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Monday, May 9, 2011

How To Start A Blog | How To Use Google Analytics, Blogger Stats and Other Metrics To Improve Traffic

Graph from Sitemeter showing visits and page views.
If you've been completing the lessons in this "How To Start A Blog" series, you should have a monetized blog with a few posts. Your template is right. You understand keywords and how to use them. You even know how to market your blog. But is it all working? This lesson covers how to use Google Analytics, Blogger Stats and metrics to improve traffic to your blog.

If you have few or none of the above, go to the Make Money tab at the top of this blog or click here to catch up.

Blogger Stats

We'll start with the easiest, Blogger Stats. This feature was added to Blogger blogs about a year ago and it comes in quite handy. Though limited in scope it can give you a quick snapshot of what is going on with your blog.

When you click on the Stats tab, you will be directed to the Overview screen. Here, you will see a line graph that shows your blog page views over multiple time frames. You will also see the top 5 posts for the selected time frame, the top three Traffic sources and a global map of where your Audience is coming from.

The time frame choices are Now (Last 2 hours), Day (Last 24 hours), Week (Last 7 days), Month (Last 30 days and All-Time (since you first created your blog). These time frames work for the Page Views, the Posts, Traffic Sources and the Audience metrics.

If you are marketing your posts on Twitter and Facebook or other social sites, you can check the Now time frame on your Page Views and you should see an immediate spike in views right after you've shared your post on the social sites.

On the line chart, you will notice peaks and valleys, this is normal. It reflects the habits of blog visitors. I've noticed spikes in traffic around 9 am in the Eastern Time Zone, people have just gotten to work and they check Facebook, Twitter or their favorite blog (which, hopefully, is mine). Evenings, after dinner are also times of peak activity. Holidays suck.

The Posts section of Blogger Stats will show you the most popular 10 posts for the respective time period. There are several things you can do to improve traffic to your blog by monitoring the numbers this tool produces.

First, check the Now time frame. If should have at least 10 posts on the list. If not, hit Twitter and Facebook with a few older posts and see if you can generate at least 10 posts that are getting views during that time period. Even if there are 10 posts already on the list, I will find a couple of older posts or one or two of the posts from the bottom of the list and send those out on Twitter and Facebook. Invariably, the count goes up on the posts. Or the posts I just introduced to my marketing channels will appear on the list.

Another element you want to monitor on the Page Views for the Posts is which posts are the hottest over the last Day, Week and Month. You want to make sure you have links in those posts to other posts on your site. It's an old retail adage, "The more they see, the more you sell."

I noticed that I was getting a ton of traffic on several blog posts, I added more links to each blog post and my Page Views soared. I'll discuss this more later when we cover Google Analytics.

Traffic Sources is a good way to see where your visitors are coming from. In the beginning, you might only be generating traffic from social media marketing and not getting much action from the search engines, which will appear under Referring Sites.

It's good to check the list of Referring Sites and see if you notice strange URL's there. I get a ton of traffic from Google, Yahoo, and Bing, but I've also noticed URL's that were unfamiliar to me. You can click on the URL and see where the traffic came from. Some of them are search boxes on other sites, but I did notice that there are a number of sites have linked to a post or re-posted one of my posts on their site, with a link back to my site.

Only about a dozen Referring Sites will show up on the list, so check it frequently to spot new Referring URL's.

Another tool available under the Traffic Sources are the Search Keywords that visitors are using to get to your site. Monitoring what keywords pop up most often can help you see what people are looking for. If you have a topic that seems to get a lot of Search Keyword traffic, maybe you want to produce more posts on that topic.

As a lark, I wrote some reviews of TV shows. They started showing up in the Search Keywords. Now,  they are staples of my site and I generate a considerable amount of traffic from them. I've even nailed top spots on Yahoo and Bing for the posts, which brought in a lot of traffic.

Audience numbers are more for fun. Typically, you'll see the majority of your traffic coming in from the United States and Canada. However, it is fun to see hits coming in from far away places all over the globe.

I don't pay any attention to the operating systems and browsers used to get to my site. The pie charts change a lot and I have yet to find any use for the info.

