Today your task is to spend some time looking at your blog’s statistics/metrics package to see what you can learn from it.
I encouraged participants in 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge to make sure they had a metrics package installed on their blog before they started so I hope you have at least a month’s worth of stats to look at. If you’ve not got a stats package installed yet you should get one on your blog ASAP as it’ll help you track how it is performing.
Take some time out today to do a little analysis of your blog’s statistics. There is a wealth of information in them that can be incredibly useful.
Important Note: this exercise tends to become more useful over time. If this is the first time you do it then hopefully it’ll be illuminating – but the longer you have been collecting metrics on your blog the more useful it can become as you track trends and see patterns over time. As a result – this type of exercise should be something you build into your regular blogging routine (I try to do an in depth review each month).
Some of you will be used to doing this type of analysis so you won’t need a lot of help in doing it – but if you’re new to this here are a few metrics to pay particular attention to:
- Overall Visitors – this is the metric most of us probably look at the most so I’ll start with it. Are visitor numbers on the increase or decrease? What might be the reasons for these changes (ie could it be tied to frequency of posting, topics, other sites links etc).
- Most Popular Posts – what posts are being read more than other posts? Knowing this is important for a couple of reasons. For starters it gives you a hint of what topics you could write more on – but secondly it gives you some key pages on your site to optimize (ie think about how you can drive people from these posts deeper into your blog).
- Referral Stats – what sites are sending you the most traffic? If it’s another blog or site, perhaps you could develop a relationship with them to see this increase. If it’s Search Engines, how can you adapt the posts to see it rise even more using on page SEO techniques).
- What Questions are being asked? – what questions are readers typing into search engines to find your blog? These could make great future posts (learn more about how to do this here).
- What Keywords are sending traffic? – knowing the keywords that people search for to find your site is very useful. It helps you to know how to optimize your blog for SEO even better and can give hints on what content to write more of.
- What seasonal traffic is there? – are there any seasonal trends that you should be aware of and could use to capture more traffic? What caused the bumps in traffic and how can you prepare yourself better for next time those conditions might happen again (read more on seasonal traffic and how to capture it).
- Daily/Weekly Trends – another trend to watch is what traffic does over different periods of time. What are the most popular times of day? What days of the week are most popular? Knowing this gives you ammunition in planning when to release new posts.
- What’s Your Bounce Rate? – metrics packages like Google Analytics provide you with a ‘bounce rate’ stat which measures how many people arrive at your site and then leave again without viewing any extra pages. I find this a key metric to watch and attempt to change. Set yourself some goals to get this rate down and the page views viewed per visitor up by making your blog sticky.
- Page Views Per Visit – Similarly to ‘Bounce Rate’ – This is a good one to watch over time as it shows you whether those coming to your blog are going deep into your blog’s content or simply looking at the page they arrive on. My goal on my blogs is to see this number increase over time. For tips on how to increase page views also check out 4 Quick and Simple Ways to Increase Page Views on Your Blog.
- Time on Site – Another stat that can give you a sense on whether readers are engaging with your content is to look at how long they stay on your blog. The longer they are staying the more likely it is that they’re reading, commenting and interacting (or that they forgot to close their browser).
- New vs Returning Visitors – This one gives you a sense of whether you’re succeeding in converting people to loyal visitors.
- RSS Stats – If you’re using a tool like Feedburner to manage your RSS feeds you’ll have access to more useful information. Feedburner provides you with the number of subscribers but also what posts people are reading most of (again showing you what content people are engaging with most which gives you some good information on what type of content is working best).
- Outbound Clicks – Not every metrics package will give you this type of information but if you have access to it knowing what links on your blog people are clicking to leave it can be very useful. It’s not that you want to stop people clicking links – but knowing what links they click on can give you some useful information on what motivates your readers to click a link and what type of information they want more of.
- Where are People Clicking on Your Page – not all stats packages track this but some like Google Analytics or packages specifically for it like CrazyEgg will create heatmaps or visual pictures of what people click on when they visit your blog. I find CrazyEgg’s heatmaps better than Google Analytics but you do need to set it up on specific pages of your blog to be able to see them. This is very useful information when thinking about the design and layout of your blog but also can help you test how to layout posts to see where people click.
- Exit Pages – A similar metric is knowing what page on your blog people are leaving from. A couple of years ago I checked my stats and noticed that the % of people leaving a particular page on my blog was triple other pages. When I investigated I found that the page had some very bad formatting issues on it that made the page almost unreadable – I was able to fix the problem and keep more readers engaged as a result.
- Monetization Stats – many of you are looking to make money from your blogs so it’s also important to pay attention to any stats you have at your disposal on how your blog is performing in this way. The metrics you have at your disposal will vary from income stream to income stream but if possible try to work out where on your blog the income is coming from specifically. For example if you use Google Analytics and AdSense you’ll be able to see what specific pages are earning more than others. Otherwise – use what ever channel or tracking options your ad network or affiliate program gives you to help you work out which posts are performing.
- Other Stats – There are plenty of other stats that can be revealing when you dig into them. Knowing the Geographic regions of your readers can be helpful as you think about content but also is useful if you’re dealing with advertisers, knowing the screen resolution and browsers people are using to view your site is good from a design perspective etc. Also worth doing from time to time is looking at other stats like how many posts you’ve done over time (post frequency can help you monitor how you’re performing personally) and how many comments you’ve had on your blog over a period of time and on which posts (which can be a great indicator of what kind of posts are working best on your blog and how reader engagement is going).
What Would You Add?
There are many other types of metrics that most statistics packages will provide you with. Feel free to share the metrics that you check most often and how you use them to improve your blog in comments below. Also let us know what tools you are using to check your blog’s metrics.
Warning: Don’t become a stats addict. Most new bloggers go through a period where they are checking their stats every hour. This is pretty normal but over time can add up to a lot of wasted time.
I personally try to do a quick check of stats throughout the day 2-3 times (just looking at traffic numbers mainly to see if there’s any spike in traffic that I need to know about) and then month put aside an hour or two to go deeper and look at some of the above statistics.
Further Reading: Using Google Analytics to Compare Traffic from Different Periods of Time – in this post I use the ‘compare’ feature on Google Analytics to track how my blog is going over time by comparing it to other periods.
This post was originally published 5th of May 2009 and updated 17th August 2023.