Monday, 29 May 2017

Meet Blue Chip All Star Academy Pupil, Tina Wallace!!

Last night (Sunday 28th May) saw the Blue Chip All Star Academy return to Horse & Country TV for its second series.

Series one was a great watch, covering all sorts from Rhi's first dressage lesson on her ex-racehorse & who had only been off the track three weeks, to seeing the pupils being put through their paces with Pammy & Charlie Hutton on some of Talland's top schoolmasters. The series also cover jumping session, as well as one-to-one interview and vlogging opportunities with some of the top stars of the equestrian world. But it wasn't all glam - veterinary care, bandaging, stable management and plaiting were amongst the non-ridden tasks that the series included.

Well, as the series launches, we've had the unique and privileged opportunity to speak with one of the stars of series two!!



Meet Tina Wallace and her horse Banksy in our quick fire Q&A!

Sunday, 28 May 2017

When it's just not your day...


I spotted a post a few weeks ago on the TwitterEventing Facebook group where someone raised a very valid point that I see across equestrian groups & communities all the time...
In a nutshell, people post their good times which when you're having not such a good time, can make you feel very negative. I see a few (not many) accounts that have multiple posts, photos, videos & excitement when the times are good, but go deadly silent when the times aren't so good.


Let me make it clear - I am not suggesting in any way that anyone should post up every single competition report, writing in detail about what a total crap day we've had. I'm not. I also don't think you should ever look at anyone else and compare yourself, especially to someone's social media!!

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Blogger's Corner: Google Analytics & Google Search Console


Google Analytics

Many of us concentrate on our traffic volumes - & rightly so, if you're confident in your content, you want people to see it! However, not all blogger's take advantage of what I think it is the best FREE blogger analytical tool - Google Analytics.

Why is being interested in the analytical side to your blog important?

Simply because it enables you to see how you're doing, maximise your strength & support the weaknesses.

Getting Google Analytics (GA) set up on your site is really easy - there's no need to be a technical whizz kid!
  1. Head over to https://analytics.google.com & login with your Google account (you can set one up in a few minutes if you don't already have one) to set up your GA profile - make sure you select 'Website'
  2. Now, make a note of your unique tracking ID (or copy it)
  3. Depending on which platform you blog on, will depend how you need to implement it.

    For WordPress.com blogs, it's very easy and quick - just follow this quick guide
    For WordPress.org (self-hosted) blogs, you'll need to use a plug-in unless you're familiar with web coding. If the latter, you can drop the code into your blog's template. If not, You can use the Google Analytics for WP plugin - take a read.
    For blogger blogs, go to Settings > Other, & under Google Analytics, paste your ID
  4. It can take up to 24 hours for data to show in your GA account, so be patient! 
Once you're all set up,I prefer to log into GA directly, rather than viewing stats from the platform (not available in Blogger).

Google run a specific Google Analytics for Beginners as part of their free academy - even if you're familiar with GA, it's worth reviewing every once in a while to see any new features or tools.

Traffic Insight

We all want to know where our blog users are coming from, and understand how well our promotional activities are working.

GA allows you to look at precisely where your traffic is coming from, breaking it down into almost any secondary dimension.

Google Analytics Channel Traffic

In this example, you can see that most of the traffic is coming from social media channels - click into it, and you will see the networks that make up the 1,373 sessions. This is found under Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels

Further, you can change what you are viewing using the top navigation, as well as add in a secondary dimension to show data for.

Google Analytics Filtering

The best way to get to grips with this is to play with it - filter it multiple ways to show you just what each category can show you. 

TIP: When looking at organic traffic, there is no longer a way to see the keyword that users were searching for when they discovered your site. However using landing page as a secondary dimension after you click into 'Organic' can give you a good indication.

If you work with 3rd party sites, do collaborations or list your blog on other sites, Referral traffic is a good one to see how they are contributing towards your traffic levels.

Audience Insight

Not only can you see the volume of traffic that your site sees, you can gain a lot of insight into who it is that is viewing your site:
  • New v returning users
  • Locations & Languages
  • Age & Genders
  • Interests & Affinities
  • Engagement rates
  • & much more!
Google Analytics Audience Insight

All of this insight sits within the Audience section of the left-hand navigation. Take time to explore it.

On Site Behaviour

Google Analytics can also show you what content users like to consume on site, what they don't and how well you can cross-seed your content through sections of similar/popular posts.

Head over to Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages to take a look at your individual posts and how they stack up against your site's averages.

Are there some posts or pages that see a much higher bounce rate than the average?

You can also start to think about increasing the time that your users are spending on your blog through longer posts and cross-promotion of posts within your blog's site.

Google Analytic Site Usage

Under the same section (Behaviour), there is another area that is dedicated to Site Speed - pay attention to this. Slow sites see higher bounce rates and overall offer poorer user experience. Within the area, there is a Speed Suggestion option - use it! 

Google Analytics Page Speed Suggestions

Most of us are likely to have image size issues - it is worth correcting these but it is a BIG task to do so if you're established. This is my weakest area - I need to go through and optimise all my images. 

