How to use Google Analytics to track your top blog posts

Lori Halley 25 June 2007 13 comments

I’ve been using Google Analytics to track activity on our blog and I’m infatuated with this tool.  I know that at first, it can be intimidating to non-technical people (especially with the plethora of charts, graphs and detailed reports), but once you figure it out, it is actually quite easy to use. In my opinion, the best way to start using Google Analytics is not to try to review and analyze all the reports at once - but find one specific thing to track/measure - and start doing this regularly, at least weekly. In my mind, I ask myself these questions: "What are the practical conclusions from this information? What can be done to improve my target metrics - and how should it be reflected in this report?"

In this article, I’ll show you how to get started with a Google Analytics account and review one particular example - track your blog’s most popular posts. This will help you to:

  • Track your blog’s top posts and find out which ones are read the most
  • Understand what content makes your visitors subscribe to your blog and keeps them coming back

What is Google Analytics and how can it help me improve my site?

Google Analytics is a free service provided by Google that gives you reports on your website traffic (or web user analysis tools aka web analytics). This tool allows you to see what visitors are doing on your website, which pages are most popular, and more.

Getting started

Setting Up Google Analytics:

Go to the Google Analytics page and follow the very easy sign up process to register. If you already have a Google account (for example Gmail mailbox), you can skip this step.

 

 

Once you’re registered, GA will give you a snippet of Javascript code that you insert into the html of your blog/website. GA uses this code to collect information about visitors and track data, such as where site visitors come from, what they do, and whether they complete any conversion goals.

Logging In:

When you log into your Google Analytics, you'll see a summary page known as the Dashboard which gives you an overview of what's going on, where visitors are viewing from, and how they are getting to you.

Content Summary:

The content summary section contains the Top 5 Entrances, Exits and Content. The Entrances are URL’s (webpages) that people are landing on your blog (from search engines, from other sites linking to your site etc.). The Exits are the pages that people leave your site from. The content report lists all the pages by most views. By looking at this data, it will help you to find out what links people are clicking on.

To begin pulling up your top blog posts, click on “Content”, then “Top Content”. If your blog is just a part of your website, you have to filter out all other pages. For example, in my case, I am only interested in pages which  have 'blog/newsblog' in them. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and enter this text. Here’s what the results look like:

Export your data:

Click on Export “CSV” to export the data into a CSV file (which can be opened by Microsoft Excel etc.) Open it in Microsoft Excel. It will probably not make a lot of sense at first, but you can easily delete and rearrange the data to your needs. Here’s what it looks like before you rearrange the data:

Here’s what it looks like after deleting and resorting data:

Now comes the fun part. The nice thing about GA is that you can take the data you want and make it into anything you want. For our blog, I track total visitors, total page views, unique visitors, % exit (all can be easily pulled from GA). But to help me get an even better idea of which content my readers really prefer, I take the time to do a few more calculations on excel.

Specifically, I need to compare apples to apples - views of each blog page in proportion to the time a particular post has been published. For example, let's say I have a Blog post A from January 1st with 500 views and Blog post B from May 1st with 100 views and today is June 1st. It would be incorrect to say that post A is more popular, because it has been out much longer - so it had a much better chance to be indexed by search engines, linked from other sites etc.

Here is how I deal with this challenge:

  • First of all, I need to know the date of each post. Fortunately, on our website the date is embedded in the page URL (and this is the case with many blog programs) and I can easily extract the date with a formula =DATEVALUE(MID(<cell-with-url>,25,10))
  • Now I put today's date into a cell F1 and can use the following formula to calculate the number of days a particular post has been out: =DAYS360(<blog-post-date>, $F$1)
  • Finally, I can calculate Views Per day = Unique Views divided by Days since blog was posted.

Now what I typically do is every couple of weeks I look at top 20 blog posts sorted by Views-per-day and try to figure out the factor behind the popularity of a particular post:

 

For example, the popularity of the first post is explained by the fact that some time ago we have commented on a webpage discussing Web 2.0 logos and provided a link to our post: The birth of Wild Apricot logo

More important conclusion seems to be that our readers prefer how-to /step-by-step posts. So my action is to schedule more of these posts (and we are planning a reader survey shortly dig deeper).

