Are you using Google Analytics for your blog? If not, you’re missing out on a treasure trove of information. Google Analytics is a must have for anyone who has a website. While you might think you know everything about how your site is performing and who your audience is, without looking at the actual data, you’re probably wrong. Google Analytics provides you with that data so you can be well informed about your site’s performance.
In this post, I’m going to go over the basics to help get you started with Google Analytics. Now keep in mind that Google Analytics has so many features that I’m only going to barely be scratching the surface. But that’s okay. You don’t need to know everything in order to use it to your advantage. So here’s everything you need to know to get started with Google Analytics.
Getting Started with Google Analytics
Ready to get started with Google Analytics? First, you have to create a Google Analytics account. Go to the Google Analytics website and click sign in and select Google Analytics from the drop down. You’ll be directed to sign in with your Google account. If you don’t have one, go ahead and create one.
You’ll then be asked to sign up for Google Analytics. Click sign up and accept the terms.
On the next page, you’ll enter the information for your site.
Adding the Tracking Code to Your Site
Once you’ve entered your site info, you’ll be given a tracking code.
Copy the tracking code and paste it into the head section of your WordPress site. Not sure how to do that? Here’s a tutorial on adding tracking code to the head section of your site.
Or you can install the Google Analytics by MonsterInsights plugin. Simply install and activate it, then go to Insights > Settings. From there either authenticate by logging into your Google account, or you can select “manually enter your UA code” and paste the UA code provided by Google Analytics.
Getting to Know Your Google Analytics Account
Your Google Analytics account is comprised of several different sections that provide you with different information. If you take a look at the menu on the left side, you’ll see all the various areas that you can view stats for. Here’s a brief rundown about what you’ll find in each.
Dashboards – The dashboards section allows you to create custom dashboards so you can keep an eye on what’s most important to you.
Shortcuts – Shortcuts provide you with a quick way to access reports that you view most often. Think of these as your Google Analytics bookmarks.
Intelligence Events – The intelligence events page lists alerts for any time there is a significant statistical variation on your site.
Real-time – The real-time section of your Google Analytics account displays what’s happening on your site at the current moment. It allows you to view how many people are on your site, what pages they’re on, and more.
Audience – Audience gives you an overview of who you audience is. Think where they’re from, what browsers they’re using, how many pages they view, etc.
Acquisition – The acquisition section includes everything you need to know about where your audience is coming from.
Behavior – Behavior displays info on what people are doing on your site. In this section, you can view your popular pages, check site speed data, what people searched for on your site, and more.
Conversions – In this final section, you can set different goals and then keep track of how well they’re converting.
Understanding Your Audience
When you login to Google Analytics, the default page is your Audience Overview. This page includes all the basic stats that you’ll want to keep an eye on to see how your site is performing. Here’s what each metric means:
Sessions – A session is a bunch of site interactions, such as pageviews, that occur within a given time frame. A session can end in one of two ways: 1) time expires either due to inactivity or the end of the day; or 2) a campaign change.
Users – A user is anyone who has had at least one session on your site. Users can be either new or returning.
Pageviews – Pageviews are the total number of pages viewed. Every time someone loads one of your pages, this counts as a pageview. So if they’re on page A, go to page B, then back to page A, that is 3 pageviews.
Bounce Rate – Bounce rate is the amount of single page visits your site receives. A high bounce rate percentage indicates that a large amount of people visited only one page on your site, then left. A low bounce rate means that the majority of people visited multiple pages on your site before leaving.
Average Session Duration – The average session duration is the average length of a session.
Pages / Session – Pages per session indicates the average number of pages viewed in a session.
% New Sessions – The percentage of new sessions is an estimate of the amount of first time visits to your site. So any new visitor that has no recorded sessions will count towards this percentage. Any user who has previous sessions will not be counted.
Viewing Your Most Popular Posts
Knowing which of your posts is doing well is important so you can create content your audience will love. To view which posts are getting the most views, go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. Keep in mind that this list includes both posts and pages.
By default, the stats reflect the last 30 days. If you want to change the timeframe, click on the date dropdown in the upper right corner. There you can change the timeframe as well as compare two different ones.
Viewing What People Searched For On Your Blog
Ever wonder what people are searching for on your site? Unfortunately Google Analytics doesn’t automatically have this setup by default, but it’s pretty simple to activate it.
Click on Admin at the top of your Google Analytics dashboard, then select View Settings (located at the top of the third column). Scroll down and find the toggle for Site Search Tracking and switch it to on. When you do that, a new text field labeled Query Parameter will appear. If you’re using WordPress, you’ll want to enter s into the field.
For other platforms, the best way to check what parameter your site is using is to go to your site and enter something into your search box. On the results page take a look at the url that is generated in your browser. You’ll see something that looks like this: http://allyssabarnes.com/?s=YOUR+SEARCH. See the ?s in the url? That’s the search parameter (and is why I entered s into my query parameter box). Yours may be something like q. Whatever it is, enter it into the query parameter field, then click save.
Checking What Search Terms Brought People to Your Blog
To view what people searched for that landed them on your blog, click on Acquisition > Search Console > Queries. There you can see all the search terms that led people to your site.
Sidenote: this is a great place to get new blog ideas from! If a bunch of people are searching for a particular term or phrase and if your blog doesn’t have a lot (or any) content on that topic, that would be a great starting point for brainstorming new content to add.
Comparing Social Media Traffic
Want to know what your top referring social media platforms are? Head over to Acquisition > Social > Network Referrals to view a list of social networks ranked by the amount of sessions they’ve referred. If you click on each social network, you can see what your top content was on each platform.
More Google Analytics Tips & Tricks
To view what blog categories are the most popular, go to Behavior > Site Content > Content Drilldown. Click on /category/ and it’ll list your category pages in order of pageviews. It’s a great way to see what categories your audience is most interested in.
If you want to view certain information all in one spot, you can create a custom dashboard. Just go to Dashboards > +New Dashboard, select Blank Canvas, and give your dashboard a name. Then you can add widgets based on the information you want to view.
When viewing a page, you can click the shortcut link (at the top, right below the page heading) to add that page to your shortcuts list. You can do this for pretty much every reporting page and it’ll make the pages you view the most easily accessible.Tweet this: Harness the power of Google Analytics with this guide for bloggers.Click To Tweet
Have any Google Analytics tips you’d like to share? Leave them in the comments below!