If you're just starting out, do this from the start, believe me, it's A LOT easier!!

That leads us nicely into the technical health of your blog, & how Google Search Console can help you.

Google Search Console

OK, so setting this up is a bit more detailed, but it is definitely achievable. Rather than listing the step, take a look at this Setup Guide from Google to get going.

Search Console will send you Messages to alert you to recommended changes - there is a message centre within the tool, so don't worry about having them on email.

Site Errors

These are located in Crawl > Site Errors

Don't be put off by these - you do not need to be a technical genius, but they are worth being aware of. My blog currently has NO errors, and all the ones it has had, I've fixed with the help of my friend Google and a few searches! 


Sitemap

This just sounds technical - it really isn't. A sitemap basically allows Google to understand the relationships between all of the elements on your site. Don't worry, you don't need to create one. You can use a free tool (XML-Sitemaps.com).
  1. Enter your site's URL
  2. Change the frequency to roughly how often you post new content (I chose weekly)
  3. Leave Modification & Priority options set as they are
  4. Click Start
  5. You are redirected to a page where you download your generated sitemap
  6. Head back the Search Console & add it in (under Crawl > Sitemap - look for the red 'add/test' button near the top right)
It can take a little while so make sure you allow it sufficient time to run, both on the generator and in Search Console.

Content Links

If you navigate over to Search Traffic > Links to Your Site you'll be able to see a summary of the number of other sites that are linking back to you, as well as your most linked to content.

You can download either of these reports, with a date that they were added to help you keep a record of any link building activity that you do.

Take a look also at Search Traffic > Internal Links. This will allow you to see your content with the most links to it from your own content within the site. 

What's good about this? 

Well, check out your lowest linked to content and find opportunity in some of your more successful posts to link to it. It will help Google understand that the content is important.

TIP: don't link internally unless it is necessary, and certainly don't over internal link. Both of these can be seen negatively to Google.

Mobile Usability

In the GA step about Site Speed, you can toggle between desktop and mobile, so some issues for the mobile version of your site may be highlighted. It's worth fixing as many as you can if you see a typically strong percentage of traffic coming to your blog from mobile.

Google Analytics Device Usage

Search Console also has an area that you can quickly identify if your mobile version has any issues. Take a look under Search Traffic > Mobile Usability to see any issues listed.

If this is all new to you, there's a lot to take in, but fear not, if you set aside a few hours a week to go through, you'll soon be up to speed with both Google Analytics and Google Search Console. 

I hang a lot on understanding how your blog performs beyond just how many people visited, and a key area is technical soundness to assist with your organic traffic. Investing the time into improving your site early, will free up a lot of time further down the line to add in more of your effort with your proactive promotion, such as social media, community management & outreach.



Sunday, 14 May 2017

British Showjumping Area Team Qualifiers

Yesterday (Saturday 13th May), we swapped a trip up to Floors Castle horse trials with a trip to Northallerton Equestrian centre to watch the area team qualifiers class. I voluntarily sit on the committee for area 12 (Northumberland & Tyne and Wear) to look after their social media, and while I know a fair bit about that, I know almost NOTHING about showjumping!

I took the opportunity to head down, not only to support the team, but to learn a bit more about the sport, its rules and enjoy a morning of showjumping. It did mean a bit of an early start, leaving Northumberland at 6.45am to arrive in good time.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Badminton Horse Trials 2017 Round Up

Image credit: Horse & Country TV

Well, what a finish - Andrew Nicholson has won Badminton after attempting a total of 37 times over 33 years, just going to show you what patience & determination really can achieve!

Take a spin through our round up of Badminton Horse Trials 2017 to find out the highlights as all the action unfolded across the five days.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Top 5 Things I've Learnt with a Young Horse



Firstly, I do not, in any way claim to be an established producer of young horses! Louie is my first proper young horse - taking him from a freshly backed rising 4 year old to where he is in his training today (which is still a work in progress, & always will be!)

I've created this post based on what I've learnt along the way, as well as being able to understand a lot of the learning curves I took with Buddy (a previous horse I bought as a 5 year old) that at the time, I couldn't get my head around.

Having a young horse is a lot of fun, a lot of reward, a lot of hard work and a lot of learning.

Would I do it all again? YES!

Here's my top 5 things that I've learnt along the way while training, handling, competing & enjoying my young horse.

Monday, 1 May 2017

April Round Up

Well 2017 is certainly flying past – I can’t believe we’re now at the end of April!!

At the start of the month, I took Louie on his first ever pleasure ride. We spend a lot of time hacking out alone, or with only really one or two others, so I was keen to know how Louie would get on by himself, within a much larger group.


He was definitely keen!! He had a blast and really took me forward around the whole ride, even if it was a little quicker than I’d first hoped!

The ride was through Hulne Park with some beautiful countryside of Alnwick, making for some great photos – we did a full post on the pleasure ride already.

We changed Louie’s bit at the end of March, so we’ve done a “bit” of playing around with how that works for us too, really just by putting it through everything we do.