This article is all about how to get the most out of Google Analytics––the reports you can build, the metrics to track, etc.––for measuring your blogging and content marketing efforts.
- 6 Google Analytics reports for bloggers
- 6 blog metrics you should be tracking
- 10 bonus tips for using Google Analytics on your blog
Which reports should you be using for your blog?
1. Session Quality
The real measure of the quality of a blog or article is known by the length of the time people spend on reading it. You can access it by finding a specific URL.
If the average dwell time is less than the estimated read time, it’s a sure give away that the content is not being read by visitors fully.
2. Acquisition Traffic
Narrow down statistics by what channel the traffic is coming from, see where your organic numbers are, and pivot accordingly.
Create segments of users based on traffic source, whether they’re new or returning visitors, and people who have visited product pages vs. people who haven’t.
This will give you deeper insight into which segments of your audience engage and convert at a higher rate, so you can make more informed decisions about which channels and traffic sources to invest in and which onsite activities lead to more conversions.
3. Queries Report
Focus on the breakdown of sources to see what traffic is coming organically vs other channels and see where you have an opportunity to drive more.
Also, look at the keywords driving traffic to your blog to see if they align with your brand and focus. The keywords also help influence future blog topics and ensure you’re providing the content your audience wants.
(Note that you’ll need to link your Search Console account to find this out.)
4. Behavior Flow
Most marketers, web designers, and company owners have a preconceived idea of how users will interact with the site. Pay attention to user flow and optimize what customers are already doing, rather than trying to force them through an inorganic funnel.
5. Landing Page Reports
Look at the landing page report under Behavior > Site Content. This report shows your top-performing pieces of content for driving visits to your website.
See how many landings a client’s blog posts are generating, and then the mediums and sources that drive the initial traffic.
6. Content Drilldown
Content Drilldown in Google Analytics allows you to keep a close eye on blog category performance (provided you’ve got a sensible site structure) and allocate resources accordingly.
It’s a surprisingly underused report feature and great for uncovering content opportunities.
6 Google Analytics metrics for bloggers
1. Returning Visitors
Returning users convert more and are a positive sign. You want people returning to your blog posts. That means they find it useful.
If people continue to return to your site, it’s a strong indication that you’re publishing content that they enjoy and value – a great indicator of strong performance.
Also, when you’re running a campaign or targeting a new audience, you’ll need to know if it’s working by attracting brand-new visitors, or if you’re still simply drawing your regular visitors.
2. Session Duration
If your latest piece of content takes around 5 minutes to read and the average time spent on your post is 2.5 minutes, that would suggest that the users on your page aren’t reading your content properly.
It’s one of the easiest ways to notice a problem.
3. Dwell Time
Dwell time is the amount of time someone spends on your site after arriving from a search engine results page (SERP.)
To find this metric in your Google Analytics account, head to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages. Then, click the “Organic Traffic” segment. This will filter your results by people who arrived from a SERP.
You can use the Average Session Duration metric as your dwell time:
It’s much better to have fewer people reading your posts for a longer time than to have thousands hitting it for 20 seconds.
4. Scroll Depth
Scroll depth does what it says on the tin: Records how far users scroll down each page of your website.
Measure user content reading by implementing a custom metric that calculates scroll depth in relation to the time spent on the page.
5. Bounce Rate
Bounce rate is the number of visitors who click on your website and leave without visiting another page.
This can give you insight into if you need to change the simple things, like layout, attention-grabbing pictures, videos, and more.
6. Pages per Session
Things like traffic, average time on page, and bounce rate, are well-known metrics for measuring a blog’s performance. However, what some SEOs fail to pay attention to is pages per session.
The pages per session feature on Google Analytics shows you how many pages your readers visit while on your site, and this is an important metric when you consider your internal linking strategy.
Blog posts are a great way to bring in traffic and drive them to your money-making pages, and you do this through internally linking to those pages on your blog post.
So if you find that your pages per session are really low, that tells you that you need a better internal linking strategy and better CTAs within your content.
