As you may or may not know, my full time job is in Marketing - an industry I love and am hugely passionate about. I may have only been blogging 2 years but I've been in Advertising/ Media/ Marketing for 16 years now so I'd like to think I'm fairly experienced when it comes to this topic. I see so many new bloggers writing posts like this and I'm afraid I do get the *eye roll emoji* look on my face. I'm not writing this because I'm a blogger - because I've not been doing it long enough. I'm writing this because I've built my career on talking about this stuff....
I forget how much of what I do on my blog is because of what I've learnt in my career, so I thought it was about time I put some of this knowledge to good use and wrote a post about how to track your blog traffic effectively.... Hopefully you'll all find this useful and maybe even an experienced blogger may pick up at least one tip that can help them!
The majority of this post is about using the data in Google Analytics effectively, so if you don't have Google Analytics installed make it a priority. If you're on Blogger it's so simple as it's a Google product and no code is needed - you just need to set up an account and add your ID number to Blogger. If you're on WordPress follow these instructions here. However I do want to emphasize that this isn't a Google Analytics masterclass - this isn't how to use GA as there us so much more to it than what I'm going to talk about here. This post is purely how to track your traffic effectively. If you want to know anything extra you can always message me and I'm happy to help.
So let's get started....... You will want to get a cuppa for this one as there is a lot to get through!
The basics...I'm sure most of you know this but I want to clear a few things up.... Hits (page views on Google Analytics) are not the same thing as users. You may have had 10,000 page views in a month, but only 5,000 of those are unique users. Below are a few of the basic stats you can find in Google Analytics that you should be looking at and trying to improve:
Users (found under Audience > Overview)Otherwise known as unique users (Google decided to rename this a few years ago. Very annoying). Quite simply this is how many individual users are visiting your blog each month. This is an important stat that PRs/ brands will quite often ask for, but it's quite easy for people to get confused and supply the page views or sessions instead of the unique users (users). Unless otherwise asked, generally brands want to know how many eyeballs look at you blog each month, so this is the figure you should be quoting.
Sessions (found under Audience > Overview)A session is a group of interactions that take place on your website within a given time frame. For example a single session can contain multiple page views (see below what a page view is), but importantly one individual user can create multiple sessions within a given time frame, which is why your sessions will always be higher than your 'users' figure, as the 'users' stat will only ever count that person once.
Page views (found under Audience > Overview)This is the total amount of pages viewed within a given period. If I visit your site I may look at 3 pages during my session (home page and say 2 blog posts for example), so although I'm only 1 person, I've generated 3 page views for you. This is why it's important not to get the two mixed up!
Source/ medium (found under Acquisition> All Traffic)This is the page I spend most of my time analysing. The Source/ medium section of Google Analytics tells you the origin of where your traffic came from - Be that Twitter, Pinterest, Google, Bing or Instagram - whatever it may be. It's vital that you know what is driving traffic to your site so you can see what is working and what isn't. For example, I know that Facebook drives a fair amount of traffic to my blog. Now, I only have a tiny amount of likes on Facebook compared to my thousands on Twitter and Instagram. So if I can drive that much traffic with only 400 likes, imagine how much traffic I could generate on 4,000 likes! Hence, one of my strategies this year is to grow my Facebook audience and be active as possible in the Facebook groups.
If I've done some blog advertising I also like to see how much/ how little traffic that advertising has generated for me in order to produce an ROI (return on investment).
Its this section that made me realise how important my scheduled tweets are.... As soon as my scheduled tweets stop so does my blog traffic from Twitter. As boring as they are to do, they are so important in order to keep my traffic up.
It's also here that I find out if other bloggers have linked to me, as it will come up in the traffic sources. Most of the time if a blogger links to me they will include me in a tweet/ Instagram post so I know, but sometimes they don't. It's always nice to log on and see traffic coming from another blog and to see you have had a mention in someones post. On that note if you do ever link to me please let me know - I LOVE to read them!!
Average session duration (found under Acquisition> All Traffic> Source/ medium)This stat can be found on a few pages but I prefer to look at it on the source/ medium section as it's so important to know how long users are staying on your site, and how it varies from source to source. There is no point in me investing a lot of time trying to drive more traffic from a particular source if they only stay on there for 1 second and bounce off again! StumbleUpon is a good example of this. When I first started receiving traffic from StumbleUpon I was really excited as I was getting thousands every day. I instantly thought I should capitalize on it and see how I can grow the traffic further. However, upon deeper investigation the traffic is not engaged - the average session during is 18 seconds! That's not traffic I want to invest in and grow. On the other hand traffic driven from others peoples blogs is highly engaged, and it has an average session duration of over 15 minutes - that's the sort of traffic I want to encourage and grow, and another reason I have done blog adverting in the past.
You can also view average time on site by individual pages under behavior> site content> all pages which is another interesting stat to look at.
Organic Keyword Traffic (found under Acquisition> Campaigns)Now is this is tricky one as Google changed it's policy a few years ago and any searches that are done on Google by someone that is logged in to their Google account won't show you the search terms they used and it will just say "not provided" - another way for Google to generate more money via Adwords! Not helpful! Over 95% of my organic traffic is stated as "not provided" so I can only see what 5% of my organic traffic searches are.
However looking at the keywords searched on Google before they enter my site is very interested, and sometimes quite funny - "reasons to have big boobs" was one!
By looking at the keywords I can understand what keywords for what blog posts I'm ranking well for organically on Google. I don't want this to turn into an SEO post but basically by understanding which posts rank well organically and what keywords are being used, I can use that info to refine my future posts and ensure they come up top on Google!
