Every blog owner has been there: you log in to check your traffic and there’s been a spike or dip of epic proportions. A piddling number of visitors (or an inexplicable throng) have been to your page and you did nothing to bring it about.
The first couple of times this happened to me I thought “˜ah well, thus is the fickle nature of online readers’ and got on with things. I was using BlogPatrol at the time (steer clear of it) and began to get suspicious when the spikes/dips got bigger and more random. The final straw came when I checked my traffic for February 08 and found that it was vastly different to what I remembered. How can your February visitor numbers change after February is over?
There is a lot of unreliable traffic tracking software out there – actually I’d say you shouldn’t trust most of it.
Enter Google Analytics. Who better to track your site than a big reliable name, and the very people who will be crawling your page to determine your PageRank?!
The layout of Analytics can be a little daunting but once you master it you’ll never look back.
Here are six of the best resources, with some of the handiest Google Analytics tips out there, starting from the simplest and moving on to trickier stuff.
The perfect, no-nonsense step-by-step guide, aimed at absolute novices. That is, you’ll get tips on actually setting up a Google account and inserting the Analytics tracking code into your page, as well as advice about navigating the Analytics dashboard.
Mahalo’s guide will be particularly useful for new WordPress users as it tells you exactly how and where to insert your code – that’s bound to be the hard part for a lot of newbies.
Steps 3, 4 and 5 are “˜Get an Overview of Your Site Performance’, “˜See How Your Site is Performing Daily and Hourly’ and “˜See Where Your Traffic is Coming From’, and helpful screenshots are provided.
This one doesn’t cover setup and it offers more of a personal touch – discover how to generate reports that are some of the “˜most useful’, in the author’s opinion. It’s pretty spot on: you’ll learn how to generate:
- A Visitors Overview report. See how much traffic you have, how many page views (as opposed to unique visitors), the average time spent on your site and your bounce rate (the percentage of people who only visit one page on your site before they “˜bounce’ somewhere else). See it all in one handy graph!
- A Traffic Sources Overview in graph form. See whether your visitors are coming from Referring Sites, whether they’re finding you on search engines or whether they’re referring themselves.
- A Referring Sites Overview in table form. See a list of the specific sites your visitors are coming from. For example. I use this to see how many people are coming to my blog from my MakeUseOf author page!
- Keywords Overview in table form. What keywords did your visitors enter into Google (and other search engines) in order to find you? Great for learning which keywords are useful to you.
- Flyte’s guide is written clearly and provides plenty of images – a really useful resource.
A little more advanced. This one is really neat – they provide simple code that lets you tinker with Analytics to get what you need.
For example, Tip 1 gives a line of generic code you can insert whenever you put an external link on your site. Say your blog has a link to a YouTube video- insert this code and Analytics will start tracking how many people are disappearing to go and view it!
Also learn how to:
- Exclude internal visitors from your reports using a filter
- Track full referred URL’s (because sometimes referring sites will append their general URL instead of a specific one ie makeuseof.com.
- Track eCommerce transactions and
- Track exact Adwords keywords!
For the visual learner – Google’s very own Google Analytics video playlist! Find full-length videos on advanced Analytics techniques.
An iphone afficionado explains how to access Analytics data on your iphone using some handy software.
Plugins that let you see data numbers instead of percentages, a “˜What’s Changed’ report that tells you which referring sites to keep your eye on, a device for integrating Analytics with Google Docs and much more.
If I have missed any other good Google Analytics tips, be sure to put the links in the comments.