10+ bonus Google Analytics tips for bloggers
1. Link your Google Search Console and Google Analytics
Linking Google Search Console data to Google Analytics gives you much more visibility into the organic searches that are driving traffic to your blog.
Search Console data gives the impressions, clicks, CTR, and average position of each article.
If you are playing around with your content, i.e., different title tags or meta-descriptions, you can try to analyze the performance of similar ranking pages to see which type of content is most palatable to your audience.
2. Create your own audience
One of the most powerful features in Google Analytics is the ability to create Audiences with Advanced Segments.
The Audience Builder allows you to create these sequence segments, so you can see the exact number of times a particular piece or grouping of content led to an outcome you cared about.
3. Identify underperforming blog posts
Use Google Analytics segments to identify underperforming blog posts that can be quickly optimized for easy wins.
For example, high traffic posts with a high bounce rate usually indicate that there is an issue with how information is organized on the post. Or posts with high time on page but low traffic indicate that the quality of the content is high, but the post could use more effort on distribution.
4. Create event tracking and goals
Don’t just use the out of the box reports in Google Analytics because while those are helpful, they aren’t enough.
Google Analytics goal should be created to measure the success of the post, for example:
- “Add the visitor to your email list
- Download a PDF
- Buy something
- Fill in a contact form
- Watch a video
- Outbound link click
5. Create blog-specific filters
Create a new blog-focused view that filters out a lot of the noise. You’re bound to have visitors to your blog that you don’t care about. You don’t want the interactions of these visitors to skew your understanding of your blog’s performance.
Start by only including geographies of interest. Then filter out articles that you don’t really care about, yet might be biasing your data significantly.
Finally, filter out repetitive traffic that’s not useful, whether it’s a bot that keeps crawling or someone at your company that keeps checking out your articles.
6. Visualize your data
Google Analytics has A LOT of reports. Too many, in fact. Take what you need and move it into your own dashboard on something like Google Sheets. Once you remove the noise, you can focus on what really matters.
7. Find (and fix) 404 errors
You might have high-traffic URLs that are sending your readers to 404 error pages.
A good way to check if a new site has some 404 errors is to check the All Pages section. Go to: Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages > Select Title. Instead of page, go to the search box and type in “404.”
Now you will find all pages that are getting traffic but are returning 404.
8. Track category pages
A neat trick to view your most popular blog tags is to fire an event for each tag when the blog post is viewed.
For example, a recipe tagged “drink”, “holiday”, and “apple cider” would fire 3 separate events. This will produce a ranked listing of the most-viewed tags on your site, so you can see at a glance what topics attract the most interest.
Every website has one sub-niche that outperforms others. For instance, email marketing may be the most popular topic on a site about generating leads. When you look at your most popular posts, you can gain valuable insight into your target audience and what kind of content they enjoy.
This information can help you make better decisions when creating future content, and you can optimize the existing posts for explosive growth.
9. Exclude your IP address
Make sure that your IP address is excluded when tracking results of traffic going to your blog. This will ensure that your analytics are not including your personal visits to your website and that those visits will not skew your data.
10. Add UTM links
It’s notoriously difficult to track the ROI of content marketing.
Each UTM tag should specify the blog post’s name and this gives you the option to check which specific article brings the most revenue on the main site.
The info shows up in the Campaigns section in Google Analytics and if you have conversion tracking in place as well, it’s really easy to see how many profitable customers you get from each blog post.
You can then analyze which sources are funneling those signups and what topics/keywords are the most valuable ones.
Start digging into the data your Google Analytics script is tracking on your blog.
Start with these important blog metrics and reports, and figure out where you can improve.
PS. Creating custom dashboards with only the data that you care about is a great shortcut to really knowing what’s going on with your content, on a daily basis, when you can quickly react to both good and bad things. You can do it in Google Sheets or in Google Data Studio. Check out How to Build A Google Data Studio Dashboard – Step-by-Step Tutorial for a great tutorial. I built my own dashboards based on this.