Warning: This will be a very lengthy, text-focused (aka technical blahblah) blog post, but in order to explain Google Analytics and what it does (and doesn’t do) some longer explanations are needed to make sure everyone is on the same page. Please bear (or is it ‘bare’?) with me ♥
Yesterday afternoon my friend Tsunimee aka Liloo from Le Petit Jardin de Liloo referred a few lovely twitteristas to me to help them install Google Analytics and while I wasn’t being the greatest help as I was out and about spending time with my parents and my brother and his wife, I thought it’d be useful for other bloggers to understand how to install Google Analytics. But not just that, I’ll also try and explain how it works, what it does, why it can be useful for bloggers, where its limitations are, etc. So let’s get started!
Google Analytics (GA) is a free service provided by Google that tracks your blog’s traffic. Anyone with a website and access to the template/design code (most people have access to that, including those who use Blogger/Blogspot and WordPress) can use it. If you already have a Gmail account you can sign up for it to here
GA can tell you multiple things. But basically for most things the one thing counts: The higher the better. Except for one exception, which I will explain in a minute.
#1: GA can tell you how many people come and visit your blog – they are called “visits“. This includes visits by returning as well as new readers. This is – as far as I know – tracked by each person’s IP address (as soon as you dial into the internet, your internet service provide gives your computer a unique address which is called IP). So if someone were to access your website through their mobile (without using your Wifi) and through their computer, this would be counted as two visitors. If they were to use the same internet access (the mobile uses the home wifi) then it would be only counted as one (I hope this makes sense). Same if the same person returns to your website multiple times the same day – it’s only counted as one. So visitors is a really good stat to know.
#2: Unique visitors basically counts every visitor only once per IP. Sometimes the difference between these numbers is minor, depending on your audience. But the key is that if someone returns twice to your blog on the same IP address, its counted twice into the visits but only once into the unique visitors.
#3: GA can also tell you how many pages are viewed – basically any page a returning or new visitor views. So if one visitor reads multiple blog posts then that counts into your pageviews. If I were to read 3 blog posts of one blog, I would cause their pageview count to go up by 3. Often this also goes by “impressions” (note: some people call “unique visitors” “impressions” as well — best to ask in that case)
#5 & #6: Pages/Visits just basically tells you how many pages each visitor reads per visit. Same with Avg. Time on Site – it just gives you average time a reader spends on your website (this can be because they read a lot or maybe because your website might take a while to load)
#7: Bounce Rate tells you basically how many of your visitors leave after seeing just one post. This one you want to be as low as possible because obviously you don’t want people to leave your website as quickly as they arrive.
#8: New Visits is hopefully self explanatory.
#9: There are also options to view demographic information about your visitors (useful to know where they are from – it’s always good to know something about your readers to gauge what they might be interested in), what operating systems they use (helps with coding your website to ensure people that use different operating systems and web browsers can experience the same website), etc
#10: There’s also information on traffic sources – this is REALLY useful information. It tells you how people come to your website, whether that’s through a search on a search engine (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc) , or through a link on another website (like Facebook, Twitter, another blog, etc)
You can also display information for different time periods – you can look at just the past month, or the past 30 days, or the past 90 days, or whatever.
Installing the GA code isn’t too difficult, but it does require a bit of attention to detail. I hope these simple steps will help you!
You need to sign up to GA through this link.
You need to create a new GA account in Account Admin, add your blog’s address, and accept the T&Cs.
You will then get a code displayed by GA [similar to this one below], that you need to highlight and copy. This code is unique to you, no one else will have this code so it’s important you don’t modify this.
|do not copy this code – it is unique to my blog and will not work on yours!!|
You need to go to Blogger/Blogspot (or to your WordPress code – please note: I’m not very good with helping on WordPress matters so I’d like to refer to my geek twin Faye Marie who is a pro at all matters WordPress), then click on “Design” and then onto “Edit HTML”.
Press the Ctrl and F keys on your keyboard together and type in “” (without the ” before the < and the " after the > !!!), which will take you to the bottom of all the things that will always be displayed on whatever page you are on within your blog, which is a requirement for the code working correctly.
