Thursday, April 22, 2010

ON BLOGGING ~ How To Learn From Your Guests...

This is the third in a series of Tech Tip posts centered around Google Analytics, which is where the above logo comes from. We have previously covered how to set up an Analytics account and how to find, interpret and use your Traffic Stats. This week I'm going to cover the Visitors segment. If you need instructions on or a refresher about getting in to your Analytics Dashboard, you can review this post.

From your Dashboard, select the Visitors category in the top left menu. The Visitors section is important to me because it lets me know who I'm dealing with and how they are dealing with us. Selecting Visitors will open up a new Dashboard overview, specific to Visitors. The top first section under the graph displays the key percentages in categories related to who is stopping by and how long they stay. The Technical Profile section at the bottom tells you what they are using to see you.

The Tech. Profile is important to us mostly because it shows the most used browsers our visitors are using. Some things that display quite nicely in Internet Explorer look a little funky in Firefox. So if we have a lot of visitors using each then it makes sense to view our blog every now and then in both browsers to make sure everything looks kosher. If someone's browser isn't letting them see all of our glory, they probably aren't going to stick around. The Connection Speed isn't really of much concern to me since most of our visitors are higher speed. But there are some with slower connection speeds which is why we make sure our photos and images are re-sized and compressed so as not to bog things down for those visitors. I myself will click away from a blog or website after about 15 seconds if the page isn't loading. I don't want our visitors to encounter that issue.

But the stats above the Tech. Profile are of the most use to us. There are seven categories, each of which can be broken out even further by clicking on them. Visits is pretty self-explanatory - and probably what is of most interest to all of you. How many people actually visited my blog in a given period of time? Clicking on the link will show you a nice bar chart which makes it easy to see which day garnered the most or the least attention. Mondays are always our biggest draw due to the Monday Movie Meme. And sure enough, in the past month, a Monday led the way. In fact, it was largely due to our first ever Guest Director post which is good news for guest poster Susan - her post drew in a good crowd. Thanks Susan!

The Visits stat can be misleading however. Susan could have ramped that day's number up herself by coming by periodically to read everyone's comments to her post. Therefore, the Absolute Unique Visitors category is a truer reflection of how many actual visitors came by - not how many times they came by. Susan is counted once as an Absolute Unique Visitor. If she visited 5 times throughout the day, she is adding five visits to the Visits figure. The same Monday led both Visits and Absolute Unique Visitors categories though, so no ballot stuffing made a difference.

Pageviews displays how many pages your Visitors went to during the time period shown. One visitor could visit 5 different pages while another just stays on the one and leaves. Days with a high spike in page views could be because you had a series of back to back posts displayed that were really great. Or because you had lots of links within your post to previous posts. I am a big believer in self-linking, if that is the proper term. It helps to point visitors to other items of interest that maybe they weren't around for when it first appeared. It encourages exploring and leads to more page views. Those widgets/plug-ins that automatically show related posts of interest at the bottom of a post can accomplish the same thing. The Pageviews stat will show you how effective or ineffective those techniques are for your blog.

Average Pageviews just gives you the - wait for it....average pageviews. It is handy for mathematically challenged Bumbles like myself. Anything over 1 is encouraging. Our Bumble Town post, coinciding with the unveiling of the dedicated Pages underneath our Tabs led to higher than normal Average Pageviews for several days. This let me know that visitors were successfully navigating through our blog as intended and the post helped to create enough interest in checking things out.

Time On Site tells you how long those visitors are sticking around. It is nice if they are clicking around to multiple pages, but not so nice if they are doing so in a matter of 20 seconds and then taking off. Time On Site stats can be tough to swallow, but they are a pretty accurate gauge of whether or not people are actually interested in your blog and your posts. Unless all your visitors are speed readers, the longer your Time On Site figure, the better. One thing that can skew these stats in the opposite direction is if someone visits your blog, then their phone rings and they step away from the computer for a half hour before closing your site. But I have found that on days when I provide long posts - like this one - our Time On Site figures reflect the fact that people actually stuck around and read them. If we were writing really long posts and our Time On Site stats were as low as for the shorter posts, then I'd be concerned.

Bounce Rate is one that confuses everyone. The easiest way I can put it is that it reflects how deep someone delves into your blog before leaving - or, how much they are bouncing around in your blog. One and done visitors will generate a high Bounce Rate. Visitors going beyond just the landing page will keep that Bounce Rate lower. You want a low Bounce Rate generally. If you were promoting a guest appearance you had elsewhere that day, you would want to see a high Bounce Rate. You want your visitors clicking that link in your post over to your guest post on that other blog. When I do photo posts to promote my travel articles for UpTake, I am expecting to see a higher Bounce Rate those days.

New Visits tells you the percentage of your visitors who are stopping by for the first time and which are returning. If you have lots of returning visits that is nice because it means people like you, they really like you! But you want to see new visitors too so you can meet new people and build your blogging community. A high New Visits stat is expected when you are doing a cross post or are featured elsewhere because the intent is to introduce yourself to a new audience so they will come to see what you are all about. The Visitor Loyalty sub-topic on the left side menu will let you learn more specifically about those return visitors and whether they come back all the time or just sporadically, how long they stay, how deep they visit and how long it has been since they last stopped by - kind of like spying on your guests without naming names.

I'll cover the Content section of Google Analytics in the next Blog Tips post, which alternates with our BlogAnon posts on Fridays. If you have tips, thoughts or requests about Google Analytics please share in the Comments. You can also join the discussion in our Bumble Town forum where we will be posting topics to match each Friday's blogging post to provide a place for more involved conversation. Hopefully, you'll find a way to use Google Analytics' information to make your blogging experience an even better one.


Susan said...

I'm kind of afraid to find out what my stats are! It's liable to send me into a spiraling depression over what I'm doing here. And all that technical jargon just makes my brain go "lalalalala". But now I'm curious, so I might try it on for size.

Thank you for the mentions, dear Molly! And I only checked 15 or 20 times....just kidding! ;-)

cindysloveofbooks said...

I have to say that when I first looked at my stats i had no clue what it all meant but since reading this feature on your blog I am slowly learning.

Personally I am not about the numbers as I am blogging for myself LOL

Penny said...

I love that you give tutorials :)
Thanks for all the tips!


ds said...

This is the sort of thing that makes me want to stick my head back in the sand and stay there. But I thank you for your clarity, and willingness to explain all this number stuff. You are most dedicated and generous Bumbles!!

kayerj said...

very informative--I had no idea what the bounce rate was. I'm going to go check it out with this new info in my head. Thanks for the tip.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I love these little is like Google help without the hassle. I think I may have said this before, but I used to check my Analytics every day. Now I might check once a month. It doesn't mean I don't care! Just that I have no time.

Matty said...

I have to admit that I've never had much interest in analytics. Yes, I have it set up and I've looked at maybe twice, but I don't have much interest in what it's telling me. Nonetheless, your articles have helped me understand it better.

Kathleen said...

Thanks for another great post. I would have never signed up or known how to use Google Analytics in the first place if it weren't for your blog. Now I have more information that I can use and ponder. I told myself I didn't care about my stats but if we are blogging and no one is visiting then what is the point. So thanks again!