Last week I shared why everyone should be using Google Analytics on their blog – and not just built in analytics (like WordPress provides). Now I’ll break out some of the key metrics and terminology to get you started.
The first metrics you see when in the reporting tab in Google Analytics are your audience overview. I won’t be going over every detail, but just some tricky ones or ones that I find particularly interesting or helpful. Key things to look at that can help judge the success of your blog (or site) are:
Sessions: The number of times a user is perusing your site. A session starts when a user hits their first page on your site, and ends when they leave or are inactive for a certain period of time (default is 30 minutes, but this can be changed).
Pageviews: The number of pages viewed. There can be multiple pageviews per session, so every time a page is viewed, it is counted in this metric.
*Bounce Rate: This is an important one. Bounce rate is the amount of a user hits a page and leaves from that page without interacting with it first. But it can be tricky. See, if you have a blog on your home page (like I do) and have every post in full, a user can read three posts, spending 5-10 minutes on your page. However, if they don’t click anything and leave your site, it registers as a bounce – meaning the user has spent 0 minutes on your page. This metric may not be helpful if you have pages that don’t invite additional interactions or movement to other pages. In other words, having a high bounce rate may not always be bad, just misleading.
New vs Returning Users: This is the little pie chart. It shows which users hitting your site have been there before, versus those who are visiting for the first time.
This next section gets a little more techy, but a bit more interesting. What I mean by this, is that it looks at how users are getting to your site. My favorite things to look at are under All Traffic:
Channels: This shows the types of places users are coming from to get to your site. Here are the default channels within Google Analytics:
- Direct: Anyone who goes directly to your site by typing the URL in their browser.
- Referral: When someone clicks on a link to your site from someone else’s. These will show you the URL of the site a user came from.
- Social: Indicates that a user clicked on a link from a social post, whether that was Twitter, Facebook, etc.
- Organic Search: A user found you through searching on Google, Bing or other search engines through unpaid search results.
- Email: A user clicked on a link from an email and got to your site through that.
- Other: Doesn’t fit into the above categories. For me, this shows when I use campaign URLs, which I will explain next week.
Referrals: Not to be confused with the Referral channel I mentioned above. Essentially, it compiles all referrers into one list, or simply the Referral + Social above.
Search Engine Optimization > Queries: This is a fun one. It shows you a list of search phrases/words a user put into a search engine that returned your site as a result that the user clicked on.
Campaigns: This section relates directly to the campaign URLs that you can create through Google. I will go more in-depth with this next week, but for now, here is a quick overview. You can put tags on URLs so you can lump a campaign that takes place during a full month in one place. So if I am having a 50% sale on services in March, I can see every URL I send out for the entire campaign in one spot, and then see it broken down across different parameters that you set.
This section allows you to get a bit more specific with what a user is doing on your site. You can see the general metrics, and some other fun things, on an individual page basis.
Site Content: This is the area where you can see the page specific metrics. These are found under “All Pages” where you can search for specific pages. Landing Pages shows you pages that are the first hit on your site, while Exit Pages shows you which pages were the last a user was on before they left.
Site Search: Like the SEO queries from above, this shows you the stats on your site search, including search terms and general usage.
Events: This one involves some more set-up if you want to get super fancy with it. Events generally track what a user interacts with on your site. You can see how many times a user downloads something, clicks a link to go to another site, and other interactions. However, to see good metrics for this, you need to set up more advanced tracking for more specific interactions to your site.
If you are looking for more in-depth guides, you can check out what Google Analytics has to offer as far as tutorials, and even getting certified.
Analytics are a wonderful thing. I use WordPress for my site, and there are some pretty decent metrics you can get from what WordPress offers. But that doesn’t mean that you should only be using those analytics to measure your site. You should also be using Google Analytics.
Why look at analytics at all?
In general, analytics can provide you tons of interesting things about visitors hitting your site and what they do there. Among other things, you can see phrases they used in search to find your site, how long they spend on a page, which pages users typically leave from….it’s really endless.
But with those, here are the main two reasons why you should be looking at analytics:
- Analytics help show you when things are working well. By having predetermined goals you will be able to see how well your posts or marketing tactics are preforming.
- Analytics help to see where you can improve. If you are just looking at analytics to say “sweet! I’ve gotten x number of visitors!” then you aren’t doing analytics right. You can utilize metrics to see things that aren’t working and try to improve on them. For example, if one post is doing particularly well, try to replicate some of those things into other posts that aren’t preforming as well.
But do I really need Google Analytics?
Not necessarily – but if you think you can get by with just WordPress’s built-in stats – you’re wrong. There are tons of robust analytic programs out there, but I like Google Analytics. It’s free and there are TONS of tutorials out there to allow anyone to understand how to use it to their advantage.
