Being a blogger isn’t easy! You spend hours researching topic demand, coming up with titles, researching the new content, writing and publishing it and then promoting it. If you’re doing it properly it’s a lot of work for any blogger whether their new to it or have been going for a while…That’s before you look at analytics!
So you put your time, blood sweat and sometimes (hopefully not often) tears into creating something engaging for your audience and you’re you can feel proud of what you’ve done.
The next task after promoting your content is measuring how effective it was or how well it was received by readers. Unfortunately, you rarely get the chance to have a 1:1 with enough readers to understand what they liked, it’s also not all that efficient. A great way to track how well the site and individual articles have performed is through Google Analytics and I’ve listed the 15 top areas and metrics you should track and why.
Before Measuring, Make Sure the Data is Correct
Unfortunately, because of the way it records visitors, Google Analytics is not infallible and there are going to be a few discrepancies in the data at times. This is unlikely to have any affect on the meaningfulness of the metrics but its worth baring in mind sometimes.
Discrepancies aside, it’s vital that your site is recording visits and engagement appropriately and your first port of call is to check that your tracking code is on all the pages of the site. I’m not suggesting that you look in the code of every page on the site, that would be painful! Google have a great Chrome Extension called Tag Assistant that has a cool icon on the top right of the browser window that will tell you if there is tracking code on the page. You can pick a sample of a few pages and check them individually and match the tracking ID with what yours should be on Google Analytics. With 99.99% of sites now the GA tag goes into a part of the website template that means you enter it once and then it appears on all pages.
The tool will also tell you if there are more than one version of a tracking code on a site or if you’ve entered it in twice.
Pesky Spam Bots
I won’t go into much detail here but for varying reasons annoying people have created LOADS of different robots that come to sites and crawl the data/content. Ones that are made properly don’t get tracked by GA but the vast majority do! These can skew the traffic reported to your site and you should block them if possible. There is a checkbox to tick in the GA settings to block known ones but to be more sure you should use the Advanced Segment I created to block some of the repeat offenders.
The Important Metrics
- Sessions & Users
Of course you’ll be pretty interested in knowing how many visits you have coming to your site over a defined period and how many users the site has. Sessions are essentially visits to the site and within a session, engagement and site use is measured. You can visit a site twice and that will be tracked as 2 sessions with ‘Users’ being the number of individual users coming to the site in that period. You should track this both for vanity (bragging rights) and so you can then make better engagement assumptions with other data later on.
- New / Returning Visitors
A great metric to track is New Vs Returning visitors to the site for a couple of reasons. New – Because, great! You’re getting new people finding your content and coming to the site, potentially sharing and engaging with the articles.
Returning – Again, great! You’re getting those people who used to be new visitors coming back.This means you’re doing a good job of being found by new visitors and you’re writing content that gets people coming back. If you get a massive percentage of new visitors but very little returners, then something may be wrong. You might be writing about popular topics but not inspiring return visits. It could also be the niche you’re writing for though. For example you may write great content for a law site that people digest when they need to, not because they enjoy it….
- Average Session Duration & Average Time On Page
Bit of a cheat here by talking about 2 metrics at once but they are both useful for similar reasons. Both are great measures of how long a user visited your site and using it you can make judgements about whether people actually read the content or not.
Average Session Duration – This is how long a user spent on the site overall and counts from when someone arrives through all their pageviews until they leave.
Average Time on Page – This is exactly what it says it is. Measuring how long someone spent on a page can let you decide if the content is being read completely. You can get a steer as to whether the content is boring or not what the user wanted because they don’t spend very long on the page. You can drill down into individual pages on this to identify the worst and best performing pages by time.
- Pageviews per Session
This again is a great one to keep track of as you can get a better picture of how many pages the average user visits per session. If its just the one page per session, then perhaps the site isn’t inspiring them to continue reading further articles. If the number of pages viewed per session is really high then either people are really keen to keep looking at your site OR they aren’t finding what they’re looking for in the first place.You can find all these metrics within most parts of GA but the overall figures can be found in the Visitors Overview
- Bounce Rate
Bounce rates kind of annoy me, they’re a little misleading and people can get a little too obsessed with them. It’s still a good metric to track but don’t lose too much sleep over it because you’re a blogger. People are coming to your site to read your content and then most likely leave (hopefully sharing it beforehand). That’s what people do. If that’s the case then GA could count many of your readers as bounces when in fact they actually read the content….Annoying. There is a world of facts and opinions on Bounce Rates but this isn’t the time, sorry!
