Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Google Analytic Features Made Easy For Beginners

Are you a Google Analytics newbie? Do those numbers scary the heck out of you? Here's some of the more common features made simple for you!

I talk about Google Analytics quite a lot on Nellie and Co. I use it quite passionately in terms of tracking my blogs statistics, on checking out which posts get the most viewing, how well my social media marketing is working and so much more, but for beginners, it's much more difficult to traverse the program, especially when you have no idea where to start.

As a beginner, Google Analytics was, in one word, scary. So many options, so much information, what the heck is a bounce rate?! It's all a little overwhelming, and if you don't where to start, you can either end up with a program installed on your blog that you don't really know how to use, or really be missing out on some sweet information on your blog while you look sorrowfully at your pageviews. To make things that little bit easier for GA beginners, I've put together this super simple tutorial featuring the basic uses for the program so you can make the most of your blogs statistics and finally understand what all those numbers actually mean.

Hold on, why do I need Google Analytics? Aren't my blog stats enough?


Um, no, I'm afraid your blog stats aren't enough, at least, not you're serious about keeping a close eye on your blog and, you know, actually getting yourself some growth beans. Trust me, as a Blogspot user, I learnt the hard way when I cracked the reason you shouldn't rely on blogspot stats, and using Google Analytics was a HUGE game changer for me. Personally, I can't comment on Wordpress either, but from experience with other bloggers I know and trust, almost every single one of them has GA in their backpack. Google Analytics can give you some of the best, most in depth information about your blog, information you never in your wildest dreams expected to have. Yes, you need GA, and no, your blog stats are not enough. Sorry..

The Google Analytics Audience Overview


For first-time users, this screen can be uber scary, not only because it has A LOT of information, but because not everyone knows what everything means, and trust me, that is a-okay. You don't have to know everything straight away, that's the joy of learning, and the more you learn, you more you earn. Whether you earn bucks or buds is totally up you. So, what's going on here?


That big-ass graph is your blogs life, complete with highs and lows.


You can choose for that graph to show you specific information within a set period of time, and choose how you view it. For example, my graph currently shows me the amount of sessions Nellie and Co. received each day between the 1st - 31st January. You can see how, as the month went on, my sessions increased, most probably because started posting more content, but also because my audience returned from their festive holiday breaks and were back in front of their screens. The top right hand box featuring the calendar is where you can set the range of time you want to check out, while the middle left box is where you can choose which information you want to view, for example, pageviews, users, etc. You can also set the graph to show you the information in hourly, daily, weekly or monthly views by choosing the setting that most appeals over the on the middle right-hand side.

Those miniature graphs are the rounded up, numbered versions of the big-ass graph.


These small little cuties give you the information want to see quickly and clearly, all in a numbered format, and they're one of the features I use most. I track my blogs growth through these numbers most, and although the satisfaction of a graph physically growing is enjoyable, I enjoy numbers a lot, lot more. The gist of each small graph is easy to grasp when you over of the titles, for the sake of making life even easier, let's give you a quick rundown.
  1. Session: the period time a user is actively engaged with your website, including all pages and posts.
  2. Users: have had at least one session within the selected date range, includes new /returning users.
  3. Pageviews: the total number of pages viewed, repeated views are counted.
  4. Pages/Session: the average number of pages viewed during a session, repeated views are counted.
  5. Av. Session Duration: the average length of a session.
  6. Bounce Rate: when the person leaves your site without interacting with anything else on your blog.
  7. % New Session: an estimate of the percentage of first time visits.

The pie chart of visitors, well, that kind of speaks for itself..


A nice little pie chart showing you the comparison of returning visitors vs new visitors, or in other words, loyal readers vs new visitors. It may also give you cravings for pie. Sorry about that..

The Google Analytics Demographic Overview


One of the newest and most helpful GA features I've stumbled across lately, (and yes, that does mean I'm still learning the secret of Google Analytics too, so don't fret, it all takes time!) the demographics feature has given me a firm grasp of who reads my blog and how old they are. It's only a little bit stalkerish..

