Did you know that any time you visit a site information about you is being collected? What does it all mean and how can a Web site owner use your information? Well, it all depends on the terms they lay out in their specific privacy policies.
Writer’s Round-About (The Craft of Writing Fiction), like other sites, collects information when you visit our site. What information do we collect and how do we use it?
Google Analytics Metrics and Statistics
Writer’s Round-About uses a Google Analytic script to gather information and site statistics when you browse WRA pages and posts.
- Visits: The first metric Google gathers is visits to the site. Every time you come to the site more than thirty minutes from the last time you visited it counts as one visit.
- Unique Visitors: When you arrive at Writer’s Round-About for the first time Google puts a tasty little cookie on your computer. This lets Google know you’ve been here so if you ever come back again you’re no longer considered a new visitor but a returning visitor. If you delete the cookie, don’t accept cookies, access the site from a separate computer, or visit again after your original cookie expires, you’re visit will be considered unique/new again.
- Page Views: Each page you look at on the site counts as a page view, so does refreshing or reloading a page you’ve already seen. When you leave a comment on a post you’ll have two page views for that post. The first when you read it and the second when it reloaded after adding your comment. I use this information to judge the impact and reception of content, so that I can target your interests and preferences when writing and scheduling content in the future.
- Pages/Visit: Google also tracks how many pages you look at in each visit.
- Bounce Rate: If you come to the site on any page but don’t hang around to read something or click on to another page of the site you’re visit will be considered a “bounce”. These average into an overall percentage indicating how many visitors stay on the site for a time after they arrive.
- Avg. Time on Site: While Google counts the pages you visit it also has a little timer to get an approximation of how long you spend on each page.
- Browser: Do you use Firefox? IE? Opera? Safari? Which browser do you tend to use when you visit WRA? Google tracks this so I can have a fair idea of the browser most of WRA’s visitors view the site with. This helps me make customizations to the page and consider the ramifications of using code that might not be compatible in some browsers.
- Operating System: Windows or Mac? Which version and which operating system are you using? Again, Google Analytics will track this metric for me. It’s useful to consider which operating system you’re using when designing features of the site as each operating system works in different ways.
- Screen Colors: Do you use Web safe colors? 16 bit? 24 bit? or 32 bit? Did you know some computers render colors differently? What might be a soft shade of purple in my screen could be a puce or gray in yours. Having and idea of the bit-count visitors to WRA are using helps me select colors that will appear close to identical for everyone.
- Screen Resolution: Did you know 1280×800 pixels is the most common resolution that users have their screens set to when visiting Writer’s Round-About? Because WRA is a fixed width site knowing that your browser can use 1280 pixels in width means I can make better use of the full width of your screen without creating horizontal scrolling. About 70% of WRA’s visitors have their screen resolution width greater than 1000 pixels which makes the 960 pixel fixed width a perfect size for those visitors.
- Flash Versions: WRA doesn’t use Flash. But Google gathers statistics on the Flash Version your computer has enabled, if any at all. So, if I wanted to use a Flash feature I can have an idea how many of WRA’s visitors will be able to use it and how much non-Flash support is still needed.
- Map Overlay: The Map Overlay lets me have an idea of what parts of the world visitors to WRA come from. We have visitors from over 100 countries/territories but almost 60% of our visitors are in the United States of America. We’ve also got a loyal fan-base of Australians with the United Kingdom and Canada chasing each others tails.
- Language: At the moment, WRA only supports English readers and over 96% of WRA’s visitors are from computers set to English. Having these statistics allows me to consider the value of adding additional support and translation for other languages.
- Service Provider: Which ISP are you networked with when you visit Writer’s Round-About? At the moment it doesn’t serve me much purpose but who knows how important your Service Provider might be in the future.
- Connection Speed: Now this one IS important and related to your Service Provider. How fast is your connection? This impacts how quickly the pages of this site will load and how much demand I can put on your connection when calling a page. Knowing that over 70% of visitors have DSL or faster means I know you can handle a pretty decent page size. I also know that less than 2% of you are using Dialup. I can also see that the bounce rate for dialup users is less than cable users so the site must be pretty dialup friendly already. If dialup users had a high bounce rate I would need to consider minimizing page load times.
- Mobile Devices and Carriers: Almost 1% of visits to Writer’s Round-About come from a mobile device. Are you surfing the site on your iPhone, iPod, Android, or Blackberry? Then I’m terribly sorry! Because WRA is not currently mobile friendly and I can see that from the very high bounce rate of mobile device visitors. This metric may encourage me to create a mobile version of WRA in the future to make visiting WRA from your mobile device more enjoyable.
