Google Analytics, or GA, is an amazing tool. If you haven’t already set it up for your blog, here is an easy tutorial on how to add the code. Once you’ve got everything set up, wait about a week and the numbers will start coming in.
But what do the numbers mean? And what can you do with this great information?
Honestly, there are tons of ways you can analyze the data, but for the data and statistics newbies, I’m just going to focus on 5. And besides, any more than that and you’ll probably be spending more time pouring over your analytics than working on your next post. : ) If you already have GA set up, open it in a new window, and follow along to get a fresh look at the numbers.
1. Site Performance Overview
When I first log in to GA, I see a bar with your blog name, and a series of numbers. These give me a quick overview of the kind of traffic I have gotten over the last month.
Here’s what I see across the bar: The green checkmark means that the analytics code is still working. A yellow triangle means something has happened, and I need to re-install the code ASAP. The first number tells me the total number of visits in the last month. The next tells me the average amount of time a visitor spent on my site, then comes the bounce rate (we’ll talk about both of these in a minute). The next collumn is “goals completed’ (Don’t worry about this for now. Later, if you want, you can set up goals for your site. That’s a bit more advanced though). The last number is % change. The default shows the % change in visitors from this month to the previous month. If traffic has gone up, it will show green. If traffic has gone down, it will show red. In the grey bar at the top there is a drop down so that I can change “visits” to “average time on site” or “bounce rate.”
All of this gives me a quick snapshot on how my site is doing.
2. Visitor Engagement
Clicking on the “view report” button takes me to my Dashboard. The first page told me how many visitors I’ve had. The dashboard will give me insight on how engaged those visitors are.
Top Graph: The blue-line graph at the top of the page shows me what my traffic looked like on a daily basis over the last month. I can see what days are higher traffic days (are these weekdays, weekends, days that I post certain types of content?).
Visits: This will be the same number I saw on the first page. If I scroll down, I’ll see “visitors” with a different number. That’s okay. “Visits” means how many people came and viewed a page on the site. “Visitors” means how many of those people were unique. If you visit my site right now, then visit again this afternoon, you are only one Visitor, but you made two visits. So your “visits” can be higher than your “visitors.” If this is confusing, don’t worry about it now.
Pageviews: A visitor coming to my site might just look at the one page they started at when they clicked in, or they might look around at multiple pages. Pageviews reflects how many total pages were looked at by my visitors over the past month.
Pages/Visit: This is an average. It is calculated based on the total number of pages that were viewed divided by the number of visitors. If this number is 2.5, that means that on average, a visitor to my site looks at 2-3 pages. The higher this number is, the better I am at keeping visitors on my site, looking around at all my awesome content (engaging them).
Bounce Rate: This is the % of single-page visits. Let’s say this # is 50%. That means that half my visitors enter my site, then leave without looking at any other content. If the number is 75%, that means that three-quarters leave without looking around, but if it is 10%, then nearly all my visitors look at more than one page before leaving. The lower this number is, the better I am at engaging my visitors.
Average Time on Site: This reflects how long my visitors are hanging out. Are they spending 30 minutes with the page open so they can follow a step-by-step tutorial, or visiting lots of pages? Or are they clicking in then immediately moving on? The higher this number is, the better I am at engaging my visitors.
% New Visits: This is the number of visits by someone who has not been to my site before. Since I’m growing my site, a higher number here is good. But I don’t want to constantly have a 99%, because that means that nobody except my mom and a few cousins are coming back. Over time, I want to see this number fall slowly. Right now I’m in the 80% range, which is probably just where I want to be right now.
Up in the top right hand corner it shows the date range, which defaults to one month (June 2-July 2). You can click on this to change the date range, and review all of these statistics for any date range you choose – look at these numbers going all the way back to when you first installed GA. Look at the past month, week, or just yesterday.
3. Traffic Sources
Next I’m going to click on “view report” under the traffic sources pie graph to see where my traffic has been coming from over the past month (unless I’ve been playing with the date ranges, then I’ll be looking at that date range). To get a full picture, I click “view report” in the bottom left hand corner, then in the bottom right, I use the drop down to show 500 rows. If I don’t have that many referral sources, it will show all the ones I do have, giving you a full picture.
