Google Analytics is a really powerful analytics platform.
It allows you to see what’s happening on your site, uncover trends and patterns, and dive deep into retention, acquisition, and conversion analytics.
In this post, we’ll look at 10 Google Analytics reports bloggers can use to grow their site and content in 2019.
Google Analytics for Bloggers: Understanding Your Site’s Objectives
You have a blog. You publish content each week or every other week. What now? How do you know if your blog is successful?
To evaluate the performance of your blog, you have to start with your high-level objective: What’s your end game? Why are you blogging?
If you intend to run ads or have affiliate links on your blog, focus on blog traffic, content engagement, and retention. If you intend to sell products like I do on the Lean B2B blog, focus on traffic, email signups, and your conversion funnel. But if your goal is pure brand awareness and visibility, your should focus on traffic, email signups, and social media visibility.
The data points you track depend on your end goal. To be able to focus on the right metrics – and to understand your audience – you’ll want to run through the following reports:
Traffic Acquisition Reports
1. Site Speed
The Site Speed Report (Behavior > Site Speed > Page Timings) helps you monitor the relative performance of your blog posts when it comes to load speed. It also helps you monitor overall performance to help keep page load within 2 to 3 seconds (the benchmark!).
Why it matters: Readers are getting more and more impatient. They’ll leave if they come to your blog, and can’t load your content. The Site Speed Report, in conjunction with PageSpeed Insights (partially integrated in Google Analytics), will help you monitor and scale loading speed and performance.
2. Landing Pages Report
The Landing Page Report (Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages) is a key part of your traffic acquisition strategy. This report will show you what pages visitors use to enter your site, and how those pages perform in terms of engagement (Bounce rate % + Avg. Session Duration). Although these metrics don’t tell the full story, they can help you make a quick assessment of how well your content engages your readership.
Why it matters: This report is powerful on its own, but it becomes extra powerful when you combine it with Google Analytics Goals. With Google Analytics Goals configured, you’ll be able to understand which of your posts perform, and which need improvement. Highlights will automate this analysis to help you find posts worth optimizing.
3. Search Console Report
Google Search Console, like Google Analytics, gives you access to a lot of useful data. Once you’ve connected both products together (Admin > Property Settings > Search Console), you’ll be able to access search keywords directly in Google Analytics.
Why it matters: If a part of your audience comes from organic traffic (Google search!), the Search Console Report can help you understand which keywords are being used to find your content. By looking at ‘Impressions’ (the keyword’s search volume), and the CTR (the clickthrough rate of your post for those searches), you’ll be able to refine your keyword positioning to drive more traffic to your post.
We’ll dive deeper into how Google Search Console can be used to improve traffic on search engines in a future post (Sign up to our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out).
4. Referrals Report
The Referrals Report (Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals) helps you understand which sites drive traffic to your blog. It gives you a quick summary of your traffic sources that can give you a feel for the quality (promote-ability) of your content.
Why it matters: The Referrals Report helps you find new websites and platforms to promote your content and grow your blog’s visibility. By looking at the Goal completion rate (e.g. How many people bought or signed up?), and the Bounce rate for visitors coming from these referrers, you’ll discover the audiences that most connect with your blog content.
5. Backlinks Report
Backlinks are links on other websites driving traffic to your blog. Although you may be aware of some of these links, the Backlinks Report may help you discover new sites and platforms linking to your content.
You can find backlinks from the Landing Pages Report (Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages). Just add ‘Full Referrer’ as a secondary dimension.
Why it matters: To improve your search ranking, you need to write great content, but you also need backlinks. Links are what tells Google that your blog is valuable for the precise keywords you’re targeting. The Backlink Report can help you track your organic reach and growth. It also points you to websites and blogs that you can contact to try to improve link anchor text and keyword positioning.
6. All Campaigns Report
The All Campaigns Report (Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns) centralizes (and categorizes) UTM tracking links (e.g. ?utm_campaign=name&utm_source=wikipedia&utm_medium=referral) linking to your blog. Much like the Referral Report, it can be used to uncover new traffic opportunities. The big difference here is that the All Campaigns Report often includes links from paid ads, emails and newsletters.
Why it matters: The All Campaigns Report helps you discover newsletters and emails linking to your blog. It can also shed light on some of the Direct and (Other) traffic channels that Google Analytics may have miscategorized. At a minimum, this report is good for a regular spot check.
