As a blogger and online business owner, you need yourself a way to measure your progress, ecommerce, and goals.
Google Analytics is a must have if you want to track what is happening on your site and how your users navigate your pages and posts. You can’t build a sustainable business if you don’t know what works and what doesn’t.
Analytics provides pretty much everything you need to analyze your blog. You see pageviews, bounce rate, sessions, devices, conversions, and what not. There’s so much packed behind this one single interface.
I use Google Analytics to follow what posts do great, what pages are visited the most and where the overall traffic flows and in which point users exits my site.
Every single blogger (the ones that are serious about blogging) you see online uses Google Analytics. It’s that important. Every online business owner knows about Google Analytics and more than often knows how to use it efficiently.
Our goal is to get you on-track with Analytics and what you have to monitor to create an awesome blog and online business.
First step is to get Google Analytics for yourself here.
Adding Google Analytics to WordPress
When you have a purchased a domain for yourself it’s time to install some plugins to your site. Plugins enable you to add features and apps to your site making it more capable.
Crash course on plugins
Plugins are pieces of code that you install to be part of WordPress. Plugins are like apps and features you can use to extend the capabilities of your site. There are more than 50,000 plugins available at the time of writing.
You certainly don’t need all of them and to be honest, the less you have plugins, the better.
It’ not because plugins are bad for your site it’s that every plugin (that are part of the frontend of your site) is loaded when a user visits your site. This increases the overall loading time of your page.
However, with WordPress, you need plugins to make the site work for you and for your needs.
Adding Google Analytics through a plugin
There’s a plugin called Google Analytics for WordPress, however, that is not the one you should use.
I suggest you use a plugin called Insert Headers and Footers by WPBeginner. The reason is that when you are building an online business for yourself you need this plugin anyway. Google Ads code is placed to the header, Facebook Pixel code is placed to the header. Meta tags, verification codes etc. So you really do need this.
So you see, you will need that plugin anyway and as a general rule, the fewer plugins you have the less your site has sources of errors.
Finding Google Analytics code for the header plugin
Sign-In to your Google Analytics account. Choose Admin -> Property (the middle column) -> Tracking info -> Tracking code.
Select Website Tracking and Global Site Tag. Highlight the code and copy it to the clipboard (CTRL+C or CMD+C).
Head back to your WordPress and paste the code into the ‘Scripts in Header’ section. It’s in the Insert Headers and Footers plugin from Settings -> Insert Headers and Footers.
That’s it. You have now included Google Analytics tracking code to your site. Google is now able to track the visitors and pageviews of your site.
Additional important setting you should not forget
One thing you need to set to your Analytics is an IP-filter. This is so that you don’t see statistics coming from your own IP-address. It means that if you don’t do this setting, your behavior on the site is counted and this is something you do not want.
You don’t want to see pageviews you have created for your site.
First, figure out your IP by Googling “what is my IP”. Depending on the results you might want to put an asterisk at the end of the IP-address. Like 100.200.300.*
I had to do this as I have more than one IP-address in my network I use. If you want to be sure with your settings, just use the IP address Google brings to you.
Setting the IP-filter
Open Google Analytics and go to Admin, Choose View (last column on the right) -> Filters -> + Add filter -> Create New Filter, Add Filter Name, Filter Type = Exclude, Traffic from the IP addresses, That are equal to, and set your IP address to the field. Save.
Important metrics for bloggers
Next, we will go through some of the basic concepts in Analytics as well as go through why they are important for your blog and online business.
Google Analytics is rather huge and has plenty of metrics to follow, however, at the very beginning you should only focus on the essentials and only to the things you should care about.
In the beginning, Analytics might look confusing but let’s start with the basics.
Go to Audience and Select Overview.
Users and new users
Definition by Google: Users who have initiated at least one session during the date range.
Users value tells you how many users your site got in the time period you have selected. You can select the time period from the upper right corner.
New users value tells you how many new users your site had in the time period selected. New users value differs from the users value in the way of them being completely new users to your site. If the value is the same, it means your site has only new users and none are coming back to your site for the second time.
I would say that your goal is to increase the value of new users and users. If there are no new users, your site won’t grow. If however, you have only new users, it means you are not keeping your users interested enough to come back again.
Definition by Google: Total number of Sessions within the date range. A session is the period time a user is actively engaged with your website, app, etc. All usage data (Screen Views, Events, Ecommerce, etc.) is associated with a session.
What this all means is that when a user comes to your site, a session begins, if the user does more than one thing in your site like clicks a button and reads a post, it belongs to a session. If a user clicks a text to view a page, it belongs to the same session. The user is navigating your site and interacting with it and it all happens in one session.
