Analytics Part II: Who, What, When, Where

A little light reading...

When we last talked about analytics, I gave you a list of tools to start measuring everything from blog visitors to keywords and more.

If you missed that post, catch up here:

Then come back!

Because it won’t do you much good to have the tools in place if you don’t know what you’re looking for, and while having all of the details is great, it can also be overwhelming.

So now, a basic breakdown of the terms (and, since I’m not an expert, links to places where you can learn more).

(I’m using Google Analytics for specific terms and names, but almost all reports will have the same tools.

Oh, and BTW? People who read your posts in a feed reader, like Google Reader, don’t count toward page views, which in turn don’t count toward ad revenues.)


Vistors are, in theory, individuals who come to your website. They are typically tracked using cookies, which are invisible records collected by Web browsers. Visitors may be unique (see below) or returning.

  • Unique visitors have not come to your website before (unless they have turned off cookies or otherwise blocked their history on your website). Often, sponsors or advertisers will ask about unique visitors because they are interested in the number of people who see their ads, rather than the same group of people seeing the ads many times.
  • Returning visitors have been to your website before.


Content refers to what people are actually looking at when they come to your website. In many cases, your index page (your main URL) will be the most-read content, but that’s just because people will usually type it in their address bar before jumping to the post they’re interested in.

  • Content By Title helps you determine which links are getting the most views, and you can even break it down by entrance/exits (where they came from and where they go when they’re done reading).
  • Pageviews refer to the number of times an individual page is viewed. (Duh). For example, if you have two visitors who each view five pages, you will have 10 pageviews. You can figure out which content is most popular in a given time period by checking the pageviews.

Time on Site

Time on site is just what it sounds like — how long people are spending on your work. Obviously, the more time they spend, the better — although you need to determine what your goals are. If you’re rather have a shorter time on site, but more pageviews, perhaps you want to create lots of short, easy to read posts. If you want people to spend time on your site, and you don’t care how much they browse around, the time on site is a good measurement tool.

Visitors Overview

You can use analytics to see which days are most popular for visits, pageviews, etc. If you get a ton of hits on a Monday, but very few on Fridays, you might want to consider shifting your posting schedule. Or if people swing by in the mornings, and you usually post at night, you may want to consider flipping things around.

Historical Graphs

I love playing with the graphs, seeing how my traffic has changed over a week, a month, and even a year’s time. You can usually set your dashboard to include more or less time (which can also be good for judging the success of blog changes).

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is determined by what happens when people get to your website. In basic terms — do they stay, or do they go? If they stay, and they visit other pages on your site, they have not bounced, and therefore your bounce rate is lower. If they come and immediately go, your bounce rate is higher. Bounce rate is a bit hard to pin down, because you often don’t know why someone left — were they unhappy, or did they get what they needed?

Traffic Sources

How do people find you? By looking at your traffic sources, you can see whether you’re getting more of your traffic from direct links, referring sources or search engines.

  • Direct traffic typically means that someone actually went up to his or her browser’s address bar and typed it in. Direct traffic tends to be higher when you are a recognizable name (one of the reasons I changed my blog URL to actually be my full name) or an easy to remember title.
  • Referral traffic indicates that someone found you from a link on someone else’s website. So if you link to my post on your site, if someone clicks through, it counts as a referral on my site.
  • Search Engines are, as you would expect, traffic that comes from people doing a search through Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.
  • Keywords tell you what people are actually searching for when they do use search engines. It’s always fun to see how people find you (hence, my Five for Friday franchise) but it can also be helpful. If you write about vegetarian food, and a popular keyword that leads to you is “vegetarian recipes,” perhaps you want to include more recipes or make them easier to find.

I’m leaving off a key “W” on purpose, and that’s the Why. Truthfully, it’s hard to get a clear picture of why people are coming to your blog — do they like your point of view? Your photos? A specific category? You can come up with a good idea of why visitors come by using the other four Ws.

Looking for more? It’s always fun to look at how people are reading your posts. On a Mac or a PC? On Internet Explorer or another browser? If you always post on a Mac and Firefox, and the majority of your users read you blog on a PC running Chrome, you might want to hop over and see how things look for them. You might be shocked.

Oh, and since I am really not an analytics expert, I thought it was only fair to point you to a few people that are:

What other questions do you have when it comes to blogging? Leave me a comment below or submit it on my Ask Me page.

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  1. says

    I have a few random questions that I’ve been wondering:
    How do you know based on keywords what post people click to? I know how to find the keywords, but not what they lead to.
    When people read a post in Reader, does that count as a visit or pageview?
    Why does the WordPress dashboard have higher stats than Google Analytics? Do yours match up?

    • says


      Random but good questions!

      1) Keywords. I have played around with GA to make it work, but I find it completely unwieldy. I prefer StatPress, because it immediately shows you which link the search led to. But you’ve inspired me to dig a little deeper and get some better answers.

      2) To my understanding, the posts read in a reader count toward your subscriber count, but not a visit or a pageview. Before you quote me on that, give me a minute — I tweeted the author of the book I’m holding to see if he can help!

      3) This is a mystery even I can’t solve. In fact, I’ve written to a few people who are in the know to ask them for help — typically, I rely on my WordPress stats (or, my preferred plugin StatPress) rather than GA, but…

    • says

      Technically, it counts feed readers in your subscriber stats — but it really does make a difference when it comes to ad networks. For example, I am a Foodbuzz publisher. I only get credit for those ads if you actually come to my website and see them. It makes sense, but it’s tough!

    • says

      i have google reader to keep track of all of the blogs that i follow, but then when i’m reading the post i always click over to the actual site to read it. i like to see the posts on the actual blog.

  2. says

    Great set of posts Katy!

    You’ve successfully created a fabulous reference for beginners looking to get a little more serious, and a great list for oldies who’ve heard it all, read it all, but still forget about half of it (there’s just SO much nowadays) :)

    For self-hosted blogs I believe that most host providers also provide some type of analytics (at least I know mine does). I love to review how my host’s analytical stats compare to Google’s. <– real big accounting nerd.

    Best wishes!


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