Essentially, this feature as told me who my audience is, and has gone a long way in making this easier for me in terms of content, language and relatability. My biggest audience is women aged 18-24. Hey, I fit right in there, right in with my audience, which not only means I'm doing something right, but that I'm finding people in the community, my community, and that's a huge sigh of relief.

Yes, you do actually have to put some effort in when it comes to sussing out your demographics, as GA doesn't want to just assume you want to know. It's a good old case of 'if you want something, ask.' It's totally worth asking, especially if you're wondering why middle aged men are stumbling upon your womens only blog, promoting their money making schemes. #awkward

The Google Analytics Acquisition Overview > All Traffic > Channels Page


This is definitely one of those pages GA users either click with, or fear. Personally, I click, both with the page and around the page because it's one of my most used features. Acquisition is essentially how you acquired your pageviews, or users, or sessions, it's what brought people to your blog, and through what channel they got there. It's the biggest insight to how your blog is performing in the big wide world. A little scary.


That huge table filled with numbers? They're your source statistics.


Do you think social media is your biggest source of traffic, or do you find yourself wondering if it's other people's referrals doing all the hard work? Think and wonder no more, because this big scary table had the information for you, in fact form. Your blog, your numbers, your answers. Let's go deep my friend..

Social

This covers almost everything you could think of in terms of social media. Think Pinterest, Twitter, Blogger, StumbleUpon, Instagram, Reddit, Google+ - if you can name a social media, it'll be umbrellaed under social. Social is, as you can see, my biggest source of traffic, which isn't really surprising considering I spend an awful lot of time on social media promoting my wears. I think I'd be pretty surprised, and pissed, if it wasn't.

Organic Search

You've heard of Ronseal right? Does exactly what it says on the tin? So does Organic Search. When you search for anything online, what you choose to click on gets monitored, and that's super helpful for us because it means we know how well our content is doing when we're up against the whole world. Interestingly, I get the most new users through Organic Search, but it's also got the highest bounce rate, which at first glance sounds, not so good, but consider this for a second: you ask a question or have a problem, somebody answers it or solves it, job done, am I right? 6 months of blogging and already a quarter of my traffic is from online searches. #achievementunlocked

Referral

Whenever somebody links your blog in a post, that's a referral. Imagine one blogger posts something with a link to your blog in it. Now imagine that post gets 500+ views. That's a potential 500+ new visitors to your blog. That is why guest posting, referring and promoting other people's content is such a big deal, it's potentially a huge traffic source. Posts like Blogger Love increase other bloggers referral rates, so if you're ever featured, you're welcome.

Direct

Ever typed in the start of somebodys blog address and poof, it's automatically filled in for you, and away you go? That's what direct is. It's when somebody goes straight to a direct link to your blog without searching through search engines, or going through social media. It's direct to the source, hence direct. I always get a little giddy when I see my direct numbers because it means that there's a good amount of people choosing to check out Nellie and Co. without being persuaded, so it's clearly a good sign.

Email

Whether it be through your email feed or through your mail list, any and all views you get through emails is under this heading. I've been slacking a little on my mail list, which shows in my numbers for last month, but it's good to know people are actually making their way from just reading my content in their inbox, to actually visiting instead. It's a good feeling.

I personally enjoy a good rummage around this table at the end of every month, taking in the months stats, seeing what worked and what didn't, seeing what needs attention and always looking for ways to improve. I track my percentages, I take notes of the numbers, and I work to beat them every month that follows. As far as January is concerned, I didn't do too badly me thinks, and I bet you didn't either.

The Google Analytics Behaviour Overview > Site Content > All Pages Page



When I think about the features I use most on Google Analytics, this probably has to be the most used, the bread and butter of my tracking. Why? This page shows you your most viewed pages in that previously set period of time, aka, the posts that are hot, and what's not.

This tool is especially handy when you want to know how well a specific post has gone down, how people are interacting it, how long they're interacting with it for, and how it ranks in comparison to other posts. It's the feature I use when I put together my top posts section in Tea and Cakes, and it's also one of the tools I use when I feel lost for new content. What better way to get some much needed inspiration for posts that will rock than looking at what your audience enjoyed most previously?