Google Analytics

What I like most about Google Analytics is that it is FREE and it offers some very valuable data about your site traffic. You can sign up for Google Analytics here.

You'll need your Gmail email address to sign up. Then, you have to get the code to embed in your site. Google provides very simple, detailed instructions on how to do this, so don't freak out. They even have a way of verifying whether you installed the code correctly. Once you have it installed, give it a few weeks to collect data and then you can start analyzing your site traffic.

Google Analytics offers so many tools that I can't possibly cover them all here. However, there are a few metrics you should watch and use to see if your marketing strategies are working.

First off, none of the numbers in Blogger Stats will match up with the numbers in Google Analytics, that's not important. What you are looking for on the line graphs are trends. Are Visits increasing or decreasing. What about the amount of Time Spent on Site? Or the Average Number of Page Views?

What's nice about Google Analytics is that you can customize the time frame to any period you want. You can check a specific date, a specific month, a 30-day range or any time period you'd like to analyze.

One of my favorite tools is the Returning vs. New Visitors. Since I get a lot of search engine traffic, the visitors tend to be flighty. They come, look for what they want and then dash off somewhere else. That is common and nothing to be upset about. What I monitor is the count of Returning Visitors. These are your fans. If that count continues to grow, you know that you are gradually building a following to your site. If you have a very low number of New Visitors, you need to do more marketing or improve your keyword and post construction skills. See the lessons that cover those topics.

Time On Site is a number you want to monitor. If you suddenly get a rush of search engine traffic, expect that number to drop. It is an average of everyone that came to your site. As you start to see steady patterns in your site traffic, you can get a better feel for what that number means, relative to your traffic. Can you do something to keep people on your site for longer periods? Links. Links. Links. Links on the side. Links at the bottom. Links at the top. And you can improve your content. If you write content that is valuable to your target audience, visitors will spend more time on your site.

The last tool I will cover is the Bounce Rate. Bounce Rate gives you a percentage of the people that hit your site, look at one thing and bounce away.

When I started to nail top spots on search engines, my traffic jumped dramatically. However, I noticed that my Bounce Rate was up around 85% to 90% - not good.

I took my most popular posts that were drawing piles of search engine traffic and loaded them up with links to other content on my blog. In one day, my bounce rate went from 85% to 35% and has remained in that range ever since. By checking Depth of Visit, I noticed that 90% of my visitors were only looking at one page. After making the changes to the hot posts, about 45% of my visitors look at two pages, 41% still look at one page, but the other 14% are looking at many, many more pages.

There are a lot of other numbers you can generate with Google Analytics. I'll let you have fun exploring the tools.


Sitemeter is another FREE measuring device that is easy to install. You'll have a code to embed in your blog and you'll be up and running in minutes.

Sitemeter gives you a quickie look at Visits and Page Views. As I mentioned above, you want visitors to view more than one page. The chart picture used for this post came from Sitemeter. It shows the visits in yellow and the total page views in orange. You can see how the page views has been increasing - that's all the result of stuffing more links into my posts and giving my visitors more options to look at more content.

Sitemeter also includes a cool little map of the world. Dots show up on the map for the last five to ten visitors. It's fun to see where your traffic is coming from.

Again, none of the numbers in Sitemeter will match the number in Google Analytics or the numbers in Blogger stats. Trends are what you want to see. Look at the bigger picture, rather than the specific numbers and you will get a better grasp on how to market and manage your blog.

There are dozens of measuring tools available on the web. I'm cheap, so I used the ones that were FREE. Sitemeter does have a Pro version. I'm not sure what you get in the Pro version, other than a bill.

The End

This concludes the How To Start A Blog course. If you've followed it from the first lesson to this paragraph, I hope you found it informative, simple to understand and highly useful in your quest to produce a winning, profitable blog.

There may be more posts down the road as new techniques are developed and new marketing strategies emerge. In the meantime, keep producing good content, focus on keywords and never forget your marketing.

In this lesson you learned how to run the your ship by using Google Analytics, Blogger Stats and other metrics to improve blog traffic. You have everything else from all the other lessons.

Best of luck to you. If you have any question, feel free to email me:
I only check the email about once a week, but I do respond to everyone who writes to me.

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