Google analytics is the eyes and ears of your blog. Once the analytics tracking code is installed, it helps you track, measure and understand the actions and behaviours of visitors to your blog.
In my last post, I walked you through the process of installing analytics and in this tutorial I will walk you through some of the basics of the platform, highlighting the key areas that will be useful for you as a beginner blogger.
I will show you how to:
- View the number of visitors your blog receives
- See what pages people view
- Understand how visitors engage with your content
- See the channels – Google, Facebook etc – that are bringing you traffic
And we will cover some other basics too.
For the purposes of this tutorial, I will be using the Google Merchant Store demo analytics account the reason being is that if you have just installed analytics you probably won’t have a lot of data to view, and the merchant store demo is a fully working account, packed with data, and you can use it as your training wheels.
I have included a like to the demo account underneath the video
So, if your ready, let's dive in.
You can watch the video version of this tutorial or continue reading the transcript (with images) below:
Once you enter the Google Analytics platform, you will land on the homepage.
The homepage contains widgets that provide you with a snapshot of information pulled from the five different analytics reports that you find in the platform.
- Real Time Report
- Audience Report
- Behaviour Report
- Acquisition Report
- Conversion Report
Some of the information you can see in these different widgets (not all displayed in the above image) are:
- Users – The number of visitors to your blog
- Active Users – The number of people on your blog in real-time
- Top Active Pages – The most viewed pages in real-time
- Times of Day – The different times of day users come to your blog
- How You Acquire Visitors – The traffic sources bringing you visitors
- Top Devices – The devices visitors use when viewing your blog
- Most Viewed Pages – The top pages viewed
In the bottom left corner of each widget, you can choose the date range for the data displayed – you can select a fixed range like 7, 14, 28 days or a custom date range.
Ok, that’s the homepage. Now we will explore the different reports. These reports are the meat and bones of the analytics platform this is where all the data lives.
The Real-Time report as the name suggest provides live data of what is happening on your blog in real-time.
The main view in the Real-Time report is the Overview.
Once you click into the Overview you will see live real-time data.
The data on display in the above image shows
- Right Now – How many visitors are on your blog
- Top Referrals – The sites linking to your blog that are bringing you traffic
- Pageviews – The number of pages viewed per minute
- Top Active Pages – The most viewed pages
- Top Social Traffic – The social platforms that are bringing visitors
- Top Keywords – Keywords that brought visitors from search engines
- Top Locations – Where in the world visitors on your blog are from
You can also drill down further into the report (you can do this in all reports) and get more detailed real-time data for –
That's all we will cover in the Real-Time report. Let’s move to the Audience report.
The Audience Report
The Audience report, provides audience insights, such as how many visitors your blog receives, their geographical location, what devices they use to view your blog and more.
Within the Audience report, you can also gain high-level insights into how visitors engage with your blog as a whole.
The main view in the report is the Overview, this is where you can glean a lot of your audience insights.
There are a few things you can see here within the Overview.
The first thing you will notice on the top half of the page is the graph, which depicts (by default) the number of users (visitors) to your blog over a set date range. You can view the graph by Hour, Day, Week, Month.
To select the date range just click on the calendar. You can set this for whatever date range you choose, a week, a month or a custom date range..
One of the features I want to highlight in the calendar is the compare button. With this, you can compare the performance of your blog overtime – week on week, month on month, year on year etc.
When you click compare – the data overlays on the graph.
You will also see user metrics compared
The metrics above appear in most of the reports in analytics. They provide information on how many people visited your blog, the number of pages viewed, and how visitors engage with your blog as a whole.
When not in the compared mode they appear as below.
Let's go through them
Users – This is the number of visitors to your blog within the selected date range, and includes both new and returning visitors.
New Users – This is the number of new users to your blog within the date range. But, there is something you should be aware of about the total number displayed.
If someone visits your blog for the first time on their laptop, they are recorded as a new user. However, if they then visit your blog from a mobile device (for the first time), they are again recorded as a new user.
Sessions – A session is a period of time where a visitor actively engages with your blog.
For example, if I come to your blog, and view a post, then I go and read another post, then I download an ebook, then I read another page, and after that, I close your blog and leave – this is registered as one session. If I come back later in the evening, it’s registered as another session.
The total session number, tells you how many visits you had to your blog.
Number of Sessions Per User – This is pretty self-explanatory, this is simply the average number of sessions per visitor within the selected date range.
Page Views – Again, this is a straightforward metric, this is the number of pages viewed within a date range.
You should note, that this number includes repeated views of the same page. So, if someone visits your blog, and reloads the same page 10 times, it counts as 10 page views.
Pages / Session – This is the average number of pages viewed by users within a session.
The more pages per session viewed, the better, as it shows people are moving through your blog and engaging with content.