What about your experience on tracking top posts with Google Analytics? And if you have queries about using Google Analytics, feel free to leave a comment and I'll do my best to help you answer them. I do plan to publish some other hands-on examples on using Google Anlaytics.

 

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Monday, 25 June 2007 at 9:00 AM

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Comments

  • Unthinkingly.com» Blog Archive » Who’s linking to our website? New tools.

    Unthinkingly.com» Blog Archive » Who’s linking to our website? New tools. said:

    Monday, 25 June 2007 at 9:13 AM
  • Wild Apricot Blog

    Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Tuesday, 03 July 2007 at 6:14 AM

    Today marks a special day for the Wild Apricot team - it's a one year birthday for our product and our

  • Beth Kanter

    Beth Kanter said:

    Friday, 20 July 2007 at 5:50 PM

    Wow, been so busy writing about this topic myself since last April that I missed this! Nice post

    https://www.wildapricot.com/blogs/newsblog/archive/2007/06/21/how-to-use-google-analytics-to-track-your-top-blog-posts.aspx

  • Beth Kanter

    Beth Kanter said:

    Friday, 20 July 2007 at 5:51 PM

    Your readers might be interested in this screencast about Google Analytics - not sure if you saw it.

    http://beth.typepad.com/beths_blog/2007/06/new-screencast-.html

  • Wild Apricot Blog

    Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Wednesday, 01 August 2007 at 10:21 AM

    The following is a list of some of the currently most popular posts on this blog for June and July 2007

  • Bryan

    Bryan said:

    Saturday, 22 September 2007 at 5:36 PM

    This is very interesting. My organization has been using Google Analytics since we first launched our site, but you've inspired me to do some further digging and analysis of our content. Thanks!

  • Palak Shah

    Palak Shah said:

    Friday, 05 October 2007 at 1:42 PM

    Problem with this method is that pageviews per day is a linear calculation. You can't tell if 700 of the 777 unique views happened on day 1 or if it is 100. something to think about when you do this analysis as i expect the number of visitors is more like a curve. not sure if google analytics can do this though or how.

  • Wind Coder

    Wind Coder said:

    Thursday, 24 July 2008 at 9:55 PM

    Thanks for sharing. I just added Google Analytics tracking code to my blogger template.

  • Wild Apricot Blog

    Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Wednesday, 24 September 2008 at 9:24 AM

    Are the people who are visiting your website really the audience that you're trying to target? The more

  • Wild Apricot Blog

    Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Wednesday, 31 December 2008 at 6:47 AM

    Top 10 Blog Post lists are popping up all over the Internet as another year comes to an end, as nonprofits,

  • Kii

    Kii said:

    Saturday, 24 January 2009 at 10:46 AM

    Feedburner was taken over by google, and Google Analytics are the new way to find info on the blog traffic, only mine isn't working.  I placed the provided snippet into the html, but it doesn't show a lot of the info I had at Feedburner....especially Headline Animator stats.  Will GA provide that? This is a step back for those using HA's, and not a step forward...Feedburner promised to provide user info on the HA's, and now nothing.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Saturday, 24 January 2009 at 3:54 PM

    Kii, your headline animator stats should be under the Analyze tab on your new feedburner.google.com account. If you're seeing a zero count, that may well be a lag from the site transition: many of us found our subscriber counts took a week or so to catch up to normal. If you have questions or concerns about Google Analytics and Feedburner, however, your best bet would be to check in with Google support. A good place to start is http://www.google.com/support/feedburner/.

  • ZK@Web Marketing Blog

    ZK@Web Marketing Blog said:

    Wednesday, 15 July 2009 at 1:46 AM

    Google is still lacking when it comes to actual rss requests from readers unfortunately. It would be awesome to get something that registers actual requests instead of just clicks. Might be impossible though since it’s all xml.

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