As most bloggers know, Google Analytics is a powerful (and free) way to track your blog’s web metrics. Unfortunately, it was designed with AdWords advertisers in mind, so it comes with a lot more information than most bloggers need. Cluttered as it is with campaign and landing page reports, you might be tempted to look no further than the dashboard.
Don’t be daunted! Google Analytics is a veritable goldmine of information about your blog. Here is a list of the reports that you may actually find useful (and where to find them).
1. Referring Sites (under Traffic Sources)
Especially important if your blog is heavy into social media sites like Digg and Reddit, this report shows you where your visitors are coming from.
2. Keywords (under Traffic Sources)
If your blog is blessed with (or engineered for) high rankings on a term, this report will tell you what that term is and just how many visitors it’s producing.
3. Content by Title (under Content)
We all want to know what posts are being read and this report will tell you. It’s worth paying attention to the “Time on Page” and “Bounce Rate” columns, since a short time on page and high bounce rate might indicate a page driving visitors away from your blog. A quick look at this report is also a great way to generate that “Most Popular Posts” list.
4. New vs. Returning (under Visitors)
Everybody wants to know if they’ve got fans, and this report tells you just that. Granted, it doesn’t tell you exactly how many people you have subscribed to your feed. Google’s got Reader, though, and it’s about to buy up Feedburner, so it probably won’t be long before there’s a subscription report, too.
5. Map Overlay (under Visitors)
You’ll probably have to drill down to the country level for it to be useful, but knowing where your readers are in the world can be important information. You may discover that your audience is more international or localized than you would have guessed, allowing you to better target the content and timing of your posts. Are all of your visitors in California? Time your post for 8:00 PST so it’s at the top of their feed readers in the morning.
Perhaps best of all, the new Google Analytics interface allows you to save these reports to your dashboard (using the “Add to Dashboard” button at the top left), so you can still be lazy without losing sight of potentially useful data.