Google Analytics Can Be Your Best Friend
If you want to grow your blog or business, Google Analytics can be your best friend. Yes, it can be the sometimes-terrifying best friend who pushes you out of your comfort zone, but that doesn’t make it any less useful! We’re going to debunk the myths surrounding Google Analytics and show you how to use Google Analytics to grow your site.
Google Analytics vs. WordPress and SquareSpace
While you can technically use your built-in statistics tracker if you’re on something like WordPress or SquareSpace, these are not the most robust analytics reports. They are vulnerable to ghost spam and other inconsistencies, and there is no way to get rid of this spam. For example, earlier this week, I saw a referral hit from a site called law-enforcement-dd. It had a lot of hits all at once (around 30), all with a 100% bounce rate, which is immediately suspect. Why? Because while even legitimate sites like Pinterest will have bounced visits, if you have multiple visits from a site that doesn’t immediately sound like someone who would link back to you, it’s probably spam.
The worst part: they probably never even visited your site (hence the 100% bounce). They likely used a program to ‘dial’ your site up, just like a telemarketer would, and then sent a packet of code to get straight into your statistics. Their goal is to get you to visit their site, where they can do any number of nefarious things to your computer. Pro tip: DON’T VISIT THOSE SITES. If you’re unsure, just do a search for the URL plus the word spam and see what comes up. Then use Google Analytics to filter them out of your reports!
Why Google Analytics wins!
In Google Analytics, there are more reports than you can shake a stick at. You can manipulate these reports to compare audience segments, different dates (e.g. last month vs. this month), and more. You can track specific goals, based on your blog or business goals. There are some myths about Google Analytics that may be lingering in your mind, though, so let’s debunk a few!
- Google Analytics is only for ‘big’ bloggers or business owners. FALSE! Google Analytics can help you grow your blog or business, and you can use it from Day 1. Yes, Google may aim their services at ‘big’ businesses who have their own IT department, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it too.
- Google Analytics is only for tech nerds. Google Analytics doesn’t require you to know how to code! In fact, if you’re using WordPress, it’s easy-peasy to insert the tracking code, using a particular plugin. (Want to know how? Get the step-by-step instructions to set up Google Analytics, delivered straight to your inbox!)
- Google Analytics is too complicated! Okay, this I’ll grant you: there’s a lot of information in Google Analytics. It can be overwhelming and sound like a lot of jargon that makes no sense. But you can do it! If the lingo is throwing you, just grab the Google Analytics Glossary and use that to decipher those confusing Google Analytics terms.
Got anything else that’s holding you back from using Google Analytics? Shout it out in the comments!
Your Google Analytics Key Performance Indicators
Now, when you’re thinking about site statistics, most people want to know how many people are visiting their site, where they’re coming from, and how many pages those people are viewing. A lot of folks also want to know how to learn more about their SEO and how to track their goals. Luckily, Google Analytics has all of that information built in, plus more!
Let’s start with the Big Three: Visitors, Sources, and Pageviews.
Google Analytics 101: How many visitors do I have?
(You can also get to it by clicking the Audience tab in the left-hand menu, and then Overview at any place in the Google Analytics Reporting tab.) This report is the general overview (as the name implies) of all of the traffic to your site.
This is where you can find a quick report of how many visitors you’ve gotten. You can adjust the time frame by clicking the date range in the top right corner and selecting the range you want. (You can choose to compare two date ranges there as well.) The Users number is where you’ll see how many visitors you’ve had. You’ll also see the stats for the Sessions, Pageviews, Pages per Session, Average Session Duration, Bounce Rate, and Percentage of New Sessions.
Using the information from this report alone isn’t as helpful for improving your site as using the same information from this report in the more detailed reports in the rest of the Audience reports. It can, however, give you a quick and dirty glance at the health of your site. You can analyze if your bounce rate is up, if your traffic in general is down, or if your average session duration has gone up. These things can indicate good or bad things for your site, so keeping an eye on them is a good idea.
Google Analytics 101: Where are my visitors coming from?
To get to this information, you’ll need to go into a different tab. In the left-hand menu, click Acquisition, then All Traffic, then Source/Medium. This will show you an overview of where your traffic is coming from. It will break down traffic by specific origin, so if you have Pinterest traffic from several countries, it won’t just show up as coming from pinterest.com, but from nz.pinterest.com, in.pinterest.com, and pinterest.com if you got traffic from New Zealand, India, and the general Pinterest site, for example.
If you want an even broader overview of different aspects of your traffic sources, there are a couple of other places you can check out. One would be the Channels report, also under All Traffic. This will show you how much of your traffic has come through Social, Organic Search, Direct, and other avenues. Going to Acquisition → Social → Network Referrals will show you only your traffic that has come through social media channels. Again, you can adjust the date range at any time by clicking the dates in the upper right corner.
Keep in mind that traffic that comes from certain social media channels, such as Instagram or mobile Pinterest, will show up as Direct traffic in ALL reports, unless it is being tracked by a UTM URL. To learn more about how to use this feature, feel free to (you’ll receive periodic tutorials and Google Analytics info) or check out the Conquer Google Analytics! course.
