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Understand how to use analytics tools

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Understanding how to use the right analytics tools will essentially help you figure out your business. This data will tell you who your audience is, what you are doing right and what areas of improvement to tackle. In order to make sense of any traffic blog related data, you need to install Google Analytics. This will allow you to understand how many people visit your site, how do they find your website and most importantly, who are your main visitors. In your blog business plan you should have created your ideal audience by using personas. By using analytic tools, you can now understand if you indeed reached your target audience and how do they interact with your website.

What will initially look like numbers, will transform into insightful information which should point you and your business into the right direction.

Google analytics will enable you to understand your site and evaluate the content on your page. You will be able to get key information about your target audience, acquisition (where visitors come from), what is your bounce rate (people who don’t stay on your pages) and where in the world are your visitors?

Google analytics should be your number one website you check on a daily basis. The bigger your blog gets, the more you need to look back, evaluate your numbers, compare your stats and understand trends. So how can you do this?

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Analytics Tools #1: Visitors

As with any online business, you need to understand how many visitors you get on your website. The moment you check Google Analytics, you will very quickly see the number of visitors you had within the last 30 days. You can tweak the date range and see the number of visitors just for the present day, yesterday, or any date range you fancy. You can even compare the number of visitors so you can have a good idea where you were a month ago, and what is your increase in the current month.

Keeping tabs of this is paramount. This is important because you can check (in percentages) what is your growth rate. Obviously the bigger, the better.
On the left-hand side, you can see Audience. Click on it, then click on overview, to get information about your visitors.
On the right-hand side, you have the dates you can play with to further analyse your data.

analytics tools audience visitors

Analytics Tools #3: Sessions

This metric is measured by interactions with your website, driven by a cookie set on your reader’s browser when they arrive on the site. The session will expire after 30 minutes. If your reader comes back to the page after the 30 minutes, they will commence a new session.

analytics tools audience sessions

Analytics Tools #2: Users

These are all your users which come to your website, including your unique and returning visitors. One user can count for multiple sessions. You can segment deeper and find out how many of your users are actual unique visitors.

analytics tools audience users

Analytics Tools #4: Page Views

This metric is quite self-explanatory: how many pages your visitors clicked on. Repeated views of a single page are counted.

analytics tools audience page views

Analytics Tools #5: Average Session Duration

This is the average length of a session. Your aim is to increase this as much as possible. This basically tells you how long a user likes to spend on your website. The longer, the better.

analytics tools audience average sessions

Analytics Tools #6: Bounce Rate

This is the percentage of a single page visit. This shows what percentage of users left the website from the entrance page without interacting with the page. Here is an extensive explanation was given by Google: “Consider that a bounce is the notion of a session with only one interaction from the user, and the session-centric analysis answers a simple yes/no question: 'Did this session contain more than one-page view?' If the answer to that question is 'no,' then it's important to consider which page was involved in the bounce. If the answer is 'yes,' then it only matters that the initial page in the session leads to other page views. For that reason, bounce rate for a page is only meaningful when it initiates the session.”

analytics tools audience bounce rate

Analytics Tools #7: Audience

This is essential in understanding your audience. You will find key information about your website visitors. Check out demographics for:

Age, gender, interests, location and language.

Once you figure out who your audience is, make sure you act accordingly. These are the people who consume your website and you need to make sure you craft better-tailored content which serves your audience. You can’t start selling travelling gear for men if your audience is predominately female. Use common sense and make small adjustments to keep your audience interested in what you have to offer. And if in doubt, don't forget to check how to create persona research by understanding the science of article writing format.

analytics tools audience demographics

Analytics Tools #8: Acquisition

This is yet another important metric you need to master. Under the Acquisition tab, click on All traffic, then click on Channels. This is where the magic happens. It’s where you will find where your visitors are directed to your website from. So not only that you know how many visitors you have, who your visitors are, but now you can see where they are coming from. This is important because you can target certain channels which perform well, and come up with new marketing strategies for channels which perform poorly. In an ideal scenario, over half of your audience will come from organic search.

analytics tools audience acquisition

Analytics Tools #9: Organic Search

Click on organic search to see which keywords performed well. There is a chance that you will see a lot of “not provided” keywords. Don’t panic, this is normal. Google is using a secure connection which means it won’t pass a user search term to the destination site. So, in theory, this sort of metric is useless you might say. Well, luckily there are a few tricks you can do. The first thing to do here is to check landing pages. Based on the landing pages of your website you can start figuring out what keywords you rank high for. You can dig deeper by checking this in Webmaster tools. I'll be explaining this in an upcoming article.

analytics tools audience organic search

Analytics Tools #10: Social

Another channel is called Social. This shows all social networks which send you visitors. You should be able to see which social media channel performs best. This is also a great way to tackle the channels which don’t do that well. Say you are getting most of your traffic from Pinterest but Twitter barely sends you any visitors. It’s time to get your marketing game on.

Analytics Tools #11: Direct

Another channel is called Direct. Your direct traffic comes from readers who actually type in your URL directly into the browser. These are the visitors who already know the link to your website. They could be return visitors who bookmarked your link or could be newcomers who saw your business card.

Analytics Tools #12: Referral

This indicates readers who found your business through another website. Say another blogger linked to you and user clicked on the link. When you click on the “referrals” on Google Analytics you will be able to see all sources. It could be something like bloglovin, another blogger, a client’s website you worked with and so on. The more referrals you get, the better.

Analytics Tools #13: Email

This metric is self-explanatory: traffic received via emails. This usually increases when you send out a newsletter campaign, people click on it and go to your website. One time, a chain of hotels in Manchester picked up one of my blog posts and decided to include a link to my article in their newsletter campaign. Needless to say what ridiculous amount of traffic I received for a couple of days. I was puzzled at first, but once I understood where everyone came from, I decided to email the hotel chain and thank them for including my blog in their marketing campaign.

This made me realise the importance of building an email list as quickly as possible. Make sure you have this in your blog business plan.

Friendly word of advice

When I started blogging, Google analytics became my best friend. Every five minutes I would check my analytics. I would wake up and first thing? You guessed it... check my analytics. Although it’s imperative that you know what’s going on, don’t get too wrapped up into checking your stats too often. Here is what I suggest:

Check your analytics twice every day: once in the morning and once when you finish work. Check where your traffic comes from and make weekly adjustments to your marketing strategy.

Why am I saying this? For two reasons.
Just because you check every second, the numbers aren’t going to increase. Hold your horses, be strategic and play the game right. Checking the stats is an actual distraction and a real demotivator when things go stale. Marketing and social strategies need a bit of time to pick up, so you might think that after one day of trying, it’s not worth it. That could be wrong! Take it easy, embrace every little success and carry on. Stats are important, but they are not everything, especially at the beginning of your blogging career.

Your turn to tell me what you know about Google Analytics. Did I miss something? Do you have more questions? Leave a comment and let me know.

Understand how to use analytics tools by Cory Varga

Cory Varga - Cory is a published travel writer and award-winning photographer. She travels full time with her husband and is passionate about creating in-depth travel guides. Cory published her first book on Japanese customs and manners, because she's obsessed with everything Japan. She has visited hundreds of destinations and has lived in 7 different countries. Cory is multilingual and an alumna from The University of Manchester.


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