What your blog stats mean and why you should care
A lot of people told me that they found my post on how to make your blog content not suck post helpful, so I thought I’d do another digital content-type post aimed at bloggers, this time about a blogger’s greatest obsession:
Bloggers are always worried about their stats. By ‘stats’, they usually mean page views – but page views are only a small part of the analytics story.
This post is not about how to get more page views. I have a smallish blog with smallish page views, and I’m totally okay with that. I also don’t think obsessing over stats is particularly helpful, and it can take a lot of joy out of blogging. However, your blog analytics can tell you important, interesting and, most importantly, FUN* things about your blog.
*May not actually be fun unless you’re a bit of a digital nerd.
How to get your stats
The two biggest blogging platforms, WordPress and Blogger, will give you some basic stats – page views, visitors, referrers, etc. If you want to get into some crazy analytics sh*t, you can set up Google Analytics tracking on your blog. That’s where the fun really begins. Ever wanted to know how many of your users accessed your most recent blog post using a Samsung SM-A500G Galaxy A5? Google Analytics can tell you that.
Should you care? Maybe. More on that later.
It’s easy to set up a Google Analytics account – you can find out to get started on the Google Analytics website.
There’s also some useful information about how to add Google Analytics to WordPress sites on the Shout Me Loud website (note that this is only for self-hosted WordPress.org blogs – Google Analytics integration isn’t available for free WordPress blogs). You can find tips for setting Google Analytics on Blogger sites on Wikihow.
Anyway, back to the fun stuff. Here are some useful analytics that you might want to measure:
What they are: Page views are…err…the number of times a page has been viewed. It’s the number bloggers obsess over the most.
Why you should care: Your page views give you an indication of what type of content is resonating with your readers. Do you get lots of views on your controversial posts, or are your funny posts more popular? Page views are a useful way of finding out what content people like so you can create more stuff like that.
DO NOT waste time comparing your page views to other bloggers’ page views and feeling bad about yourself. That’s when analytics go from being useful to being toxic. Every blog is different and grows at its own rate.
You are doing awesome, trust me.
Average time on page
What it is: Pretty self explanatory, this one.
Why you should care: Generally, longer is better – this means that people are actually reading and engaging with your content. If they only stay on page for a few seconds, it could be an indication that the content wasn’t what they were looking for or what they expected it to be when they clicked on the link.
What it is: The percentage of people who landed on a page and then f***ed right off (or the percentage of single-page visits).
Why you should care: Most blogs probably have a fairly high bounce rate – people click on a link to a post in a linky or on social media, read it, maybe comment, then go away. But if you write a post that’s so amazing that they want to go through your archives and read more, then you’ve piqued their interest and your bounce rate goes down. WIN.
What they are: Other websites that have referred traffic to your site.
Why you should care: Find out where most of your traffic comes from and focus on those sites. Are you posting equally to both Facebook and Twitter but getting hardly traffic from Facebook? Maybe you should double up your Twitter efforts. Is a particular linky sending lots more traffic to your site than another? Focus on the linky that’s working for you.
What they are: Remember how I mentioned the Samsung SM-A500G Galaxy A5 earlier? Google Analytics can not only give you a breakdown of your blog traffic by general device (desktop, mobile and tablet), but also by specific type of mobile device.
Why you should care: As awesome as that is, you probably don’t really need to know how many people accessed your blog on an iPhone 6, for example. That being said, it IS helpful to know how much mobile traffic you’re getting.
The more mobile traffic you get, the more important it is to make sure that your site is mobile-friendly. WordPress allows you to visualise your site in desktop, tablet and mobile mode. DO IT.
More than half my traffic comes from mobile devices – which is crazy considering that I didn’t even have a phone that was capable of accessing a blog (or any site, really) until like a year ago. I was a bit late to the smartphone party.
What it is: This Google Analytics report visualises the paths that users took through your site and where along their paths they exited.
Why you should care: It’s really interesting to see how users move through your site. Where are they dropping off? What are they going on to do after reading a post? Do certain posts encourage them to keep moving through your site better than others?
This report looks like a bit of a twisty mess, but if you can make sense of it, you can get some really useful information about your users’ journeys through your blog. Do what you can to make those journeys smooooth.
And now, the most important thing to remember about stats…
Numbers only tell part of the story.
Maybe your last post had low page views because it was a bit s**t. Or maybe (more likely) it was because you forgot to post it on Twitter. Or you didn’t join as many linkys that week. Or because one of your plugins is conflicting with another plugin and messing with your stats.
In short, the numbers don’t really mean anything without a bit of context.
Also, always remember that you’re more than your stats. Maybe only one person read your last post, but if it brightened up their day or made them feel a bit less alone, then it was worth you writing it.
Blog for the pleasure of writing, for the opportunity to be part of a community, for the emotional outlet, for the satisfaction you get in managing your own little corner of the internet. Don’t blog for stats. There’s no fun in page views.