Google Analytics is a highly important tool that can help you analyse and interpret data to your site/blog, solve any issues, look for ways to improve your current exposure, compare data and so much more. Google Analytics should be used by EVERY business, and in my opinion every blog (almost definitely if blogging is your full time job). I started using Google Analytics for my blog a good few years ago, and I also use it every day for my job so I've gained some really invaluable skills for it along the way. A lot of bloggers that I speak to have managed to set up Google Analytics, but are then stumped for what to do next, and also what they're looking for, which is why I thought it would be a good idea to put together a blog on how you can use google analytics effectively for your blog (the basics). GA is a free analytics service, is incredibly easy to use once you know how, and relatively easy to setup, if you haven't already got it setup on your blog I suggest you to do it asap, if you're not sure how to, this 4 ways to add Google Analytics To Blogger article is really helpful. Google Analytics is 100% more reliable than blogger stats, you've probably realised by now that blogger stats are a very poor reflection, everyone who looks at google analytics for the first time will be adamant that it's broken or inaccurate because of the massive difference in stats, whilst it can be disheartening, unfortunately the GA stats are fully accurate and blogger stats are so far out because they incorporate spam and bots into the readings. If you're working with brands too they will also request analytics data over what your blogger stats are saying, and if you've put together any media packs all of this data should be included in some form in that too. Now you've got a brief snapshot into why you need analytics, here are the basics on what the information is saying, and what things you should be looking for to help you with your blog.
How To Exclude Your IP Address
This is optional, but removing your IP address from the current data flow will provide a much more accurate reflection of your data. Constantly clicking on your blog and then off from your own computer could also have an impact on the bounce rate, so it's definitely worth excluding it.
1. Firstly, find out your IP address by going into a google search and entering 'what is my IP address?'. As if by magic (I'm still impressed by this) it will come up, now copy this long number as you will need it shortly.
2. Then head to the main Admin page of your google analytics account. Click on 'Filters' on the right hand column.
3. Then click add filter, enter a name for it such as 'Nicole's location', then from the drop down list 'select filter type', select exclude.
4. Then on the next drop down box, select 'Traffic from the IP addresses' and 'that are equal to' in the box by its side.
5. Copy and paste your IP address into the box below and press save. It's as simple as that - the below picture is what it should look like before you press submit.
Now we're onto the important stuff, the google analytics reporting can be a minefield when you don't know what you're looking for. You don't need to use every section in this part, as a lot of it doesn't apply to a blog. Here are the main sections you should look at, and what you 're looking for within it:
(Reporting is next to the home button on the top of the navigation bar)
Audience overview is the one area that I use the most, and the area that you would look to include in your media pack as it provides a snapshot of your data, and the most important bits that a brand would be looking for. Once you are in the main reporting area, click on Audience on the left hand side to get this data up. This will take you to the main overview area which is the only section you really need to use for your blog as it provides everything that you're looking for. In the top right hand corner you can choose the data ranges that you want to look for, using the 'compare to' section is a really good way to compare the current month to previous months to see if, and how your data is improved. It will also help you pinpoint areas that haven't done as well as before and from that you can look to improve upon it. But it's no good being able to do that if you can't interpret and read the data.
Audience > Overview
On the same page you will find a pie chart on the right hand side which is made up of new visitors and returning visitors, you'll then find various subsections of data on the left hand side. Here is everything you need to know about each section:
Sessions - Sessions are a group of interactions which take place on your blog over a given period of time, for example a single session could contain multiple page views, events and interactions.
Users - This is quite simply how many different users interacted with your blog in the given time period.
Page Views - This is one of the most important pieces of information and is what most brands will ask for when they're looking to work with you (monthly page views). The name explains what it is, and this is how many different page views your blog achieved over the month - this will always be more than sessions, as again one session could involve someone looking at a few different pages.
Pages/Session - This is how many pages in the average session that someone looked at on your blog.
Avg. Session duration - And this is how long the average session time was that someone spent looking at those pages.