Average Session Duration – This is the average length of time a visitor spends on your blog. The higher this number the better, as it shows people are reading your content and engaging with your blog.
However, you should be aware that by default a session lasts for 30 minutes, so if someone comes to your blog, opens a page, and then goes for a coffee (without further interaction), as far as analytics is concerned they spent 30 minutes on that page.
Bounce Rate – A 'bounce' is when someone lands on a page and then leaves again without any other interactions with your blog – they don’t click a link, open a new page, or do anything else. And, the bounce rate percentage is the percentage of sessions where people land on a page and then bounce.
When it comes to the bounce rate the lower it is, the better – 40% is a good bounce rate, anything over 60% and you will need to do some work on your blog to improve engagement.
What kind of insights can you gain from these metrics?
Well, the main thing they tell you is how people are engaging with your blog as a whole.
For example, if you see a high bounce rate, say over 65%, and the average session duration is short, and the pages/session viewed is low, you might deduct a few things –
- Maybe you need to impove your blog content
- Maybe you have lot of visitors to your blog who are not your target audience
- There could be an on-site issue that's preventing people accessing or navigating your blog
Just a note, any data you view within analytics has to be considered in context with other data in the platform to get a full picture.
Ok, that's all I will cover in regard to metrics. Let's look at other data we find within the Audience Overview.
New vs Returning Visitors – On the right of the user metrics, there is a pie chart that depicts the number of new vs returning visitors, this will help you determine if your blog is growing and how well you are retaining your audience.
Ideally, you want to see your number of new visitors increasing as this shows that your marketing efforts are working, but it’s also important that returning visitors grow as this shows people like your blog and are coming back to read more.
Geographical and System insights – On the bottom of the page, you will see geographical and system information.
You can see what countries and city visitors are coming from and the number of users per location, you can also see what browsers, operating systems and internet service providers people are using.
You can click on any of the links for more drilled-down insights. For example, when you click on the Country link you can see the different countries bringing traffic and the number of visitors from each.
That’s all we will touch on in the Overview, but before we leave the Audience report, I want to highlight two other areas.
When you first install analytics, you have to enable this feature, but once you do, you will get demographic insights, the age and genders of your audience.
The Overview tab within the demographic report will give you a broad view of your demographic data.
You can also click into ‘Age’ or ‘Gender’ for more detailed information.
When you click into the Age' view, on the top of the page, you will see a graph breakdown of the number of visitors by age range.
Underneath the graph, you get engagement metrics – sessions, bounce rate, page/session, avg session duration – which provides insighst into how people of different ages interact with your blog.
You can also see conversion information – if you have just set-up analytics there will be no conversion data, you first need to set-up goals, which I will touch on this later in the post.
The Mobile report inside the Audience report gives a breakdown of device usage. The main area you want to navigate to is the Overview.
Once you click into the Overview, on the the top half of the page there is a graph that depicts the total visitors (Users) from all devices.
Underneath the graph you can see a usage breakdown per device type – desktop, mobile and tablet – and you can also see how visitors from each device engages with your blog through sessions, bounce rate, pages/session, and average session duration.
What kind of insights can you gain from this information?
For example, if you see a really high bounce rate, low pages/session and a short average time on site for mobile when compared to desktop it might be that your blog doesn't provide a good user experience for mobile users.
Today, most blog themes are mobile repsonsive, meaning they change size to fit mobile devices. However, even with mobile repsonsive design, you might not be delivering a good mobile experience.
- Maybe, your blog is not loading fast enough on mobile
- Maybe your content does not look good on mobile, by this I mean, if you have long paragraphs they can look ok on a desktop, but on mobile they can look like big chunks of text, which can put people off reading, causing them to bounce and leave.
- Maybe your mobile theme is difficult to naviage there could be elements preventing people from moving through your blog
Ok, that's all we will touch on in regard to mobile, next up is the Acquisition report.
The Acquisition Report
The Acquisition report provides insights into how visitors come to your blog. With the insights gained from the Acquisition report, you can gauge the impact of your marketing efforts and understand what channels are brining you the best results.
The main area we will focus in the Acquisition report is again the Overview section.
From here, you see a broad-level view of how traffic arrives on your blog. All, information displayed is based on the date range your select.
On the top half of the page you have a:
- Pie Chart – In this Pie Chart, you get a percentage view of amount of traffic coming to your blog per channel
- Users Graph – This graph displays visitor volumes
- Conversions Graph – If goals were set-up you can view conversions, I will touch on this in a second.
