Today, I offer a tutorial to learn how to do analyzing the performance of his blog using free tools: Google Analytics and Google Data Studio… as well as Google Search Console if you use it!
Using these services, you can very easily set up a dashboard that will summarize the essential information you need to know to measure the performance of your site! You can for example…
- Quickly find out which pages are most successful and then make sure they stay up to date.
- Track your traffic and detect how much traffic comes from social networks and
- Identify the top sites that send you traffic and your dominant social networks.
- Track the proportion of visitors who view your site from a mobile.
- Know which countries and / or cities your visitors come from.
- Identify the keywords that lead to your site.
- Isolate the questions that Internet users are asking and that can inspire you for your articles.
A dashboard of performance monitoring will not reveal “new” data … but allows you to gather in the same place and in a visual form important information to monitor the health of your blog and measure your growth!
To follow this tutorial, you must have installed Google Analytics on your blog for a while: in fact, Google Analytics does not start collecting data from the moment it is installed. Therefore, if you just installed it, you will have no data to display in your reports. Wait a month before following this tutorial;)
I also recommend that you install Search Console on your blog if you have not already done so. This is what will allow you to get lots ofinformation on keywords and questions that users type to access the site.
Create a dashboard on Google Data Studio
When you log in for the first time, you must indicate whether you are a company or an individual and inform – if you are concerned – an RGPD contact for data management.
Once done, you’ll go to the Google Data Studio home. The tool offers you reporting models for performance monitoring, they can save you time to avoid building an A to Z report.
Basic Data Studio settings
In this tutorial, however, I will “start from scratch” to show you how Data Studio works. Click to do this on the “Empty report” at the top of the page.
You access … an empty report (surprise!): This is at the level of right area that you will be able to add data sources (that is, the information that you want to appear in your report) … and you will preview the rendering in real-time in the area on the left. I will talk to you later about the menu at the top of the page.
For the moment, name your report by clicking on the title at the top left: “Untitled report” becomes for example “Blog performance monitoring”.
To begin, we will add a “Data source” which will feed your Data Studio report with statistics: your Google Analytics account. In the right column, click on “Create a data source”. Google then suggests that you choose from several default data sources.
Click on “Google Analytics” to select this data source.
You then need to choose your Google Analytics account, property, and view and click on the “Associate” button at the top of the page.
Google Data Studio will then display ALL available fields, that is, all the information you can theoretically add to your site performance monitoring report. There are several hundred of them, so we will obviously sort them out.
Among the available information, you will find both quantitative and quantitative data (the statistics: for example, the bounce rate, the number of users, the average basket of an e-commerce site) than qualitative data (the dimensions: for example, the city of origin of your visitors, the URL they visit the most, etc.).
At this point, just click on “Add to report” in order to be able to use all this information in your site performance dashboard.
On the right, you see a setting area with two tabs:
- Data – The chosen data source, the available fields.
- Style – The visual appearance of your data in the report.
I’ll talk a lot about these two areas, this is what they look like:
Configure the size of your reporting
I advise you to start with defining the page size of your reporting so that it corresponds to an A4 sheet: this will allow you to very easily export the data in PDF to keep them because the size of each page of the report will correspond to the size of a standard page.
To do this, click on “Theme and layout” in the menu that appeared at the top of the page.
Then on “Layout” on the right side of the screen.
Define a page format on Data Studio
You can then set page size, a custom size of 900 × 1283 pixels for example (corresponds to the format 21 × 29.7 cm). There is no button to save the settings you make, it is done automatically.
Create a header and set the date
We will start by creating a header for the report: it will specify what it is about and will include a filter to adjust the date of the data studied.
Using the formatting menu that appears at the top, you can, for example, insert a rectangular shape then, using the menu on the right, change its color.
You can then click on “Image” then “Import an image from the computer” in order to insert your logo.
