A beginner’s guide to Google Analytics for bloggers 
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So you have your blog connected to Google Analytics, but how do you actually use it? In this beginner’s guide to Google Analytics, I share some of the key ways that Google Analytics can help you track your progress. Plus find out how you can get a FREE custom dashboard!
In last week’s blog post, I shared how to set up Google Analytics on your blog, this week we are going to look at how to actually use Google Analytics to track and analyse how your website is performing.
In this tutorial I am going to go through some of the most important views in Google Analytics and what you can do with them. More specifically I am going to show you:
- How to find out how many page views, sessions and visitors your blog gets
- How to change the dates and compare two different date ranges
- How to discover demographic information about your readers
- How to find out where your readers live
- How to find out what kind of device your readers are using
- How to find out where your readers are being referred from (Google, social media, other websites etc.)
- How to discover which are your top posts and pages (and your worst performing ones!)
- How to find out what your readers are searching for on your blog
- How to get data about what is happening on your blog right now!
- How to get a FREE custom dashboard for Google Analytics which shows all this info in one place
Please note, the information in this tutorial relates to Google Analytics 3, also known as Universal Analytics. There is now a new version of Google Analytics. To learn more, head here >>> How to set up Google Analytics 4 (step by step with screengrabs)
First navigate to your Google Analytics account at analytics.google.com
You will land on the HOME screen. If you want to get to back to the HOME screen at any time, you can find it at the top of the left hand menu bar.
On this screen you will be able to see some basic information about your website.
You can find here an overview of users, sessions, bounce rate and session duration for the last 7 days. You can also find real time information: how many readers are on your site right now and which pages they are looking at.
Scrolling down, you can find out where your readers are coming from, how well you retain your users, what devices you they are using, and which are your most popular pages.
This information is interesting, but a bit limited. For more useful information, it is worth looking at the other options that are offered in the left-hand menu.
If you like the idea of having one screen with all the information you need (a bit like Jetpack Site Stats), you might like to download my FREE GOOGLE ANALYTICS CUSTOM DASHBOARD, which gives you a much more useful snapshot of the key metrics most bloggers are interested in, such as top referrers, top posts and top referring pins. (See the bottom of this post for more info.)
AUDIENCE => OVERVIEW
Next navigate to AUDIENCE => OVERVIEW in the left-hand menu bar. This is one of my favourite views. Here you can look at sessions, users, page views, pages per session, average session duration, bounce rate and % new sessions for any given time period AND compare two time periods.
For example, you can compare your page views for this month vs last month, or this month vs the same month last year, or the whole of this year vs the whole of last year. This can help you see how much your website traffic is growing, as well as whether your bounce rate and session duration have improved.
To change the time period, go to the top right-hand corner and click the down arrow next to the dates (by default these are set to the last 7 days). You can select the precise time period you are interested in looking at and select a second time period for comparison.
The view I find most helpful here is last 30 days vs the previous 30 days (previous period) and the same 30 days one year ago (previous year). This gives a good sense of growth month on month and year on year.
Ideally both will show an increase – but the month vs previous month view will not always show an increase if the previous month was one which had unusually high seasonal traffic. (For example, on my food blog, January is usually lower than December because I get a lot of traffic to my Christmas posts in December.)
By default, the graph shows sessions, but I also like to look at page views. To change what the graph shows, click the down arrow next to SESSIONS in the top left and select PAGE VIEWS.
AUDIENCE => DEMOGRAPHICS => OVERVIEW
Another really useful view to look at is your audience demographics. On this screen you can see both the age and gender split of your readers.
This can tell you a lot about the kind of readers you are attracting to your blog, which can help you with your macro keyword research.
AUDIENCE => GEO => LOCATION
This view shows you where the majority of your readers live. You can see what percentage of your readers live in your home country and what percentage come from other countries.
This can be quite fascinating and, when you realise just how many of your readers come from other countries, it can change the way you write your content to make it more inclusive and accessible to people from other countries.
If you are especially trying to track readers from a particular country, this screen can help you track your progress. You can also see things like bounce rate and session duration by country – this can help you understand if readers from one particular country are bouncing off your site particularly quickly – you may then need to understand why and work out what you can do to fix the problem.
For example, if you are a recipe blogger in the UK and you notice the bounce rate is much higher from readers in the USA, it might be because you only show recipe ingredients in grams. If attracting readers from the USA is important to you, this tells you that you should offer the US customary measurements too!
