How to use Google Analytics to Track your Blog's Success (& bonus e-book!)
I actually wasn't planning on writing this post, but after having such an overwhelming response to my post last week I changed my mind. If you missed it, I wrote a really simple, transparent post about the five things that helped my grow my blog which seemed to really resonate with you guys! I've had such a lot of lovely feedback via Instagram, Twitter and email that I wanted to share some more of my (admittedly very basic) knowledge of blogging.
Although I've never wanted to become a blogger who writes about blogging, I realise I LOVE helping others and sharing knowledge. I also know the people I seem to connect with online share those qualities too so I don't know why I wouldn't share it more! I know when I started out, my biggest bugbear and confidence-knocker were fellow bloggers who refused to share how they did things the way they did, being overly-private and cliquey (both in person and online) and I think I probably have been that person too a little bit. Without realising....but still.
There's also the fact I don't always feel empowered to share my knowledge. I feel like a fraud telling you my advice and earnest learnings when I most certainly am not an 'A-list blogger.'
Actually that reminds me of something that happened fairly recently in a blogging Facebook group.
Someone posted asking a question about what the group thought of those with smaller followings offering e-books and advice posts about blogging. She made the point that could they really have the authority to do so when they didn't have a colossal following themselves. She bandied a couple of numbers about, and while it was simply an opinion and a conversation starter it made me think: Who do I think I am offering anyone advice? I only have about 1200 Instagram followers, and less than 2000 people following me on Twitter.
My blog stats were double the amount she quoted, but still far less than the level many 'experts' are at.
The wonderful Elizabeth, of Rosalilium weighed in with something that has stuck with me ever since. This isn't verbatim, but she pointed out that teaching is a very different skill to doing. Just because someone doesn't have the stats of your dreams -- that doesn't mean they can't help you get there. She also pointed out that if we use this logic, then only A list actors would be qualified to teach acting.
This gave me such pause for thought and reminded me of the old (insulting) adage: "Those who can, do, and those who can't, teach."
Although I don't believe that AT ALL. I also realised something empowering - I'm pretty good at sharing knowledge in a way that resonates with you guys, my tribe. So I'm gonna put myself out there and start doing it a lot more -- because it makes me SO happy when one of you drops me a tweet saying I've helped you with something, or made blogging feel a little more accessible.
So expect more posts telling you the basics of how I blog, how I create content, navigate the blogosphere and the tips and tricks I've gleaned along the way. They may not all be particularly groundbreaking, but hopefully they will help you on your blogging journey.
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How, Why, & What Should You Be Using to Track your Blog's Success?
As ever, I'm no expert on this topic (or any other for that matter!) but what I am is someone who started out just like you with no idea how to do things.
I actually have a few unconventional ideas about analytics and metrics in general actually, so bear with me, because there is a little method to my madness I promise.
Firstly, I want to say that I think far too much importance is placed on measuring metrics. I also think it can be really damaging to your creativity, ego and progress to sit in front of a report pressing refresh over and over again only to see the exact same number staring back at you.
It's also really unhelpful to run before you can walk, to track before you've found your voice......to set up a complex analytic report on social referrals before you have even made sure you have visible social links in your sidebar, for example.
Do you see what I'm getting at? I think we are all encouraged to utilise EVERY SINGLE TOOL before getting comfortable in our blogging skin. So chill, some of the biggest bloggers out there didn't have anyone looking at their blogs for months, even years.
I don't say this to discourage you at all. I just don't think this is where you need to feel you should be putting your efforts. I'd say that tracking your analytics and metrics is something you wanna be doing when you have found your focus.
Otherwise, you are simply looking at numbers with no idea what to do with them.
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DEFINE YOUR GOAL
Okay, so with that in mind, deciding what and why you want to track metrics is really key. I'm honestly not judging here, so be really honest.
Is the ultimate goal for your blog to become a freelance writer? Okay - you don't need traffic then so don't even bother. You are simply doing it to serve your ego....which we all do, but ultimately this isn't going to help you become a freelance writer, right?
