The Beginner’s Guide to Blog Analytics
Last week, more than 20 bloggers and friends attended our first official Urban Hour event in San Francisco. We had a delicious tasting meal at The Corner Store. You can see a full write-up on the Focus:Snap:Eat blog and additional pictures on our Facebook page. As the Urbanspoon community manager, I had planned a talk about analytics for blog writers. However, the combination of delicious food and great conversation with our guests made it feel like a lecture on analytics could ruin some of the fun. So, I promised to share my thoughts as a blog post for our attendees (and all our readers).
Thanks to all our longtime bloggers and new friends who joined us for Urban Hour.
The Beginner’s Guide to Blog Analytics
If you are brand new to analytics, there are two questions to ask about your blog or business before you start tracking:
1. What are my goals for my blog?
When building a blog, it’s important to know where you want your business to go (even if it’s just a hobby for now). Start by asking yourself, “what do I want for my blog?” A sample blogger’s answers may include:
- More readers
- More comments on my posts
- More advertisers
- More free stuff
2. Why do I want this?
Once you have a better idea about your goals, then move to the next question: “why do I want this?” or “why will this help my brand?”
Although the answers to the two questions above are intermingled (what you want and why you want it), the ‘why’ can help you define what to start tracking first. If the ‘why’ for your business is clear you can use analytics, feedback, and statistics to help meet your goals.
Looking at the answers above you can see this blogger’s goals. They care about providing useful & valuable content to users, and want to capitalize on traffic. They also want to engage more deeply with a community on their blog and at conferences. Our sample blogger would track metrics differently than a brand interested in plugging a new cookbook, or getting paid by a sponsor to test new kitchenware.
When you know the “why”, you can use the insights of analytics to provide a roadmap to meet your business goals and stop chasing ‘likes’ and ‘fans’. You can create engaging content that will generate a whole new audience.
Ok, so now onto the nuts and bolts. . . what analytics should you track?
Here are the first three basic analytics any blog or brand should track:
1. Overall Site Traffic
We all love to look at our website traffic and not just for the ego bump (although it never hurts). Overall traffic can give you an insight into providing more effective content to your readers. Primarily I look for two different types of trends in overall traffic.
First, I want to learn what types of content have engaged my audience. For most bloggers, you will be looking at pageviews, click-through on links, or post comments. As you are looking at your stats, ask yourself if there are topics that seem to get more pageviews or social sharing? Do people click more on video than photos? Is your audience looking for a more narrative style or do they like bulleted lists of action items? Discovering the types of content your readers respond to will allow you to create deeper engagement.
The second trend is looking for insights into creating a more effective posting schedule. Did you know that that the best time to post on Twitter is 1pm, Monday through Thursday? However, if you’re sharing a post on Pinterest think about pinning in the evening, since Pinterest has the most views after 9pm.
Use traffic analytics to challenge and test your assumptions about your audience. As advocates for our brands, we often think we know who our audience is and what topics they want. Looking for trends in your analytics can help hone your instincts.
2. Search Traffic
Along with traffic, pay very close attention to search. If someone uses a search to find your blog or website they may not know who you are, and they’re probably trying to solve a problem. What problem does your blog address or solve?
Look at search keywords to discover what types of information your audience is looking for. For example, some of Urbanspoon’s most popular blog posts are our top-rated restaurant lists and our city travel guides. I can use this information to discover more effective methods of tagging content, categorizing, and highlighting posts on social media.
Even if your blog is a personal one, search can help you get found by people that share your interests, which means you can make some new friends. If you want to increase your search traffic, there are two ways that I’ve found that work for most sites: post more often, and optimize your posts for search engines.
3. Referral Traffic
Referral traffic tells you what sources are sending traffic to your blog. A good way to test your referral stats is to share a new post on different sites at the same time, then track the referral traffic to learn how engaged your network is on each of these sites. Learning what social media platforms or other blogs best promote your posts will help you decide where to spend your promotion time.
Analytics can be intimidating at first, but by spending some time with your statistics and traffic you can better understand how visitors are finding, using, and enjoying your content. So don’t worry if your audience is small – in fact, the smaller the audience, the braver you can be with your brand! A little research will help you take control of your analytics and save you time managing your brand across multiple community platforms, ultimately making you a better blogger.
Here are links to some tools and tutorials to get you started tracking your blog analytics.
For your blog
Now that you have a basic guide to your blog’s analytics (and a few social media tools too), I hope you can build content that’s entertaining, engaging, and effective. Happy blogging!