We talk about blogging a lot on this blog (see), and with very good reason. A well managed blog can bring many benefits, from attracting new visitors to a website, through to helping those visitors convert. There’s also the less tangible but equally valuable benefits such as aiding social reach and building brand authority, which all have a positive effect on wider marketing activities.

It goes without saying that such benefits can not be realised without one key ingredient; really good content. But content is just the start of it. To maximise blogging performance, one must take time to understand what’s going on behind the scenes and apply learnings to future efforts. Test. Analyse. Repeat.

Below are three questions you should be asking about your blog’s performance on a regular basis, and some tips on how to find the answers you need using Google Analytics.

What posts are performing best?

The first and most logical step here would be to fire up the All Pages report, pull in all blog pages by using the search box (or by using an advanced segment), and make assessments based on which posts appears at the top of the list, i.e. which pages have the most visits. Like so:

All Pages report

All Pages report

While this is very useful information, numbers only tell part of the story. To see which posts attract the best engagement, try hitting Avg. Time on Page, which will order all pages by the average time users spend on that page. Like so:

Avg Time on Page

All Pages report ordered by Avg Time on Page

This is arguably the best indicator of post popularity, as a high session duration indicates people are interested in the content on that page. Bear in mind however that session duration is likely to reflect the depth of content – 2,000 words will take longer to digest than 200 words, for example – so a lesser time could simply be a result of a lower word count.

So, generally speaking, higher session duration equals better engaged visitors, but really you’re looking for a session duration that you feel meets or exceeds the time you think it should take a visitor to consume all of the content on a page. Anything less, and they’re likely losing interest before they finish reading.

If your intention is to increase the time people spend on your blog pages, you might consider setting up a Duration goal to make analysis a bit easier.

How are visitors arriving on my blog?

There are a number of factors that can affect how many visits a blog post receives, from its performance in organic search results, to where links to that page are being shared across the web, and by whom.

By digging into the source of your historic blog traffic, you can make more informed decisions around where to apply efforts regarding the promotion of your future content.

Whether you wish to analyse traffic sources to the entire blog, a group of pages, or just one page, the best way to do it is with Advanced Segments. As shown below, to do this navigate to the Advanced Segments menu, select Acquisition, and then Source / Medium.

Via https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/6099206?hl=en

Via https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/6099206?hl=en

For the purpose of this article, I’m going to look at a particular page that has in the past received visits from a variety of different sources (because it would be a bit boring if I chose a page that hadn’t).

There are a few interesting things to note about the data in the following screen grab:

  1. There are visits from several different referral sources, which suggests the page has been shared on a number of different external sites – sweet links, nice!
  2. Visits from one referral source in particular (no. 2 in list, highlighted) has a much higher session duration than all other sources, which might suggest visitors from this site found the content more interesting than others – useful for future outreach targeting.
  3. Direct visits account for the majority of visits to this page, which could suggest people have saved a link to the page (via a bookmark maybe) and returned to it at a later date.
Advanced Segment: Source / Medium

Secondary dimension: Source / Medium

Below is a different example, showing a page that has received the majority of its visits via Organic search:

Secondary dimension: Medium

Secondary dimension: Medium

You’ll see here I have selected Medium, rather than Source / Medium as my Secondary dimension, as in this instance I wanted to see the number of all organic sources combined.

Because organic is the main driver of visits to this page, it suggests the page is ranking pretty well in search results for terms relating to the post. To find out more about the specific terms driving these visits, I’d be inclined to head over to Google Search Console and fire up the Search Analytics report. Examples such as this highlight the benefits that blogging can bring from an SEO point of view – something that is often overlooked.

Where in the world are my visitors?

Working out where your visitors are geographically can be super useful for informing future content. For instance, if you’re talking about pounds and pennies but most of your visitors work in dollars, then you might want to reconsider your messaging.

There are a couple of ways to pull location data from Google Analytics, the most insightful of which is the Location report, nested under Audience, Geo.

Location report

Location report

In order to make use of this report you’ll need to set up a segment that only includes visits to your blog pages. To find out how to do this check out this post.

The other option is to revisit our old friend, Mr. Secondary Dimension, from the All Pages report: this time though we’re going to set our Secondary dimension as either Country or Region, depending on how granular you want to go.

Here you can see Region data for our most viewed blog post:

Secondary dimension: Region

Secondary dimension: Region

While the California folk viewed this page most, it’s the ones from Ohio who stuck around the longest. Why is this useful? Well, by collecting and analysing such information, you can use it to help inform future content as well as other marketing activities like PPC.

While one post alone won’t provide any answers, looking at all posts over a long period of time might just bear some interesting results.

Above all, with relation to all of the advice above, you’re looking for trends; what works, what doesn’t, and what can be learned in order to ensure the blog performs better in the future.

As mentioned several times above, I’d advise taking the time to set up some advanced segments to help with your blog visitor analysis; it’ll make your life easier in the long run.