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September 20, 2012

Tips on Thursday: Analytics

Sea Wolf, the first video game to use the term...
Sea Wolf, the first video game to use the term "high score". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A fellow blogger mention the other day that looking at their blog's stats is kind of like trying to make high score on a video game. I mentioned in my post about user engagement that we really shouldn't worry too much about the number of visitors, page views, etc and worry more about how much we interact with our followers. I still maintain that, but I also know we all can't help but peek at our numbers and set goals we hope to meet in terms of followers, visitors, page views. There are a number of analytic programs that will help you determine your blog's stats. Each offers its own set of metrics and you will find when comparing them the numbers don't often add up. So here's a brief overview of the programs I use and how best to use them to make informed decisions about your blog.

Blogger Stats

I use Blogger as my blogging platform. They declare their stats are the most accurate. I do not get great depth with their analytic tool, but it offers some insight and it is easy to read. My daily page view counter starts at 8 pm ET, which would be midnight GMT. I can choose to track my page views or not. Obviously, if I want truly accurate data I don't track my views. I can see number of page views since 8 pm the night before, for the past 30 days, and all time. I can also track referring links, which pages viewed, search terms and country of visitor in the last 2 hours, past 24 hours, past 30 days, and all time. According to Blogger, I have decent numbers. Between 8 pm Tuesday and 8 pm Wednesday, I had 748 page views.

Some drawbacks - lack of details. I don't know how many of those page views were made by unique visitors. Perhaps 1 person visited 748 posts/pages on my blog (I don't think I have that many so that isn't really a possibility, but you get the idea). Also it could be taking into consideration bots that crawl my blog. Since Blogger is owned by Google and Google runs most of the bots that they could eliminate bots in the count, but I don't think they do.


Google Analytics

This program provides a lot of data about your visitors. You must install a bit of HTML code into your template for it to track visitors. I just checked my data and the numbers were pretty low - 586 visitors in the past 30 days (the previous 30 days had 2,752 visitors). I changed the template for my blog in the past 30 days and I did not re-add the code (just did it). You can find out a whole bunch about your visitors - how they found your blog (including social media), where they are located (city, state, country), where they went after coming to the first link. It also gives you your bounce rate (the number of visitors that come to your blog and leave after viewing one page). For bloggers it is common to have a high bounce rate since most visitors are coming for the new post.

Some drawbacks - I have not found a way not to track my visits. And the sheer amount of data can be overwhelming. Google Analytics uses a script which means that it can malfunction. If a script on another page stops working and the person has stopped it, then the script on your blog may not work. Some adblocking software prevents the script from working, so your numbers could be lower. Also it does not track mobile visitors.

For tracking trends, Google Analytics is great.

StatCounter

I really like StatCounter.com. I don't think you can use it on Wordpress blogs though (my Wordpress friends highly recommend JetPack). I have the free version so I don't get as long of a period of data, usually can only see 7 days. According to Statcounter.com, I've had 781page loads, 592 unique visitors, 466 first time visitors, 126 returning visitors in the last 7 days. You can block your own visits by adding a blocking cookie. I like their search term data and Country/City/State/ISP date. When the guy from Fox Entertainment contacted me, I was apply to verify that a Fox Entertainment server had connected to my blog. I like how I can track a visitor's path, including how much time they spent on my blog.

Some drawbacks - because I have the free account I don't have access to longterm data, which can make it difficult to see trends. I'm not sure if it is tracking mobile visitors, either.

Alexa Rank

I've started to pay attention to my Alexa Rank because it is fun (that high score mentality I mentioned earlier). Your blog is being ranked with ALL websites on the internet - meaning you are competing with Google, Youtube, Wikipedia, etc. I find the little blurb about your site interesting. This is what mine says today:

There are 891,243 sites with a better three-month global Alexa traffic rank than Girl-who-reads.com. About 49% of visits to the site consist of only one pageview (i.e., are bounces). We estimate that 54% of visitors to the site come from the UK, where it has attained a traffic rank of 53,647. It is located in the US, and visitors to Girl-who-reads.com view 1.5 unique pages each day on average
Interestingly, it's the only site that gives such a high number of UK visitors. Sometimes I will rank high for a particular city (typically Atlanta). The rank is updated daily. I like that I can see sites that have linked to my blog.

Take Away Message:

Analytics can give you great information about your blog. Is there a certain day that gets more visits than others? Where does most of your traffic come from? Where do visitors go after they land on your blog?

Don't get hung up on the actual numbers, but look more for trends.


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2 comments:

  1. Thanks for this great breakdown! I was getting really confused because my Blogger stats and my Google Analytics are so different. I find that frustrating because I don't know which is more accurate.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I use StatCounter on WP. It works as far as I know...

    ReplyDelete

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