Then click on the adjacent button, “Text”, to insert text and give a title to your report. Again, the right side of your screen allows you to choose the color of the text, the font, the alignment, etc.
You can reiterate the principle that I showed you for add titles to the different parts of your report, by inserting text with a colored background. So I won’t explain how to do it every time;)
We will finally add date based filter. It will allow you to select the period for which you are viewing statistics. In the blink of an eye, you can then view your statistics for another period simply by changing this date.
Click on the “Date Range” button:
Position the date range in your header. Via the right side of the screen:
- The “Data” tab allows you to choose a personalized period, for example a full month.
- The “Style” tab allows you to change the appearance of the date range.
All this lacks a bit of data, doesn’t it? So let’s get into the most interesting part of the job: insert graphics with all the data that interests us for performance analysis!
Analyze site traffic with Data Studio
We are going to insert several graphs:
- An overview of some key figures : the number of users (= unique visitors) for the month, the number of page views for example.
- Monthly traffic tracking, day by day: were there unusual traffic spikes or unusual troughs?
- Monitoring monthly traffic vs. the previous year : did your site have more or less traffic than last year during the same period? Is it growing in the same season?
- Sources of traffic : what brings you the most traffic, is it SEO, social networks, direct access, referral traffic?
We will also be interested in this traffic from a more “qualitative” angle:
- The origin of traffic : is it mobile, desktop or tablet traffic?
- Origin of visitors : which country do they come from? From which city ? This information can be very useful if you have the opportunity to offer local content, or if you have the ambition to develop internationally.
- Your best sources of traffic : the top social networks that bring you from the world, the top referring sites.
For insert graph, the method will always be the same:
- Click on “Add a graphic” at the top of the page.
- Choose the type of graphic you want.
- Complete the “Data” tab with the data you want to appear on the graph.
- If necessary, customize the appearance of the graph with the “Style” tab.
Insert key figures
For insert key figures for example, we select “Data table”.
In the “Data” tab, at the level of the “Statistics” line, we choose the statistic to display : “Users” for the number of unique visitors or “Page views” for the number of page views, for example.
By default, your data will automatically be calculated according to the date range defined at the start of the tutorial … and will automatically update if you modify this date range.
I advise you, for each key figure that you display, to also display a “comparison” to find out if it’s higher or lower than before. This happens in the “Data” tab, at the level of the “Comparison period” line. You can click on “None” to choose a predefined period, for example “Previous year”.
Generally, compare with the previous year is interesting for performance monitoring because it shows you your progress “in the same season”. Indeed, depending on the subject of your blog, your traffic often varies during the same year.
For example, people travel more in summer than in the middle of January, they are more interested in business topics in September than in full July …
Comparing to the previous year, you can have a basis for comparison independent of seasonal fluctuations of your thematic.
You can duplicate the method to display all the key figures you need!
Insert a traffic tracking graph
This time, from the “Add a graphic” menu, choose a “Time Series” graph. The graph chooses the x-axis “date” by itself, depending on the date range defined (in my case, I set this date range to a whole month at the start of the tutorial, the graph therefore shows me the days of the month).
We want to follow the evolution of the number of users, so we will set the “Statistics” to “Users”. Again, we can display a comparison with the previous year.
You can then go to the “Style” tab to customize the appearance of the graph : change colors, add “points” to the curve to indicate each date, add a title to the axes of the graph, change the location of the legend …
To create a graph showing this time traffic month by month, you can duplicate the previous graphic by simply clicking on it to make a copy and paste. We will then change the date range of this second graph: instead of using the automatic date range (set to a single month), we will create a date range for a year (or more!).
In the “Default date range” line of the “Data” tab, choose “Custom” then define for example a full year. You will see a problem: the graph displays every day and it is not at all readable for good performance monitoring:
We are therefore going to modify the “Statistics”: instead of using “Date”, we will replace with “Month of the year” to display the data month by month.
