Web analytics for bloggers: A guide to getting started

Today’s post on web analytics is dedicated to all the independent bloggers out there. As creative beings, it can be challenging to get excited about words like analytics and data. I mean, it connotes lots of numbers, graph charts and analysis to actually turn all that data into actionable insights (two sexiest words strung together for any analyst!).

If you’re an abstract, creative sort of person who digs beautiful photography and carefully crafted words, don’t run away just yet! This post aims to help you turn numbers into something meaningful that will help you.

Here are the three most important basics to consider when analysing your blog’s performance.

This post uses Google Analytics as its example – it is free, easy to use and highly supported by popular blogging platforms like WordPress and Blogger.

Visitors (Users and sessions)

Web analytics for bloggers - Site Traffic

In the past, it was very popular to only report on this metric due to limitations and convenience. A high number = yay, a low number = not so yay. Visitor traffic is still an important aspect to look at (to see if your blog is being visited). Traffic growth is one of the key things for blogs. The higher the number, the higher likelihood you could start monetising your blog to be a publishing platform for advertisers. With much more sophisticated analytic tools these days, analyzing your traffic can turn a yay into a f-yeah.

What does it tell you?

That your blog is reaching an audience, however big or small. People (or sometimes, bots) are visiting your website and are interested in your content.

What else to look out for?

Pay attention to traffic trends, spikes and/or dips. This can easily be seen on the analytics graph on the Audience Overview page (like above). If you have been running your blog for a while, observe and make notes on recurring or unusual patterns. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • How do your readers (visitors) behave on weekdays vs weekends? Does it increase on a specific day or time?
  • What about across seasons? Does traffic spike or dip over a big festive season like Christmas?
  • If there is an out of the ordinary spike in traffic, consider if this was due to any particular reason – did you send out a newsletter, or posted your first Facebook ad? Or maybe you left a comment on someone else’s blog that evoked a strong emotion from their readers. Whatever it is, try to find out why as this will help determine what worked well (or didn’t) as a traffic driver. Leading me to my next point…

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Web analytics for bloggers

Traffic Source/Medium

Web analytics for bloggers - source and medium

You will find this under the Acquisition tab of the menu in Google Analytics. Click on Acquisition, then Overview, then Source/Medium. This will display the top 10 places your traffic came from. This is extremely handy to identify which channels are not just your strongest traffic drivers, but also deduce the quality of your traffic (readers).

What does it tell you?

How effective the channels you are investing in (Facebook boosted posts, Pinterest, partner websites etc) are, and how visitors from each channel behave on your blog site.

What else to look out for?

Consider the Behaviour metrics per Source/Medium. For example, I can see (from the chart above) that visitors who came directly to the site had a longer Page/ Session, with the average session lasting more than 13 minutes! On the other hand, visitors from Facebook appeared to only star for about one minute. As the site relies on Facebook a lot to push out content, this tells me I have much to do on improving the landing page experience when visitors from this channel lands on my site. Some other observations and actions from it are:

  • Investigate further on the strange 0% bounce rate that does not match the average time spent – why is it tracking this way?
  • Leaving comments on other blogs seem to also help drive traffic but not necessarily interest – could this be improved?

Site Content

Web analytics for bloggers - Site Content

You will find this under the Behaviour tab of the menu in Google Analytics. Click on Behaviour, then Site Content, then All Pages. Doing this will show your blog’s most popular content by Page Views. The default view of this is by each content page’s URL (web address) but if you are having difficulty identifying the content by its URL, go ahead and click on Page Title. This will automatically display the Page Name of your content page. This is a preference of course and if your blog is running on WordPress or Blogger, friendly URLs (based on your post title) becomes the default URL.

What does it tell you?

Your most popular site content and other metrics such as behaviour (as above) per page or post.

What else to look out for?

Seeing which are your most popular page or post can be handy as you can then start to determine:

  • Why was it popular? Was it written differently? Did it have more photos? Maybe it had a rich media (video, audio) component like a podcast to it – if the answer is yes, start testing this hypothesis out with another post in a similar format.

Sometimes the most unlikely of page will rank the highest. Pat yourself on the back, pour yourself a glass of wine before considering:

  • What is the that page’s experience like? Are there ways you can capitalise on it? Consider things like having more internal links to relevant blog posts, or even external links to your Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest page.

So there you have it – the three most important basics to consider when looking at web analytics for your blog. If you’re new to this, starting out can feel like it’s too much. A lot of my past clients get anxious and overwhelmed by the numbers and not knowing what to do with them.

If you are starting to feel this way, here is my advice. Start focused. Do not stray. Do not get distracted by the other pretty numbers (return later to fulfil that curiosity). Be clear with the reason you are going into the rabbit hole of Google Analytics and you will surface alive, breathing, and with loads of actionable insights!

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Web analytics for bloggers


4 Responses
  • Jodie
    August 28, 2016

    Love this, great guide for people not familiar with GA. awesome work!

    • michelle
      August 28, 2016

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, I truly appreciate it!

  • Amanda
    September 1, 2016

    This is a great post on GA as I have just started with it recently! I will definitely be saving this and applying it, Thankyou!

    • michelle
      September 2, 2016

      Thanks Amanda, what’s your blog? I noticed you didn’t include it. I’m so happy you found it useful. I will be gradually posting more about web analytics too so be sure to subscribe to my blog or follow me on Facebook!

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