Use Google Analytics to measure traffic - Not Blogger or WordPress statsThis is a big bug bear of mine.... People tweeting I've had 10,000 views today because they have just looked at their blogger stats. Firstly note the difference from page views to users (as noted above) and secondly if you have Google Analytics installed you will see that it paints a very different picture, and your stats will be a lot lower than what Blogger is reporting. I know this isn't what you want to hear... but the truth is always better than a false reality.
The biggest reason you should use Google Analytics over Blogger/ WordPress stats is that it gives you so much info that you just can't gather from the basic reporting on other platforms. It is the most popular free tool on the market for measuring website traffic and used by Marketers all over the world.
Google Analytics uses a completely different tracking system to Blogger/ WordPress, but the main reason that it reports lower numbers is because the Blogger stats are artificially inflated by bots and search crawlers - they are not real people and should not be counted. There are all sorts of bots crawling your site every day which Blogger will count as a view, whereas Google Analytics is a lot smarter than this and has the capabilities to identify a lot of these main crawlers and won't count them in your stats.
On that note if you are thinking of advertising with a blogger and they supply you their blog stats, it's always worth asking if those stats are from Google Analytics - if they aren't then their 'real' stats could be up to 50% different to what they are telling you.
Disregard your own viewsHow many times do you think you look at your blog a day? A week? A month..? If you're anything like me then it will be a lot! All those hits are tracked by Google Analytics and messing up with your stats that you are carefully trying to study! You might think a blog post is really successful but it's only because you've been hitting refresh every half an hour to see how many comments have come in...... Not good. Luckily there is a a very simple way that you can exclude all your hits from your Google Analytics data.
Firstly you need to know what you IP address is, which you can find here. You then need to create an IP address filter. It's quite simple but rather than type it all out and make this post longer than it already is, there is a step by step guide here.
Once you've done this Google Analytics will no longer track your activity in it's data and you will be able to get a much clearly idea of what is actually happening on your blog.
Top Tip: If you regularly view from your blog from your home and work, make sure you exclude your work IP address too!
Tag your links using Google URL builderI'm hoping you've made it this far and haven't drifted off as this is where it gets interesting!!
Tagging your links by adding some code to the end of your URL is really important if you want to track where your traffic is coming from accurately. Firstly I'm going to give you some examples of where/why you would do this, and then I will let you know how to do it......
As I said earlier in this post I receive a good chunk of traffic from Facebook, but how do I know if the traffic I'm getting is coming from my Devoted To Pink Facebook page, or the Facebook groups I am part of - I'm part of a few Facebook Groups like Thirty Plus and South East Bloggers and we share our links of new posts we have written that day. Other bloggers I know share their posts on their private Facebook account for their friends/ family to read too. By adding a unique code to the URL I am able to track what traffic comes from my Devoted To Pink Facebook page and what comes from the groups. If you wanted to you could even add a unique code to the URL for each group so then you know what groups are reading your posts and what aren't - that's a lot more effort so I haven't done that yet, but it's possible!
Another example of where I use tracked URL's is when I do blog advertising. Quite often with an advertising package you will receive a button/ ad on the side of their blog and you will be featured in monthly round up advertisers post on their blog. When I started booking packages I wanted to know if you got more traffic from the ads or the advertisers post, so once I knew that I then knew where to invest my money in the future.
So if you want to start tagging your links here's how:
- Make sure you are logged into google and visit Google URL builder here.
- Paste in the URL of where you want to direct traffic to - for example: www.devotedtopink.com
- Type in the campaign source where you will be placing that link - for example: Facebook
- In Campaign type what part of Facebook you will be placing the link - for example: Facebook Groups
- The other sections you can leave blank.
- It will then create a tagged URL which will look something like this: http://www.devotedtopink.com/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_campaign=Facebook%20Groups
- You can then shorten that to a small URL and paste in the Facebook groups which will look something like this: https://goo.gl/X7ZoaD
I'm just teaching you the very basics of this form. You can fill in the other parts such as campaign medium and content to help you in other ways. Rather than drag this post out I've kept it simple as for a blog you really won't need to know much more than this.... for now!
Now you're probably wondering now you've tagged all your links how do you find the results right.?! Ok, here's what you do:
- Log into Google Analytics and under reporting click 'Acquisition' on the left hand side.
- Click 'All Traffic'
- Click 'Source/ medium'
- Select the date range on the top right that you want to view
- Click 'Secondary' dimensions (which is just above source/ medium)
- Under 'Advertising' select 'campaign'
- In the search box type in the source that you are tracking (i.e Facebook)
You will then see the traffic you are getting from where. Below is the Facebook example I that is use it for. As you can see, I can tell what traffic I get from the Facebook pages and what I get from my Devoted To Pink page. The traffic that says 'not set' is traffic I have received from other people linking to my blog from Facebook, the link on my Facebook bio, but mainly the times I've been lazy and not tagged my links! Naughty me! As you can see it would be much better if I knew where the 1,000+ traffic had come from so I need to be consistent in tagging my links every time!
Here are just few examples of other things you may want to tag in order to measure the traffic accurately:
- Different click points in an email (if you send an email to your database)
- Facebook Advertising
- Facebook Bio link
- Instagram Advertising
- Instagram bio link
- Scheduled Twitter links
- Twitter bio link
I hope I've explained this all well enough but as you can probably tell I'm a bit of a geek! One thing that I've learnt doing my job is don't just assume you know what people do on your site, not everyone is like you - let the data tell you what they are doing! If you implement all of the above you will get a much clearer idea about what is actually going on with your blog and how you can improve it.
I hope you found this useful? If you'd like any more marketing related posts please let me know in the comments below.
P.s If you liked this post you may like my post I wrote on How to get into Marketing for beginners.
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