You want sessions to happen, you want users to engage with your site and navigate in it. You want them to view multiple pages and posts.
Number of Sessions per User
The average number of sessions per user. This is a bit more complex but let’s simplify it.
Let’s say you have a value of 1.5. It means that one user approximately makes 1.5 interactions on your site. He/she might view your about page and read one blog post. This all still correlates to as one session.
You can think of a session as the container for the actions a user takes on your site. A user can view pages, posts, comment on your site, trigger an event and all those interactions are summed up into one session.
So how is a session calculated?
A session is defined either by campaign change or time-expiration.
Time-based expiration: After 30 minutes of inactivity, At midnight
Campaign change: If a user arrives via one campaign, leaves, and then comes back via a different campaign.
To simplify it. If a user comes back to your site and after 30 minutes of inactivity a new session starts. It means, he/she is again interacting with your site.
You want to see a high number here as it correlates how many times they interact with your site in one day. To simplify it even further, a user comes to your site 3 times a day at different times in a day. It would create 3 sessions. This means, your users like your page and want to see what is happening in it (multiple times/day).
Defined by Google: Pages/Session (Average Page Depth) is the average number of pages viewed during a session. Repeated views of a single page are counted.
This is the number most ad networks wants you to show to them. This is kind of THE number everyone is so concerned with. The higher pageviews your site has the better, right?
However, I see sessions as the most important factor as it is telling you that your users want information from your site multiple times a day.
Pageviews tells you how many pages your users visit. Pageviews do matter in a way that it tells you somewhat your site’s engagement.
Defined by Google: Pages/Session (Average Page Depth) is the average number of pages viewed during a session. Repeated views of a single page are counted.
As the session included a lot of interactions on your site, pages/session tells you how many pages a user interacted with when he/she was visiting your site.
A value close to 1.00 means they don’t visit more than one page and then leave your site. Value over 2.00 means that they visit at least two pages and then leave your site.
So a bigger value here is something you should strive for.
Avg. session duration
How long your users stay with you before bouncing off. Yet again a bigger value than 1 minute would be preferable.
If you think about your own behavior on a site and only spend less than one minute in a site, wouldn’t that mean, that the site didn’t give you the thing you were looking for?
It means exactly that.
Your user didn’t enjoy your content enough to stick around. You have to put an effort into your content and make sure that your content is good enough to keep your visitors with you.
Let’s say a blog post is around 3000 words in length and let’s assume a grown-up reads around 300 words in one minute. That would mean that your user should be spending around 10 minutes to read your entire post.
However, we know that only a few read the whole post from the beginning to the end. So they skim and read bits and pieces here and there. Getting somewhat the full picture.
So you can divide that 10 minutes in half and you get the average reading time for a 3000 words post. It could be even less than 5 minutes that your users spend with that sizeable article.
Your goal is to make the avg. session time as big as possible.
Defined by Google: The percentage of single-page sessions in which there was no interaction with the page. A bounced session has a duration of 0 seconds. “A bounce is a single-page session on your site.”.
What this means is that if your bounce rate is high, it means people are bouncing off your site, rather than continuing to use your site.
You can think of bounce rate as picking up a book and only reading the first page but not the second page.
As a blogger, you want that the bounce rate is small as possible. I would say 50% is extremely good, while 90% is extremely bad.
At the 50% level, 50% of your visitors leave your site after reading a piece of content you wrote. At 90%, only 10% of your visitors stay and read your next article or visits another page.
As you can see, it is very important to have a low bounce rate. Bounce rate tells you whether your readers like your content or not. They might have liked your article but the goal is to make the content so good that they stick with you longer.
They want to read more of your content so they don’t bounce, but keep going with you to the next article.
Final thoughts on audience overview
What you should keep in mind by watching the overview is that it’s an overview. Overview of your entire site. The values don’t tell if one of your posts was a success or not. These values represent the whole library of your site and these values should be monitored on a monthly basis or even quarterly basis.
What you should do is monitor single posts and pages and analyze that data as it will tell you more about the success of your site than the audience overview can.
Google Analytics Structure
Analytics is structured into 4 main areas:
These areas collect a bunch of information and you can go really deep with analytics if you just want to.
Next, we will simplify what every area is for.
The audience gives you information about the visitors visiting your site. What is the demographic, what are they interested in, what technology they use, do they use mobile phones, tablets or desktop to visit your site, and more?
Audience represents your site visitors. It gives you information on what they like and for example, is the users of your site female or male. Even the age is collected in analytics. All this data helps you create marketing campaigns, so be sure to check these before you go and use paid ads for example.
