Google Analytics can be a powerful asset to your blogging tool box. It’s exciting to watch your traffic grow, but it can also help you improve your blogging strategies, narrow in on what your readers like best, and see which social media platforms are working best for you.
This post is going to walk you through the things I personally like to look at in my Google Analytics dashboard and how tracking these statistics helps me improve my blog.
If you don’t have Google Anaylytics set up, here are instructions on how to do so.
Also, do yourself a favor and exclude your visits from your reports so that you are getting accurate statistics. Look at the difference in my views (the top one includes my visits, the bottom one does not).
Alright, let’s dig into your Google Analytics reports.
First off, we have the audience overview. I’m sure most of you are familiar with this page. It’s a great snapshot of how your blog traffic is doing. This screen is perfect for featuring on your sponsor/advertise page or including in your media kit.
Here’s a few definitions for you
Sessions – According to Google, “A session is a group of interactions that take place on your website within a given time frame.” A session or visit can include many pageviews. Sometimes sessions are referred to as visits.
Pageviews – Pageviews tell you how many times your blog or a particular page are viewed. Say I visit your blog: I land on your home page, then click your about page, then I go to your blog page. That is 3 pageviews, but only 1 session. Pageviews are obviously a more exciting number, but I usually pay attention to the sessions (visits).
After taking a quick peek at the overall statistics, I like to see where those visits came from and where they went on my blog.
Where did my blog traffic come from?
From your Google Analytics dashboard, navigate to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels
This gives you a broad overview of where your traffic is coming from. I only check this screen occasionally, as the order doesn’t change very often. The main section I personally like to look in the Acquisition tab is the Referrals section.
Referrals in Google Analytics
Referrals show the specific webpage visitors were referred to your blog from. To see the referrals navigate to Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals. There are a few reasons I like to look at referrals.
First, if someone mentions me on their blog I want to know about it. For example, you can see that my blog received traffic from sarahvonbargen.com.
By clicking on that link, Google Analytics will show me exactly which page the traffic is coming from. This helped me find the article that Sarah mentioned me in. I usually like to leave a comment on these posts and thank them for including me (I missed Sarah’s open comments window this time) and I always make sure to share their post with my followers.
Keeping track of who refers traffic to you will help you build stronger online relationships.
The next thing I like to look at in the Referrals section is the Pinterest traffic that comes to my site. Pinterest is currently my #1 traffic source (although search is catching up!).
When you click on the pinterest.com link in Google Analytics it show you all of the specific URL’s that sent traffic to your blog from Pinterest.
As you can see from the screen shot above, the top Pinterest referrer is the home page. This makes me happy because it means that I am showing up in the smart feed.
After that, I can see individual pins that are sending my blog traffic. I like to click on those and it will pop open the actual pin. If it isn’t my pin, I will “heart” it, repin it, and/or leave a comment to the pinner.
Knowing which pins bring your blog the most traffic will help you know what type of pins (and their descriptions) are preforming well.
Another thing I like to do while inside specific referrals is sort the report by Avg. Session Duration. The screenshot below is still on the pins sending me traffic, but you can do the same on any page in Google Analytics.
I like to track people that spend a good amount of time on my site. I like to know where they came from and where they went. I also like to personally reach out to them if possible (is that stalker-ish?). I can’t be sure that it was the pinner that spent that much time on my site, it might have been one of their followers, but I always like to leave a comment just in case!
What pages are my visitors viewing?
The easiest way to see what pages your traffic is landing on is to navigate to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Page.
Checking out the landing pages allows me to see my most popular pages. Knowing what type of posts bring you the most traffic will help you narrow in on your niche and write more posts in the future that your audience likes.
Sometimes I like to add a secondary dimension to this the Landing Pages screen and see where the traffic came from to get to this page. To do so click Secondary dimension and then Source.
Adding the secondary dimension in landing pages helped me discover that different types of posts on my blog preform better on certain platforms.
You can also do the same thing, but vice-verse, from the referrals page and add landing pages as the secondary dimension. This allows you to see both statistics in one screen.
All pages visited.
After checking out the landing pages, I go look at all pages.
Landing pages only show you the very first page your visitors come to. All pages shows you that and everything else. By default, the landing pages screen shows you sessions and the all pages screen shows you pageviews.
I use this screen to show me what pages are the most popular that day, week, month, and all time. You can sort any screen in Google analytics by a certain time frame by adjusting the calendar in the top right corner.
Who is visiting my blog?
Now that you know where your traffic comes from and what they are checking out on your site, it is also helpful to know more about who is visiting.
The type of blog you have will determine importance of checking the geographic location of your visitors. If you post on local topics definitely make sure to check where your visitors are located. This can help you narrow in on the locations you focus on in your posts.
To see where your visitors are located navigate to Audience > Demographics > Overview
What device are your visitors on.
Knowing what type of device your visitors use when viewing your site can help optimized your blog design. Navigate to Audience > Mobile > Overview. This will tell you what percent of your visitors use desktop, mobile, or tablets when viewing your site. Most people are seeing a 50% desktop and 50% mobile device these days. Which is exactly why Google is placing an importance on mobile friendly sites in search engines.
Channels: Shows a broad overview of where your traffic comes from: Social, Direct, Search, Referral, Email. I check this occasionally.
Referrals: Shows you specific webpages that send traffic to your blog. I check this daily.
Landing Pages: Shows you which page visitors landed on when coming to your site. I check this daily.
All Pages: Shows every page that was visited on your blog. I check this regularly (though not always daily).
Geography: Shows you where in the world your traffic comes from. If you blog about local topics, check this regularly. I hardly ever check it.
Device: Shows you what type of device your visitors view your blog. I check this occasionally.
You probably noticed in my screenshots a column that you don’t have: Newsletter Subscriptions. Later this week I will be doing a post on how to track your newsletter sign ups in Google Analytics.
Sign up for email updates so you know when the post goes live!
What do you check in your Google Analytics? How have you improved your blog by tracking those stats?