How To Achieve Your Blog Goals With Google Analytics

Use Google Analytics to grow your blog

With blogging pretty much taking over the gosh darn world, more and more of us are starting to pay attention to the geekier side of sharing our lives on the Internet – the stats.

Whilst numbers are just numbers, there’s no denying that some delving into data can help to shape and grow your blog so you can reach your own goals. Whether that’s increasing readership or engagement, or simply making a decision around any ‘niche’ you want to focus on.

But if you’re new to Google Analytics, it can be a struggle to decide which numbers are the most useful. So, after some fab feedback from you guys who have been enjoying my GA posts (see them all here), I decided to have a think about the reports that lifestyle bloggers should be keeping an eye on in order to grow their blog the way they want to.

Audience

Useful for:

  • Finding and understanding your audience

Within the Audience reports, your first port of call should be the Demographics Overview report. I bloody love this report, as it gives you a breakdown of the Age and Gender of your audience. Note that you’ll need Universal Analytics for this data (but this is the standard for anyone setting up a new GA account anyway).

You will also need a fair amount of data for this report to generate relevant information – depending on the amount and type of traffic your site gets, I’d say to go back about a year on the date range. If you’ve had GA less than a year, just go back as far as you can.

Blog demographics on Google Analytics

Above are the demographics for my blog with a date range of April 2014 – Sept 2015. I have to admit that I was surprised by the number of 18-24 year old readers, expecting a much larger majority of those being 25-34 (purely because it’s the bracket I myself fit within…just).

It’s also quite cool to see that 11% of my audience are male – an unsurprising minority, but I actually expected it to be even smaller!

If you click on the separate Age and Gender reports (below Overview), you can even see a breakdown of other data such as Average Session Duration and Bounce Rate (% of single page visits, i.e. if someone leaves your site straight away after viewing only one page).

In addition to demographics, you can also view Interests. I assume this data is collated based on cookie data (data that is picked up from browsing behaviour), but it can reveal some great ideas of new topics to cover, or can confirm that your audience are truly tapped in to your content!

Reader's interests Google Analytics data

Acquisition

Useful for:

  • Improving traffic
  • Shaping how you promote your blog

Where your readers are coming from is absolutely crucial if you are promoting your blog posts. It helps to inform what particular social networks or referral sites are delivering the most traffic, but it also identifies areas of weakness.

Within the Acquisition section of GA, you can see an overview which shows you a breakdown of:

  • Direct Traffic (i.e. those that type your URL in or have your blog saved as a bookmark)
  • Social Traffic (which is of course coming from social networks)
  • Referral Traffic (coming in from any external sites including but not restricted to social)
  • Organic traffic (users being driven to your blog from search engines)
If I can see that the majority of my traffic is coming from social, I know I’m doing a good job at promoting my posts on Twitter etc.
To have a more in depth look at social and other referrals, I can click on All Traffic > Referrals. This will show me a breakdown of the sites, how much traffic their driving and much more.
Top referrals more about cat blog
You can see above that my top 3 referrals are Twitter, Facebook and Bloglovin. Great news, as these are the networks I would expect to see given how I promote my blog.
What is also really interesting to investigate is the referrals coming from other blogs. For example, one of the blogs that drives traffic to my site is Fizzy Peaches. I know this is likely because I join in with Lyndsay’s Lifestyle Link Ups. Another blog that has driven a little bit of traffic to my site is Hannah Gale – and I know this is likely because I have commented on a few of her posts.
Don’t get too tied up in just visitor numbers though (Sessions) – another great bit of data you can get from the referrals report is Average Session Duration. This tells you an average length of time people are spending on your site. This is useful to see whether users are engaging with your blog upon landing on it!

Behaviour

Useful for:
  • Narrowing down your niche (if you wish to)
  • Generating new post ideas
Buried a little too far down for my liking in the sidebar of GA is the Behaviour reports. Guys, if you haven’t explored these already…sort it out. Particularly look at the Site Content report as this will show you specific URLs of your blog ranked by how popular they are.
Click Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages for this info and revel in viewing your most popular posts based on Sessions! It’s up to you how far you want to look back, but this is a great way of having a look at what posts readers enjoy the most (again, look at Average Session Duration to determine if people are actually engaged with the content). It’s also fantastic for coming up with new post ideas if inspiration is running dry.
Top posts more about cat blog
Above are my top 4 pages from the past month. No surprises that 1 and 2 are my homepage (1 is desktop, 2 is mobile), but what is interesting is that my Harley Quinn costume post is performing quite well.
This could well be due to the fact it performs quite well in search (Organic traffic). I worked hard to optimise this post, and of course it may be particularly relevant due to the hype of Suicide Squad which is coming out next year.
Standing at number 4 is a post about being petite. It’s a typical listicle really, so this could be why it’s performed well this month. It was also shared in a link up which has driven some traffic so every little helps!
There are loads more things you can do with GA, but these core reports are a great place to start in exploring the metrics that are most relevant to bloggers, particularly within the lifestyle niche because when you cover so many different topics, it can be harder to pin down what does and doesn’t work!
Have any questions about Google Analytics? Leave a comment or send me a tweet and I’ll do my best to help! 
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6 Comments

  1. September 15, 2015 / 1:01 pm

    Thanks for this post, I found it really helpful. I tend to just focus on total page views and visitors with Analytics. Being able to see your best performing posts should be useful when planning new content.

    Jen x
    http://www.tartanbrunette.co.uk

  2. September 15, 2015 / 9:27 pm

    No problem hun, I'm so glad it's been a help 🙂 I know most bloggers focus on those metrics, so I wanted to open things up a bit and show what else can be explored! x

  3. September 22, 2015 / 7:22 pm

    Another really helpful post! I've never looked at the interests tab, so that's great to look at. I'm doing an intern in digital media and I'm actually doing SEO reports using analytics, but they don't go into this much detail. It's nice to be learning from two different places!

  4. September 22, 2015 / 7:52 pm

    Thanks lovely! Yeah, it's great especially when you have a decent amount of data to view. Hope you're enjoying your internship, bet you're learning lots! You'll have to share some of your insights too 🙂 x

  5. September 30, 2015 / 9:01 pm

    This is a great post! I just got Google Analytics and I'm still trying to figure out my way around it. Thanks for the advice 🙂

    -Ally
    Hustle & Whoa

  6. October 6, 2015 / 7:13 pm

    Thanks hun- and sorry for the delay in responding, this comment slipped through the cracks! Hope you get on OK with it, and feel free to check out my other GA posts to help too.

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