You can’t improve what you don’t measure
So you’ve pushed through the resistance and gotten your blog online. Congrats! Now you’re trying to draw traffic to your site. Before you start promoting your blog, you need to install an analytics tool for your site so that you can track who’s visiting and from where.
Google Analytics (“GA”) is the most popular analytics tool in the market and is free to use. All you need to do is create an account on Google Analytics and use any of the multiple plugins available on the WordPress store to sync it with your blog and start sharing your traffic data. Creating the account is easy – if you have a Gmail address, including through Google Apps for Domains, you’re good to go.
The best part about GA is that it’s usable right out of the box. Once you install the Tracking ID on your WordPress blog, you’ll start seeing data without any further setup or coding required. No programming skills are required to start using GA. There are advanced features like funnels and custom events that require a bit of tech know how, but for a content blog, the metrics tracked out of the box are more than enough to start off with.
This article talks about seven key metrics in Google Analytics, what they tell you, and where to find them.
Google defines Sessions as: “a group of interactions that take place on your website within a given time frame.” Every piece of data that GA displays—be it pageviews, events, interactions, or any other records—are associated with a session. Think of sessions as a time frame between a user’s first visit and their exit or inactivity.
In Google Analytics, a session starts as soon as a user opens your website. The expiration of the session, however, can be of two types:
- Time based expiration
- If a user is inactive for more than 30 mins, the session expires. This means that if a user leaves your site and comes back within 30 mins, the same session continues, but inactivity for more than 30 mins ends the session;
- At midnight. If the user visited your website at 11.50 PM and is active through midnight, a new session is recorded starting at 12:00am.
2. Campaign Based Expiration
- If a user visits your site from, let’s say, an organic search, exits within the 30-minute expiration, and then re-visits the website from a different campaign like social – the current session expires.
The Sessions metric can be found in the ‘Overview’ section under the ‘Audience’ section on the left-hand menu. This is the default screen when you login to your Google Analytics account.
The number of visits to a website is directly correlated to the number of sessions. This is an important metric to track and gives you a clear indication of whether your traffic is growing or not. You should aim for an increase in the number of sessions per day.
Pageviews means exactly what as the name suggests – the number of pages viewed on your website. But this includes the number of repeat views on one page, hence can be slightly misleading and give you a false sense of happiness when you’re trying to increase your traffic. For example, if a user closes a page on your website and opens in again – it is counted as two pageviews.
Nonetheless, this is an important metric to keep a track of because a higher number of Pageviews indicates that your website is being well received by the users.
Bonus: Pages/session, a metric on the ‘Overview’ page under the Audience section tells you the number of pages visited per session. As a session can be loosely related to a ‘Visit’, this metric can be a good indication of how your internal linking is performing. If you’re running a conversion based website – Pages/session should ideally be close to the number of steps required for a conversion.
III. Bounce Rate
Bounce rate measures the number of single page visits to your website. Mathematically, this is defined as the number of visits that resulted in no interaction (basically the user left without clicking on any button or link on the page) divided by the total number of visits. This metric can be slightly misleading for single-page websites and “landing pages” which are designed to encourage an external action (directing users to the Google Play store app page, for example).
Generally, blog and content based website owners need to keep a keen check on this number, as a high bounce rate can indicate poor quality of content. Even google factors in bounce rate while ranking websites on its SERP, so make sure your bounce rate is kept under check.
IV. Average Session Duration
Average Session Duration is the time spent a user on your website. This metric is also found in the ‘Overview’ tab under the ‘Audience’ section. A higher Average Session Duration is desirable as it means that the user is spending more time on your website. In the case your pages/sessions is closer to one, while the average session duration is high, this means that your landing pages are either way too long or the information is confusing, causing users to not take any action.
Knowing which sources are sending you your traffic is one of the most critical sets of information you can get. GA tracks the source of every website visit and displays the information in the ‘Acquisition’ section visible on the left-hand menu.
Scroll to ‘All Traffic’ dropdown under acquisition where you’ll find four options: Channels, Treemaps, Sources/Medium, and Referrals.
Sources/Mediums tell you which sources are sending you the traffic and what type of traffic is it. For example, a user who lands on your page after a Google search would be attributed under “google/organic.” If another website refers a user to your page, that would be attributed to that website name/referral.
Referrals section simply filters the list to only show third party referrals (excluding organic and email traffic). Digging deeper, you’ll be able to see the exact link which referred the user to your website.
Knowing these metrics tell you which channels and sources are getting you more traffic and which ones are not. This should help you plan your marketing and promotional activities a lot better.
VI. User Flow
User flow is the graphical representation of paths your users take on your website, right from the pages they land on, pages they traverse through to the page they exit from. GA also gives you an option to add an extra layer of data, like location or devices, to segregate flows. While this is not something that is of primary concern, this could help you figure out the most popular paths and optimize it to increase conversions before the user leaves.
VII. Exit Pages
Exit Pages are located under the Behavior section within the Site Content dropdown section. This report tells you which pages most of your users exit on. The goal is that the conversion (thank-you) page should be the page with the most number of exits. Pages, other that the conversion page, that have a high exit rate should be modified to reduce exits and keep the users on the site.
You’ll notice that in every case, there are more details and views possible in Google Analytics. Those may or may not be relevant to your specific site, but these seven metrics will be universally important to any website. Take the time to familiarize yourself with them, as it will be worth it in the long run.