WordPress contains free, in built analytics functions that can help you understand how and why traffic is coming into your blog – information you might be able to capitalise on to gain more traffic. While there are paid for add-ons, I am only going to focus on the free options.
My big caveat here (beyond the series “this is my experience and shouldn’t be taken as prescriptive”) is that if you find blog stats at all anxiety inducing, don’t look at them. Particularly if you think that it could harm your mental health to see how “well” your blog is doing. (Well is a very relative term here, and comparison is the killer of joy.) If looking at stats and actively pursuing a bigger audience takes the fun out of blogging, I don’t think it’s worth it. Blogging should always be something you enjoy for yourself first of all.
The analytics can be found by clicking the “stats” option on the left hand side menu on the editor end of wordpress (the side you write and format posts from!) Clicking on there will bring up a graph and two tabs on the bar above the graphs, one called “traffic” (the one you land on) and one called “insights.”
I am starting with the “Insights” tab as I find these the least helpful. Insights is an overview of what you’re posting.
The first visible thing on this page are two calendars, one with a block per day for the last year and the other with a block per month since you started the blog. The first represents the density of posts and the second the density of views on your website. The darker the shades of blue, the denser it is.
This feature is primarily useful for seeing quickly if, after a change to your posting schedule, there has been a change to the traffic. If you’re posting is getting darker, but the views aren’t, then it hasn’t had an affect. If you haven’t changed the number of posts but just the days, then you can see if you’ve found better days.
It’s also a way to gather the “average monthly views” stat that you send to publicists when requesting an ARC – that and followers are the key blogging stats!
In my opinion, these are the least useful part of the analytics. There are several boxes with information on last post, latest followers, overall stats, and so on.
The most useful box for informing how your blog is viewed, and how to use that to improve traffic, is “most popular day an hour.” This feature can tell you if the traffic on your sight is pretty consistent or if it is really slanted towards a certain time. If you have a most popular under 20% that tells you that your blog is being viewed pretty much evenly across the week – so there is equal draw across the days.
However, if you have a larger percentage, it’s worth thinking why. Do you post once a week, so people are coming then? Is there a specific type of post you commonly put on that day that people like? Even guess answers can help you hypothesis why people are coming to your blog, and then you can experiment to see if doing more of that will increase traffic.
The other boxes are more general and there isn’t much I have to say about them as generalities are harder to unpick.
“Followers” shows you the time since the most recent followers, and thus if you’re getting them regularly or not, or in a big flurry. Clicking view all can help you see any trends over time. Did implementing something new bring a flurry? That hints that it was a good feature!
The “traffic” tab is the most useful in my opinion. It has a bar graph of views and visitors that can be set to different time frames and a range of additional tools that can provide insight.
This tells you how many views you are getting each day/week/month/year. It is a great visual way to compare day to day views, see if your views are increasing, decreasing, or plateauing over time. You can get this from “Insights” but I think this is visually clearer. You can change which day/week/etc you are looking at by clicking on the corresponding bar.
I also like that it breaks down number of views and number of visitors. The darker core is the number of visitors and the lighter sheath outside is the number of views. If you are getting more views than visitors, that can be a great thing! People are staying on the sight and seeing more; you’ve captured the audience! If there is a big discrepancy between views and people, I’d be a bit suspicious because bots can often hit lots of pages in one go or multiple times (particularly if they leave comments.)
It refreshes automatically every 30 minutes, or you can get an update faster by changing the time scale view.
Posts and Pages
The first of the boxes below the graph, this tells you the most popular posts viewed in a day. If there is a blue vertical line next to a post, that was published in the time frame you are viewing (that day/week etc). Both blog posts and blog pages feature on the list.
If the majority of the posts have blue lines/most common ones, that says that people are coming for the new releases. If it’s mostly backlist posts, then it says people are coming to you looking for specific reviews (which can be confirmed by “referrers”, see below.)
A sudden spike in a backlist post being viewed can imply that a book has suddenly become popular on a social media and people are now looking for reviews – great! Unfortunately, you can’t predict what will go big. You will get more hits from things like that if you are higher up the search results, which is a function of many things (that often aren’t disclosed) but the way to improve your chances of being high up is to work on your SEO (something I do not feel confident talking about as I don’t understand it well!)
You can click the heading “posts and pages” to get larger lists, and also an “all time” most viewed posts. This is a very interesting one to see. The sorts of books being more commonly viewed is a great way of knowing what people are coming to you for. It can tell you one of a two things:
- If it’s all books of a certain genre, particularly if it’s across a wide spread of authors, you might be “known” as a blogger who reviews those books. You might want to write more posts about those sorts of books
- If it’s a smattering of books across genres or a few authors, then you are probably high on google’s search results (I’d google the book title and “review” to see where you are.) If it’s specific authors, you can target that traffic by reviewing new books by those authors as soon as you can to keep those people coming back (cross-linking reviews of books by the same author can really help get additional views.)
This box tells you the most common ways people reach your blog. If “search engines” is large, that’s a good hint that people are googling for reviews and find your site.
The various social medias and their hit rates also tells you how successful your cross promotion is. Blog posts can automatically be set to post to various social media platform, but how many hits is that actually driving? Might mean you want to change how you cross promote to get more.
“Search Terms” is often hampered by people’s online protection, not registering what search terms brought your post up. Most of the time mine says “unknown search terms”, but occasionally you do get a phrase. “Review” is usually part of the string, so making sure “review” is in review titles is a great way to get hits from searches.
I like maps. I also like being surprised by which countries my hits are coming from. I get hits from all over the world, which shows how border-busting the internet can be. The darker the country on the map, the more hits you’re getting. I don’t know how you capitalise on this – I just think it’s neat and interesting!
Hopefully that gives you some ideas of how to use WordPress’ free analytics to grow your blog traffic, if you’re interested in that. Are there other uses you’ve found for analytics?
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5 thoughts on “WordPress Analytics: A Blogger’s Perspective”
The stats page is a pretty good place to find useful information about site for sure! 🥰
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And I think it’s so well laid out!
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I’m totally fascinated by the map analytics. I love getting visits from other countries. Great post with lots of useful information. Thanks for sharing.
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