analyzing your blog’s statistics

by grechen on May 10, 2010 | RSS | FOLLOW ON TWITTER | FACEBOOK |

When you look at your blog’s stats, what do you look for? What do you consider most important? (please don’t say hits ;) )

When I first started out, I only cared about visitors and page impressions. To be fair, when I first started out, I don’t think anyone was really measuring bounce rate, or was even talking about it, but now, it’s one of, if not THE most important statistics I look at when I check my stats on Google Analytics. From Google:

Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page. Use this metric to measure visit quality – a high bounce rate generally indicates that site entrance pages aren’t relevant to your visitors.

I’m not sure what a “good” bounce rate is, but my impression is that 60% or less is optimal. You could have a very high bounce rate if most of your visitors are coming from search engines (they find what they want – or don’t – and leave very quickly), your site is overly focused on SEO and not quality content, or is poorly designed overall and visitors can’t find what they’re looking for. It also indicates that your marketing may be ineffective; you’re promising things to potential visitors that you don’t deliver.

To give you some context and for examples’ sake, I’ve taken important statistics from all of my websites (I use google analytics) and shared them below. I highlighted the “best” numbers in each category so you can see that my “best” performing sites in terms of visitor engagement are the second (grechenscodes.com) and fourth (free!grechen):

Overall, I’m very pleased with the bounce rate on all my sites except this one ;) (it’s the last in the spreadsheet). This is still a new project for me, so it’s not something I’m very concerned about right now, but over time, I’d like it to decrease.

And although I did include page views in there, I don’t consider that a very important statistic. Yes, over time, you do want to have your overall page views increase (that means more people are visiting your site), but an over-reliance on page views (impressions) when speaking to advertisers is what has led to the annoying trend lately of sites dividing up stories into 5 pages or doing more slideshows so you have to click through from page to page to get the content you’re looking for. Yes, this increases page views and impressions for advertisers, but if I have to do that all the time, I stop visiting that blog. To me it indicates that they care more about their advertisers than their visitors or their content…

Overall page views ARE important when figuring out how many pages each visitor looks at. Ideally, you’d like a visitor to browse through your site, not just leave after reading one article. That means your site is relevant, and “sticky,” which indicates that first time visitors are more likely to return. That’s also where time on site is important.

Something else that I didn’t really understand how important it was until I read this article at Daily Patricia, is new visits. In the spreadsheet above, I show you what percentage of my visitors are new (first time). By subtracting that from 100, I can then see what percentage of my visitors are actually my AUDIENCE – as Patricia says. This is very powerful! Your audience is actually the percentage of your visitors who consider you a resource, an expert, and are, or CAN be loyal to you if you continue producing relevant content. Since I rely on my sites to produce income, my audience numbers are of paramount importance – only when visitors see me as a trustworthy and “expert” resource will they continue to buy through my affiliate partners and from my advertisers. One-time visitors who come via search engines are also important, but over time, I see my success in terms of my regular-audience and the impact I’m able to have on their online shopping habits and the relationships I have with them.

Finally, direct visits are VERY telling – they indicate what percentage of your visitors are typing your url into their browser or visiting from a bookmark. Think about how much of an effort it takes to do that as opposed to just getting your content via RSS, or clicking through from a social media resource. This stat, if it’s relatively high, tells you that your visitors are loyal enough and consider your site important enough to REMEMBER the url. How many urls do you remember off hand? Only the really important ones I’m guessing…

This has been a great exercise for me, which is why I wanted to share it with you. I usually just briefly glance at my stats in analytics (I also look at my site’s cpanel stats, and use blogstats on wordpress) and move on, but this has forced me to take the important statistics and analyze them TOGETHER to get a better idea of where I might be able to improve the levels of visitor engagement and loyalty on my sites. While I do think that content is the MOST IMPORTANT thing to focus on as a blogger, it’s important for you to know if your content is resonating – and the only way to do that is to analyze your stats periodically.