Or is it to attract brands to your blog, because you want to start meaningful collaborations and go on press trips? In which case you need to think about engagement as much as you do traffic. Savvy brands and PR's will often overlook the fact you don't have the 'magic number' of unique monthly views or whatever. Because you can have 100k of visitors each month, but if none of them engage with you -- there'll be little point sending you on a trip to the Galapagos and expecting any of your readers to click 'BUY NOW' when you tell them about the amazing hotel you stayed at.
Equally, it's worth noting that if your blog is all about backpacking, but you've been offered a luxury press trip -- your readers probably won't relate or want to buy into a post about high end luxury travel. On the flip-side -- if you write about luxury, you need far less traffic in many ways as you on;y have to convert a few loyal readers to make the brand their money back for your comped stay. Michael Ball taught me that in one of the many brand meetings I sat in with him educating brands on blogger outreach and campaign strategy.
If you have a product to sell, like an e-course or mentoring package, think about the value of it first. If, for example, you have 100 unique monthly views but have at least 10 people leaving meaningful comments on each post, you can consider those 10 people will potentially buy your course. If what you're selling is £20 a pop, you have the (very realistic) potential to be making £200 each blog post when you plug your course. And you don't need the bigger numbers -- despite what you might think.
Ultimately, it's all about working out exactly what you want to achieve before diving into the detail. If you want a nice little e-book to help you delve into this a little further - click here.
TRACK THE RIGHT NUMBERS
I see a lot of new bloggers, who use Wordpress, using the Jetpack stats that come as standard with the platform. This is totally fine if you just want a brief overview of what's happening and, as mentioned above, you don't actually need stats for anything more than for fun/ego purposes (NO judgement here by the way, we all need an ego boost to stay motivated!)
But if you've decided you want to work with brands/PR's, want to monetise your blog through affiliate sales, or sell a product -- you need to get a little more serious about your stats. I say a little, because I can only show you the basics -- for anything more advanced you need someone far more qualified than me!
If you've skipped ahead to this section because you just.can't.wait to get stuck in, go back and read the rest. SORRY. You need to know why you want to track before you actually start tracking. End of. There are no shortcuts here, but on the plus side it's really simple and you only have to answer a few questions to know your ultimate goal and to get stuck in.
GOOGLE ANALYTICS DECODED
So you've decided you want to go on your first press trip, and you want to create a media kit to showcase everything you can offer a brand. What numbers should you track?
In my opinion, there's no hard and fast rule for this and I also don't think you need to create a super complex media kit filled with social stats and baffling numbers showing HOW AMAZING YOU ARE. Yet again, this is often a total vanity project.
My friend Sabina once remarked to me when I was reworking my media kit and feeling overwhelmed that brands will often really need the thing you can offer that you take for granted. She encouraged me to use examples of photography, or writing samples and to be really real.
This was (and still is) the best advice I've ever been given on the topic.
But obviously you will want to add some numbers. So how do you go about it? Click here for everything I know about Google Analytics in the MOST basic level possible. (Because I am truly a basic b@@tch when it comes to this kind of crap.)
If you want the even more basic version, see below ;)
- Get a Google Analytics account by signing up here (it's free.)
- Install Google Analytics on your blog using this basic tutorial and this plugin (no coding required.)
- Set up a few reports using this kick-ass tutorial (with a free custom dashboard.)
- Track the numbers YOU need to achieve your goal: Social referrals? Traffic (unique monthly views)? Traffic Source (eg Google, social, other people's blogs that include a link to yours, Spam...yep that's annoying)?
Again, this has become a slightly mammoth post. SORRY! If you have made it this far, thank you!!!! If not, no drama I love you anyway.
Please comment and let me know what you think, and if you want to sign up for 1-1 mentoring with me where we can delve deeper into this crazy topic and more - click here. Or simply drop me an email, Tweet or Instagram message.