5 Google Analytics metrics that can help improve your blog

When was the last time you checked your Google Analytics reports? IF you’re like most, it’s not enough. We put so much time and effort into developing rockstar content for our blogs and promoting them, sharing and commenting that we don’t spend nearly enough time analyzing the data and adjusting our blogging approaches.

I’ve made a concerted effort recently to change that (personally, for this blog, to be clear–I check client data weekly or daily in some situations).

As I’ve been checking and playing with Google Analytics more, I’ve ran across a number of key metrics I find myself checking more often than others. Below are five I check out routinely and how they can help you develop more compelling content–and ultimately, a better blog.

* New vs. Returning visitors: What’s your ratio look like here? If it’s high on new visitors and low on returning, what can you do to encourage readers to return more often? Maybe re-consider the placement of your RSS/email subscriptions buttons? Consider adding a subscribe button at the bottom of each post? If you have a lot of returning visitors and not too many new ones, maybe you need to rethink your community strategy. What are you doing to promote your content? Should you include more guest posts? Are there sites that would be open to syndicating your content?

* Visitor loyalty: This section is a treasure trove of stats. Find out how sticky your content is (depth and length of visit). And how compelling it is (recency and loyalty). If the bulk of your readers are only visiting one page and staying less than 30 seconds, you may need to work on developing richer content. After all, you want your customers/readers hanging out at your site for longer than that (and hopefully, visiting more pages). When was the last time readers visited your site? If it’s within a week and you churn out content regularly–you’re happy. If it’s a month ago, maybe that’s an indicator that you need to work on the quality of your content. A lot of insights to be gleaned here.

* Referring sites: Great tool for identifying exactly where your blog traffic is coming from. Is it coming from Twitter? Facebook? Organically? LinkedIn? Other sites? Monitor where your traffic is coming from regularly and tweak your promotion/sharing strategy accordingly.

* Keywords: Quick, basic tip: Start strategically tagging and planning for keywords you want to be searched for using the Google Ad Keywords tool, and watch it pop up (hopefully) in this area. For example, I recently wrote a post about developing social media editorial calendars–and tagged it according to the keywords I noticed that weren’t overly searched for. That wasn’t by accident–from a business perspective, that’s a service/value I provide to my clients, so I wanted to rank higher for a couple key phrases around that concept. A few weeks later, it’s popping up in my keywords in Analytics. Now, if I can just start popping up on page one…

* Top content: A basic item to check, but an absolute must when it comes to maintaining a blog that’s relevant online. What topics are interesting your readers? They should pop to the top of this list pretty quickly. Use that information and data to think about additional topics. Do the top three posts in your “top content” list have anything in common? Are they all tackling the same concept? Are they all list posts? Find the common threads and exploit them in future posts.

I’d love to hear your ideas on how you’re using Google Analytics to improve your blog–either personally or for clients. Please share in the comments–we can all get smarter.

Note: Photo courtesy of vrypan via FlickR Creative Commons.

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46 comments on “5 Google Analytics metrics that can help improve your blog

  1. Vedo says:

    These are great places to start to drill-down into the data. The keywords are a great tool once you weed out the random hits that don't really have anything to do with your content. It's funny to use an analogy and then have that analogy show up in keyword landings. Those would likely account for some of your one-time only visitors.

    I've been thinking about how to more effectively use Top content and you've given me a good place to start. Thanks for sharing.

  2. timbursch says:

    Great ideas here. One part of GA I've started to test is Goals. You can track everything, but what is the objective? More traffic? Email subscribes.

    Still in the testing phase right now…I'll let you know more.

  3. Arik Hanson says:

    Great tip–sadly, I haven't had the time to explore Goals, but it sounds like I need to make time. I'd be curious to hear how it goes on your end, Tim.

  4. Arik Hanson says:

    I had a few oddballs rolling around in my keywords for a few months. I won't disclose publicly, but they did make me chuckle…

  5. This is the kind of utility that makes for a great post. Hadn't stopped by in a while, but this post and the one below it are incredibly useful. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Chief says:

    Super Tips! Thanks for sharing.

  7. markwilliamschaefer says:

    I've always heard that a rule of thumb is that 80% or more of your blog readers are new each week. I remember Jason Falls quoting this. I've found that to be true too. Lot of tourists! That ratio seesm to be the same no matter what I write. WOnder if others have the same experience.

    Thanks, Arik.

  8. Great list. What about “Bounce Rate”? Anyone using it and would like to share inferences from it.

  9. Arik Hanson says:

    Good question–I'd also like to hear stories from other readers on that note.

  10. Mike Whaling says:

    Bounce rate is a metric that's typically misunderstood — it's usually more important to look at the bounce rate of individual pages than the average bounce rate for your site. One thing the bounce rate for a blog can tell you is how effectively your layout draws people in and gets them clicking through to other posts or to linkbait in the sidebar. If your bounce rate is high on your posts, you might want to consider a “related posts” plugin, recently posted comments or any number of other ways to keep people digging deeper into your site.

  11. Mike Whaling says:

    Good stuff as always, Arik. I like watching the referring sites to see where I should be spending more time off my site.

    If you can dig into your site's code, I'd also suggest trying the Event tracking. It's a great way to test your blog's layout and see if calls to action like that big “Speaking” button in the nav bar are actually working.

  12. Arik Hanson says:

    Thanks for the tip, Mike. Any other ideas on how to lower your bounce rate on certain pages?

  13. Arik Hanson says:

    Good idea. I'm going to dig into that one a bit this week as I'm in the middle of a blog revamp myself. Thanks!

  14. SMaldera says:

    Very useful

  15. I just got my Google Analytics account yesterday so I'm checking these out, like NOW.

  16. Hi, lovely article! I actually use WordPress.com, so we aren't “allowed” to use Google Analytics. I have had peeps push me to switch to wordpress.org… perhaps I will… but .come really meets my needs well and seems like less cost and less hassle.

    The WordPress.com stats are very helpful and I try to look at them a lot. The actually seem moderately thorough, although not as uber as Google Analytics.

    Uggh! IDK… perhaps I'll switch… we'll see. But even if I don't, your encouragement to check stats more often is a really great one. I spend too much time crafting content not to spend a little on finding an audience. TY!

  17. Courtney says:

    One of my favorite features of Google Analytics is the site overlay map. I'm a visual learner and then just makes more sense to me in order to figure out what links are getting clicked.

  18. JanetBloem says:

    Thanks for all the good info.

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