I started blogging some time ago but did install Google Analytics into my blog until I started working with other sites for clients. When I realized how much information was available via Analytics, I opened my account. Once installed, I felt as if I was looking at privileged information that I should not be able to access. It was all right there. So much information. For the total newbie, I use Google Analytics because it is free but there are other products out there.
Each morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is log onto my account and look at the numbers. It is difficult to pull myself away from the numbers and graphs. Once again, I don't consider myself and expert and I am ALWAYS looking for input. I do think when it comes to analyzing data, I am pretty darn good at reading it, understanding it and making judgements and decisions based upon analytics. My background in marketing, and the fact that I am an analytical person by nature helps, BUT I spend hours with those numbers and that time spent helps recognize trends best.
I am going to brief you on how I do it. The way I peruse my analytics may not be what is best for you but it will help you get a start. The dashboard is what you see first, but from there, where you go can depend on what you are trying to achieve.
Depending on the site, I usually start with Traffic Sources. This reveals from where my traffic comes. In the basic overview, I can see what percentage of my traffic comes from: direct hits, search (both paid and organic) and referring sites. Depending on the site, the goal (for my purposes) is to get my organic search results higher. I am always excited when my organic search results are growing - so long as my traffic is increasing. If my traffic is not increasing, it could mean that my "search" traffic is increasing because I am not doing my job in other places.
I monitor a travel site for a client and their organic search is fairly good. Recently, I have noticed that Bing has become a huge player for this particular site. I know that Bing has good functionality for travel so this does not surprise me. I don't get the most hits from Bing but I get the right hits from Bing.
How do I know what the right hits are? The site does not sell anything, it is just informative, so the hits are not going to directly convert to sales so I cannot measure that. Referrals that come in from Bing have a much lower bounce rate. Visitors tend to look at multiple pages (on average 4 pages last month) and they stay on the site about 10 minutes longer than the average visitor.
Why should I care if Bing is getting me the right traffic? Well, I also manage a PPC campaign for this site and if the trend keeps going this way, I may decide to purchase ads from Bing and not Google. I would likely try them both and compare them against each other before making any decisions.
After I spend some time examining how people got to my page, I look at what words they searched to get to my page. Keywords make me giddy! I feel like I have a crystal ball.
When I first log onto the keywords portion of analytics, I overlook anything that is obvious - for example "Sunday Soliloquy" or something similar to the title of my blog. I also overlook anyone who has searched my name (unless they search something with my name and something weird, then I freak out). Depending on the popularity keywords and key phrases can help me with SEO.
For the travel site, keywords help a lot in determining how people search for that particular travel business. After a few months of researching our keywords and key phrases, I learned that their clients misspell the same few words over and over again. After taking a minute to silently judge the misspellings, I looked a little deeper. English is a second language for over 80% of the clientele, so it is interesting to see the misspellings as they are almost always spelled the same way. Once we had this information, we tweaked the PPC campaign and bought the misspelled keywords as our clients would be typing them into the search.
For this blog, most people navigate here via referring sites OR they directly enter the URL in. I get a small percentage of my traffic via search but my goal in life is to increase that. I use keywords to help grow my traffic. When I write about something that is popularly searched, I get traffic from those blog posts. For example, my entry on Hootsuite and Tweetdeck (sign up for a pro Hootsuite account, it rocks) gets a lot of search traffic from people who are trying to obtain information regarding those products. A few other popular posts are for my review of The Flip and my visit to Willis Tower both of those posts get the majority of their hits after particular keywords are searched.
Determining what to write for my blog.
I try really hard to keep this blog about me and the things that I do. But, I would be lying if I said that I don't write about trending topics on Twitter or other popularly searched topics in an effort to get a piece of the pie. Jump on that bandwagon. Sometimes, I simply cannot think of anything to write so I look for inspiration and if that inspiration happens to be Chris Brown & Rhianna then so be it.
I pay a considerable amount of attention to the content portion of analytics as well. When a particular post is getting a lot of attention, when people spend a lot of time with a certain subject matter, I keep that trend up. I get a lot more traffic when I reveal something about myself or if I am very candid. My all time most popular post is The Chicago Boat Whore post and it has nothing to do with marketing or social media.
That is how I basically how I use Google Analytics on a day to day basis. About once every two weeks I go into deeper detail and look into everything more closely, I look at how people navigate through my blog and the various advanced segments.