Since I’m a science grad and my major was Genetics, you gotta know I LOVE blog stats. I don’t ‘think’ things happen on my blogs – I ‘know’ they happen. The reason I know that things happen is that I pay attention to the stats on my blogs.
On blogs or websites, we use different plugins or code to collect stats. Almost all blog or website platforms come with their own stats program, but we usually have the ability to install different ones also.
The two most common methods to collect stats on your blog are Google Analytics and, if you have a WordPress.com or WordPress.org blog, you have access to Jetpack stats. If you have a Blogger blog, it comes with its own stats program but has the ability to have Google Analytics installed quite easily. I have videos that lead you through installing these types of stats.
If you have looked at the plugins available, there are quite a few choices for measuring your stats. The number one concern for a stats program is that it only measures human hits. In other words, it keeps track of humans that visit your blog, not spam or non-human visits.
This seems like an obvious point to make – I mean, really, who cares how many spam bots visit your blog and leave an annoying little comment behind for you to delete? Interestingly, there are stats programs that count humans and non-humans. An example is the stats program that is found on Blogger.
I’m not sure why the Blogger stats program (and others) count non-human hits, but it is certainly misleading!
I can’t count the number of people that get a rude wake-up call when they put Google Analytics in place on their Blogger blog and get a very different picture of the number of actual people who visit their blog.
So, yes, there are quite a few choices to measure the stats on your blog, but I suggest using a combination of Google Analytics and Jetpack stats (if you have access to it).
These two stats programs have their strengths and are very similar in many ways. I use Google Analytics to look at where my audience is coming from (geographical location), time spent on blog, bounce rate and what type of device my readers use to access my site. I use Jetpack for everything else.
Let’s start with Google Analytics. At first glance, Google Analytics is an overwhelming collection of numbers and percentages. That’s why I focus on a small number of figures – I find that I don’t get overwhelmed with information that I either don’t care about or can’t use.
I’m very interested in where my audience is physically located. I think that the normal reaction is that our audience is likely from our own country. Because a blog or website is available on the Internet, it is open to the world. You might be surprised to find that a large percentage of your hits come from a different country that the one you live in. I know that India and the various Asian countries are considered emerging markets for bloggers. I have one blog that has almost 50% of its traffic from India.
Why do we care where our audience is from? The first reason would be to help us understand who our readers are, and secondly to help us focus promotions of various sorts. Let’s use my blog that has a lot of its audience from India. If I want to do a Facebook ad that targets my demographic but doesn’t include India in the choices, I may not be targeting my readers. Likewise, if I want to expand the reach of my blog using a Facebook ad, I can include countries that I know I don’t have much of a readership in.
Two points here: first, you need to compare apples to apples – if someone is suggesting an ideal word count for your posts, ensure that they are talking about word count for your niche of blog. It is unfair to compare marketing blogs with author blogs, as an example. Second, I feel that these decisions should be made on the basis of your stats.
To start with we need to find out where to find some numbers to look at. Both the “Average Session Duration” and “Bounce Rate” can be found on the Dashboard of the full version of Google Analytics or the first thing you see when you log in to your blog. The Average Session Duration is the average amount of time spent on the site. Look at that number, set a timer for that amount of time and read something until the timer goes off.
That will give you a general feel for how much your readers are reading. If the average is over a minute, you are actually keeping their attention for a good amount of time! But…I’ve read quite a few posts recently suggesting that authors write 1500 to 2000 words for every post. Can you read 2000 words in a minute or less? If the answer is no and you want to write posts that long, realize that you need to put content you want people to read near the beginning of your post.
Keep in mind that every audience is different and generalities are dangerous to make, but your stats will tell you what’s happening on your site.
Before you have a panic attack – as I did when I first figured out what ‘bounce rate’ was – you need to take these numbers into context. First, figure out where your audience starts their visit to your site and then look at bounce rate. To add a bit more context, Google Analytics will also tell you the average number of pages viewed.
So, do they start one place and quickly more elsewhere? There are various strategies to link posts to one another as well as link them to various other sources of information to keep readers on your blog longer. I feel that the longer you can keep a reader on your blog reading and looking around, the more likely you are to get a sale of a book or a subscription to your site.
