First, if you haven’t added Google Analytics to your blog, do so now. It doesn’t matter if your blog is your business or nothing more than your online diary, you need to know more about the people that visit your blog. GA is a great way to give you those insights, and it’s free. Here’s 5 ways I use Google Analytics every day to better understand the traffic that visits my blog and to make my content strategy more effective:
1 – I compare today’s hourly traffic vs last week’s hourly traffic for the same day. For example, on Sunday, I will bring up the traffic for the current day, set it to hourly, and compare it to the previous Sunday’s hourly traffic. This lets me know as the day progresses how the hourly traffic levels are comparing to the previous Sunday. Here’s what it looked like for this Sunday (blue) vs the previous Sunday (orange):
This gives me a quick and easy snapshot of how traffic did on this Sunday vs the previous Sunday. As you can see, a very good day, hourly traffic was up almost every hour versus the previous Sunday and traffic for the day was up almost 15% and Avg Session Duration was up over 40%, another huge number.
Here’s how you can get this same view for your blog: Click on Audience, then Overview, both on the left side of the screen. The default view is to just show you the previous 30 days before this one. You want to change that view so click on the Down button next to the date range on the top right of the screen. This will open up a calendar showing you this month plus the previous two months. Under Date Range, the previous 30 days will be highlighted. You want to first click on TODAY’s date. Next, click on the small box right under it that says ‘Compare to:’, and it will have a dropdown menu that you don’t want to touch for now. Two new date range boxes will open up under the first two, but they won’t be highlighted. You want to click on the first date box on the left, and then go back to the calendar and click the date for one week earlier. For example, if you are doing this on a Monday, for this you would click on the previous Monday’s date. Click on it again so that the date range you are comparing to is the previous Monday. Then click Apply.
At first, it will be set to the default view, which is Day. It will show you how the current day’s traffic is doing versus 7 days earlier. If you click on Hourly, you will then see today’s traffic broken down by hours and compared to the previous Monday’s traffic on an hourly basis. The blue dots will be for today, the orange dots will be for the previous Monday. So you can quickly see how hourly traffic is doing today vs the same day last week. Here’s what the settings look like for the report I created on Monday to compare traffic to the previous Monday:
It can be a bit complicated at first, but pretty easy once you get the hang of it. As you can see, you can easily adjust the settings to compare this week to the previous week or this month to the previous month, or this year to 3 years ago. Whatever you want.
2 – I closely examine Real Time traffic, especially right after I publish a new post. The Real Time traffic feature in GA is a great way to get an instant snapshot of the traffic that’s currently on your blog. For example, as soon as I publish this post, I will share it on Twitter and Facebook, probably LinkedIn as well. I will then check with Real Time traffic, to see which, if any, of those links are immediately sending traffic to the site. This is great way to see instantly if certain types of content resonate more or less on a particular site. For example, if the link to this post I share on LinkedIn immediately sends traffic and the link I share on Facebook doesn’t, that could suggest that the topic of using Google Analytics is more relevant to the more business-oriented audience on LinkedIn. Plus, examining Real Time traffic can be a great way to get early notification of a new backlink to your blog or maybe an influencer with a large network Twitter just RTed your post. Here’s an example of what this looks like:
You can see which content is being viewed, from what sources, their location, etc. Also, if you get in the habit of regularly checking this you will get a sense of what times of the day are better for your traffic, which also helps you decide when to publish new posts!
3 – I examine traffic by channel. For this I go back to the week to week comparison. Click on Acquisition, then All Traffic, then Channels. This shows me a breakdown of my traffic by different channel types, such as Organic Search, Direct, Referral and Social. This is very important because if you just look at your overall traffic numbers you won’t get a complete picture. For example, let’s say this Monday’s traffic to your blog was 500 visitors, and last Monday’s traffic was 450. So that’s a weekly gain of about 10%, which is really good. But without looking at the traffic by channel, you may assume that each type of traffic rose by 10%, but it could be that your Organic Search traffic was up by 40% and your Direct traffic was down by 25%. But overall traffic was up. Still, those are big jumps in both directions for your Organic Search and Direct traffic, so it’s worth knowing that so you can keep an eye on both moving forward.
4 – I dive deeper into channel traffic and sort by Source/Medium. This is very important because all sources of traffic are not created equally. For example, I am writing this post at about 6PM on a Monday night. In comparing today’s traffic vs the previous Monday’s traffic, here’s what I currently see in Channel view for Organic Search:
There’s about 6 hours in the day so Organic Search for today will end up being close to 1,100 visitors for the day, which will be about a 10% increase over the previous Monday, so I’m pleased with that. But, it’s worth remembering that Organic Search isn’t just Google, it’s all Organic Search from ALL search engines. To find out exactly how each search engine is doing vs the previous Monday, we need to click Source/Medium heading above these results. So while overall Organic Search is currently down 14.66%, here’s how each search engine is actually doing:
Google – Down 11.9%
Yahoo – Down 5.56%
Bing – Down 58.56%
So you can see that Google and Yahoo are actually doing way better than Bing is. Now about 90% of the Organic Search is coming from Google for me, but your numbers may vary. If the majority of your blog’s Organic Search was coming from Bing, it would be worrisome to see your traffic from Bing down by 58%!
5 – I look at the most viewed pages week to week. For this view I click on Behavior then Site Content then All Pages on the left side of the GA dashboard. I do this because I want to see what content is driving visitors, but I also am looking for irregularities. Did one page get a lot of views this week and none last week, or vice versa? For example, when I click on All Pages it shows me the most viewed pages for today vs last Monday. Notice something interesting I found:
See that post on the bottom, Ford Launches the Fiesta Movement? That’s an old post, but notice it had zero views last Monday, but has 18 this Monday! I would like to know if GA can help me understand why this old post suddenly got a lot of views this Monday, when it usually gets none. Does anyone know of a way to further way to drill down with Google Analytics and figure that out?
Those are the 5 main ways I use Google Analytics to get a better idea of the makeup of my blog traffic. What’s your favorite way to use GA?