Thursday, March 5, 2009

Google Analytics: What it is and how to use it

For the record: I am still shunning Wyoming. Wyoming, you know why. I've got my eye on you...

But aside from That State I Am Shunning Which Is Being Replaced With France (bonjour!), a couple of you asked how to use Google Analytics. I've had so much fun with it, that I thought I'd share.

  1. Go to Google Analytics and create an account.
  2. Follow their step-by-step guide to get your blog/website/etc. into their program. This will require a few cumbersome steps, so set aside some time to do this. I also recommend their help pages--easy to understand if you get yourself in a corner. [Look, I'm kind of a do it as you go, who needs an instructional manual anyway? kind of girl. But if you'd like more of a step-by-step guide, then check here.]
  3. It'll take about a day for everything to start being processed correctly. Be patient.
  4. Once your site is being tracked properly by GA, on the front page you will find several kinds of information.
So, you've set up an account, and it's working properly. Click on "View Report" after you log in. Here's what you're looking for:
  1. The line graph on the top. This shows your blog traffic for any given day. It can help you see which day's post is the most popular...and once you know what your reader wants, you're better prepared to provide them with it.
  2. Under the chart: Site Usage. I don't like numbers and ignore that part
  3. Under that: Visitor Overview. That will tell you how many people have actually visited your blog (as opposed to Pageviews, which tells you how many times your page has been loaded. I could load my page 10 times, and that's 1 Visit and 10 Pageviews...Visitor Overview gives you an accurate idea of the number of visitors). If you click on the "Visitor Overview" link, you can see a graph with the info on it--you want to see "Absolute Unique Visitors" for your visitor count. I use this in my query letter. I have very very little by way of bio, and so I added a line in the bio section along the lines of "I also run a blog for writers about MG and YA literature that has recieved nearly a thousand visitors."
  4. Underneath that: Map Overlay. I just find it fun. Click on the map and you can see where people who visit your site are from. For example, someone in Uganda once clicked on my site. Wow.
  5. I also click on the nagation bar on the left and look at new vs. returning visitors, just to get a sense of it, and sometimes traffic source (i.e. referring sites vs. direct sites).
  6. Content Overview tells you which posts of yours have been the most popular.
  7. On the navigation bar, under traffic sources, I will sometimes check the referring sites--just to get an idea of who's linked me (so I can share the linky love).
So...what have you used Google Analytics for?
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