Google Analytics 101: How many pages are those visitors viewing?
There are a couple of easy places to find this information. The first is the Audience Overview report that we already touched on. You probably already noticed the Pageviews statistic in there. This is a very brief look at how many pages people have viewed, but not WHICH pages.
For that, you’ll want to go back to the Sources/Medium report. Click the Secondary Dimension at the top left part of the Sources list. Type in Landing Page, or as much of it as you need to for it to pop up. Click on this, and your report will update with more information, like magic. All of a sudden, it will show you not only where your traffic is coming from, but what pages these visitors are landing on when they come from each traffic source. This can be a gold mine, because you can use this information to know what promotion/marketing methods are working (or aren’t working), which pages may be worth revisiting to add value to (to increase engagement or email opt-ins), etc. Keeping an eye on this report will help you know if a post or page is going viral. For example, my Blog a Book post had a mini-viral phase recently, and when I noticed that (because I was monitoring my Source/Medium report), I was able to give it a value-add in the form of an email challenge. This is definitely my favorite report to check daily!
Google Analytics 102
Those three pieces of information are the basics. That’s what most people want to know, and some are happy to stop there. But not you! You want to grow your blog or business, and to do that, you need to know more about your search engine rankings and how to track your goals. For that, you are definitely going to want to use Google Analytics, not WordPress or SquareSpace reports.
Google Analytics 102: Search Engine Optimization
There are only a couple of reports that you’ll need to check for SEO. The first can be found by going to Acquisition → Search Console → Queries. This report is going to be where you find out how close you were to being the first search result for a given keyword. It will break it down by keyword, though a good chunk of keywords are going to show up as (not set), because anyone logged into Google or using certain search tools will render their search results unusable, due to privacy restrictions and such. That’s a bummer for us bloggers and entrepreneurs, but there’s usually still enough data for you to use.
For example, if your click-through-rate (aka CTR) is low, there’s opportunity. If it’s something you want to rank better for, increase the posts or pages that you have that use that keyword frequently (and organically!) or go back and edit related posts or pages to include that keyword more frequently (and organically. Trust me, it’s worth repeating!). You can also use Google’s Search Console for more detailed keyword information. (Find out more about the Search Console!)
Google Analytics 102: How to track your goals
Goals are a crucial component of any business. Being able to track them in Google Analytics just makes it easier! From there, you can create a new Goal by clicking the red +New Goal button and choosing either a template or a Custom goal. I always choose custom, but that’s partly because almost none of the templates fit my site goals.
Setting up a Duration or Pages/Session Goal is super easy. You just name the goal, choose the Goal Set/ID, choose the respective Type, and then hit Continue. In the next section, you just input the minimum pages or duration per session that you want to aim for, and Google Analytics will track anything that is equal to or higher than your set goal. Destination can be simple, unless you want to include a set of pages, which will require you to create a Regular Expression (they have some more info on that HERE, or you can use a RegEx builder, like ).
The Events Goals are a little more complicated, but still completely doable. We talk about them in more detail in the Conquer Google Analytics! course, so I won’t go into too much minutiae here, because it could take an entire blog post to explain how to use events properly. Regardless of what type of Goal(s) you choose to use, though, you will want to make sure that you have a measurement plan in place, because you only have 20 Goals available to work with, so you don’t want to waste one! We talk more about measurement goals in Conquer Google Analytics! and a worksheet is available in the course, to help you create your measurement plan. Goals are definitely something you can’t get in your WordPress or SquareSpace statistics, so it’s a huge reason to start using Google Analytics today!
If you’ve been on the fence about making the leap to Google Analytics, I hope this information has made it less intimidating and convinced you to jump in. Google Analytics can be an amazing tool for ANYONE, not just programmers and Big Business. If you’re a blogger or entrepreneur, Google Analytics can be your best friend, starting today! If you want to learn more about Google Analytics, feel free to check out the Conquer Google Analytics! course, and check out your special bonus below!
There is a self-guided option or you can get the self-paced course PLUS a private Facebook group and instructor office hours, to support you in your Google Analytics journey and answer your questions along the way. In the course, I cover the basics of getting started with Google Analytics, as well as more advanced tools, like the Search Console (for improving your SEO), how to nearly eliminate ghost spam once and for all (without a thousand filters!), how to find your best performing pages, and SO much more! I can’t wait to help you conquer Google Analytics and use it to improve your blog or business.
About the Author
In 2015, Jenn quit her life-sucking job to pursue creativity and The Spare Room Project full-time. Being the wearer-of-many-hats and a serial entrepreneur from the age of three, she undertook the journey of learning Google Analytics from scratch for her business. With a background in Information Systems, she has become the middle-man between tools like Google Analytics and layman entrepreneurs and bloggers. Her mission is to help other burned-out young adults rekindle their creativity through The Spare Room Project, and to help entrepreneurs learn how to build their business using the tools available to them