This post has been resurrected, tweaked, prettied up, then republished. Just like new!
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. If you have other analytics programs like Clicky, Statcounter or Sitemeter, you can still get the gist of this post.
So here’s your basic overview of the analytics that’ll give you the most bang for your blog.
Sessions (previously Visits)
A session is a period of time that someone visits your blog. So, if I came to your blog, that counts as a session. If I visit your blog twice in a specified time period (say, a week), that counts as two sessions but one User (previously Unique Visit) because I’m one person.
Sessions 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 full blog posts 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.
Anytime a browser loads up a page, that’s a pageview. If I came to your blog and visited three pages, that’s one session 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
- Change home page to page excerpts (I lay out exactly how to do this in my book)- this also helps people get an idea of the various topics you write about versus your latest post
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. A super low bounce rate (like under 10%) can be a super great thing OR a sign that people can’t find what they’re looking for on your site so they kept clicking and clicking hoping to hit the jackpot.
I’ll be honest. A while back, I would have told you that bounce rate really wasn’t all THAT important for a blogger. 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).
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).
To see your referrals, go to Acquisition > All Traffic. You can also go even deeper to see just which sites bring you traffic. For that go to Acquisition > All Referrals.
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 Pinterest CAN bring you in boatloads of traffic. If it’s your #15 referral, figure out what you can do to boost Pinterest traffic.
Behavior – All Pages (aka your most popular content)
While it might not sound like it, this section of Google Analytics shows the most visited places on your blog. To find this vaguely-named section, go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.
Typically, one of your top entries will be “/” which just means 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 reads 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?