Over the past few years, I have come to love Google Analytics. I’m a bit nerdy about it, tbh. I am no expert at it, but I understand it enough to work with it and find out interesting data about my blog, as well as the website for the company I work with.
From Twitter chats and Facebook groups, I’ve realised there are bloggers out there that are not as well-versed in GA, and really want to know how to use it properly to get the most out of their blog.
To make things easier, and to hopefully act as a bit of a guide you can come back to, I thought I’d put together a little FAQ with the answers to some of the key questions I’ve found bloggers have about GA. I’ll keep adding to this post if I notice more areas to cover, so feel free to bookmark, pin or do whatever the hell you want with this link so it might help you now and forever.
Let’s get stuck in.
What is Google Analytics?
Put simply, Google Analytics (GA) is a free service from Google that allows you to track all sorts of data about your website. They do have a paid version for businesses too, but this guide will focus purely on the free edition.
By adding a little bit of code to your website (more on this later), you can start to track the visitors to your site and what they do whilst visiting.
Why do I need it/Do I really need it?
If you’re a blogger and you’re interested in who your readers are, and what content they enjoy, then GA is perfect. Of course you don’t need GA if you’re not interested in this stuff, but even if you’re just a hobby blogger, it’s a great tool to have access to (plus, you don’t have to pay, so what’s the harm?).
The way I see it, as well as the benefit of insight, is learning a great new skill that could serve you well in the future!
Also, if you are working, or are planning to work with PRs on campaigns or product reviews, having insight to your website traffic is vital. Some PRs will request certain metrics (stats) from you ahead of working with you, so GA can give you the data they need with a few simple clicks!
Finally, if you’re on Blogger you will get some stats on your dashboard. Ignore these. They are inflated and include spam traffic and ‘bots’. These are not a true reflection of your audience. GA will provide you a much clearer and more accurate picture.
How do I install it?
Installing GA is really simple. When you sign up, you’ll be given some tracking code to add to your website. On Blogger, you need to go to the HTML Editor and add this code before the closing </head> tag. To find this, click inside the HTML editor box, press CTRL and F (or Cmd and F on Mac) and search for </head>, then paste the GA tracking code in just before the ‘<‘.
On WordPress.org, you can utilise this Google Analytics plugin which is even easier.
Is it working properly?
When first installing Analytics, you need to be aware that it won’t start tracking data straight away. Be patient! My experience is that it can take a few hours to start gathering data (and note that it doesn’t pick up historical data, i.e. visits before you added the tracking code).
You’ll soon be able to see in the main report which appears when you’re logged in that it’s recording visits on the chart.
How do I use it?
When you first start using GA it can seem a bit of a minefield! It’s capable of a lot of things and has a lot of reports available. Essentially, the key things you need to know are the left hand column which lists all the available reports etc, and the calendar on the right above the graphs, which allows you to pick your date range.
A little while back I wrote a guide on using GA which breaks down the main areas you’ll want to look at including the most useful reports. Click here to give it a read.
What reports should I look at?
The main report you’ll want to look at is Audience > Overview. This is the report that appears as default when you sign in. It’ll give you a quick overview of the core data of interest (how many people have visited your site, total pageviews etc). It’s a really great report that encompasses a lot of what you want to know about, but other reports of interest are the Site Content report (Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages), which will show you the pages on your blog that people have viewed.
There’s plenty of other bits and bobs in the reports that may be of interest to you – navigate your way round as it’s the best way to learn!
Further reading: How To Achieve Your Blogging Goals With Google Analytics which goes into the core reports that will help you flourish!
What stats do PRs/SEOs want to know about?
Some PRs/SEOs may request certain stats from you ahead of choosing to work with you for a collaboration. This shouldn’t scare you off, as it’s a good indication for them as to your potential ‘reach’. I’ve yet to experience a PR ask me for my stats, but I know it does happen (and I also know I don’t get many pitches!).
The most valuable stats to a PR or SEO exec will likely be Sessions – this is the number of people that engaged with your website within the date range you’ve set. This is a truer number than pageviews, because pageviews record every single page within a session, and also duplicates if a user refreshes or goes back to the same page.
Other useful stats sit within the Demographics report (Audience > Demographics > Overview). To use this report, you’ll need to set a significant date range (I recommend a few months at least, so not one for those who have just got started on GA). This report is useful to brands because you can share the gender, age and interests of your readers. I’m not really sure if brands bother asking for this data at the moment, but if I was in their shoes, it would be on my list to ask.
How do I know if my stats are good?
In all honesty, there is no right answer to this question. It’s all relative. Some PRs don’t even factor that in anymore and instead work with bloggers who get good engagement on their blog, and have a decent and engaged social following.
Your blog stats should never consume you – just have fun blogging and if you’re keen to improve, track you stats by using a pretty planner or Excel spreadsheet. Whatever floats your boat!
How can I improve my traffic?
There are several ways of improving your traffic – but primarily engaging in the community is the short answer. Twitter chats, Facebook groups, Pinterest…there’s plenty of places to share your content to reach new people. If you’re new to blogging, this will naturally develop overtime as you learn the best platforms for sharing posts (FYI, you can track this in GA in the Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals report which shows you sites that directed people to your blog).
Why am I getting traffic from weird websites, and how do I get rid of it?
You know how I told you earlier about Blogger’s rubbish stats? Well, GA isn’t perfect and does sometimes pick up spam traffic. The good news is, you can filter it out. The even better news is that I’ve written a post on just how to do that here.
How can I learn more about Google Analytics?
If you want to become a GA nerdling like me, I recommend the Google Analytics academy which although shares guides from a business perspective, can also be super helpful for bloggers too.
Have I missed out a question you have? Well fear not! Post it in the comments below, or pop me a tweet (@moreaboutcat) and I’ll add it in!