The rendering becomes much more readable and allows you to compare your growth from one year to another:
View traffic sources
This time you can add a type graph “Pie chart” or “Ring chart”.
In the “Data” tab, choose “Default channel group” and in “Statistics”, for example, choose “Page views” or “Users”.
In the “Style” tab, you can choose the color associated with each traffic source, the location of the legend, the fonts used.
You obtain your top traffic sources, an element of performance analysis very useful to understand which channels you are most dependent on, which channels need to be developed (I already told you that I was little involved on social networks ?!):
View traffic by device
You can do the same to display the distribution of traffic between mobile, tablet and desktop. A pie or pie chart, then “Device Category” for dimension and “Pages Viewed” or “Users” for Statistics.
View the top sites that send you traffic
This is an opportunity to test another type of graph: the table. As usual, add a chart type. We will display in the top sites that send traffic, a useful performance monitoring indicator.
You can indeed go and thank the sites that make links to you in a favorable context, identify your best ambassadors, spot a reputation problem (if you are cited for bad reasons for example, or for reasons which require a right Answer !).
We set the statistic to “Users” because we are interested in the number of visitors. As for the dimension, you can for example choose:
- Social network to display the top social networks that send you traffic.
- Source to display all of the domain names that send traffic, whether social networks, search engines, referring sites.
I will take this opportunity to show you how to filter an array. Imagine that we have built a table displaying “Users by Source” … and that we want to display only the sources that correspond to referring sites. The table should be filtered according to the “Default channel group” to display only the “Referring sites” group.
It happens in the “Data” tab, at the very bottom. Click on “Add a filter”.
Give a clear name to your filter. Then define the behavior of your filter. In my example, it will include only what falls under the default channel group “Referral” (the name of referring sites on Google Analytics).
Then click on “Save” to apply filter to table. Note that you can design complex filters: exclude X and include Y, etc.
In “Style”, I advise you to uncheck the “Display line numbers” box because it unnecessarily clogs the table. In “Data”, you can choose the number of rows of data to display in the table.
Show where visitors come from
The purpose of a performance monitoring report is not to be pretty (even if it can be!) but to provide you with useful information to measure the growth of your site, opportunities for progression, etc.
Therefore, you must include data that is useful to you. The geographical origin of visitors is not relevant data for everyone.
If you have a very local blog, she can show you Which cities in the region read you the most, which may encourage you to target them more in your content or, on the contrary, make you aware that you are missing out on traffic opportunities.
In this case, I encourage you to make a graph of type “Table” with for Statistics “Users” and for dimension “City”.
It can also give you an idea of your “international influence” and motivate the opening of a bilingual version. It can also be a means of spotting anomalies linked to hacking, for example, with massive traffic coming from “unexpected” countries (Ukraine, China, Nigeria are, for example, large “spam nations”).
In this case, it’s better to use another type of graph, the graph of “Geographical summary”.
By default it displays a world’s map, which you can base on the “Users” statistic and the “Country” dimension. In my case, it is not very interesting for performance monitoring apart from the fact that I have been read from many countries this month but not from Greenland!
You can change the zoom level : Instead of “World” in the Data tab, choose for example a subcontinent (“Western Europe”).
You can also change scale : Instead of using “Country” as the dimension, use “Region” and set the “Zoom Area” in the Data tab on the country where most of your visitors come from.
Performance monitoring: keywords and best pages
We’re done with key traffic metrics, so let’s add a second page to our report with more qualitative data that can help you with your content strategy.
- The best landing pages – These are the pages that bring the most visitors to your blog.
- Researches made on your blog.
- The top keywords that lead to your blog.
- Top questions asked by Internet users.
To add a second page to your report, it happens at the top left by clicking on “Add a page”. Note that you can rename each page to your liking.
On this second page, you can duplicate header made for the first page.
Show the best pages
Here, for example, you can create a first graph of type “Table” with a dimension “Page title” and a statistic “Pages viewed”. You will have the list of articles that bring you the most traffic.