Bounce Rate - Bounce rate is a interesting one, and one which should be taken with a pinch of salt at times. Generally speaking for an actual ecommerce website anything over 50% should ring alarm bells, as the bounce rate is how quickly someone landed on your page and then left. However, the nature of a blog is that someone clicks on your blog, reads the article and then leaves again so the bounce rate doesn't matter too much. However, again I would say it should still be below 70%. If it's any higher there may be something glaringly obvious that is putting the reader off, an error with your blog, blog design, pictures, content, or all of them. The bounce rate gives you a good idea if people are enjoying reading your blog or not, the good news is that there is plenty you can do about it to lower the bounce rate. As I said at the start, removing your IP address is a good start, especially if like me you're always looking at your blog when you're scheduling posts and posting them.
New Sessions - This is the estimated percentage of first time visitors to your blog.
In this section you will also find where the traffic to your blog is coming from around the world (underneath). This is a useful tool to see where the majority of your readers are coming from, but it's not something that is as important if you write a blog.
It's all good knowing the above information, but it doesn't tell you where the traffic is coming from, which for a blog is the most important thing to know - after all, we are all social media buffs and we want to know if our hard work is paying off and driving traffic to our blog. To navigate to acquisition you'll find it on the left hand side underneath Audience, click 'Overview' underneath acquisition. A pie chart and the following data will then pop up.
Acquisition > Overview
Incredibly important for a blogger, this tells you where all of your page views are coming from in that given time period.
Organic Search - This is anything that has come from a listing of your blog on a search engine. The higher the organic search the better for your blog, there are a number of ways that you can improve this by employing some good SEO practices to your blog, I'll have to save that for another blog post!
Social - Basically anything that has sent someone to your blog from social media, twitter, pinterest, instagram - all of it! Bloggers spend a lot of time promoting their posts on these channels and it is often one of the best and easiest ways to direct people to your blog. Taking part in twitter chats, working with brands and promoting your blog can really help with this.
Direct - This is anyone who has gone directly to your blog with your URL.
Referral - This reports anyone who has come to your site from sources that weren't a search engine. This is generally from other blogs, sites or perhaps brands you've worked with - this will highlight how successful the referrals have been via the amount of sessions it achieved. Gaining links from other reputable sources is a great way to gain exposure and increase the overall DA (domain authority) of your blog.
On each of these sections you can then click through to see what the top sources for those categories were. I prefer going to Acquisition - source/medium which is underneath All traffic on the left hand side to see what the top traffic sources were. As you can see below this gives you much more in depth information for each source, and what the source/medium of that was. It also tells you a lot more information about each source too, similar to the audience overview that we looked at at the start of this. Everything is quite self explanatory about this section, and the more you use it the easier you'll be able to navigate your way around it.
Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium
The last section that I sometimes look at is Behaviour, which again you'll find on the left hand side. I usually use Landing pages which is underneath this section. This section tells you what the top landing pages for your blog are. A landing page is the web page which serves entry to your blog. This is really interesting to look at, and for no other reason, BUT it can provide information for how you can improve your blog content in the future. Perhaps you've stumbled upon a popular topic, employed good SEO strategies into the blog posts, was it the time you posted your blog? Or maybe it's a series of posts that you're writing that are really popular. Either way it's a good insight into what your readers are loving most on your blog.
The / will always be the top landing page, this is your home page. Why it's not just labelled home page I'll never know but it isn't, and google is funny like that!
Behaviour > Site Content > Landing Pages
Real time isn't something that you need to use as you can gleam your static information from the other sources, but real time always fascinates me and I love to see who is reading my blog at a certain period of time, what post and where they're from. This is really easy to use, and again you can find it on the left hand side.
Real Time > Overview
You'll probably be wondering what the other sections on the reporting tab are too, but a lot of these are only relevant if you're tracking information from a site. Everything that I have highlighted really are the main things you need to know in order to use google analytics effectively for your blog. The more you use GA, the easier it gets, believe me - there's still things I find on there now that confuse me. But don't let the complexity of it put you off as there is invaluable information there waiting for you that's completely free to use, and really is easy to navigate your way around once you understand the data and know what you're looking for. Hopefully my post has helped a few people on their mission with GA, please do let me know below if you found this helpful, or tweet me as I would love to write more posts like this in the future!
I hope some of you found this helpful! Do you use Google Analytics? Would you be interested in more blog posts with blogging tips like this?