The acquisition area gives you information on how your visitors found you. How did they come to your site? Was it by ads, by keyword ranking, through social media or some other route.
How did you acquire a user to your site?
Google Analytics traffic sources explained
Social traffic: Social traffic accounts for all social networks that are accounted for by Google. Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube to name a few. If your visitor comes from Pinterest it is considered as though you acquired a user through a social network and thus it adds up to your social traffic.
Organic search traffic: If a user has searched something online and your page, blog post shows up and the user clicks it. It means you have acquired that customer by an organic search. The user has organically found you and this is pretty much the best case scenario you want to happen. People clicking to your site without you doing anything other than producing awesome content.
Direct traffic: User has come to your site by some unknown factor, either typing the website address straight to the address bar or by some other way that is not known to Google.
Referral: When a user comes to your site by clicking a link that was placed on another website and is not considered to part of the social media network. This type of traffic is good as it slowly builds your domain authority (MOZ way of defining the strength of a website). Referral traffic builds up when other sites refer your site. When a user clicks a referring link, they end up on your site and thus you have referral traffic.
Google search console is a very important tool later on your blogging journey. However, you should link your search console to analytics and you can easily do that by Going to Admin -> Property (middle column) -> All Products (Part of Product Linking).
After you have linked search console to your analytics, you can monitor what are the landing pages your users mostly visit and lands to.
It shows you, what are the sites your users mostly visit. You can use this information to adjust your content strategy for example.
Behavior & behavior overview
Behavior is all about how your users move between pages. By analyzing behavior you can at what point their interest dropped or what was the next page they visited.
From behavior overview, you can see what is the average time per page. You can also see how pageviews are divided by individual pages.
There’s also a value called % exit and by Google definition: %Exit is (number of exits) / (number of pageviews) for the page or set of pages. It indicates how often users exit from that page or set of pages when they view the page(s).
There’a good explanation for the exit rate & bounce rate that you can read at Exit Rate vs. Bounce Rate.
Simplifying it. You have pages A, B & C or they might blog posts A, B & C.
If a user navigates from A -> B -> C and goes away from your site at page C, page C activates exit. A bounce is calculated by the number of sessions and exits activated on a certain page. Exit being the bounce.
To summarize this all, let’s just say that you should think that exit is when someone exits your site completely.
Other areas of behavior
Through behavior, you can monitor site content, site speed, site search, events, and publisher. Site content, speed, and events would be the ones you should keep in mind.
Your site speed should be around 1-3 seconds for a page to be fully loaded. If your page speeds show anything else, you need to optimize your content for speed.
You can speed up your site quickly by doing these things:
- Switching hosting (server response time)
- Minimize images -Imagify(content load time)
- Cut back on animations and effects (loading code)
- Implement CDN (content delivery network)
- Install caching plugin (caches your content)
Last awesome feature is the conversions area. In this area, you can monitor your goals and ecommerce. How effective is your marketing and are your pages converting visitors as you want.
There are goals, ecommerce, multi-channel funnels, and attribution. You should be interested in goals, and in ecommerce.
Even if you wouldn’t have products yet, you can and you should set-up goals. Goals measure conversions made in your site. You define what is the goal and what values it has. Goals help you see how your users convert from specific pages and if your marketing, for example, is effective or useless.
It’s damn easy to define goals, just go to Admin -> View (last column on the right) -> Goals -> +New goal, to add a new goal to yourself.
I have defined goals to my site and those will be triggered every time someone signs up to my email list for example. This is a very basic form of goal but something you should implement to your analytics.
A final note
As you and I can conclude is that analytics is a beast. It has so many features and ways for you to monitor your users that it’s astounding. It has everything surrounding your visitors, how you acquire them to your site, how they behave and convert.
I would say the key metrics you should monitor monthly (not daily or weekly) are:
- Bounce rate
- Traffic sources
These simple metrics tell you enough so that you can make the best decisions with your content and website.
If you are a beginner blogger those metrics are enough at the start. When you start to get the hang of things, start implementing goals, and analyze individual pages and behavior flow to better understand what works on your site and what pages drive traffic to your site.
By better understanding your onsite users, you can manipulate your pages to include more of those things that your users are already interested in. You get all of this data from the analytics so you don’t have to do any guess working.
Want to remember this? Pin this ‘Google Analytics For Bloggers’ post to your Pinterest board for later reading!
Bring in the discussion
Google analytics is such a cool tool and without it, you just can’t build your blog. It’s that important, and if you agree or disagree, leave a comment below to share your thoughts and if there’s some feature you would like to know more about, just ask.