Personally, I know many bloggers that are really good at writing excellent pieces of content for their blog.
Unfortunately, many of the same bloggers are not as skilled in regards to reading the data on their Google Analytics dashboard.
Fall into that stereotype? Don’t worry. It’s normal.
If you have a blog that teaches its readers about living a healthy lifestyle or a blog filled with tips on how to organize the perfect wedding (oh yeah, my girlfriend knows about this kind of blog!), then it doesn’t mean that you have to be very skilled when it comes to deep marketing data analysis.
My guess is the average blog writer logs into their Google Analytics account and looks at the session count.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest differences between a blog that grows its audience fast and one that stagnates over time is the ability that the site owner has in regards to reading Google Analytics data and analyzing its content. If a blogger can fully grasp the data inside Google Analytics, they will be able to find topics that are popular, discover what makes visitors stay or leave their blog, and find where they should be promoting their “must read” content.
In this vein, I decided to challenge a friend who runs a gluten-free recipes blog. She has had pretty decent numbers but recently has stagnated at around 70,000 sessions per month. My challenge to her was to take a few extra minutes a day to analyze her most important metrics. I set up a dashboard in her Google Analytics account that detailed all the useful data she should be constantly looking at including her most popular recipes, where and when visitors leave her blog and where she generally pulls traffic from. I bet her a good bottle of wine that her audience would double in just a few months if she simply wrote her next recipes based on what was most popular in the past. Look at the graph- you can tell who won that bottle of wine!
She started my Google Analytics challenge in December 2014 and by May 2015 she had almost 140,000 sessions per month. She doubled the amount of sessions on her personal blog in only 6 months and I cannot wait to see where she’ll be in the upcoming months!
So the question really is: what data should a serious blogger be looking at in their Google Analytics Dashboard?
The dashboard I set up for my friend included a mix of acquisition (Where does your traffic come from?), audience (Who are your visitors?) and content (What are they reading?). Here’s her dashboard and which you can download it at the end of this article.
Download your FREE Google Analytics Dashboard for Bloggers
Where does your traffic come from?
It is essential that a blogger knows where their readers are coming from- is it from organic search results? From social media? From a referring site?
It’s basic marketing to know which channel is bringing the most traffic and the most value to your blog. This data can also be used to see if your efforts in a particular channel are yielding results. For example, if a blogger starts guest blogging on similarly themed blogs, they would certainly want to know if the referral traffic is increasing or stagnating.
Who is referring to your blog?
I like to keep an eye granularly on who is referring to my site because I can easily find where my content is being used or referenced. It’s also a great opportunity to get in touch with the other site owners to say “Thank You!” and to build a new collaboration between the two sites.
This report will give you a list of websites that are referring to your particular content.
Which search terms are used to find you?
This report helps you find particular terms that are used on Google to find your exact website. This report requires that the Google Search Console (previously named Google Webmaster Tool) and Google Analytics are linked together. It is a simple process that can be done following a few easy steps.
Why should you care as a blogger? Because it will provide insights on what content is popular so you can write more articles on the subject.
How many people read your blog?
Yes, this is really basic. This metric will tell a blogger if their site is gaining popularity.
There is 3 metrics you can use to see if your traffic is increasing: the amount of sessions, page views, or unique visitors. I usually use the amount of sessions to determine the global performance of my website because my goal is to make sure that every visitor is visiting my website more than once.
- A page view is an impression of a certain page
- A visitor represents a unique person that visit your website
- A session, in Google Analytics, is a group of interactions- either page views, events, transactions or social interactions- that take place on your website within a certain time frame. A new session starts after 30 minutes of inactivity, at midnight, or if there’s a campaign change.
Where do your readers live?
Again, basic information. Based on where your visitors are located, you can adjust your content for them. Let’s say you have a wine blog and 50% of your visitors are from the US, while another 40% are from Canada, you might want to provide a link to purchase certain bottles in both countries.
Mobile VS Tablet VS Desktop
According to a study from comScore, mobile overtook desktop usage in 2014. Mobile and tablet interactions are important. If your website is not responsive or mobile-friendly, be sure to keep an eye on this metric. Furthermore, Google fully rolled out an update on May 2015 that uses an algorithm that gives more value to mobile friendly sites.
New VS Returning
As a blogger, your goal is to create engagement. Engagement can be measured by different techniques such as social sharing, commenting, or counting how many times a visitor returns to your site. If half of your visitors that are new visitors and the other half are returning ones, then you’ve done a great job. This means you were able to bring new people onto your website while still growing and expanding your audience. On the other side, if you only have returning visitors, your audience is stagnating.
What is your top article?
This metric is your best friend. This metric tells you what content is popular and which ones are getting the most page views. For example, if your blog is about gluten free recipes and 6 of your top 10 recipes are about gluten free desserts then you should make sure that you add more dessert recipes. It will bring you more visitors, more page views, and more engagement.
From which pages do they leave your blog?
I use this list of pages to improve and optimize my website. This metric tells you which pages your visitors are on when they decide to leave your blog. When the exit rate of a page is high, I always look at the content and see if there is any way I can improve it such as adding more details, images, or links.
How long are they staying on your blog?
If you write articles that are 1,500 words and your average session duration is less than a minute, then you know you have a problem. Your articles are either incomplete or need improvement. You want this metric to keep improving because the more your visitors stay on your website, the more chance there is that your visitors will trust your brand and content.
Download your FREE Google Analytics Dashboard for Bloggers
It’s Time for Action
Now its your turn, what do you think of this dashboard? Which metrics are you following to measure the performance of your blog?