One of the most interesting parts of this page is the Entrances column, which incidentally, has it's own awesome page, Landing Pages, but generally speaking, you can check out the main details of Landing Pages on this page too if you know where to look. Focusing on the Entrances column, you can see that the posts aren't ranked chronologically as they are in the first column, and that's because your most popular pages and posts aren't always the same ones people land on first, taking them to your blog.

So, if they're different, why should you take the time to monitor your Entrances or Landing Pages? Your Landing Pages can work in conjunction with your acquisition statistics in that, if you compare where your audience is more likely to visit your blog from, and what post they're likely to visit through, you can make a whole manner of decisions easier and more practically. By choosing a Secondary Dimension column in the top left box of the table, I can check out exactly how many of those pageviews came from in terms of organic results, referrals, social media and so on.


To make things just that tiny bit simpler, lets focus on just one post, my Blogger Stats vs Google Analytics post. Clicking the post allows me to just see my statistics for that one post, and when I then add a Secondary Dimension via Acquisition > Traffic Type, I can see how many views that post received through different traffic sources. Although I promoted the post twice on social media through the month of January, it only gained 9 pageviews through it, and yet it I gained over over 65% of my views through organic search, which means people are finding that post more through Google than they are through me. Go Google!


Knowing what content is the most viewed, highest ranked, and how where that traffic and your audience is coming from, for me, is vital. It not only enables you to know your audience and where they're finding you, but it shows you were you could improve, or where to focus your efforts on in order to find more of them. It doesn't just help you to know what post are the most popular, but why, and where people are finding your content, and even what kind of content you can continue to create if it not only helps you hit your goals, but helps others too.

Google Analytics is without a doubt an incredible tool, and like every tool, it's not perfect, but hopefully with the help of this tutorial, you'll be able to make sense of some of the most helpful, and most inspiring information about your blog, so you can carry on creating your perfect blog.

Are you a GA newbie, and if so, what confuses you most?

25 comments:

  1. This is perfect! Exactly what I needed. I never paid attention to GA because I didnt want to burden myself with statistics. But deep in my mind I have always been wondering about how is my blog TRULY doing in the terms of numbers and pecentages.
    I am bookmarking this for future reference when I have more time and can study GA detaily. Thank you so so much for sharing this!

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    1. Thank you Lucia, sincerely hope this helps you in future so you won't be afraid to check out your stats anymore!

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  2. This is so helpful! I could never make sense of anything in GA and all the numbers and graphs just confused me. I can't believe there's this much information hiding behind it all. Thank you so much for explaining things! :)

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    1. You're more than welcome Karin! I'm hoping to get around to a few more GA tutorials in the future delving into a few more feature, but I'm pleased my explaining has helped :)

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  3. thank youuu! I tried google analytics and simply gave up because I was too lazy to try and figure out how to use it... Now I know though!! Well not completely because I still haven't tried, and when I do I will continue to flail! But I will flail less since I have this post to reference and soon ,hopefully, with a bit of practice I will finally figure it out!

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    1. You're welcome Maya! The best advice I can give is to just to explore the different options. I'm still learning myself and I've been using it for well over a year. Give yourself an hour or two and have fun getting to know your stats :)

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  4. I'm new to GA, and I was always confused about how to tell where your visitors came from - I always thought it was Referral, and it was always really confusing for me~! Thanks for showing me it's actually Channels that I need to click on! :)

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    1. No problem at all Geraldine! There's a lot of information to process and it can be difficult, but I'm pleased this tutorial has helped you out :)

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  5. This is SUPER HELPFUL. I fiddle around with GA a lot but I basically only use the pageviews function before. The demographics button was one I never knew existed, it's fantastic! Thank you :D

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    1. You're welcome Alyssa! Sometimes, it's just a case of playing around :)

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    2. Hello! I was playing around with GA today and I was curious about something: what's the difference between my traffic from Pinterest when I look it at in Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels > Social than when I use Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium and look at pinterest.com / referral?