Here is a quick comparison between WordPress stats and Google Analytics to help you see why it is a huge advantage to utilize both:
|WordPress stats||Google Analytics|
As you can see, both have some great aspects that the other does not. WordPress plays very nice with Google Analytics, so it’s worth spending some time setting it up! One thing to note – you cannot add Google Analytics to a free WordPress.com site (which I find super sad!). If you want to set up Google Analytics on your purchased WordPress site, here’s a pretty friendly how-to guide from wpbeginner.com. If you just want to know what plugin to connect the two (which is the recommended way), I personally use the plugin “Google Analytics Dashboard for WP.”
On Wednesday I took part in the Twitter chat #createlounge and it was one of the best Twitter chats I had ever participated in. I learned a lot about blogging and actually came to the realization that my niche wasn’t actually what I thought it was.
I ended up creating an editorial calendar – a.k.a. a schedule of upcoming posts so that way I actually had important things to share with you all.
With that in mind, I will be posting regularly on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. About what you might ask. Here’s the plan:
Mondays: Lauren’s Lessons Learned. These will be posts about random things I have learned, whether it be about digital marketing, writing or life in general. They will be focused around something that will hopefully allow you to gain some insight too.
Wednesdays: Digital Marketing. This is where my niche lies. I’m going to post information, tips, tools, etc. with a writing lens. If you are a writer, aspiring author (like myself) or blogger, these will help you learn about marketing yourself in the digital space.
Fridays: My writing journey. As I mentioned, I’m an aspiring writer, and I love blogging about the ups and downs of that journey. I started this blog by writing about my first ever NaNoWriMo attempt, and plan to continue sharing my experiences with my writing process.
Recently I’ve seen a lot of different commentary about blogs and figured now is as good a time as any to put in my thoughts. Here are my tips/random musings about blogging. Maybe they will help you. Maybe you’ll think they are stupid. Regardless, here they are:
Keep It Simple
To me, blogs should be an easy read. I shouldn’t have to stumble through complicated prose to understand a blog post. I want a post to be conversational and simple in style not necessarily in content. This doesn’t mean you should create short simple posts, but that your writing should be clear and concise.
I should also mention that within keeping it simple, I don’t you should stick to one topic or “easy” topics. Because that’s something for you to decide. (Hell, I have a mix of writing and digital marketing posts here). And if your topic is more complex or complicated, it can still be somewhat conversational without losing a serious tone.
Do It For Yourself
One of the most asked questions I see is how to get started. If you are blogging for yourself, then just set one up and start. When I started this blog, I didn’t care if a single person read it (I swear to you, I actually thought that!). All I wanted a place to share my thoughts, and if someone was interested in what I said, that was just an added bonus.
Now, if you want to blog to start a business or do so more professionally than how I started, then you should probably be a bit more calculated than I was. However, you should still be doing it for yourself. If someone else is forcing you to blog about something you don’t care about (outside of a job, I guess) then you probably shouldn’t be blogging.
Set Your Own Rules
To the same effect as my previous thought, don’t look at someone else’s blog and copy it. I don’t necessarily mean content, although your posts should be your own thoughts, but in structure. I know people who blog every single day. I know people who have schedules and post regularly on specified days. I know others who just post when they feel like they have something to post about. Don’t box yourself into anything that doesn’t feel right, just because you see others are doing it.
Those are my thoughts/tips on blogging. If you want some more opinions/advice, I would recommend reading I Gotcher Blog-Writin’ Advice Right Here by Chuck Wendig.
What are some tips you wish you knew when you started blogging?
One thing I’ve been pretty bad with when it comes to writing my novel is organization. I have a sweet TARDIS journal I got for secret santa a couple years back that I tried to use. Only it was hard to keep flipping back and forth between pages, and my character list/chapter organization changed so much that it was all over the place. It came to the point where I just didn’t use it anymore. Now it’s proof of how much my WIP has grown, but I still need a way to keep everything organized…
What I did was search the good ol’ internet for ways to document my characters so I could at least describe them better (because I tend to be light on the descriptions to begin with, and when I don’t remember everything about a character, that diminishes even more).
I found one chart that seemed to work well for my main characters here. There are a couple areas that were missing though, like hair color, race, sexual orientation, gender, etc. But it worked until I realized that I didn’t need that kind of detail for my secondary characters.
Now that I knew what I wanted and what worked/didn’t with the other chart, I just created my own! It’s mainly focused on appearance/personality as I didn’t feel it necessary to come up with too much back story for most of the minor characters.
I feel much better now about my character organization, to say the least. I’ve even decided to use pencil to fill out the charts in case I realize that I needed to alter something for things to fit better.
But that leaves some other areas open to improved organization: setting & terms. I’ve created a map of my setting which I reference almost every time I sit down to work on my WIP. But I need something more for the physical appearance.
For terms, I’ve attempted a sort of encyclopedia before, but it just turns into twice as much work when I sit down to accomplish anything.
With that, I’m asking for your help. Do you have any nifty tricks to keeping setting or terms organized? Something better for characters? Leave a comment!