Once you have installed Google Analytics tracking code on your blog it is time to learn how to use Google Analytics and understand what all those statistics mean.
Google Analytics tracks a ton of data that contains all kinds of information about your readers and their behavior. We are going to dive into the basics of what you need to know most about using Google Analytics.
Understanding the basics of Google Analytics will help you when working with advertisers. Advertisers often ask for basic analytics data such as monthly pageviews or unique monthly visitors. You will also be able to use analytics to better monetize your blog.
Log in to Google Analytics
If you aren’t already using Google Analytics, you will need to start here first to set up Google Analytics on your blog.
To log in to Google Analytics go to: http://www.google.com/analytics/
Click the button in the top, right corner of the page to Sign in to Google Analytics.
Once you log in you will see folders for all websites assigned to your Google Analytics account.
When you expand the folder with your website name (if it is not expanded already) you will see any filters that have been created for that site.
You will likely only have one filter under your blog name called All Website Traffic. In the picture below I have added additional filters to get a more accurate view of my stats (I will talk about that in a later post.)
Click on your All Website Traffic filter to take you to your stats.
Overview of Google Analytics Dashboard
In your Google Analytics dashboard, you will see an overview of your blog’s basic stats and a graph that shows how your traffic has fluctuated over the past 30 days.
Basic Blog Stats:
Sessions – Also called visits, this is the number of times your site has been visited during the time period specified. One person could make multiple visits to your site by returning multiple days to read your most recent post. One person could also read multiple posts during the same session.
Users – This refers to the number of unique visitors that have been to your site.
Pageviews – This is how many individual pages/posts that were viewed on your site.
*Note: Sessions, Users and Pageviews are common analytics an advertiser may ask you for when you apply for sponsored post opportunities.*
Pages/Session – This tells you how many pages on your site a user visits while on your site. The higher this number the better because that means readers are finding valuable information on your site.
Avg. Session Duration – This tells you how long your readers are spending on your site reading your posts.
Bounce Rate – This lets you know what percentage of readers leave your site right away because the content they were directed to didn’t meet their needs for some reason.
(Normally bloggers see a very high bounce rate. I am currently using a plugin called Reduce Bounce Rate that changes how my bounce rate is calculated and MAY give a more accurate view of my bounce rate. I am still researching this idea before fully endorsing it.)
% New Sessions – This tells your what percentage of your sessions come from new visitors to your site. Ideally you want to be continually reaching new people but also getting them to keep coming back to your site as returning visitors.
Customize Date Range
When you first log in, the date range defaults to the most recent 30 days, starting with yesterday.
You can easily change the dates by using the date drop down box in the top, right corner. Each month I record my monthly stats in a spreadsheet so I need to change the dates to match the last calendar month.
In this case I will use the drop down box and click on the 1st and last days of the previous month in the pop up calendar to populate the date fields and click apply.
Sources of Traffic
It’s nice to know how much traffic you have. What is even more useful is knowing where that traffic is coming from.
Your traffic can be broken down into four primary categories (or channels):
- Direct Traffic comes from people directly typing in your URL to get to your blog. This can also come from saving a page as a bookmark to return to that page directly later.
- Organic Traffic comes from search engines based on key word search results.
- Social Traffic comes from social media sites sending traffic to your blog.
- Referral Traffic comes from other blogs and websites that link to your blog.
To find out where your own traffic is coming from, in your Google Analytics dashboard in the far left gray column scroll down and click on Acquisition. A sub-menu will appear under Acquisition. Click on All Traffic to expand another sub-menu and click on Channels.
This will pull up a new screen in the main dashboard area that shows a breakdown of traffic from each channel as a total number of sessions from each channel and as a percentage of total sessions.
When you look at my stats above you can see I get a large portion of my traffic from social media platforms. This also tells me that I could do a better job of optimizing my posts for search engines because I get a small portion of my traffic from organic search results.
You can also drill down deeper into the social and referral channels by clicking on Social or Referral to see your breakdown of traffic from the various social media sites and from other websites.
Find Your Most Popular Posts
Another great way to use Google Analytics is to find which of your blog posts are the most popular. This can be extremely helpful if you are working to monetize your blog.
To find your most popular posts scroll down to Behavior in the gray column on the far left of your Google Analytics dashboard. Click on Behavior -> Site Content -> All Pages
From here you will be able to see pages and pages of your own content identified by the last part of the URL. These posts are in order from most to least popular based on number of page views.
Your most popular posts would be the best ones to re-read and update and see if you can add affiliate links or use internal linking to make these posts more helpful for your readers and more profitable for you!
Are you already using Google Analytics with your blog? What are some of your favorite features?