If you want your blog’s audience to grow, you need to do more than publish great content, network, and build relationships. You also need to keep track of what is and what isn’t working on your blog.
In other words, by analyzing traffic trends and the behavior of the users when they visit your blog, you can create more of the content they want, continually meet their expectations, and build your audience.
Most web analytics tools offer similar types of data for you to track. In fact, when you create a new account with a web analytics tool, you’ll be bombarded with links, tabs, and data overflowing with terminology you may not be familiar with.
Google Analytics is the most comprehensive free web analytics tool. Not only does the Google-owned analytics tool offer tons of data, but it’s also easy to insert the necessary tracking code into your WordPress blog.
The process of adding the necessary code to your WordPress.org blog so a web analytics tool can begin tracking your blog’s traffic and performance is fairly similar from one tool to the next. Typically, you have to create an account, provide some configuration information (such as your blog’s URL), and copy and paste some provided code into your blog.
Google recommends that you paste the tracking code immediately before the </head> tag in the header.php file. Just place your cursor immediately before the </head> tag
and paste the code you copied from your Google Analytics account in that position.
Otherwise, you can use a plugin to integrate Google Analytics into your WordPress.org blog.
Google Analytics Common Terms
Here are some of the most common terms you should be aware of as you start analyzing your blog’s performance statistics:
hit Web analytics tools count a hit to your blog every time a file downloads from your site, including image files, flash files, data files, and more. Hits cause an inflated view of your blog’s popularity and are no longer used as a reliable measure of a site’s traffic patterns.
visit A visit is counted each time your blog is accessed. If a person accesses your blog more than once, two visits are counted.
visitor Anyone who visits your blog at any time is considered a visitor. Visitors can be counted multiple times if they visit your blog more than once.
unique visitor Unique visitors are counted only once, regardless of how many times they visit your blog.
return visitor Visitors who access your blog more than once are called return visitors.
page view Each time a visitor views an individual page on your blog (including blog posts), a page view is counted.
referrers The search engines, websites, blogs, or other online destinations that lead a visitor to your blog via a link to your blog content.
keywords, keyword phrases The word or words visitors typed into their preferred search engines that produced the search results that brought them to your blog.
top pages viewed The pages within your blog that have been viewed the most.
bounce rate The percentage of visitors to your blog who leave immediately after arriving at it.
What’s Working … and What Needs to Change?
It’s important to understand that traffic spikes might appear in your web analytics data. There are many reasons why your blog might suddenly get a burst of traffic, and it’s important to determine what the catalyst was.
Doing so helps you determine if the traffic spike can be replicated (assuming it came from a positive source and reason). For example, if one of your blog posts is linked to from a highly popular website or blog, you might see a huge spike in traffic for a day or more.
You’d be able to identify this by reviewing the top pages viewed and referrers statistics in your web analytics data.
Alternately, if you see a jump in a keyword that doesn’t usually drive significant traffic to your blog and an increase in traffic to a specific post, you may have written a post about a hot topic that became a form of link bait, driving traffic from a variety of sources to your blog.
Just as you want to keep track of surprising changes to your blog’s performance, you should also look for trends that will help you create a better long-term blogging strategy.
For example, if you see specific keywords start to pick up more traffic, older posts staying strong and continuing to perform well into the future, or continual traffic from a specific referrer, shift your attention to those areas and leverage them. Something is clearly working to cause these trends, and those are activities you want to continue doing.
Plugins for Google Analytics
One of the best plugins to easily integrate Google Analytics is the Google Analytics for WordPress plugin by Joost de Valk.