Have a peek at these numbers – they might surprise you. The news tells us that more and more people access the internet using a mobile device so Google strongly encourages us to have a mobile responsive website. There is actual sanctioning coming into play this summer of a site isn’t mobile responsive.
What’s a mobile responsive website? It’s one that will change it’s structure so that it looks good and is readable on all screen sizes. In other words, one that reorganizes itself, not just gets smaller. If you want to do a test – the website of my favorite coffee shop – Timmy’s is mobile responsive (http://timhortons.com). Look at the site on your desktop or laptop computer and then have a peek at it with your phone while you consider how your day could be made better with a cup of coffee….
But I digress….
Frankly, I’ve had a lot of authors that I work with say – “I don’t have a tablet or a phone and I’m sure that my readers are only looking at my site on a desktop computer.” I then challenge them to look at their stats. Some are correct but some are quite surprised by the percentage of their readers that view their site using a phone or tablet. Every audience is different, but just like where your audience is geographically located is important, how they are reading your information is also important.
Let’s move on to what you can learn from Jetpack stats found on WordPress. All of the information that we will talk about looking at on Jetpack stats can also be found on Google Analytics but I like the presentation on Jetpack better.
If you look at your full-screen view of Jetpack stats, it has multiple sections that we will look at. The most obvious section is the bar graph that fills the top area. This bar graph can be changed to see the numbers by the days, weeks or months. This section like the other sections we will talk about has a summary link in the upper right corner. I often find looking at the summaries of each of these areas is more helpful than looking at one day’s worth of stats – gives you a wider view.
Although it’s lovely to know how many people visited your blog each day, we want to look at the details of these visits to get information that we can act on.
Moving down and to the left, find the box that is labeled “Referrers.” This is where some of your traffic is coming from. In most cases, you will find where your reader clicked on something to lead them to you. I use this area to find people that have linked to me – as a reader will click on those links and visit my site – and to also see what kind of traffic you are getting from your social media accounts.
If you have never looked at this information before, you might be surprised by where your traffic is coming from. Just because you have a lot of retweets on Twitter doesn’t mean readers come to your blog. This section will help you to understand how effective your social media accounts are in drawing traffic to your blog.
If they have clicked on a direct link to a specific blog post from a Facebook post or a Twitter link you will see that indicated by numbers beside specific posts. Not only can you use this to find out what are your most popular posts – and give your readers more of similar content – you can also make generalizations about starting points on your blog.
As an example, on my business blog I created a blog post with screenshot walking people through the process of adding Amazon affiliate links to their blog posts. This post is almost two years old, but it gets at least one hit every day – and most days it gets 20 or 30 hits.
Stats should help you understand a lot about your blog and your readers’ behavior. I hope that you use them to make changes where necessary to your site or to your content. I also hope that you take all the information that you gather with a grain of salt and sense of humor. Although I know that I could spend hours analyzing the stats for my sites, I don’t. And I don’t suggest you do either.
Use them as a tool to guide you but not as an obsession to occupy time that you should be writing!
#NaNoProMo Day 14: Why It’s Important To Check Your Blog Stats and How To Do So by guest @sugarbeatbc and remember to comment to enter to win Barb's giveaway ($100 value)!
Barb is generously offering a one-hour consultation on website analytics or newsletter set-up or analytics. (Value: $100)
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My name is Barb Drozdowich and I’m the author of seven books so far and several more are in the works. My day job is helping authors with their blogs and all things social media. I use normal everyday language and try to help people understand how to use the new tools of today’s world of publishing – Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, etc.
I’m patient and I have upwards of two decades of teaching under my belt. I’m comfortable with technology, and I’m a voracious reader. I live in awe of those of you who create the magical stories that I read every day. If you are trying to wade through the technology swamp and are getting bogged down, drop me a line and we can chat.
Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month - created to help authors market their book. She is also the author of Broken Places (one of IndieReader's "Best of 2015" top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, IndieReader.com, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly. Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and two live Twitter chats: #BookMarketingChat (co-hosted with TheRuralVA, Emilie Rabitoy) and #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with C. Streetlights and Judith Staff. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.
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