A blog is a labor of love, much like gardening. When it comes to nurturing flowers or readers, I’m quite the enthusiast. While I tend to be somewhat whimsical and prone to rely on the weather for my gardening, when it comes to blogging, I rely on Google Analytics to help me grow my audience.
It’s not just me. Behind every successful blog is someone with an eye on their data. But whenever I bring up web analytics I hear things like
I know I should use Google Analytics more but…
I’d love to know more but it’s just so complicated and I don’t know what to look at.
That’s perfectly normal and no reason to blush when chit-chatting about bounce rates, site depths and metrics and dimensions. I’m going to equip you with everything you need right now, to understand your data and use it to start cultivating growth and an engaged and delighted readership.
We’ll start with two terms that pop up jolly often!
Metrics and Dimensions And Data, Oh My!
What on earth is a metric? Do I need a Stargate to understand dimensions? Sounds complicated but it’s quite simple. Ready?
A metric is a number. A dimension is a word. See, I told you this is easy!
Your site traffic is a metric because it is shown as a number or a percent. If you’re looking at your data and you see 200 new visitors with a bounce rate of 50%, you’re discussing metrics because they’re numerical.
If you want to know which pages those new visitors landed on, well, those are words. And if we’re looking at words, then, we’re discussing dimensions. Anything in your data that’s a word, like mysite.com/my new post, is a dimension. Got it?
So, Why Does This Matter?
Because if you’d like to understand how your blog posts are performing, you select your dimension and then dive into the metrics. It sounds fancy, but experts always use complicated words for obvious ideas. Now, if you pop into Google Analytics and want to create your own custom reports, you’ll understand the terminology and it won’t be so scary.
Dimensions and metrics are collectively data. See, it’s like jam! But before we dive into the really clever stuff, let’s talk about four little metrics that I find to be perfectly priceless.
The Four Important Metrics For Bloggers
These four metrics are what collectively define whether your audience is good or bad. See, getting 10 new visitors doesn’t matter if they don’t actually read your blog or subscribe to your newsletter. We’ll be using these metrics to decide, later, which of your blog posts is your most valuable, not only in quantity but quality too.
1. Bounce Rate
Bounce rate tells you how many of your visitors came, saw, and left before doing anything. However, if you have a perplexingly high bounce rate on specific posts, there is no need to be in a bother. Google Analytics calculates bounce rate as single page sessions in which the visitor leaves without taking any actions on the site. So, for a blogger like you, if they came to see one specific post, and then left after reading it, without doing anything else, that would still be a bounce.
One trick to improve your bounce rate (note: the lower, the better), is to give your readers something to click on at the end of each post. Encouraging an action (like related posts, subscribe links etc) does wonders for keeping your readers on your site and bounce rates down!
2. Conversion Rate
Conversion rate tells you how many visitors completed a “goal” on your site. The goal could be to subscribe to your newsletter. Or a goal could be based on time on site, how many pages they viewed or whether they sent you a message on your site’s contact form. That’s up to you! Here are some instructions to set up goals.
I recommend setting up a maximum of 3 goals, just to keep things manageable. My favorites are newsletter subscriptions, downloads and “site depth” based goals. Which brings us to the next metric.
3. Site Depth
This one is easy! The site depth is how many pages a visitor, well, visited. This metric is splendid for judging your content. If you have certain blog posts that encourage a high site depth, well, that means those topics are bringing you engaged, curious traffic that read a lot.
Write more posts related to those topics! See how analytics helps you grow?
More page clicks equals a higher site depth which means more time on your site, more ads viewed and an increased likelihood of coming back!
4. Time On Site
I have mild feelings about the time on site metric. Time on site describes how much time your visitors spent exploring your site. It goes nicely with site depth and implies an engaged audience but I feel it adds but a little value to the above three metrics rather than being meaningful on its own.
And there you go! You now are splendidly equipped to get analytical! Follow me like a bloodhound and we’ll sniff out some insights.
Finding Your Blog's Top Content And What To Do When You've Found It
Just what is “top content?” What makes it the cream of the crop? I think it is short-sighted to look only at the number of visitors who visit that page. Let’s step back for a moment…
Our delightful discussion is about growing your blog’s audience. So, when looking at your site’s top content, then we need to consider the pages that have the right combination of the following five metrics:
- High enough amount of traffic to be significant
- Lower bounce rate than other pages
- Decent conversion rate (if you have goals set up in Google Analytics)
- Higher site depth than other pages
- A time on site that is decent too, relative to other pages
Voilà! In Teacup Analytics, it’s easy to display what this looks like but you certainly can find this information easily in Google Analytics itself (I’ll explain how later*). Take a look at this image:
In Teacup Analytics, we take all the above metrics into consideration and grade the page’s performance so you can easily see which pages are your top pages. In my example, it just so happens that my page with the highest number of visitors is also my top content on the other metrics. Let’s discuss:
A: This page has the right mix! It has a lot of visitors who come directly to the home page. However, it’s “top” content because the other metrics in the blue square are all above average for my site’s performance. I need to look at what I’m doing right here and replicate it elsewhere.
B: The pages in orange are not my top content but they could be. They have enough traffic to be worth my attention but they’re not doing well in terms of the other metrics. What I should probably do here is revisit those posts to see if I can improve them to meet my goals. I could add “related posts” links to drive more clicks deeper into the site. SumoMe has some great tools to encourage more engagement from your site's visitors.
One thing I can note is that these topics get traffic! I can write more posts about these same ideas once I’ve figured out how to get the traffic more engaged. See? We’ve discovered some other actions to grow.
C: This isn’t worth any attention. It’s a blog post without much traffic and what traffic it does get is simply underwhelming in all metrics. I’ll ignore it or make a note to steer clear of similar topics in the future.
* To find this information in Google Analytics, follow these steps: Click on the Behavior menu item in the sidebar. Then, select the landing pages option.
So What Should You Actually Do To Use This Data To Grow Your Traffic?
The more you know, the more you can repeat your successes and grow your blog from strength to strength.
If you discover which blog posts are your primary drivers of excited, engaged and delighted visitors, you’ll know exactly what your readers love to read. Then, all you need to do it write more of that bright content.
I can’t close this discussion without encouraging you to delve further into analytics. There is a lot more to it and it’s all quite easy to grasp once you know the basics. You can segment your traffic into new or returning visitors. Or you can focus only on posts that bring you traffic via Google searches. I welcome you to explore Teacup Analytics and reach out if you have any questions at all!
Born and raised on a 30-acre farm in Knoppieslaagte near Johannesburg, South Africa, Dean Levitt moved to the US in 1999 to pursue a career in music. While trying to promote their music production company, Dean and his brother, Gary, had an idea that would become Mad Mimi, a powerful email marketing service acquired by GoDaddy in 2014. Dean is the founder of the brand new startup, Teacup Analytics.