One Fun Way to Use Google Analytics to Grow Your Blog

May 14, 2012

Today I’m answering a question from a reader who asked: How do you use Google Analytics to grow your blog?

Google Analytics is a FREE tool that helps you analyze traffic to your website. Know the “Site Stats” option you have on the back end of your WordPress blog? Or the “Stats” option in Blogger? Google Analytics gives you the same type of information, but in greater detail.

Little things that make our day: seeing hits to our blog from a certain someone.

Little things that make our day: seeing hits to our blog from a certain someone.

It can tell you where your readers are coming from (which you can use to write more targeted posts), what types of browsers they’re using to read your blog (which gives you hints about how tech-savvy they are), which pages and posts they click on (which tells you which of your efforts are successful and which need more work), how long they’re staying on your site, and much more.

You can only use Google Analytics if your blog or website is self-hosted. For WordPress, that means you’re using WordPress.org, not WordPress.com. Here are directions for installing Google Analytics on a WordPress blog. If this sounds the slightest bit intimidating, just stick with your WordPress or Blogger stats. Unless you’re really digging deep into your readership or trying to answer specific questions about traffic, those basic stats are probably all you need anyhow.

Now for my favorite feature on Google Analytics: the “network” function, which shows you how many hits you got from various service providers.

Service providers don’t sound that interesting, until you realize that lots of companies name their network after the company. That means while you’ll see plenty of Comcasts, Verizons and Road Runners on your list (which are often people reading via their home connection), you’ll also recognize networks belonging to companies, universities and organizations.

By checking these stats regularly, I’ve learned that I have regular readers at Colby College (my alma mater) and Hearst (the parent company of my former employer, the Houston Chronicle). I also see consistent traffic from The New York Times (who are you?), The Brookings Institution and a handful of universities. I can even see visits from publishing houses, which lets me know when people at Random House and HarperCollins click on one of my posts. Of course, you can’t tell why they’re there, and that could range from checking out my book to clicking on someone’s tweet about a post I wrote that’s interesting to them for a reason that has nothing to do with me.

That means this information is only useful to a point. But it’s still fascinating, especially if you want to see whether a certain someone has their eyes on your work.

To find service provider details, log into your Google Analytics account, then click on Technology, then Network. Don’t forget to specify the time frame you’re interested in at the top right corner of your screen.

If you use Google Analytics, what’s your favorite feature?

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    17 Replies to “One Fun Way to Use Google Analytics to Grow Your Blog”

    • TC Avey says:

      sounds interesting but I’m thinking I can’t use it since my blog isn’t self hosted? I use blogger and am not tech savvy at all! But I would be interested in some of this info.

      What do you think of sitemeter?

      • Alexis Grant says:

        Hey TC — Yes, you have to be self-hosted, i believe. That’s actually why I don’t blog about this that often, because I think most of my readers are on your level, and I like to offer tips you can actually USE 🙂 I don’t know much about sitemeter! But Blogger does have decent stats info built right in.

    • Angela says:

      Hi Alexis…

      My partner handles all the back-end whatnot of our blog, so I’ll definitely be sending this post along to her to read. I’m a quizzy sort, so knowing who is reading my posts will please me no end! 🙂

    • Misti says:

      I used Analytics but I had never known you could see the actually internet provider and where they were coming from—very interesting! I had some unique hits too, but not NYT!

    • Emma says:

      Awesome. I use Analytics but had no idea this information was there. Very interesting!

    • Alexis Grant says:

      Glad it’s helpful to you all!

    • Peggy Frezon says:

      What could account for the large discrepancy in my blogger stats vs. google analytics? Blogger stats indicate my blog gets 11,500 pageviews/mnth while Google analytics puts me at about 6,000.

      • Alexis Grant says:

        Hey Peggy — Are you sure you’re not looking at unique visitors on Google Analytics? That’s a more accurate figure anyhow, but I believe Blogger just looks at visits, not UNIQUE visits. Let me know if that’s not it.

    • Susan says:

      Great tip! There is so much I don’t know about Google Analytics. Must spend more time with it!

    • I have a similar problem as Peggy. My server stats say I get about 4X as many unique hits compared to what google analytics says. I am definitely comparing unique hits on each analysis and they are way off. I haven’t been able to figure out what is causing it. Any ideas?

      • Alexis Grant says:

        Are you sure you’re looking at unique visitors on WordPress? I wasn’t aware the basic dash even offered that option! Besides that, I’m not sure!

        • No, not on the wordpress dashboard. I’m looking at my server stats from my web host. I have to figure out what’s happening with google analytics, I must have done something wrong when I set it up because it doesn’t see all my visitors.

    • Shuni Vashti says:

      I’m using Google Analytics, too. My favorite feature is the Traffic Sources part. What I analyze are what keywords brought my readers to my blog, which post of my blog has been most shared and through what social network.

      I also check out Blogger’s stats and compare the results with Google Analytics. Not only the result of pageviews that differs, but also the result of keywords.

      I think Blogger’s stats result is more up-to-date than Google Analytics’. I have made an experiment like this several times. I leave my tab window on Blogger’s stats open. A few minutes later, I click on “refresh”. Let’s say 3 more pageviews has been added to the stats result. Then I do the same with Google Analytics. Nothing changes.

      By the way, when you say Blogger, do you mean the one that has the address like blablabla dot blogspot dot com? If so, I don’t understand why TC Avey says he uses Blooger and thus cannot use Google Analytics. I have several blogs written using Blogger and I apply Google Analytics to them. I also apply Google Analytics to my blogs I write through Travellerspoint.

    • Okay, so a google search brought me to you…glad it did. I’m freaking out because I just switched from blogger to WP self-hosted and the lady I hired won’t get back in touch with me to tell me how to get my google analytics transferred. I did it myself through google analytics for WP and they said that it will all be entered through my header…is that all correct!? My numbers are reading through on my analytics, but like 20000 lower per day then I had when under my other platform. How long until this all irons out or do I need to make a change to the header location!?! I’m stressed and frustrated…any tips?!?!

      XO, Aime

      • Alexis Grant says:

        Hi Aime,

        Gosh, I’m not sure! I’d hire someone who knows this stuff like the back of their hand to help you — someone better than who you’re dealing with now! Best of luck.

    • Dickson says:

      Thanks for the sharing and information. It is good tool, i need to learn more on google analytis.
      Can i display my google analytic stats result into the page of blogs like blogger stats?

    • Thomas James says:

      This is easy, Thanks! This could surely help my blog be visible more online! Cheers!

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