In a previous post about social media analytics, I suggested that everyone running a blog or website should use Google Analytics to analyze traffic. The whole point of blogging and other forms of social marketing is to educate consumers and get them to buy our services and our stuff.  Try as I might, I can’t always predict if the things I write will do that.  With Google Analytics, I can monitor how many people visit the posts and pages I produce, if my readers actually read them when they get there, and where those people come from. Today, I want to go through a few Google Analytics basics for bloggers.

Install Google Analytics to monitor your blog or website.

Google Analytics is a free service offered by Google, and it’s the industry standard for web analysis.  The setup process is pretty straightforward, and there are a number of good resources on the web to guide you through it.   For example, Meghan Peters offers a pretty thorough set of instructions for setting up Google Analytics here, at , and you can’t go wrong with Google Analytics’ help site.  Here’s what you’re in for.

Step 1: Sign up for a Google Analytics account.

If you’ve already got a Gmail account, you’re in.  If not, grab one.  From there, head to the Google Analytics  site to set up an account for your website.  (If you have more than one website, you can track them all from the same Google Analytics account).

Step 2: Register your URL.

Once you’re in, Google will ask you for your website’s URL.  Yep, it’s that simple.

Step 3: Add Google Analytics tracking code to your blog.

Google needs to know that you are the person in charge of your website, and they need a way to track your traffic to your site.  To solve both problems, Google will give you a few lines of code that you will need to add to your pages.

Track your blog and website activity.

This is where it gets fun.

Measure readership with “Unique Visitor” metric and the Audience Tab.

You need to know how many people actually view your material.  Google Analytics’ “Audience” tab gives you the ability to track four or five numbers that represent site traffic itself.  Personally, I find the Unique Visitor metric to be the most useful.  Although it’s not perfect, it comes pretty close to measuring the number of unique people who view your site content.  You can’t track each person individually, but Google can generally figure out that the reader who looks at your blog in the morning and your contact page in the afternoon is the same person and tracks them only once.  You can dig deeper here and track the number of Page Views per visit among others, but I’m most interested in the number of potential customers each post generates.  The chart below plots Unique Visitors against the duration each visitor spends on my site.

Measure reader interest with “Average Time on Page” metric from the Content tab.

Sometimes, my headlines are more interesting than my posts.  It happens.  I think I know what my readers will find interesting and what will hold my customers’ attention, but often I’m dead wrong.  Enter Google Analtyics’ Average Time on Page metric.   Let’s say I have two posts, each 500 words and 250 Unique Visitors, and Post A has an Average Time on Page metric of 25 seconds vs Post B’s 3 minutes, which is the more engaging post?  Again, you can dig deeper here and really figure out what people do after reading a post — whether they make a purchase, read other content, or disappear completely.

Figure out where your traffic originates on the Traffic Sources tab.

I use lots of methods to attract people to my website and blog.  I write blog articles and post the link to LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+.  I submit my site to Google, Bing and a few other search engines for indexing.  I e-mail links to my clients.  With Traffic Sources, I can get a feel for what portion of my visitors originate in each of those places.  I tend to look at reference traffic first; these are the visits that originate from links on other sites.  Posts that originate from Facebook and LinkedIn show up here.  Next, I monitor search engine traffic.  From here, I get a feel for which search engine terms are driving traffic to my site, and to which pages.  Still, for many of my sites, direct traffic is my largest source of activity.   Any time readers type a URL directly into a browser window, or if they click on a link in an e-mail, you will get a direct traffic hit.   Again, you can dive really deep on this, and slice and dice your posts and page metrics by source.

Rusty Frioux is managing principal of Data Clear, a Baton Rouge business analytics firm. He holds a M.S. in business analytics from Louisiana State University, a B.S. in psychology from Tulane University, and a Certified Business Intelligence Professional credential from the Data Warehouse Institute. Connect with him via Twitter or his blog.

Questions about getting more out of your Google Analytics? Share them in the comments

9 thoughts on “Google Analytics Basics for Bloggers

  1. Nice little post here, Rusty. I would also add that for people starting up that they use an IP filter setting in Google Anlytics so that they’re not tracking themselves. If they’re using WordPress, they can get the plugin, Google Analyticator. It makes it super easy to “install” the Google Analytics script on your site and it has a setting to not track anyone who is logged into the WordPress admin. Cheers!

  2. I just mentioned to my webmaster in my last e-mail saying I wanted to better understand the findings coming from G.A. So, if you write more, I’m interested in understanding the “bounce” rate. (He had contacted me to ask that I enter the website via a filter so that my regular maintenance visits would stop skewing the results.)

    Very timely.

  3. Hi Rusty-I enjoyed your post as I am a bit “rusty” with using Google Analytics on our company websites….I seem to remember a way to overlay website analytics on our company website Home Page so that you can easily get an overall visual percentage of what is being clicked on your website pages, showing % on each link/navigation-does this overlay exist in Google Analytics and how do you create?

  4. Camy – a great topic, I’ll queue that one up. I’ll give you the short and skinny now. The short answer to your question is “bounce rate matters, but it’s a little complicated.” A “bounce” is a visit where someone logs onto your site, views a page or a post, and then leaves without doing anything. Alot of times, this indicates that a post or a page is somehow poorly created – either it’s not interesting, or the content doesn’t match what the person expects – but not always. If your pages are designed to cause someone to buy a product – like an landing page – a larger than normal bounce rate is bad. (Though not always if the item you’re selling is highly priced – I’ll post more on that later). Blogs are a little different. There are lots of times that someone will follow a link, read, and then leave without looking at any other pages. For blogs, this is often OK, as long as the reader stays on teh page and actually reads content. I’m not clear if bounce rate can be adjusted to factor in how long readers linger…but I expect you can see why that might matter.

  5. Rusty, the unique visitors measures unique IP’s, as I recall. Not unique readers. In fact, it is very difficult to measure unique readers without having access to the server log.

    My own preference is to measure pageviews, not unique readers. Our site is set up two promote two articles a day through LinkedIn, each of which are one page. So, I need to know how successful or bad the promotion has been. Pageviews is my preferred measure, along with average time.

  6. With a blog or content-oriented site, is there a good definition of “unique readers”? How can you estimate “unique readers,” if it’s not the same as unique page views or unique visitors?

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