Analytics may seem a bit frightening, but with a bit of instruction, anyone can do it!

If you want a shot at monetizing your efforts, you really have no choice but to dig into your analytics. Without a basic understanding of the traffic to your site, you cannot properly market your services. Nor can you truly serve your audience.

In my last post, What an Agency Wants in a Blogger, I stated that the “most reliable analytics systems utilize a javascript tag which is embedded on all your blog pages.” These programs include Google Analytics, Get Clicky, and Stat Counter, among others. In the advertising world, Google Analytics is the hands-down leader. Stat Counter has applied slight differences to their definitions, causing confusion and, in my opinion, “incorrect” data. GetClicky is acceptable, but Google Analytics offers a lot more functionality in reporting and never cuts off features based on the end of a “trial period”.

Blogger Stats, by the way? Is truly bad data (based on my own personal analysis and 30-day tracking). Despite having the same parent company as Google Analytics, the Blogger Stats methodology is vastly different. Numbers are skewed by spam bots and various other issues. It may be tempting to quote higher Blogger Stats numbers to potential sponsors, but you are doing them – and yourself – a disservice by not reporting a correct picture of your blog traffic.

Please note: For the rest of this post, I am discussing definitions and functionality of Google Analytics.

I have a blog. How do I start with analytics?

When you set up your first Google Analytics account, you will get step-by-step instructions for pasting the tracking code on your site. For blogs, it is easiest to paste this code on the sidebar. Since the sidebar appears on every page of your blog, you don’t have to worry about missing a page. I simply opened a new gadget in the design function of Blogger, pasted the Google Analytics HTML code, and clicked save. Easy! If you don’t have a sidebar option (or similar), you will need a bit more advanced HTML knowledge to paste the tracking code on every single page you want tracked. Google Analytics has a one-day time lag. You will start seeing data within 24 hours.

Useful Tip: Make sure to filter out your own IP address so you do not report your own visits to your blog. Instructions here.

I’ve got data! What numbers are most important?

Once you get into an analytics dashboard, it can be overwhelming. As long as you are not managing web analytics for a major website, you can ignore many of the features. Above all, potential sponsors will want to know your Monthly Unique Visitors and Monthly PageViews:

Unique Visitors

– Usually defined as the number of people (computers) accessing your site in the selected timeframe. If a visitor comes to the site via their home computer on the 1st of the month, again on the 3rd, and again on the 12th, they will still count as ONE unique visitor. The exception to this rule, however, is if the user deletes their cookies sometime within that time period. The computer’s cookie is what indicates if the user has visited the site previously:

Unique-Visitors

Useful Tip: Unique visitors can never be added. You cannot track each unique visitor count daily then add them up to get a monthly number. Your analytics system will calculate “uniques” for the exact time period you selected in your report. (Example: Day 1 = 10, Day 2 = 15, Day 3 = 10. The total unique for days 1-3 may not be 35, because someone may have visited your site on more than one day. To find uniques for the total 3-day period, you have to select that full time period in your analytics reporting.)

Pageviews

– The total number of pages viewed on your site in the selected report timeframe. Unlike unique visitors, pageviews can be added because they are always counted individually:

blog-PageViews

Useful Tip: The ratio of PageViews to Unique Visitors is a good measure of your reader’s engagement. If your blog has 2,500 pageviews and 500 unique visitors in a month, then your average “pages per person” = 5. The higher your pages per person, the more engaged and interested they are in your content.

Does thinking about your stats make your head spin? What analytics program(s) do you use?

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Julie (a.k.a. BalancingMama) is a Google Analytics-certified advertising and media research professional in Atlanta, GA. Her experience includes many years of advertising agency work for consumer and B2B accounts and management of the Research & Insights team at one of the top 15 largest U.S. websites. She also blogs about life as Mom to an adventurous little princess at 3MomsIn1.com. Follower her on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

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