Once you’ve located the line with ““, click right in front of it so that the cursor flashes there and hit your backspace key to create a new blank line and to move this “” one line down.
Into this new line, that is right above the “” you will now paste the code you have just copied from Google Analytics (the one that was automatically displayed when you added your blog’s address and accepted the T&Cs).
Once you’ve inserted that GA code, click on “Save Template” below the text field (do not be worried, if you follow the steps above, you will NOT break your blog) and your GA code is up and running (it will take a while for GA to recognise that it’s there and running, but it will start counting traffic as soon as it does).
As soon as GA recognises your code as working (which shouldn’t take too long), you can see your data coming in via google.com/analytics. Obviously, to really see a trend, it might take about 30 days to really see a development. I always display the data for the past 30 days to see where my blog’s ups and downs were etc.
Most PR companies are all about “unique visitors”. They might call it “unique visitors score” or something along those lines (“visitors per month”, “absolute visitors per month”, etc) – so if they ask for it, set your GA to display the data for the past 30 days and GA will tell you how many unique visitors you had in that time period. That’s what they want to know. There are other meters like SiteMeter who track unique visitors, but because of the sharing capabilities of GA (and its reputation – even though it’s questionable [I will explain in a minute]) PR companies like to just rely on GA stats. While GA isn’t the only service that can give you an idea of unique visitors, most PRs just rely on this so if you want to work with them more closely, you won’t get around GA. But when I’m asked, I always make sure that I explain the shortcomings as well – nothing wrong with a bit of education, right? haha
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. And here it might get a bit confusing, but this big issue applies to all GA users. Right, deep breath. Let’s try and explain the issue:
Say you run your blog via Blogger/Blogspot – you automatically have a .blogspot.com (or .wordpress.com) address (like me, it’s msdriftedsw.blogspot.com). If you set up your GA code for this address, it will track the traffic that has that address in it some how. Fantastic. But say you also have a .com or a .co.uk domain for your blog, like me (missdriftedsnowwhite.com). My blog is accessible via both addresses. I for example have set up my GA code to track my .com traffic. If someone reaches my blog by typing in my .blogspot.com address and anything with it, GA doesn’t track the traffic properly. Unfortunately the only solution is setting up 2 GA codes and paste both into before “” – there’s no way of joining this traffic up. Some bloggers only decide to get a domain at a later time when their blog is already established under the old address, some people will continue to access the website typing in the old address (London Lipgloss for example got relatively recently a .com domain as far as I know, but I didnt know until recently and always accessed her blog via her .blogspot.com address because that’s what I knew it under). For those who monitize their blog, this can cause major issues when their ads payout are based on their traffic etc. It’s a right hassle.
Here’s what I mean (I probably shouldn’t be sharing these stats, but what the heck). Seeeee the issue?! Heck knows how this difference can be so dramatic but God knows what else would vary between these two stat meters alone!!
Blogger Stats (left) and Google Analytics (right)
for the same time period (13th Feb to 13th March)
notice how the pageviews differs MASSIVELY?!
It definitely can’t hurt. Most bloggers run multiple stats counters – Additionally to GA, I use the stats that Blogger itself provides under the Stats-tab (unfortunately it doesn’t display information like unique visitors, visits, etc – its only really good for pageviews, traffic sources and demographic information), and I also use SiteMeter. They all use slightly different technology to track traffic on your website, none of them are 100% accurate and each have their drawbacks, but together they can give you a more holistic overview of your actual traffic – you will most likely also see that GA isn’t 100% accurate (just look at the picture above!!).
I hope you will find this post helpful. I know this can be really confusing and I sometimes forget how confusing it was for me when I started web developing. Always remember, you are not stupid or thick for not understanding this stuff! This is really complicated technical stuff that even I barely understand – I only understand enough to explain it to you because I have been living a geek life since I was 14 teaching myself web design and HTML and all that jazz! But I am glad that I might be able to save other people some of those extreme headaches and frustrations that I faced when I learnt all of this crap haha.