The Blogger’s Guide to Google Analytics

As bloggers we all inevitably face a harsh reality: we’re nothing without traffic. No matter what our mothers say.

When we start many of us are shouting into the echo chamber – no audience or traffic to speak of, we may as well be writing in marble notebooks and hiding them under our pillows.

But with a little skill, steady persistence and a great deal of patience a funny thing happens: people start showing up.

When that happens there is powerful information at your fingertips – information you can leverage to better position your blog, get more bang out of your posts and ultimately grow your audience at a faster rate. Make no mistake: for a blogger, your audience is your lifeblood.

How do you measure a blog audience?

  • RSS feed subscribers – a metric that helps identity the number of dedicated readers. However, this is only part of the picture as a blog typically reaches a much wider audience than the number of feed subscribers reflects (and many web users don’t use RSS – see this Yahoo! commissioned study (PDF)).
  • Comments – this is a decent engagement metric and a way to measure the level of conversation a blog generates. However, there are some legitimate reasons you may want to disable comments on your blog – especially in the early stages, as the lack of comments may send the wrong message about the quality of your blog.
  • Traffic – arguably the best set of metrics on which to evaluate a blog. Traffic data includes search engine traffic (including keywords), traffic referred from other websites, traffic coming directly to your blog or through an email newsletter, the top pages/posts at your blog and how users find them, etc. There’s a lot of breadth and depth here – and as a result analyzing traffic can be overwhelming.

So how do you effectively measure the traffic of your blog overall as well as individual traffic sources and blog posts/pages? Web Analytics.

The term “Web Analytics” refers to the technology and methods that facilitate the collection, measurement, analysis and reporting of Internet traffic data.

In plain English:  the tricks and tools we use to track traffic at websites (the “what”), figure out the causes behind the trends we see (the “why”) and plan our actions in response (the “what now?”).

Why Google Analytics?

Most bloggers use Google Analytics – Google’s free Web Analytics platform. Why?

  • It’s robust
  • It’s relatively simple to install and use
  • It’s free

Most bloggers don’t scratch the surface of using their analytics data effectively – so I wrote this guide to walk you through the tricky stuff and point you to some powerful data that’s just sitting there, waiting for you to leverage it to grow.

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Sections

  1. How to Setup Google Analytics on Your Blog
  2. Tracking Your Blog Goals with Google Analytics
  3. How to Use Google Analytics Segments to Learn About Your Readers
  4. How to Track Your Stickiest Posts with Google Analytics
  5. More Google Analytics Resources