Do you use Google Analytics? Do you analyze your statistics regularly? What do your stats say about your site(s)?

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Tracey May 10, 2010 at 12:35 pm

I love my analytics. Probably a bit addicted really. But there is some really valuable information available in there. I found a new section of google analytics called “Benchmarks”. It shows up when you go into your visitor stats and provides information on how you perform vs an average of other sites. I found it particularly helpful with the “Bounce rate”. I agree completely that you need to monitor your new visitors and their bounce rate. I expect my regular readers will be more likely to pop over to check out the latest post and perhaps leave. You can look at just your new visitor stats to see their bounce rate. This is helpful. Also helpful to see how long, and where your return visitors are coming from.

I’m in my early days of the fashionforward40 blog. So I mostly try to look at overall trending. And not get too caught in day-to-day performance. I also like to see which of my posts resonated with people, as while I enjoy writing for myself. I’d rather write stuff people enjoy than not.

I have 2 wishes for google analytics.
- easier to find links people clicked on… and if that was their exit page
- RSS feeds… wish it (or any other service) could assess my RSS feed numbers. I obviously know if someone came to my sight. But I hope that many folks have also signed up for an RSS feed and are reading me regularly.
.-= Tracey´s last blog ..Wordless “ish” Friday =-.

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grechen May 10, 2010 at 1:44 pm

thanks for your comment tracey (and i love your blog btw! it’s nice to know there are more mid-30-something and up fashion bloggers out there besides myself and a few others!)

i’ll admit, i don’t play around very much with google analytics – i know i don’t use it to its full potential. the benchmarks section sounds very interesting – and i do agree with you about google making it easier to find links that people clicked on; that’s one thing that the wordpress stats is very good for. another reason why i use a couple of different reporting mechanisms to get a better “feel” for my stats…

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Tracey May 10, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Thanks for the kind words about the blog. Interestingly I’m finding much of my audience isn’t necessarily over 40. It is nice that my foibles in getting old are appreciated by a wider audience.
.-= Tracey´s last blog ..Wordless “ish” Friday =-.

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Kid Couture May 10, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Hey Gretchen! First time visitor to any of your sites…great article here! I read through my g-analytics daily but I have very little context for understanding what any of it means other than the very basic stuff.

Thanks for posting this, I’ll def be back for more!

@kidcouture
.-= Kid Couture´s last blog ..Links a La Mode =-.

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eva May 10, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Gretchen – thank you for your insight into Google Analytics. I am currently tied down to wordpress which runs its own abbreviated version – but I will be starting another project on Blogger – where I will get to use the full version. I bookmarked this entry so I can reference with ease.

thanks

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jennine May 10, 2010 at 5:28 pm

thanks for this.. i had a hard time with bounce rate. with bloggers i think it’s harder because of the scrolling factor. most people don’t comment, a lot come by and scroll down, many visit from readers.

also, i’m wondering do rss readers count as your audience?
.-= jennine´s last blog ..Denim Style: Cuffington =-.

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grechen May 10, 2010 at 5:41 pm

that’s a really good question about RSS readers…yes, i do think they count as your audience to a certain extent – because they did opt-in to receive your posts via RSS, and theoretically, they READ them, but there’s no way to tell for sure, or no way to count them unless they click through.

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holier than now May 10, 2010 at 7:37 pm

just came to this from jennine’s tweet -she is always reading the most interesting stuff.

i have to be honest that i usually ignore my bounce rate, as long as i see a good proportion of people going to my “about” and “in the press” page. The point of my site is the home page, so I don’t really care if people come, look, scamper away…!I would care if I didn’t see a segment of people really interested in learning more about me.

I think the more familiar you get with analytics and your site goals, the easier it becomes to pick and choose what really matters for your site specifically and set your goals accordingly.

Anyway, planning on sharing your piece, very insightful.

