Blog Clinic: Google Analytics - what you need to know
Tapping into your stats is essential if you want to build a successful blog. In this week's Blog Clinic, Sian Sweet talks us through the nuts and bolts of Google Analytics, and looks at how it can make you a more efficient blogger.
Google Analytics is a brilliant tool for accessing valuable and detailed information about the people who visit your blog. For example:
• What sites are they coming to your blog from?
• Which of your social networks is most powerful in creating pageviews?
• What time of the day gets you the most traffic?
• What are people searching for on your blog?
• What devices are they using to view your blog?
Why should I use it?
Access to this information about your users might seem great – but what can you do with it? How can Google Analytics truly help you get more from your blog?
Let's take the devices your blog is viewed on. The majority of my blog traffic is mobile and tablet combined, see below:
While I prefer designing and viewing my blog on desktop, this data is a reminder that it's worthwhile making decisions based on how it looks on a phone/tablet to give my readers the best experience possible.
Let's take another example – which social networks generate most page views. Quite simply, this allows you to see which social media accounts to prioritise when you're short on time. When I was considering deleting my Facebook page, Google Analytics allowed me to make an informed decision, as it confirmed my hunch that Facebook wasn't driving much traffic to my site.
Can't I just use Jetpack?
If you're using WordPress it can seem as if you're already on to a good thing. Jetpack stats are fine for a quick glance, but they can't offer the same detail or sophistication as Google Analytics.
What's more, stats will be lower in Jetpack as it doesn't count views from all users – most importantly, excluding anyone running ad blockers.
What if I'm not self-hosted?
If you use Blogger, Google Analytics is built in – but unfortunately, WordPress users who aren't self-hosted aren't able to use GA.
How do I add it?
1) Go to http://www.google.com/analytics/
2) If you already have a Gmail account you can create an analytics account with it. If you don't, it will prompt you to register as a new user. Be sure to select Google Analytics rather than Google Analytics Premium.
3) Follow all the steps in the sign-up process. Google will ask if you want to share your analytics data with other Google products. I would strongly suggest sharing your data, as you'll want to include information from Google's Webmaster Tools (don't worry about what this means too much for now). Also select Universal Analytics rather than classic.
4) When you're finished you will be presented your GA tracking code - you can either copy it now or come back to it later.
Once your GA account is set up, you need to add your GA account to your blog – how you do this will differ depending on whether you're Blogger or self-hosted WordPress, so make sure you follow the correct instructions below.
First, however, you'll need your Web Property ID, so in GA follow these steps:
– Sign into GA.
– Click on Admin.
– In the middle panel, click on Property Settings. Under Tracking ID you will see a code that begins UA- , this is your unique GA tracking code. Copy it. To get the whole code, click on Tracking Info instead.
Adding via Blogger
– Log in to your Blogger account.
– Navigate to your blog's Settings > Other tab.
– Enter your blog's Google Analytics Web Property ID.
– Click Save to finish.
Adding via WordPress (self-hosted only)
There are a few options here so choose the one you prefer, but only deploy via one method or you will mess up your GA tracking.
i) Via your blog host
ii) Via your blog theme
iii) A plugin like 'Insert Header and Footer'
iv) Paste into your FTP or Functions.php. This is definitely for the more technical bloggers amongst us.
Whatever method you pick, please note it can take up to 24 hours for your stats to start reporting in GA. From there you can start building out widgets for the types of stats you want to track and begin to really understand how to use your time efficiently as a blogger.
Even if you're a bit scared about setting up widgets and dashboards, do add the code anyway, as being able to access that historical data will be really valuable for you further on down the line. The rest you can learn in time.