7. Social Landing Pages Report
Google Analytics is good at recognizing social traffic sources. By looking at the Social Landing Pages Report (Acquisition > Social > Landing Pages), you can see which of your posts are being shared, and on what platforms they’re being shared.
Why it matters: This report helps you find popular posts already picking up on social media that can be amplified through ads or promotion. By searching Twitter (with the full URL), or by using a product like Buzzsumo, you can find your blog’s promoters – people who enjoyed your content enough to share it on social media. We had good successes reaching out to sharers after publishing new content. Chances are, if they were interested in your previous post, they may be interested in your next post if the topic is similar.
Google Analytics for Bloggers: Conversion Reports
8. Goal Flow Report
Google Analytics Goals are really powerful. ? Once setup, they can be used to identify the best paths to promote your objectives. Whether your main goal is sales, email signups, reachouts, a certain number of pageviews per session or a certain duration of session, you can visualize and analyze Goal performance using the Goal Flow Report (Conversions > Goals > Goal Flow).
Why it matters: The Goal Flow Report helps you understand which paths have been the most effective in terms of Goal completion. The report can help you find ways to influence the actions taken by your visitors. It can also help you breakdown Goal behavior by traffic source, landing page, and a variety of other dimensions.
Google Analytics for Bloggers: Retention Reports
9. New vs Returning Visitors Report
The New vs Returning Visitors Report (Audience > Behavior > New vs Returning) helps you understand whether you’re actually building a retained readership, or visitors are just passing by, and never coming back. It’s a simple report that helps you compare the behavior of returning and new visitors to your site.
Why it matters: You need retention to truly grow your audience. By analyzing the breakdown of New vs Returning visitors, and comparing performance month over month, you’ll see whether or not your core readership is growing. Analyzing the two segments may also help you discover behaviors and actions leading to engagement and retention.
To go a bit deeper into your blog’s retention, you can use Google Analytics’ Cohort Analysis Report (Audience > Cohort Analysis):
10. Site Search Report
All it takes is a few parameters (Admin > View Settings > Site Search Settings) for Google Analytics to track your site search. Once the Site Search Report Google Analytics (Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms) is configured, you’ll be able to see search queries, and the behaviors after search. Do visitors leave? Do they read more content? Do they become more engaged? Do they signup? All those behaviors can be understood with this report.
Why it matters: Google Analytics’ Site Search Report can be really useful. It tells you what kind(s) of content visitors look for on your site, and whether or not they’re able to find it. By looking at the search terms, you can find content ideas and cross-linking opportunities. Improving your keyword structure will improve search results, retention, and engagement.
(BONUS) Google Analytics for Bloggers: Real-Time Reports
Of all the analytics platforms, Google Analytics has one of the best Real-Time analytics report (Real-Time > Overview). From this report, you’ll see the number of visitors currently on your site, where they’re coming from, and in what countries they’re located.
Why it matters: You can use real-time data to monitor traffic and acquisition sources when publishing a post or making changes to your site. By keeping an eye on traffic sources, you’ll be able to react to content and promotion opportunities. The Real-Time Report can also help you to identify issues with referrer spam and bad URLs pointing to your site.
To make real-time analytics a part of our day-to-day, we use a plugin called Visitors to monitor on-site traffic. The plugin helps us be more reactive to signups and user activity.
The Limits of Google Analytics for Bloggers
You can do everything with Google Analytics, but… as a blogger, you want to spend the bulk of your time writing content, engaging with readers, and improving key steps of your funnel. That said, it’s not because you don’t code or spend time building fancy reports, that you can’t get advanced reports.
There are a number of specialized tools – several free – that you can use to overcome certain of the limitations of Google Analytics. Now, depending on the challenges you’re facing, you may want to dive deeper into:
- Conversion funnel analysis using tools like Amplitude, Mixpanel and Hotjar;
- Scroll and click analysis using products like Hotjar, CrazyEgg and Lucky Orange;
- Social share analysis using Buzzsumo, Ahref or Sprout Social;
- Keyword and backlink analysis using Google Console, Yoast (Plugin) or SEMRush;
- Content analysis using Highlights or Atomic Reach.
These tools will help you overcome some of the limitations of Google Analytics for bloggers. Nowadays, there’s no reason to go without key reports to grow your site and content.
Get started with the above ☝️ reports, and use them to create an even more successful blog.