AUDIENCE => MOBILE => OVERVIEW
This screen shows you what percentage of your audience are viewing your site on mobile, desktop and tablet. The information in here can be quite a surprise. Most likely you will find that the vast majority of your visitors are viewing your site on a mobile phone.
This should encourage you to make sure that you have a mobile responsive theme (if you don’t have a mobile responsive theme, you should make this a top priority. See my article on how to choose the right theme for your blog for more information.)
This should also remind you that you need to regularly check that your visitors are having a good experience on the mobile version of your site. So often bloggers do all their work on desktop and rarely, if ever, look at the mobile version to see if everything looks good there too.
ACQUISITION => OVERVIEW
This view shows you where your visitors are coming from. You can see at a glance which are your highest traffic drivers (e.g. organic search, social media, referral from other websites) and how much of your traffic is direct traffic (from people typing your URL into their browser).
You can click on any traffic source to get more information – for example, if you click on ‘social’, it will tell you how much of your traffic comes from Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram etc.
Please note, if you click on organic search in this view, the information is not very helpful as most of the search terms people use to land on your site are hidden under (not provided) or (not set). To get more information on what search terms people are using to land on your website it is much better to look at Google Search Console.
BEHAVIOUR => SITE CONTENT => ALL PAGES
This is a really important view as it shows you which are your most popular posts for a given time frame and gives you lots of information about those posts – for example bounce rate, average time on page and the percentage of your readers who exit your website completely after reading that page.
By default, this information is given for the past 7 days – you might find it more useful to look at the last 30 days or even the last year. You can change this in the box in the top right corner.
Most popular posts
By looking at this information you can learn a lot. First of all, you can see which are your most popular posts. This will help you understand the types of posts your readers prefer and spot trends. This can give you helpful information about the types of posts you should create more of in the future.
You can also see if a particular post has an unusually high bounce rate or % exit, or a very short time on page – this can tell you that something is not right. You may want to review that post and see if you can improve it somehow.
You can also use the search facility to find all your posts which contain a particular word. For example, if you want to see how well all your posts on a particular topic are performing.
Another really useful thing to do with the search box is to type in /?=s This will give you all the searches people do on your website – this is another really useful way of finding out what your audience is interested in. You can get some really good ideas for new content by looking at the searches people do on your site. For example, on my recipe site, I notice that my 10th most popular search is for ‘noodles’ – yet I only have two recipes featuring noodles on my website. This is definitely something I should consider creating more of, as clearly this is something my audience are interested in.
Worst performing posts
Finally, you can use this view to find your worst performing posts. Simply click on the down arrow next to page views you will see your worst performing posts and pages. These are the posts (and pages) that are most in need of either updating or deleting – see my post on how to optimise your blog’s site structure for more on how to go about this (and why it’s important).
(A word of caution – the first few hundred of these are likely to be searches, previews etc – just scroll past these until you get to real posts and pages.)
Also, make sure you set the dates for a decent time period here – I suggest setting the dates for the whole of the last year because of seasonal variation.
REAL TIME => OVERVIEW
This screen shows you what is happening on your blog right now. It shows how many readers are on your blog right now, where they have come from, which posts and pages they are looking at and where in the world they are located. It’s also a great way of checking if your blog is working, if you are worried there might be a problem!
Free Google Analytics Custom Dashboard
Do you wish you could just see all the most important stats on your blog in one easy view, rather than having to navigate your way round all the different screens in Google Analytics? Then I have just the thing for you. I have created a GOOGLE ANALYTICS CUSTOM DASHBOARD that shows you, at a glance the following:
- Total page views per day (as a graph)
- Top referrers (e.g. organic, social, other websites)
- Top countries
- Top posts and pages
- Top referring pins
- Page views by gender, age & device
- Active users right now
If you are familiar with Jetpack Site Stats, then this is very similar, except it’s MUCH BETTER! There’s more useful information on the custom dashboard AND when you click on each heading, it will take you to the exact place in Google Analytics where you can get more info.
Sound good? Download it now…
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Really useful breakdown, I’ve been using GA for years now and I’ve learnt a thing or two that I’m going to enjoy using going forwards.
Yay! So pleased you found it helpful, Rebecca 😀
Hi there! I am a little confused as my dashboard looks a little different than your screen shots. I don’t have a behaviour tab. Instead I have an Engagement tab. If I want to see my worst performing posts where would I go? Thank you!
Sounds like you have GA4. This tutorial is for GA3, otherwise known as Universal Analytics. In GA4, if you go to Engagement >> Landing Page, that will show you best to worst performing posts by number of pageviews.