Understanding Google Analytics
Over the past two weeks we’ve talked about discovering and embracing our purpose in blogging, intentional personal branding, writing a mission statement for our blogs, how to create a custom font-only logo for free, and how to start a blog on Blogger and on WordPress. We also discussed finding your voice in blogging. It’s been a bit of a whirl-wind, and you guys have offered incredible feedback and insight into your own blogging experiences!
Today we’re going to tackle tracking our statistics. Those of you who have followed me for a while now know I often wrestle with tracking my blog statistics, specifically numbers. As I’ve mentioned before, it is easy for me to almost idolize numbers, specifically pageviews and subscribers. If you haven’t read it already, please take time to read this post about why our goals should never be solely based on numbers.
I use two different programs to track my blog statistics: Google Analytics and Stat Tracker. I use StatTracker primarily for verifying Google Analytics. They e-mail a report once a week with basic statistical data. I do like that I can save that data to review several months down the road if I want to.
Why track statistics?
- To measure your blog’s growth over time
- To track referrals + determine if sponsor investments have paid off
- To determine your most popular content (what do your readers like?)
- To determine which social media platforms refer the most traffic
- To help you plan future blog posts so that they will be well-received
- To help you determine the future direction of your blog.
Understanding Google Analytics
To learn how to install Google Analytics on Blogger, please read this post. You can download the Google Analytics plugin for WordPress here.
Lets start by talking about the basic reports, and what they mean. Here’s a screenshot of my dashboard.
Unique Visitors: the number of unique, individual readers who visit your blog.
Pageviews: the total number of times your blog has been viewed.
Visits: represent the number of individual sessions initiated by all the visitors to your site, and thus will almost always be higher than Unique Visitors.
Bounce Rate: measures how many people click through to another page on your blog leaving your blog. The lower the bounce rate, the more people are clicking through to another page on your blog.
Time spent on site: the average amount of time each reader spends on your blog.
Pages/Visits: tracks the average number of pages a visitor views each time they visit.
So what do we know about my readers based on that screenshot? Well, we know they spend a long time on my blog – almost eight minutes! And we know they keep coming back, nearly 70% of all of my traffic is returning visitors. Those are two good things, right? But we also know that my bounce rate is kind of high, so my readers view my latest post and then close the browser without clicking through to another post. Can you see how this is all great information to have?
For those of us who pursue blogging as more than just a hobby, tracking data about our blog traffic serves as one way to measure our growth and evaluate the effectiveness and success of our hard work and financial investment.
Measuring blog growth with Google Analytics
One of the benefits of Google Analytics is being able specify a period of time for which you would like to view your statistics. If you’re wanting to track your blog’s growth over time (I’d recommend over a 3, 6, and 12 month period) you are able to compare pageviews and unique visitors by specifying your desired dates.
If you are investing income into advertising your blog, I strongly recommend closely tracking your referrals.
I’m a bit of a strategizing nerd, so when I advertise A Royal Daughter I track the number of referrals I receive from each blog I sponsor, as well as the percentage of increase in social media referrals I received during each sponsorship. I then compare the growth to the cost of the sponsor spot, and I am able to determine if the sponsorship paid off or not.
Tracking referrals will also help you determine which social media platforms direct the most traffic to your blog. While this doesn’t give you that much concrete information, it may reflect the effectiveness of your own efforts on social media, as well as where your online community is most actively involved.
For example, for many months Twitter was my strongest social media referrer, which makes complete sense to me because I am most active on Twitter. But recently some of my posts have been shared over and over again on Facebook, resulting in Facebook being my top social media referrer for the past couple of months. This tells me that many of my newer readers are most active of Facebook, and challenges me to strengthen my community on Facebook.
Determining Popular Content + Planning Future Content
To determine your most popular content you’ll want to look at your direct traffic sources.
I definitely have a wide variety of popular posts, don’t I? The Blogger vs. WordPress and Pinterest verification posts generate a huge percentage of my search engine traffic. And four out of ten of my top posts are related to infertility and miscarriage.
Identifying where your blog traffic lands will help you determine:
- Which blog posts are ranking well for Search Engine Optimization
- Which blog posts are most popular with your readers
Once I determine my most popular posts, I review them and do my best to evaluate their success. Why were they popular? Did they resonate with my target audience? Was the SEO off the charts? Did it step on toes and cause controversy? Was it well-written, unique story-telling, or a detailed tutorial that answered a tricky question?
I also evaluate whether the post can be recreated. Obviously I’m not going to try to rewrite the exact same story, that would result in a fairly boring blog! But perhaps a new story can be written in a similar manner, or a tutorial was well received because of the screenshots. What is it about the post that can be replicated in one way or another?
As I mentioned yesterday, on some level we as bloggers are not only writing for ourselves, we’re writing for our audience. And identifying what is well-received by your audience can help you plan and schedule future content.
Key Word Search
Taking a look at your organic searches will also help you determine how people are finding your blog.
Note: (not provided) occurs when someone who is signed into Google (i.e. with blogger, gmail, youtube, G+, etc.) and does a search. Google does not report the keyword searched when the searcher is logged into Google.
Like I said, most of my search traffic comes from people searching Blogger vs. WordPress.
These are the most basic reports, but Google Analytics is highly customizable. Danielle at Framed Frosting recently shared a great tutorial on how to customize campaigns for tracking sponsorship referrals.
Resources and Engage
Google Analytics Deciphered
5 Tips to use Google Analytics More Effectively
50 Resources for Getting the Most out of Google Analytics
Time Saving Google Analytics Reports
5 Goals Every Blogger Should Set up in Google Analytics
5 Traffic Sources You Should See in Google Analytics
Introduction to Using Google Analytics
Do you track your statistics?
What is the number one thing you do with the information you receive?
How does it help you plan for future growth?