Using Google Analytics to improve your blog

Today I’m sharing my tips and advice about how you can use Google Analytics for your blog. Google Analytics is such a powerful tool for bloggers and it can really help you understand your audience and identify ways to grow and improve your blog. But it is also a beasty program that can seem complicated and overwhelming! I’m here today to show you how to use Google Analytics in a simple way to grow and improve your blog.

Top tip: I also recommend using a spreadsheet to track the stats I’ve mentioned below. Pick a date each month and put these stats into a spreadsheet so you can clearly see how your blog is growing or areas that need improvement.


Using Google Analytics to improve your blog

If you’ve done much research into advice for bloggers and blogging tips, you will have undoubtedly come across two types of bloggers.

  1. Bloggers who obsessively monitor their Google Analytics stats and analyse every number. They probably have real-time analytics constantly open.
  2. The bloggers who claim to barely look at Google Analytics and trust that their quality content will attract readers. They can see what’s popular from their social shares and engagement so they don’t get obsessed with boring stats.

I sit somewhere between the two camps and I think this is a pretty good place to be sitting. So why not pull up and chair and join me as I tell you how and why I use Google Analytics and how you can use it to improve your blog.

 

What is Google Analytics?

Let’s start at the very beginning in case there’s anyone completely baffled by what this Google Analytics thing is.

Google Analytics is a reliable and free service from Google which tracks the amount of people reading your blog or website. You can find out what they’re reading, where they’re coming from, where they go afterwards, where they live and, most importantly for most bloggers, how many of them there are.

Here’s a good guide to

 

Why use Google Analytics?

Even if you’re not a stats person, I’d recommend installing Google Analytics. There might be a particular post that’s getting way more traffic than the others or the posts you spend days crafting might not be getting any traffic at all.

It will help you see which posts your audience are enjoying so you can create more of them and stop wasting your time on the things no one reads.

 

Google Analytics warning

It can be easy to get obsessed with Google Analytics and get caught up in stats and figures rather than quality content. It can be frustrating when a blog post that took you 15 minutes to write gets more traffic than a post that took you days, but you need a balance between the quick and easy posts and the indepth ones.

You need to be creative and enjoy the posts you’re writing so sometimes you need to forget about stats and do what you love.

How to use Google Analytics to improve your blog

What bloggers should look for in their Google Analytics

#1. What days are most popular on your blog?

Use Google Analytics to figure out which days are the most popular on your blog. For me it’s Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sunday evenings so this is when I try to post new content.

My traffic drops dramatically on a Saturday so I started posting on Saturdays too in the hope I could bring it back up but it didn’t have much effect.

Improvement tip: Post on your busiest days. I find it’s easier to go with what happens naturally so don’t fight it, use it to your advantage.

 

#2. What time is most popular on your blog?

Don’t just look at the days, look at the times too. Some people find their readers are around first thing in the morning. Maybe it’s at lunch time or maybe it’s in the evening after work? In my experience, it’s usually around 7pm from Sunday to Wednesday. Traffic starts to drop off towards the weekend and is particularly low on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Improvement tip: Play around with posting at different times to see what works the best.

 

#3. Check out your audience behaviour flow

This is where you can see the behavior of your readers. It shows which page they begin on and where they go next.

If you see that a lot of people land on your homepage and then don’t go anywhere else, you know something is wrong. If you see them click from one page to another to another to another, you’re doing something right.

On Fujiidenki for example, a lot of people enter the blog via ‘What women should wear in India’ as this gets a lot of Google traffic. From this page they usually click through to my Top Tips for Visiting the Taj Mahal or How to survive sleeper trains in India or Taking an organized tour in India. From the tour post they go on to read about my other tours with Intrepid Adventures and they’re intrigued and they’ll go to my About page. This is exactly what I want and from using Google Analytics I can see what does and what doesn’t work.

Improvement tip: Insert links or use a widget to direct your readers to other posts they may be interested in.

 

#4. Analyse your social stats and referrals

If you’re a blogger, it can be easy to get bogged down by social media.

“I need to spend x-amount of hours each day on Twitter. I need to be sharing and growing and engaging and developing! Argh!’

Yes, social media IS really important and it can help grow your blog dramatically but it doesn’t have to be the be all and end all.

Only about 15% of the traffic for Fujiidenki comes through social media. I honestly have no idea if this is a good or a bad stat, I don’t even know if I should keep that a secret!? But this tells me that social media shouldn’t take up too much of my time.

60% of my traffic comes from Google so I know that creating quality content people are searching for is more important than having a large social following.

