Five Things to Watch in Your Blog Analytics

Does the word “analytics” make your eyes glaze over?

Sorry about that… because I’m gonna say that word a lot in this post. But if you’re serious about improving your blog, analytics matter.

Truthfully, all sorts of analytics matter. Depending on your goals, other stats may be more important than the ones we’ll talk about today. But you have to start somewhere, don’t ya?

This post is based on analytics from Google Analytics, which can be used for WordPress and Blogger blogs. Everyone should at least be set up with Google for tracking your blog’s analytics. Once Google is set up, if you want to add ones with more real-time stats like Get Clicky, Statcounter or Sitemeter, go for it!

So here’s your basic overview of the analytics that’ll give you the most bang for your blog.

Visits

A visits is a period of time that someone visits your blog. So, if I came to your blog, that counts as a visit. There’s a difference between visits and unique visits though. If I visit your blog twice in a specified time period (say, a week), that counts as two visits but one UNIQUE visit because I’m one person.

Visits are important because they tell you how many times people are coming to your blog to read, interact or just soak up all the good stuff you offer.

And just since you probably want to know, people who read your blog in their RSS feed don’t count as visits or page views. But they’re your biggest fans so let them enjoy your blog in whatever way is easiest for them, not the way that benefits you.

Pageviews

Anytime a browser loads up a page, that’s a pageview. If I came to your blog and visited 3 pages, that’s one visit and three pageviews.

You’ll almost always have more pageviews than visits unless your bounce rate is high (see next); in that case, they’ll be closer in number.

Pageviews give you a window into how interested people are in your blog. In nearly all case, the more pageviews someone has, the better. However, it could also mean your content is too disjointed so people have to click all over to look for something. That’s not typically the case but something to be aware of!

If you’re curious what constitutes a low, medium and high amount of pageviews in the blogging world, read my post about pageviews and bloggers. To increase your pageviews (and decrease your bounce rate), you need to get people to click on other pages or posts of yours. A few ways you can help increase your pageviews:

  • Interlink, interlink, interlink!
  • Use a plugin or widget like Popular Posts to show first-timers your best stuff
  • Use a plugin or widget like LinkWithin at the bottom of posts to show related content

Bounce Rate

A bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that leave your blog without visiting more than one page. So if I land on your homepage, read a while, then leave your blog, it counts as a bounce. If I land on one of your older posts or a page of yours, then leave, that’s a bounce too. Anything under 60% is typically considered a decent bounce rate and anything under 40% is pretty darn good.

I’ll be honest. A few months ago I would have told you that bounce rate really wasn’t all THAT important for a blogger. While a business may have limited information on their homepage, a blogger typically has at least a few of their most recent posts on the homepage. And then I started seeing the bounce rate for Momcomm. It’s steady at about 8%. Even from high-bounce referrals like Stumble Upon, I’m getting 7% on average. Holy crap… what?

While I stand by my notion that bounce rate isn’t the most important thing to obsess over (really, you shouldn’t be obsessing at all), I’d say that if you work on increasing your pageviews, your bounce rate will lower automatically. Just please, please don’t resort to tricks to get there (like too many “read mores” links just because you want a click).

Referrals

A referral is another site that brings you traffic. In Google Analytics, you can easily see your top referral sources. They’ll typically includes places like Facebook, Twitter and even short urls you use (i.e. bit.ly or ht.ly). Two you’ll commonly see are “google / organic” (traffic that comes through Google’s search engine) and “(direct) / (none)” (traffic that comes from people typing your URL into their browser).

While some referrals are beyond your control (you can’t improve people typing your name into browsers except by building your brand), looking at referrals tells you the places that are worth you spending time at.

Are you spending the majority of your networking time on a forum that’s only bringing in 3% of your traffic? Well, you may wanna stop going there (or take a look at how you’re networking- are you focused on helping or just promoting yourself?).

It can also tell you places you should be focusing. Everyone knows that Facebook CAN bring you in boatloads of traffic. If it’s your #15 referral, figure out what you can do to boost Facebook traffic.

Top Content

Your top content (shown in the Content Overview section of Google Analytics) shows the most visited places on your blog.

Typically, your first entry will be “/” which just means that’s your homepage.

Take a look at your top 10-25 pages. These are the creme of your crop. The stuff that people look at the most.

Top content is a great place to start cross-analyzing some stuff (nooooo, don’t start your eyes glazing over now. this will make you smarter). This is what the top bar on this page looks like:

So how can you cross-analyze the posts that are listed? Here are a few ways:

  • If your third most-visited post had a :03 average time on page, something’s wrong here. That means people are interested in the topic but once they got there it wasn’t what they hoped it was. That’s when you start digging a little more. What keywords are bringing people to that page. Is that keyword matching up with what that post is about? If not, how can you align it better?
  • What if a post in a series of yours has a high bounce rate? You can then go back through the series and interlink all the posts. That way, if someone is reading part 3 of the series, but wants to go back and start at part 1, it’s easy for them to do so.
  • It may be the case that you want a higher or lower % exit for a page (the % of visitors that leave your website from that page). For example, on my blog designer page, I WANT a higher exit rate because I want people to visit the designers’ websites, not stay on my site.

