Last Friday I had the opportunity to speak on Google Analytics for bloggers, a topic near and dear to my heart. Thanks to organizers Missy Berggren and Arik Hanson, I presented along with Becky Flansburg at the first Minnesota Blogger Conference Mini Event, held at CoCo in downtown St. Paul. As promised, today I've posted a brief recap along with the slides from my presentation: The Blogger's Google Analytics Clinic.
What Kind of Google Analytics Help do Bloggers Need?
A few months back, I asked people what the perfect Google Analytics workshop catered to bloggers would look like. The responses surprised me. Virtually no one needed help with the straight-forward Google Analytics setup. And while there was some interest in advanced topics such as goals and events, the vast majority of bloggers voiced the need for help just getting their bearings. Where should bloggers start off with Google Analytics?
Google Analytics for Bloggers: Getting Your Bearings
It's easy to get overwhelmed by Google Analytics' dozens of reports and countless metrics. To avoid getting caught up in web analytics minutia, don't just look at Google Analytics as a source for data and reports. Look to GA to provide insights on how to improve the content of your blog through answering several important questions:
- Who are your readers?
- Where are they coming from?
- What are they reading?
- What are they sharing?
With any web analytics tool, start off with a business goal or question and then look to a report or metrics for the answer. Otherwise you'll be likely to end up spinning your tires with nothing to show for your web analytics efforts. Read on to see this approach to web analytics for bloggers in action.
Who Are Your Readers?
Finding out some basic information about your readers can help you create content they'll like. The Visitors report section of Google Analytics answers questions about who is visiting (and reading) your blog. The Visitors section gives you a sense for the overall popularity of your blog.
- Visits and Visitors - Understanding visits and visitors is one of several important metrics when measuring the popularity of your blog. Think of this as the raw number of people and eyeballs that laid eyes on your blog for the time period selected. We all want these numbers to grow over time, right?
- Avg Time on Site - Do people stick around when visiting your blog or do they leave right away? Avg time on Site, along with Average Pageviews and Bounce Rate show you how long people typically hang out when visiting your blog.
- Loyalty - Getting a lot of visitors is one thing, but getting them to come back over and over again is the key to building a community around your blog. Access your Loyalty report in GA. Consider those that visit 1 time only as once-and-done readers, 2-4 times as "flirts" or "casual fans," and those that visit 5 or more times as your hardcore fans. Create content that appeals to your fans.
- Subscribers - If you have a Feedburner account, you have the extra added bonus of having their metrics as well. Subscribers show you how many people have subscribed to your RSS feed while Reach shows on average how many people access your RSS entries on a given day.
Where are Your Readers Coming From?
Now that you know how many people are visiting your blog, it's time to figure out where they're coming from. Use the Traffic Sources reports in Google Analytics to identify where your readers are coming from on the web. In general, it's good to identify these traffic sources and to ensure your blogging efforts support them.
- Direct Traffic - These are the people that type in your URL to their Internet browser to get to you. In general, they've heard about you in the past and are seeking your content directly. Your direct traffic grows as your blog grows in recognition.
- Referring Sites - Sites that send traffic to you via a link are considered referring sites, which includes other blogs, websites and social networks. As you network with other bloggers, speak at events and create guest posts for other blogs, pay attention to substantials trickles of traffic that appear when your content resonates with a new audience on the web.
- Search Engines - If you're weaving search-friendly keyword phrases into your content, you probably have search engine traffic coming to your blog. Get a feel for the keywords sending the most traffic to your site, as well as an endless supply of ideas for future blog posts.
What Are Your Readers Reading?
Next, get a sense for the popularity of your blog posts by exploring the Google Analytics Content reports. Your Top Content report in Google Analytics organizes your blog posts by pageviews. Which of your blog posts are getting the most eyeballs? What did you do differently that made those blog posts so popular?
What Are Your Readers Sharing?
Pageviews give you a rough feel for the popularity of your blog, but is anyone engaging with your blog via comments or sharing it on social networks? The pinnacle of blog success is to have content that is both popular and compelling. But Google Analytics falls down when it comes to measuring social engagement.
Web analytics isn't about finding one tool to rule them all. It's about using a combination of tools that are all right for the job at hand. Enter PostRank Analytics, the social media measurement tool. In a nutshell, PostRank measures when people share your blog content on the social web and gives you neat reports to track it all. Use Post Rank together with Google Analytics to identify blog posts that are both popular and compelling.
More Google Analytics for Bloggers
The MN Blogger Conference Mini Event was a great way to quickly explore some of the main questions bloggers should be asking themselves when exploring Google Analytics. If you didn't get a chance to ask your question at the event or if you weren't able to make it, please do leave your questions about Google Analytics and blogging in the comments below. Thanks to all those who attended and especially to Arik and Missy for organizing everything.
Finally, here's the presentation from Friday's event. Feel free to share the presentation or this blog post with any blogger you know that is interested in using Google Analytics to improve their blog.