When I look even closer at my social media stats I can see that most of my traffic comes from Facebook and Pinterest. This highlights the importance of Facebook and Pinterest to me, despite the fact I have a larger following on Twitter. Since discovering this, I spend much less time trying to promote my blog posts through Twitter and mostly use Twitter to chat and engage with people.

Improvement tip: Figure out which referral channel has the best results and focus on this. Consider ditching or cutting back on any social channels with smaller results.

How to use Google Analytics to improve you blog - a non-boring, non-techy guide

#5. Average time on page

You can use Google Analytics to see how long people spend reading each blog post. If people are spending 20-30 seconds you know they’re not very interested in your content and they’re getting bored quickly. If they’re spending 4 minutes or more then you’re doing something right.

4 minutes doesn’t sound like a long time but we live in a world of short attention spans and lots of distractions.

Improvement tip: Ask yourself why people are getting bored quickly or what it is about certain blog posts that keep them interested? Try to apply the positives to future posts and learn from the negatives.

 

#6. Audience demographics

Don’t assume your audience are a certain type of person. If you show your personality in your blog it’s likely you’ll end up with lots of readers very similar to you but I was really surprised to find I have a lot of male readers in the USA.

Improvement tip: If you find you have an unexpected number of readers in a particular area, particular gender or age range, consider writing posts specifically for them. I’m thinking I need some packing guides for men for the unexpected amount of male readers.

 

#7. New Vs Returning visitors

Take a look at how many returning visitors you have each month and how this compares to new visitors.

Improvement tip: If most of your views are from new users, what can you do to ‘capture them’ and keep them coming back each week/month? Maybe you need to have a more prominent email subscription link?

 

#8. Bounce Rate

Your bounce rate is the percentage of people who only view one page on your blog. They basically land on one page and don’t look at anything else so they bounce right away again.

A high bounce rate indicates people aren’t interested in reading anything else on your blog. It could also mean it’s difficult to navigate your blog and people can’t easily find anything of interest to click on next.

A high bounce rate is definitely a bad thing and if Google notices your bounce rate is high then it’s likely you won’t rank as well in Google searches.

Improvement tip: If your bounce rate is high, make it easier to find more interesting content to click on. Ask yourself why people are looking at one page and not going any further?

 

#9. Trackbacks

If you’ve written a guest post or you’ve been mentioned on another website and there’s a follow link to your blog then you’ll receive a trackback notification. You will then be able to see how much traffic you get thanks to that link.

Improvement tip: Check which websites bring you a lot of traffic and write for them again. If a blogger has kindly mentioned you, make sure you thank them and let them know you appreciate it. Share the article via social media to spread the love.

 

#10. Bonus tip – Use Google Webmaster Tools

This isn’t a tip for Google Analytics, it’s for

I recommend using Google Webmaster Tools to figure out which keywords and phrases you’re ranking for. You can see the phrases people are searching for to find your blog. You probably know already which posts are performing well but it’s good to know exactly what phrases people type in to find you!

 


 Read more:

A week in the life of a travel blogger

Tips to leave your job and become a full time blogger and freelancer

An update after full time blogging for one year

How bloggers get freebies


 

If you’d like more blogging tips, check out my e-course,

 

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32 Comments

  1. December 23, 2014 / 9:34 am

    Very useful – thank you! Especially to insert links to other articles in your posts!

    Josie XOXO

  2. December 23, 2014 / 10:32 am

    That’s really useful thanks, hon. I’m like you I’m interested in my stats and monitor them but I don’t let it obsess me! One thing I’m interested is do you lose or gain readers the more you post. I know people want new content but I don’t want to over load them!
    Lots of love,
    Angie

    • December 23, 2014 / 1:05 pm

      You definitely 100% gain new readers the more you post. I know what you mean about bombarding people with too many posts so I have the option for when people subscribe for email updates to either receive a weekly summary of all the new posts or an email for every new post. That way people only get lots of notifications if they want them.
      I think the only time you lose readers when you post more is if you start posting low quality blogs because you don’t have the time. Quality over quantity but if you can do both then you’re on to a winner!

  3. December 23, 2014 / 11:45 am

    Really useful post, thank you! Would you consider doing one on how to actually navigate and then analyse the stats? I have analytics but I find it really confusing to navigate and haven’t come across an idiot’s guide to Analytics yet…
    Merry Christmas by the way 🙂
    Naomi

    • December 23, 2014 / 12:59 pm

      Hi Naomi, thanks so much for the suggestion. I’ll add this to my list and hopefully add a post with simple Analytics tips with easy to follow pictures. There are a few on YouTube but they’re SO boring!

      • December 24, 2014 / 10:24 am

        Ahh that would be great, I will keep my eyes peeled!!! I agree about youtube ones, my attention span isn’t good enough to concentrate on how to videos! Much prefer reading at my own pace 🙂

  4. December 23, 2014 / 12:53 pm

    Really helpful, thank you!!