Underneath these, you get a break down of each channel
- Organic – This is traffic that comes from search engines
- Direct – This is people who come directly to your blog by typing the URL into their browsers
- Social – This is traffic that comes from social media channels
- Referral – This is traffic that comes from other sites that are linking to your blog
- Affiliate – You probably won’t have affiliate traffic if you are just starting out. Affiliates are people who promote and sell your products for a commission using affiliate links
- Paid and Display – This is traffic from paid advertising channels
For each channel, you can see visitor numbers, and engagement metrics – sessions, bounce rate, pages/session, and average session duration.
You can also see conversion information. I will explain this.
In analytics, you can set-up goals to measure specific aspects of your blog's performance.
For example, you can set a goal to track how many people register to a newsletter, or if you sell products you can track the number of purchases – there are lots of different goals you can set-up – and in the conversion view, you can see how each channel contributes to those goals.
In addition to the broad-level insights that the Overview page shows, you can also drill down into each channel for more detailed information.
Let’s look at social,
If you click on the social link, you get more granular insights
From here you can see exactly which social media channels are bringing you traffic, and again you can see engagement metrics per channel – bounce rate, average time on page etc.
What insights can you gain from the Aquisition report?
The Acquisition report allows you to drill down into all the different channels that bring traffic to your blog; this enables you to gain insights, and understand what's working and what's not, and where you should focus more or less of your marketing efforts.
For example, if you were putting a lot of work into Quora, and you see that even though you are spending a lot of time and energy on this channel, the results are not so great – you are not getting much traffic, and the engagement metrics are poor.
With this information, you might decide to focus less of your energy on Quora and put more time into traffic channels bringing results.
Ok, that’s all I will cover from the Acquisition reports, next-up is the Behaviour report.
The Behaviour Report
The Behaviour report provides insights into how user engage with your blog and it's content. The main area we will look at in this report is Site Content – All Pages.
In All Pages, you can see the top pages people view, and page-level engagement metrics. This enables you to judge how different pages perform, which helps you determine if you need to make improvements or tweaks to your content.
On the top half of the page, there is a graph that depicts the number of page views – based on the date range you select.
Beneath the graph, you can see the most visited pages on your blog. By default, the top ten pages are displayed, but you can display more by using the ‘Show Rows’ selector.
From here you can see the following page information:
Page Views – This is the total amount of pages viewed within the date range.
Just something to note this number includes multiple views of the same page, if a visitor loads a page one hundred times it's added to the total page views number.
Unique Page Views – Unique Pageviews is the number of sessions during which a page was viewed at least once.
With unique page views, repeated views of the same page within a session only count as one page view, giving you a more accurate number of the total pages viewed.
Average Time on Page – This is pretty self-explanatory, it shows the average time that visitors spend on each page.
Entrances – This is the number of times people enter your blog through a specific page.
Exits – This is the number of times people leave your blog through a specific page. If you, see that a page has a high exit rate, you might ask yourself why. Maybe it's a content issue or a technical issue such as slow page load speeds.
Bounce Rate – We already touched on this, this is the average number of sessions in which there was no interaction with other pages. People arrive on the specific page and then leave.
Page Value – If you have set-up analytics without assigning a page value, this will show a zero value. Page Value, allows you to attribute a monetary value to each page, based on how it contributes to a goal.
If you have just set-up analytics, you probably won’t set a page value, but as you begin to track goals and funnels, you will.
So, what kind of insights can you gain from all this information?
For example, if you see pages with high bounce rates, low time on page or high exit rates, you might deduct a few things –
- The page is not providing the visitor with the information they need
- The quality of the content on the page is not good
- The page could be slow to load
- The writing is not engaging and people are not reading through to the end
On the flipside, if you see pages are performing well, you can tweak the content to make it even better, or if you see people engaging with pages that are based around particular topics, you could make more posts like that.
Ok, that’s all we will look at under Site Content, but before we leave the Behaviour report there is one more area I want to highlight.
Site Search – If your blog has a search box
From the Site Search tab, under Search Terms
You can see what people are searching for when using the search box
This search data is a great way to get target content ideas. If you see repeated searches for particular information can then create a blog post around it.
Ok, this is all I will cover in the Behaviour report. The final report is the Conversion report.
Now, if you have just installed analytics, you probably won’t be using this report, so I am not going to delve into it, I am just going to explain what it is briefly.
As, I mentioned already, in analytics you can set-up goals to measure different things such as registrations for a newsletter, purchases etc. And, once you set-up goals you can view their performance from this tab.
Goals are important, and as your blog grows you will definitely set-up them up, but that’s a post for another day.
And That's a Wrap…
Right, that is all I will cover in this Google Analytics tutorial.
Now, there is a lot of things within the platform that we have not touched on, but for now, as a beginner, you now have enough basic knowledge to gain some insights that can help you improve and grow your blog.
I do hope that you have enjoyed the post and if you have any questions, please let me know in the comment section below.