As you can see, there are lots of ways to use this area to improve your blog.

Analyze Without Being Overwhelmed

Like I said, there are lots of ways that analytics can help you improve your blog. Just try not to get overwhelmed! Make a few changes at a time, see how traffic changes, tweak it, then analyze again.

Any analytics that you like to watch closely?

Comments

  1. says

    Thank you so much for this! I’ve used Analytics for years without actually knowing how to use it. Like most free Google-owned products, it’s a great resource but there is so very little support to explain how to use it effectively.

    While I am generally pleased with my pageviews (currently about 27,000 monthly), I am perpetually frustrated with my bounce rate which has never gone lower than 75% and is currently 82%. I use LinkWithin and always try to find ways to link back to other posts of mine within posts (whenever it seems organic and unforced to do so), but the elusive 60% bounce rate continues to seem out of reach.

    I think your tips on Top Content might help me restructure some things. I wonder if tidying up my categories might work well, too? Hmmm. Lots to work on in the backend at my place. If only I could find time to do it!

    • melissa says

      You’re right– Google isn’t much help! But congrats on a great number of pageviews!

      Yes, tidying up categories will help I think. Also, pick your 3-5 post visited posts and add a call to action at the end (either in a fancy box or in italics so it stands out). For example, if a post on cloth diapers is popular, mention (or create) a resource page that has places to buy diapers or link to a post. If interlinking within the post isn’t working, sometimes putting it at the bottom helps. Also, I think LinkWithin sometimes becomes wallpaper– people get so used to seeing it that they don’t “see” it. Again, it works for some. For others, you may have to try other tactics!

      • says

        Awesome suggestion, Melissa! I know when I am blog reading, I tend to glaze over Link Within, too, unless it happens to pull a post with a really provocative headline. So, hmmm. Maybe I need to also examine my post titles.

        Anyway, fantastic suggestion that I am going to try implementing from now on!

        • says

          Great question – and great suggestions! I’m wondering if my linked within gadget is getting exactly as suggested, almost invisible. I think I will make tabs/buttons on the side that draw readers in more — specifically one for Celiac Disease. That’s one of my top posts/search terms, etc.

          Thanks!
          Rachel @ finding joy recently posted..those fleeting rocking chair days

    • melissa says

      Facebook is great though! Twitter is a strange beast to get right but keep at it: it’s where the best relationships are built (IMO).

  2. says

    I honestly did not know anything about blog analytics before reading your post. Thanks for all of the information! I know that you said not to obsess over this, but I probably will :) Currently, the average time spent on one of my posts is 84 seconds. From what you said about time spent, I will have to work on my writing to keep people on longer. Thanks again!

    • melissa says

      Haha- I go through phases where I obsess too. It’s normal! Obsessing to improve is better than obsessing with checking stats every 5 minutes!

  3. says

    My bounce rate hovers around 65-69% aka No Bueno and I’m starting to gather there are three major issues driving readers off:

    1. Lack of quality content (I think it’s decent but that’s me)
    2. Constant long posts (read: over 500 words all. the. time.)
    3. Not enough images (and I’m a photographer…oops)

    I’ve been in a funk lately and I can’t seem to keep readers which has been affecting my confidence a tad (it shouldn’t, but it does). My fan page is stuck on 208 and I just feel like I’m burning out some. I don’t get it. I do know this Advanced Composition class I’m now taking has been messing with my head a bit but darn, didn’t think it’d be this much!

    *sigh* Back to the drawing board.

    • melissa says

      Hang in there, Kim!
      I can probably count on one hand how many posts for Momcomm have been under 500 words. It’s all about what your audience wants!

      If you’re burning out, take a week off. Leave up a post with some favorites so newbies see it. Start writing out what your goals are– what do you want people to get out of your blog? Defining that (if you haven’t yet) may help.

  4. says

    First of all…thank you for the consistently AWESOME information you give us! :) I’ve been using Google Analytics for about 9 months or so, but had no idea how to improve the numbers I was seeing. I get a good amount of traffic to my site and lots of sharing of posts, but I haven’t quite figured out the trick to lowering my bounce rate & increasing my conversion rate. This gave me a lot to think about!
    -Gina

    • melissa says

      Thanks for the comment, Gina! GA can be SO overwhelming (in fact, certain parts of it still are for me). Watching these I mention though will help you get value from it!

  5. says

    I LOVE your posts. They are always so helpful and I read them and know easy changes to make to my blog.

    I actually had wondered about bounce rate and what exactly it meant and what was good. I hover around 70%.

    I am going to go back to some of my top posts and add some more interlinking!

    Thanks for the tips.

  6. says

    Two things I like to do with Google Analytics are to set up Goal tracking so I can see how many people convert on actions I want them to take. For example, I have an email newsletter, so the sign-up process is a Goal that I track.