XO Holier

Holier than Now

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grechen May 10, 2010 at 8:09 pm

thanks so much for your comment. i like your point at the end that the more familiar you get with analytics and your own goals, the easier it is to see what really matters for your site – it’s so true! but just to be contentious ;) – you DO care about bounce rate, because you want people to be interested enough in you to click on about and press page and not scamper away – if your bounce rate is very high, they’re not clicking. your home page and entries are important in and of themselves, BUT they also serve as gateways to the rest of your site (more about you and your services)….

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liz May 10, 2010 at 7:46 pm

I don’t find bounce rate to be too telling, because if my readership is only coming to my main page, that’s fine, they’re coming to read my newest posts, they aren’t going to scroll through. When I’m not lazy, I use google analytics to try to pin-point what works on my blog, what time of day people are reading, what posts are most relevant to them, where they’re coming from (if it’s not direct) etc. I try not to focus on my overall daily hits but we all know we like to see that number go up : )

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grechen May 10, 2010 at 8:01 pm

thanks so much for your comment liz! that is true (about bounce rate) and while it may be okay for blogs with lots of recent posts on the home page, if a visitor is “bouncing” they’re also not leaving a comment (not that everyone will necessarily want to leave a comment) or finding anything else interesting to click on. and yes, if you have lots of return visitors, they’re probably just checking out the latest posts, they may have seen everything else, so your bounce rate may be higher. but i still find bounce rate to be important as an indicator of engagement and stickiness. the lower, the better :)

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liz May 11, 2010 at 12:33 am

Rereading, that’s true, bounce rate is more important then I am giving it credit. I guess mixed with unique v. return visitors, and taking all factors into account, it gives for a very good overview of how your blog is doing. Good post, I don’t think most people actually analyze what they’re seeing on their screens.
.-= liz´s last blog ..Acrobats of God =-.

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Sandra at DebutanteClothing May 11, 2010 at 1:48 am

Another great article Grechen! I do agree a bit with Liz on the bounce rate being higher on a blog because of new posts. I did notice however, after Google’s last algorithm update, my bounce rate was much lower (not nearly as low as yours) and time on site was longer. So it seems Google is placing some importance on this statistic as well.

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Kelsi May 11, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Great article.

I had noticed the new break a story trend…or even just having one post per page and had wondered if it had anything to do with desiring an increase in pageviews. It just seems so transparent though, why would anyone want to artificially increase their pageviews, and it’s a pain to read too!

I do worry about having a high bounce rate, though reading this has made me feel better as it’s not as high as I thought it was.

Thanks for this Grechen!
.-= Kelsi´s last blog ..Spotted: Denim Dresses Done Right =-.

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Ashling May 12, 2010 at 11:06 am

I used to be obsessed by Analytics when I first started my blog but less so now, I only check it every now and then. For some reason my bounce rate is always 0% – this couldn’t be correct?
.-= Ashling´s last blog ..Bag Charms =-.

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grechen May 12, 2010 at 11:09 am

i don’t know how it could be 0% – although when i saw my 2.something% bounce rate, that didn’t seem to make sense either…i can’t explain it. that would mean no one ever leaves your blog :)

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Ashling May 12, 2010 at 11:11 am

I didn’t realise it was so good that no one would ever leave!! :-)
Must email Google to see why that statistic alone never changes…
Great posts by the way! x
.-= Ashling´s last blog ..Bag Charms =-.

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TAS July 8, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Thank you for the information – I love the layout of the two highlighted websites (they have great Alexa rankings!). My website has a main page only and I’ve been using google analytics. Short of looking at the hits from day to day, and comparing them to the day you wrote the post, Is there is a way to set it up so you can see which post in particular gets the highest hits?

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diya July 16, 2010 at 2:46 pm

I’m going to have to sit down and talk to you about this whole SEO & website stats stuff, grechen… because I don’t really get it all. Ugh! Can we talk about this at the next luncheon please?

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grechen July 17, 2010 at 3:03 pm

absolutely!! we’ll have to remember to bring it up….

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