I like to scroll down through the list, and check out the sites that are linking up to me. I think it is pretty cool to check this out, and always gives me a bit of a thrill. 🙂
Then I start looking at the first 5-10. These are the top contributors to my site’s traffic. I think about what I did in order to make each of these happen. Did I submit a project to a larger site? Did I do a blog swap? Participate in a linky party? I do this because I want to make sure that I keep taking these actions, in order for my blog to grow. If my top referrers are due to me being active on Stumbleupon, participating in a specific linky party, and submitting a project to another site, then it makes sense that if I Stumble more, participate in more linky parties, and continue to submit projects, that my blog traffic will continue to grow. Also, if I see that I participated in a blog swap and it didn’t make it into my top 50 referrers, that maybe it isn’t a good traffic-generator (we’ll talk more about this in #5). But, if it was fun, that doesn’t mean that I won’t stop doing it. If one of the top referrers is google, it means I’ve been doing a good job of SEO, which is a topic for another time, though you can check out the SEO Twitter Chat Transcript if you’d like to start learning more.
Then, I scroll down to the bottom and start looking at the sites I got 1-2 hits from. In most cases this was from me leaving a comment. Cool. 🙂 I scroll up and see the sites I got 3-10 hits from. Often, this is because I was mentioned in a post, or they have me on their blogroll. Awesome. 😀 I try to leave a comment. If I was mentioned in a post, I leave a comment on the post with a thank-you, and often a comment on another post I like, to give them some “comment love” as a thank you. If they have me on their blogroll, I don’t mention it in the comment, but leave them some comment love. This is how great blog friendships are started. : )
About once a month I try to go through this list, making sure to check out any sites that don’t look familiar (and even some that do) just to see the kind of places that are referring traffic to me.
4. Quality of the traffic
In #2 I talked about Visitor Engagement, and in #3 I talked about traffic sources. I’m going to combine that a bit here. On my “All traffic Sources” page, I’ll click on my #1 spot, which this month is Stumbleupon. This takes me to the “Source Medium Detail” page, where I can see the visits, time on site, bounce rate, # pages per visit and % of new visits, just like before – but this page shows me all these numbers just for the visitors who came to my site via Stumbleupon. It is not surprising that the bounce rate is going to be higher, and the time on site and # pages per visit is going to be lower than my site’s average. Though Stumbleupon sends me lots of visitors, most of those visitors are not going to be ones that stick around long.
If I go back to the “All Traffic Sources” and click on One Pretty Thing, an awesome site that I’ve gotten great traffic from, I see that the time on site is much higher (over 2 minutes), the bounce rate is lower, and the # of pages per visit is higher than Stumbleupon. Though I got less traffic from OPT, the quality of traffic is superior – these visitors are crafters, interested in what I’m offering on my site.
My goal in growing my site is to get more traffic – but also to get more quality traffic. This is not to say that I don’t love the traffic I’m getting from Stumbleupon. I just want to make sure that I’m growing other traffic sources as well. That’s why I mentioned earlier that if a specific blog swap didn’t generate a lot of traffic, that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a good use of my time (traffic-wise). Though a particular action might not generate a large quantity of traffic, the traffic it does send over might me of much greater quality, which some could argue is even more valuable.
5. Top pages
Going back to the Dashboard, the bottom right chart says “Content Overview.” If I click on “view report” on the bottom, and then “view report” again on the bottom left, I get a list of the top 10 most viewed pages over the last month (If you see one of your pages listed as just “/”, that refers to your homepage). Many of my more recent posts rank high here, which is to be expected. But I see that my Pocket Week Quiet Book ranks in the #6 spot. It is nearly a year old, and I haven’t done anything to promote it recently. This tells me that it is still very popular – maybe I should do some kind of follow-up post, expanding on the original tutorial?
Hopefully, that helps you understand some of the different reports in Google Analytics. And really, this is just the tip of the iceberg. But, even if you just check out these 5 things every week or so, you’ll start to get a really good feel for what kind of traffic your blog is getting.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer them for you!