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  6. I use GA quite a lot, but I do have one problem with it. In my stats I get quite a lot of referrer spam and I don't know a good way to get rid of it, or at least to exclude it from my stats. Do you have a problem with it? How do you deal with it?

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    1. I used to suffer the same problem, but with the help of this post from Blog Ambitions, I managed to sort out the issue. It might be worth having a read and seeing if it can help you too Anatea! :)

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  7. Amanda- you don't realise how useful this is and in what perfect time it comes! I have been looking out for useful google analytics article for ages and this has everything I need. I must be a large part of your direct aquisition stats... blogging question? I'm on Nellie. I even included a link to your site in my 2015 round up post because I love it so much.

    I have some questions from a newbie, hope you don't mind!

    1) I appear to be getting a lot of new visitors but with an alarmingly low average session duration and high bounce rate. Can you link me to any useful posts regarding hooking new readers when they first click on to your site?
    2) My demographics section has kind of freaked me out. Any advice on identifying and targeting your ideal audience?
    3) Slightly more practical question, when I go onto the site content/all pages page it comes up with a few weirdly named pages which mean nothing to me. Where can I find the stats for individual posts?

    Thanks so much for such a useful post :)

    Eliza xo | www.lipglossandpaperbacks.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. So pleased it's been able to help you out Eliza! :)

      1) I find a lot of the time that new readers will read something they like and then leave generally anyway, especially if the readers are coming from search results, a case of searched for, found, finished. In terms of some posts that may be able to help you out, there's this post, this post, and possibly this post too.

      2) The demographics section requires you to complete a few actions first, but once that's done, in terms of targeting your audience, think about what the audience you want to attract likes, or needs, or wants, and how you can help them, serve them, or advise them. It's all about giving the audience what they want and need, as long as you know enough about it.

      3) If you're looking for a particular post, there's a search box tool within the table that you can enter a keyword you've used in your permalink (for more info on that, I have a blog post all about them here) and find the individual post from the keyword. You should then get all the stats for that one post.

      Really hope that's been able to help you out a little there Eliza! :)

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    2. Ahh thank you so much for taking the time to answer all that, I really appreciate your words of wisdom and the links you included! Everything's a lot clearer now :)

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  8. You're tempting me to use this, Amanda XD I think it's inevitable that I'll eventually get it. Is it a download or what? Where do I get it//find it?

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    1. So pleased I help convince you! As long as you already have a Google account, you can check outthis in-depth tutorial through Google on how to set up GA which involves placing extra code into your blog or site. It's not scary or complicated, and you'll be up and running in no time! :)

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  9. Hi! I set up GA awhile ago, but didn't use it much...I was wondering...is it possible to find the keywords people type in the search bar on the blog? I have a blogger blog and I see some of the words...but they got cut off...how do I find the complete search term on GA, assuming it's possible to find them...?

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    1. You should be able to find keywords from the search bar by going into Behaviour > Site Search > Search Terms, although GA does have a thing for hiding how people have gotten to your blog through keywords in the hope that you'll pay for an external service. Sucks, but that's the best option I know of Elizabeth :)

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    2. Just checking...but we're talking about the search bar ON the blog, right? The one that searches for specific words or posts in the blog? Because...well...I don't see it...*sigh*

      I guess I will go through the rest of my life never knowing what this person wanted to find...thanks anyways! :)

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  10. I used to love GA but mine is broken and I don't know how to go about fixing it. It says I had like 30 visitors for the entire of last month... But one post alone had almost 40 comments from 40 different people. Makes 0 sense! >.< I have kind of given up on my looking at my stats now. I've kind of just started blogging for me first and everyone else later. As long as I am enjoying what I am doing and loving the content I am publishing, then I am happy. But... if you have any idea why mines gone crazy then I'd be happy to know. I think it might be something to do with my new design. It's not worked since I had that installed >.<

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    1. Oh man, that sucks. It could be that with the change over, your tracking code has been altered or become faulty or been taken out of the template all together. I would suggest making sure your tracking code is your head section of the HTML template, and compare it to the tracking code in Google Analytics. If that fails, it may be worth checking out Google's help forums, or speaking to Evie about it? :)

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