    The other is to tag the links to posts that I put on Twitter with GA variables so I can more easily filter through traffic sources within Analytics and group them into campaigns. Then I put the tagged URL into bit.ly and share that. You can create tagged URLs with this tool: http://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?answer=55578

  7. says

    I’ve heard slightly different info about bounce rates. My colleague, who’s responsible for corporate Google Analytics use, described a bounce rate as a pageview that lasts under a certain amount of time (like a few seconds – can’t remember the exact duration). Basically, someone who clicks, realizes immediately that the page doesn’t have the info they want, and then clicks out. Not all single pageviews are counted as a bounce, if the visitor spends time reading the whole article on the page they clicked to.

    Now I’m curious to know who’s right – Melissa the Momcomm goddess or my colleague. :)

  8. says

    I really appreciate this post. In fact I love the entire blog. I have been blogging for a year now and I feel like a light bulb just went on. I have been hearing terms like, “unique visitors,” “RSS” and I finally feel like I have a good understanding of some of it. Because I was such a newbie fumbling around in the dark internet world, I needed a simple platform so I used Wordpess. It’s easy and I like it but, unfortunately, I guess I can’t get Google Analytics. I am migrating my blog in the next month to my own domain so I can get another stat counter then. My WordPress stats say I have nearly 14,000 page views and 50 subscribers so I guess it’s a beginning? I look forward to reading more on your blog and learning more. Thank you!

  9. says

    This was so incredibly helpful. I just came across your blog today and I can’t wait to explore.

    I am going to start from the beginning.

    I am also looking very forward to your e-book and will be purchasing it!!

    • melissa says

      Thanks Amber! Glad you’re enjoying it (saw your other comments too). Glad we’re following each other on Twitter. Look forward to getting to know you better!

  10. says

    Good Morning Melissa,

    Thank you for your explanation.

    I spent about 20-30 minutes clicking back and forth between your post and my analytics for my site. Very beneficial, much appreciated and I’ve saved it in my favorites for future reference.

    Thanks again,

    Brian

  11. says

    I just migrated my blog from a WordPress hosted site to a self-hosted site, with Google Analytics. I thought I used to get decent traffic but now my new blog site has really low numbers I am frustrated how to build up traffic again. I also created a FB fan page and am more active on Twitter but I don’t get much traffic from those sources. On my self-hosted site they have Awstats, and the numbers there are MUCH higher than analytics. Any idea why the difference?
    Diana recently posted..Here and There

    • melissa says

      Hi Diana! From what I’ve heard (never used it though personally) Awstats are usually higher because they track hits from bots and search engine spiders. So Awstats will be much higher than Google but Google is more accurate (sorry about that).

      As for FB and Twitter, make sure you’re not just posting your blog posts (easy to do on FB). Ask questions, share posts that others write, etc! Hope that helps!

  12. says

    I’ve only just started advertising and telling people about my blog 2 weeks ago my Google analytic stats are: 20 unique visits a day, 50 when I post a blog, and 200 page views a day. I’m trying to contact people who are in my target audience so hopefully that will help in long run.x

  13. says

    There is so much great information here – my head is bursting! I just looked at google analytics for the first time (I haven’t had it but a month now) and what a lot of info but I really need to learn what it all means.

    Thank you so very, very much. It has been a good weeks here and at SITSGirls.
    Kathleen recently posted..A Look Into My Small World

  14. says

    Mel-
    I just wanted to leave you a little note telling you thanks again. You’ve done more to make my blog better than any other single person or resource in the blog-o-sphere. From the fantastic critique that eventually led to me to conducting a makeover, to the posts you’ve done on improving my content, and to this post (which I read last July but re-read again today as part of the 31 Days Series going on over at SITS) to help me do a better job at using the data presented by Google Analytics…. I just cannot thank you enough!

    I too have a 7% bounce rate… and didn’t even realize what an amazing thing that was until reading this post….and I KNOW that I have YOU to thank for that bounce rate and helping me improve the way that I blog!

    So my hats off to you my mentor!

    Warmly (and xoxoxo),
    Sharon

    • melissa says

      Sharon-
      Awwww! I want you to know that this is one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received in my blogging career. Thank you SO SO much for the kind words and I’m so honored to have had that impact on you and your blog.

      Thanks for being such a devoted reader and I’m so happy to see your growth as a blogger. It’s awesome!

      Mel

  15. says

    So, like, a 1.37% bounce rate? Is that freakin’ awesome or a ridiculous mistake? (Seriously, anytime somebody talks about bounce rates I feel weird, because mine is so low as to sound impossible. But checking my user details, most people really are sticking around for a really long time per visit. Get those related posts plugins working, people! I know that’s what does it for me!
    Cindy recently posted..See Ya Next Week!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Many bloggers including this one, are constantly looking for good quality photographs. This article from Supralaw.com gives a good introduction the rules for using other people’s photos on your blog. http://www.momcomm.com/2011/07/five-things-to-watch-in-your-blog-analytics/ [...]

  2. [...] Bloggers are constantly wondering how their work is being received in the market place. This is an interesting article on what to look at when analyzing your blog’s performance. http://www.momcomm.com/2011/07/five-things-to-watch-in-your-blog-analytics/ [...]

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