- Search Keywords: How are you finding us on search engines? When you visit WRA from a search engine, Google tracks which keywords you discovered us with. This helps me optimize content on the site and write articles that give you more information on the topics you want to know more about.
- Traffic Sources: Finally, Google gives me a good idea of how you found us. About 30% of visitors to WRA find us through Google Search and about 25% come from Social Media Networks such as Twitter, Plurk, and StumbleUpon. I like to use this information to optimize marketing strategies, offer sharing options, and reciprocate, support, and contribute on sites that have linked to WRA.
All of the information that Google collects is completely unspecified to a specific user. Although I know the majority of WRA’s audience are in the US I don’t know if you are one of them. I can’t put any of these details and attach them to your name, email address, or even your IP through Google Analytics.
Latest Visitors, Awstats, and Webalizer
Bluehost also gather Web statistics with Latest Visitors, Awstats, and Webalizer. Because Google Analytics are so comprehensive I rarely make use of these statistics. I also cannot consider them when working on Writer’s Round-About because they gather statistics across all of the sites I host within the primary domain. The information is there, I view it from time to time out of curiosity but again, these details cannot connect a specific user to their identity.
Registering, Commenting, or Contacting Us
So far, the details we’ve gathered are completely anonymous. But at some point you might choose to interact more directly with the site or with the writers. Leaving a comment, sending an email, using the contact form, or Registering with Writer’s Round-About gives us additional information.
- Username: You select your username for yourself. This name must be unique to the site and it lets you log into your Dashboard so that you can update your profile or submit a post.
- Password: Your password is encrypted when it’s stored in the database with your username. This means WordPress can log you into your Dashboard but we don’t know what your password is.
- Your Name: When you leave a comment or register on the site you’re asked to give your name. I prefer to see a first and last name but this is not required. You’re also not required to give your real first and/or last name. A consistent alias is one way to develop a relationship without divulging your real world identity.
- Email: When you leave a comment or register you are required to leave your email address. This address can only be seen by administration staff. When you give your email address in the comments or on registration you give us permission to contact you in future. We may use your email address to invite you to our own mailing list but will never give or sell your email address to a third party without your explicit permission. Your email address is also used if you choose to subscribe to comments. You can unsubscribe from our mailing list or from comments at any time.
- Email Content: Occasionally, the content of your email may be used to create a blog post of our response to you. Because we often get the same question asked over and over, or we feel we’ve given a detailed and comprehensive response that could value all readers, we’ll occasionally turn an email we wrote into a blog post. When we do this, we like to use all or part of your email to show readers context. By contacting us through the website you’re agreeing to allow us to do this to your email content. We will NEVER share any private or personal details such as your name, phone number, or email address when we share your email content with our readers.
- Nickname: Your nickname is entirely optional. Because you are free to choose your own first and last names you may not need to also select a nickname. Only one name can be chosen as your Display Name.
- Display Name: When you register you can fill in your first, last, alternative, and user names. You can select any of these as your Display Name. If you contribute to Writer’s Round-About your display name will appear on your posts, on your bio block in the sidebar and on your individual author pages.
- Website: When you leave a comment or register you have the option of including a link to your website. On comments this link will be connected with your name and visitors may visit your site if they are interested in your comment. As a contributor your website link will appear at the bottom of your bio block in the sidebar on your posts and author pages.
- AIM, Yahoo, Jabber/Google Talk: These social media options are available but we currently do not use this information at Writer’s Round-About.
- Biographical Information: The text you put in the Biographical Information will appear in your bio block in the sidebar on your posts and author pages if you are a WRA contributor. I invite you to write up to three paragraphs and include up to three links in your bio block.
- Comment Luv: WRA uses the Comment Luv plugin. This plugin is hosted by a third-party and connects with the website you include on the comment form. This plugin can create a link to one of your latest posts and if selected will add that link to the foot of your comment.
Other Information You Might Give Us
- Postal Address: If you win a prize in a contest hosted at Writer’s Round-About or opt to share your postal address with administration we may send you prizes, greetings, and snail mail for special occasions. We may need to make this information available to a sponsor or business (if they ship a product directly) but we will never sell of export your postal address for any purpose beyond providing you with quality goods or messages directly related to the Writer’s Round-About website.
- Birth Date: Another optional piece of information you might choose to share with administration is your date of birth. We sometimes send birthday greetings and even gifts to some of our visitors. We do not make this information available to any third parties.
- Religious Denomination: From time to time I might make note of your religious denomination. This is done so that seasonal greetings can be sent customized to your particular beliefs rather than my own and again, is never released to any third parties.
- Other Information: If there is ever a reason to collect any other form of information it is in the understanding that the information is considered highly private and will not be released to any third party without explicit permission.