Users are multi device now which means that you may get visitors from both Desktop, Mobile and Tablet devices so it’s important that you segment your data in GA to see how the site performs on different device versions. All the points in this list should be segmented as you will quickly be able to identify a device type that may be performing better or worse than others. You’ll then have an idea where to focus to improve overall performance.
Within this report you will be able to see the channels that are driving traffic to your site. It, just like the devices reporting is a great opportunity to see how traffic is coming to the site against the main metrics by the channel that sent it. You can see if your SEO efforts are paying off with more visits and engagement on the site or if you’re getting lots of referral traffic from another relevant blogger. Keep an eye on these metrics.
- Organic Search (SEO)
Within the Channels report you can drill down into the Organic Search or SEO reporting. For better or worse, mostly worse, there isn’t a great deal of further top level data you can see here as Google removed nearly all the keyword data in this report. What you can do however is sort the data by Source and see which search engine is driving the traffic or by landing page. If you sort by landing page you can make a guess as to what the search term used may have been by the page they landed on. Not ideal but the best you can get at this stage.
The referral traffic report is a great place to look (assuming you’re ignoring/blocking spam bots) as you can easily see which websites are driving traffic to yours and how the users that they refer engage with the site. You can use it to strike up a relationship with a relevant website that refers well performing traffic or you can identify any sites that might be scraping your content without removing the internal links! <- Damn spammers!
See if your social media shares are driving traffic to your site or if you’re getting social traffic from a platform that you aren’t working with. Tracking this will help you to identify which posts work well to drive traffic by social platform and which don’t work so well. You can then perhaps tailor what you share and how you share it on particular platforms. You might also identify a platform that you don’t use where you’re users are sharing your content that you can make use of in the future.
Direct visitors are important to keep an eye on as these are likely to be people who really like your site and content. These people either type in your site address or have a bookmark saved that takes them directly to you. Usually these visitors will be happy to spend more time on the site and view more when they do. If these numbers go down over time then perhaps something has changed that needs review and it’s worth keeping track of.
- Site Search
Are the people coming to your site finding what they are looking for? The best way to identify this quickly is by looking in the site search section on GA. You need to set it up to track first (details here) but once it is then you can see patterns fairly easily. Are users searching for the same thing over and over?
If you already have an article on that then perhaps you need to make it more prominent.If you haven’t already written about something you see regularly in site search then it might be something that is worth writing.
- Top Landing Pages
In this report you can quickly identify which pages the majority of visitors are landing on and how well they perform. You can see if one page performs much better than another or if there are any surprising pages that do really well. By looking at landing page level you might identify pages that need further work on them or maybe just different promotion.
- Goals – Subscribers
One very important area to track is any goal completions on the site. I suspect the biggest measure of success for all bloggers will be the number of readers you convert into newsletter or update subscribers and tracking where these users came from is important. You need to make sure that you’ve set this up properly and there are hundreds if not thousands of articles out there to help you out but once set up tracking these stats are important. Especially if you segment by device and traffic sources.
- Out Link Clicks
As a blogger its quite likely that you’ll be linking out to other relevant sites or, if you’re monetising the site, you may be linking out to sites that reward you for promoting their products/services. Tracking both is pretty important as you can then see which articles are diverting traffic from the site or providing affiliate sales. You can see if those clicks are from a specific device or channel and it may show you a pattern that could benefit the site. You can also use this data as evidence to any sites that may be rewarding you for your traffic referral. To track this you need to add some code to your links and instructions on how to implement this are here.
Bonus: Blogger Dashboard
A great way to visualise a lot of the data in one go is though a Google Analytics Dashboard. A brilliant one an be found here and it can be customised however you need and it could be a good place to start your tracking fun from.
I hope this article has given you an idea of the best metrics to start tracking as a blogger and if there are any more you’d like to add or questions please add them in the comments section below. Be sure to share this with anyone you think might benefit!
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