google analytics

Setting Up & Understanding Google Analytics

Every blogger at some point will have come across Google Analytics. It's the most recommended platform for gathering data on your site and for good reason. It collates a wide range of information on those who visit your site and how they behave. However there is so much data (not all of it useful to bloggers), it can be difficult knowing where to start. With this guide, I'll go through the process of setting up GA and the practical ways you can use the data to grow your platform.

google analytics for bloggers

Setting up Google Analytics

  1. Sign up for a GA account. It's completely free, the only thing you will need is a Google account. 
  2. Add your blog to your account. Once you account is set up, you will need to add your blog as a 'property'. You will get a prompt to do this once you are signed in.
  3. Install your Tracking ID. After adding your blog to your account, you will receive a unique tracking ID that you will have to include in the code of your blog. This is usually where things get tricky. Each blogging platform is different but they are all capable of accepting GA coding. I highly recommend using the guided help pages for your specific platform. 
  4. View your GA data. To view your analytics, sign back into GA and you will get an overview on the home page. It will take about 24 hours from installing your tracking ID for your data to show up on GA.

Using Google Analytics For Your Blog

There are five main categories of reports you can access on GA - Real Time, Audience, Acquisition, Behaviour and Conversion. I'll be focusing on Audience, Acquisition and Behaviour as these are the most relevant. Within each category, there are sub categories you can explore. As you get more comfortable with GA, you can explore the other reports available. 

The Audience report covers everything you need to know about the people visiting your site. The overview report gives you the data you need for the selected time period at a glance. The key things that matter are: 

  • Sessions - how many times your blog was visited in the selected time frame.
  • Users - how many people visited your blog.
  • Page Views - the total number of pages visited on your blog. 
  • Pages/session - how many pages on average do people visit on your site before exiting.
  • % New sessions - how many of your visitors are new to your site. 

This is the sort of data that proves useful when putting together your media kit, it's also good for you to know when tracking how your blog is performing over time.

Within the Audience report, you will also find your Demographics which lets you know the age group your content is most popular with and their gender. There is also the Geo report which looks at language and location. With this data in mind, you can create content that is better suited to your audience. 

The Acquisition reports are all about how your audience found your blog and GA sorts this into four categories. From the overview page you can click through to each category for more details.

  • Organic search - how many blog visits are a result of your blog popping up on a search engine. 
  • Direct - how many people went straight to your site.
  • Social - how many people found you via social media. 
  • Referral - how many people found you because of links on other sites. 

The Social report is particularly useful because it lets you know amongst many other things which social media channel sends you the most traffic. I use this report to guide my social media strategy,  it has saved me from wasting time on Facebook when most of my readers are actually on Twitter. 

The Referral report is also great for finding out which sites have posted links to your blog. Most of the time, it's fellow bloggers and it is worth reaching out with a thank you. 

The Behaviour reports covers how people behave on your site. Most of what you need is fortunately covered on the overview page. Here you will find:

  • Page views - this is the numbers of pages that are visited on your blog. 
  • Unique page views - how many unique users viewed your pages.
  • AdSense Revenue - if you are signed up to AdSense, this will show much income your blog has generated over the specified period of time. 
  • AdSense Page Impressions - how many times a page with Adsense ads had been viewed. 
  • AdSense Ad Units viewed - how many ad units have actually been viewed. 
  • Top 10 pages - A list of your best performing content. You can click through on these to find out more details including which days they performed best.  

The Behaviour Flow report can also be useful if you want to see what content encourages readers to click through to more content on your blog. Site Content report will rank all your posts in order of page views, you can also use the search bar to look up stats on a particular posts. This comes in handy when tracking sponsored posts.  

Examining these reports are great for getting a better understanding of your blog and your audience. They can prove useful if you are experimenting with new ideas and want to see how your audience responds. You can reflect on your growth across the year and even compare time periods. This post covers the basics, you can find a more in depth course at the Google Analytics Academy.

Want content like this straight to your inbox? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter