As an operator of an internet site, you will, of course, be interested in tailoring your website to the needs of your users in as much detail as possible. To be able to do this, it’s helpful to find out as much as you can about the behaviour of your visitors. Web analytics programmes make this possible. Many people have only heard of Google Analytics and don’t know about the advantages that other...
When it comes to blogs used as marketing instruments by large companies, key performance indicators play just as important a role as high-quality content. These indicators can also be interesting for private bloggers who want to make money with their blog through collaborations or advertising banners. Thanks to different analysis tools, you can track exactly how effective your blog is (either as a whole or per individual post), and subsequently optimise it for readers as well as search engines.
- Analysis tools for bloggers
- Traffic figures: what’s happening on your blog?
- User behaviour: which pages do they access and for how long?
- Traffic sources: where do the readers come from?
- Content check: which blog posts do best
- Social signals: shares, likes, and retweets
- A blog is more than its figures
Analysis tools for bloggers
In order to find out what the key performance indicators are, you need the appropriate analysis tool. Google Analytics is the most popular solution regarding website analysis and can be used for smaller blogs as well as blogs of large companies. The tool offers numerous functions such as data collection regarding visitor numbers and their average length of stay as well as providing information on them (e.g. where they’re accessing the site from and what software they’re using). A tracking code is generated which you can then embed into your website. You just need a Google account before you can begin using this free service.
There are, of course, alternatives to Google Analytics, one of which is the open source solution Matomo (Piwik) - the second most widely used analysis tool. All data obtained from Piwik can be stored on your own server. If Google’s data protection issues concern you, then this open source analysis tool is a good alternative. And though Piwik does have a relatively limited range of functions, you can add further plugins to offset this.
For a simpler alternative to Google Analytics, there is Mint. For a one-off fee, the user receives a simple, straightforward user interface with all the important source data.
Traffic figures: what’s happening on your blog?
After you’ve signed up to the analysis tool, you are faced with many different figures, diagrams, and values: getting to grips with it all can be difficult. So where do you start with the blog analysis? Which numbers are relevant to your blog and how should you interpret the values? The traffic figures are a good place to start.
Page views/page impressions
With page impressions (page views), every individually accessed page is counted. A high number usually means an attractive blog, since well-placed links and references lead to many impressions. But it can also mean that the user wasn’t able to find their way and clicked helplessly through lots of pages. This is why other data (like the retention time) should be taken into consideration when checking page views during a website analysis. If you would like to advertise on your blog, page impressions have an even greater significance and the CPM (cost per mille) is often accounted for here.
All pages that a visitor accesses (within one session) are combined and if the user is back again the next day, this counts as a new session. These figures enable you to identify recurring visitors and how often they visit. If a reader continues to return, it’s definitely a positive sign.
Users (unique visitors)
User behaviour: which pages do they access and for how long?
A blog with many visitors is no guarantee of a successful blog – a thousand clicks on the homepage are meaningless if the user disappears after a few seconds. It is therefore worthwhile to take further user behaviour indicators into account.
Pages per visit
This value indicates the average number of pages that a user visits during their session. Be careful with how you interpret this value: if it’s particularly low it can also mean that you have a lot of regulars who just read the most current blog post during their session and then leave the site. With the analysis tool it is also possible to set values for new users exclusively. If new users continue to leave your blog after accessing just one page, you could try to keep them interested in your site by linking to additional articles or related topics at the end of the blog post.
Average session duration/retention time
This value indicates the average time a user stays on the site and from this you can work out whether they find sufficiently interesting content. Retention is a unique quality factor which Google also takes into account. By implementing an internal search function, tools, or image galleries as well as displaying similar articles, you can increase retention time. A heat map can help you to understand the user better since it provides click and scroll behaviour in a graphical representation.
The bounce rate reveals how many visitors view just one page on the blog and then leave. This figure is again relative since regular readers have already read old posts and generally just access the newest content. Users who find the answer to their query in one of your articles, will leave the site relatively quickly so a high bounce rate doesn’t have to be a negative. Nevertheless you should try to keep the reader on your site by linking to relevant content on other pages of your blog.
Traffic sources: where do the readers come from?
How can you tell whether a reader is a regular visitor to your blog or stumbled across your blog from a search query? Analysis tools help you make the important distinction by providing information on traffic sources and acquisition paths. When breaking down where readers come from, Google Analytics distinguishes between:
- Organic search: users that arrive on your site through an organic search on Google, Bing, or another search engine.
- Referral: visitors that arrive on the blog by clicking a link on another website – a high rate means a good backlink profile.
- Social: users that found their way onto your site through social media e.g. through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
- Direct: users that typed in the blog’s address directly or have it set as a bookmark – these are usually regulars.
- E-mail: users that found the site from links in e-mails or newsletters.
- Other: users that arrive from other sources, such as their own RSS feed.
These website analysis indicators are especially important since blog operators can accurately see where their potential lies and which channels are particularly important for reaching readers. From the values, you can see where you need to invest more time and money.
Content check: which blog posts do best
Under the ‘behaviour’ section, you can learn more about the popularity of your website content. If you filter by page views, for example, you can view your most popular texts. But take into account that a post from two years ago is more likely to have more clicks than one that was posted a few days ago. Thus, the relationship between time and the amount of views is crucial. If you take this into account, you can use the ranking of the blog analysis to get a better feel for content that is particularly popular.
Whether an article is read especially frequently or not, often depends on its topic. The headline, an exciting introduction, or a particularly appealing image can also make a difference. Additional programs can provide a more detailed analysis of individual posts. WordPress users can make use of the plugin Google Analytics Dashboard by Analytify. You can also use Google Trends to research topics for new articles depending on current trends.
Social signals: shares, likes, and retweets
Social media platforms can become powerful tools. It takes just a few hours for a post, image, or video to spread around the world, with the creator barely having to lift a finger. Every blogger should therefore keep their readers’ activity in mind when carrying out a regular blog analysis. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms offer their own analysis tools, which you can use to follow your blog-related social media activities. The statistics of a Facebook fan page provide information on how far a blog post reaches, how high the interaction is, and the resulting number of clicks on the website over time.
With Google Analytics, you get a deeper insight into how influential your social media channels are on your readership and how much they contribute to the success of your blog. The ‘Acquisition’ tab lets your track which social media channels bring your readers to the blog. By clicking on the ‘Social Data Hub’ tab, you can see how your blog comes across on social networks, which means how often it is mentioned and shared, and responses to the content. If you embed social plugins (buttons that the user clicks on to like or share articles) into your blog, you can track any activity through Google Analytics.
Remember that those subscribing to newsletters and RSS feeds are also an important source of traffic and should not be neglected in the blog analysis, because they can be excellent indicators of readership loyalty. A newsletter subscriber is often more valuable than a Facebook like. This is because the newsletter represents a direct channel to the reader, unlike the Facebook like (which the reader may have clicked simply to enter a competition). In order to measure and analyse the number of subscribers, there are separate analysis tools such as Feedburner from Google, while it is also possible to analyse each newsletter provider.
A blog is more than its figures
Tools like Google Analytics or Piwik are also used by large global companies – the range of functions can initially be a bit overwhelming for a simple blog. After you’ve familiarised yourself, you will know how to correctly interpret the indicators and - thanks to the blog analysis - make your content even more appealing to your readers.