally LOLed! I loved that someone out there was filled with three to four hours of self-doubt. 🙂 I wrote back to check if they were back to normal after that. He said, I end up in a new and better place. 🙂

Some of my absolute favourite emails have this spirit in them…

Avinash.

You are a huge inspiration and have contributed to the intellectual, financial and emotional well being of many.

When I started reading your blog, I was living below the poverty line, and carrying the financial responsibility for my family. With the traditional world view, I had little chance of success in the job environment because I didn’t have fancy degrees nor a valuable skill set and I had entered the workforce in my mid to late 30s.

Reading your blog and books taught me to think intelligently and cut through a lot of years of work otherwise required to gain experience. It also inspired me to pursue excellence and a whole lot more.

I am sharing this with you so you can see the impact you have on lives. I know there are thousands reading your blog and many of their lives are impacted. In little ways and big ways.

I know you get a ton of email. No response needed. Just sharing parts of the story so you have visibility on the huge impact your work has on many lives.

Keep shining!

Every kind email touches me with the generosity of the words strangers write, emails like this one move me deeply.

I write because I love writing and I want to share what little I know. To learn that it has a material impact on someone gives the kind of meaning to my work that money, fame or anything else simply can’t buy. In those moments, you all make me realize that I will do a lot in my life, my kids will be my biggest legacy, but that this decade spent writing close to a million words have had an impact that I could never have imagined. Beyond a doubt a huge impact on me, and some impact on you.

In my wildest dreams on May 15th 2006 I could not have imagined that I would end up here a decade later. Not in my wildest dreams.

Thank you for your kindness. Thank you for your loyalty. Thank you for your encouragement.

I am beyond grateful.

And, I’m going to keep trying, keep learning and keep sharing. My email newsletter, I’m the last human to get into newsletters (!), The Marketing – Analytics Intersect, is the latest iteration of this.

Thank you again.

As always (!!), it is your turn now.

How long have you been reading the blog? Which post was/is your favourite? If you had to describe “brand Avinash” in three words, what would be your three words? Why do you think this blog has been successful, or relevant, for a decade?

I would love to hear from you. Merci.

Four Stories: A Decade of Writing Occam’s Razor! is a post from: Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik


Source: Avinash

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