    I’m currently in the process of redesigning my blog and taking a harder look at my stats and what I can be doing to improve them!

    Merry Christmas!
    Emma x

    • December 23, 2014 / 12:55 pm

      Merry Christmas to you too Emma and I’m really pleased this was helpful!

  5. December 23, 2014 / 12:55 pm

    this is a really useful post as I’m still fairly new to this blogging and feel I have to improve in some way. Have a great Christmas.

  6. December 23, 2014 / 2:40 pm

    As much as I know about Analytics and SEO, I mostly just look at them out of curiosity. I think I do need to sit down and really strategize with the information – thanks for the little nudge!

    p.s. that was one of the most challenging math questions I’ve come across on a blog haha!

    • December 23, 2014 / 3:23 pm

      Haha, everybody says that! I really need to sort out my captcha as sometimes you need a calculator to leave a comment!

  7. December 23, 2014 / 3:18 pm

    I’m still a fairly new GA user (I regret putting off installing it for so long) so I’m still learning how to navigate all the info and use it to my advantage, so these tips are super helpful to me. Thanks for sharing!

    • December 23, 2014 / 3:24 pm

      No problem Leah, I hope they come in useful!

  8. December 23, 2014 / 5:39 pm

    Monica you always have the best and most helpful tips for travel bloggers! Bonus for me is that you always write them in a very knowledgeable way, but it’s easy to actually understand 🙂 So kind of you to share your tips with others. Best wishes for the holidays!
    Jessica

  9. December 23, 2014 / 8:24 pm

    Thanks for the wonderful tips! I have had Google Analytics for a while, but I still get pretty lost. Those are great tips, and I’ll definitely try them. Merry Christmas!
    With love,
    Vera

  10. December 23, 2014 / 10:32 pm

    So, about that bounce rate… I know there’s a lot of different answers to this, but what do you consider to be ‘high’ and ‘low’? I think blogs generally have a much ‘higher’ bounce rate than your average website for, say, a business. But I still have no idea what is ‘good’.

    Thoughts?

    BTW, hope you have a wonderful holiday!

    V

  11. December 24, 2014 / 1:03 am

    I’ve never thought of using Google Analytics to track my viewers. Thanks for showing me this!

  12. December 24, 2014 / 10:18 am

    That’s a really interesting article, Monica. Like you I have more male readers than I expected so I need to tailor my content to include them

    Suze |

  13. December 24, 2014 / 2:35 pm

    I am a rather new blogger and I’m still learning the ropes I’m using Google analytic s now thanks to your post.

  14. Lemuel Danilo
    December 29, 2014 / 4:16 pm

    Great post about Google Analytics. I have just recently used Google Analytics to track the number of visitors in my website but as mentioned above there’s more about it than that. Google Analytics provide insights that is very useful in improving a blog. Thanks for this tool.

  15. Vijay Kallugudde
    January 13, 2015 / 5:03 pm

    Pal thanks for the post,
    I am an amateur travel blogger following your posts and being with you on may help me a lot,

    thanks pal

  16. January 14, 2015 / 5:13 am

    I find interpreting my google analytics confusing – but a few things clicked when I read this! Thanks for this helpful post!

  17. April 14, 2015 / 12:49 pm

    Thanks Monica, I’m quite new to blogging and have been checking google analytics a couple of times a week. I have also set up on Bloglovin recently, do you know if the analytics tracks this also?
    Sarah

    • April 14, 2015 / 3:10 pm

      Hi Sarah. Google Analytics does track Bloglovin’. For me it comes up if you go to Acquisition -> All traffic -> Channels and then click ‘Other’ and within ‘other’ I can see ‘Feedburner’ and Feedburner is Bloglovin for me. It may be different depending on how you set it up but hopefully that will help you find it.

      I actually find it much easier to use the Google Analytics app for iOS. It’s much simpler!

  18. Amrita
    May 11, 2015 / 10:38 am

    Such great tips! And I really lobe how non-techy these are, really. Because the one’s I’ve read so far, in hopes of getting a clue about Analytics, have ended up confusing me.

    Thanks a ton. And I love your space here.

  19. August 13, 2015 / 2:39 pm

    thanks!! really helpful tips!!!! 🙂

    Arkitalker |
    — A blog of architecture, art and culture and a travel diary —

  20. September 14, 2015 / 1:59 am

    Thanks for putting this together. I need to sit down and really figure out how to use all of this to my advantage and grow my readership. Also, I had no idea what “bounce rate” was. So thanks for the lesson! 🙂

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