I've been writing a series on blogging tips lately. These include How to Write an Amazing Blog Post, How to Promote Your Blog using Facebook, and How to Increase Your Blog Traffic Using Twitter. This one might be more... divisive. It's about statistics, and how they can help you with your blog.
When I first started blogging, the advice I got from most people was: don't look at your stats. Don't read the stats. Don't worry about the stats. Stats are meaningless.
I'm a bit of a geek, though; I like stats. I like graphs and analysing data and knowing what's going on. So I would carry on checking the stats on my blog, feeling like I was breaking the rules somehow.
Then I spoke to Mark, who blogs at Best Dad I Can Be (and has written a rather funny book). He was the first person to say to me that, if you want your blog to do well, you need to pay attention to the stats.
If you're just blogging for fun, and you're not at all interested in how to get more readers or followers or improve your Tots 100 ranking or your Klout score or whatever else, then fine. Stop reading this post. It's not for you.
If you are interested in how statistics can help you, read on.
- Install Google Analytics on your blog. You can use it to see useful things like how many unique visitors you have each day/week/month. You can compare this week with last week, and see loads of other things besides.
- Look at how people are finding you. Which websites are your main sources of traffic? What words to people search on Google to get to your blog?
- Use your stats to see whether the links you post on Facebook or Twitter are bringing you any more traffic. Did that linky post you linked up with on a whim the other day actually bring you more traffic than all that Tweeting?
- Use Google Analytics to see your traffic sources, and which sites have the highest percentage of new visitors. It's important here to take note of the average time spent on the blog though; quite often you'll get a high percentage of new visitors from sites like Stumbleupon, but the nature of the site means that people may only spend a few seconds there.
- Which are your most popular posts? Look at what's different about these, and why they might be more popular - do they have more useful information, more personal content, more controversial arguments?
- If you have a Facebook page, look at the Insights at the top of the page to see which posts had the most interaction. Do posts made at a particular time of day get more interaction? Is it photos? Links to other pages? Random "I am picking my nose" TMI posts? Try and use this information to better time when and how you posts links to your blog.
- You can use sites like bit.ly to shorten your links - but they will also count how many times that link is clicked on. This can be useful if, for example, you use these links for specific posts only (at a certain time of day or in a certain place) - you can track exactly how much effect these actions are having.
- I find it useful to keep my own spreadsheet of how many unique visitors I have, and the average visit duration each month. This can show you at a glance whether what you're doing to promote your blog is paying off.
- I also keep track of the number of visitors my blog has had in the last rolling month. As a rule you want this number to go up, or at least stay the same - if it starts to go down then you know you need to have a look at where you are losing readers.
So there is my list of ways you can use statistics to help with your blogging. Do you agree with these? Do you have any to add? Please do share your thoughts in the comments.