In itself, I do not find this information very interesting for performance monitoring because in general, you already know what your most viewed content is.
However, you can sort the table upside down to bring out the least read pages. To do this, in the Data tab, sort the page views in ascending order:
It’s very interesting for see content that doesn’t please and make a decision concerning them: delete them, update them, merge several which are redundant…
You can also use the “Landing page” dimension instead of “Page title” to display the main URLs that are “front doors” on your site.
Another variant is to “Monitor” the traffic of your most strategic pages so you can quickly spot a drop. You can build a “Table” type graph, with the dimension “Landing pages” and the statistic “Page views”. Then, in the Data tab, choose the “Previous period” as the comparison period.
The table will be enriched with an additional column showing the evolution of each page compared to the period preceding that which you study in your performance monitoring report: for example, my report is set to a monthly vision, so I will see the evolution of each page compared to the previous month.
You could imagine another variant of this table of “Top pages” adding a segment in the Data tab.
Then choose “Organic Traffic” from the system segments offered: you will be able to isolate the pages that bring you the most traffic through SEO.
To do this, you must have configured site search on Google Analytics. If you have done so, you can create a table with the dimension “Search terms” and the statistic “Pages viewed”.
The interest of this kind of table for performance monitoring can be come up with new content ideas, on topics you haven’t covered yet.
To go further, you can add an additional statistic: “Outflows (in%)”, then sort your table by displaying the pages in descending order of the percentage of Exits. If people left after a search, it suggests that your site was unable to respond. A good way to quickly isolate potential subjects to deal with!
Show top keywords
This time we will integrate a second data source to your performance monitoring report, to import data from the Google Search Console. This tool can indeed provide information on the keywords that led to your blog.
The easiest way to present these keywords is undoubtedly the “table” type graphic. You will therefore add one to your report. But this time, in the Data tab, you’ll click on the name of the data source because we’re going to modify it.
Then click on “Create a data source”, as we did at the start of this tutorial. This time, instead of selecting Google Analytics, select Search Console.
Then choose your site, “Impression associated with the site” then click on “Associate” at the top right. You can now use data from Search Console in your Data Studio report. Click on “Add to report” to be able to use the Search Console fields.
At this point, our table displays a nice error message:
It is simply because he does not know which statistic and which dimension to display. In the Data tab, you will help it by choosing the “Query” dimension (that is, the user’s request) and the “Clicks” metric (this is the number of times the request triggered a click to your site).
Note that by clicking on the small pencil next to the dimension or statistic, you can rename it to a more “marketing” name. For example, you can rename “Query” to “Keyword typed by the user.”
Isolate questions from Internet users
Among this list of keywords, it is very interesting toisolate the questions that Internet users ask themselves… especially if you don’t answer it already. This is also an opportunity to show you other features of Data Studio: filters based on RegEx.
You will start by duplicating your table of top keywords by copying and pasting. Then you will add a filter via the Data tab and “Create a filter”.
For example, call it “Isolate Questions” and include the queries that match a regular expression. This way of writing makes searching much faster and more precise. Instead of creating several filters to include different types of questions, we only make one for all the interrogative words.
The “. *” That I add almost everywhere indicates that I am looking for the interrogative word even if it is followed or preceded by something. For example, I will have both the request “why go to London” and the request “in London why the taxis are black”.
If you want to feed your inspiration, add the “Impressions” statistic to your table in addition to the “Clicks” statistic, then sort the table by impressions. You will see the questions that generate a lot of impressions (interest from Internet users) but few clicks to your site (= you are not exploiting the traffic potential!).
Of course, not everything is relevant (“Why in English” would not be a good article for my travel blog) and you also have to sort it out according to the competition (not easy to position yourself on queries as competitive as “what to do in Paris”!) but it gives dozens of ideas to explore.
Make your Data Studio report usable
At this point, take the time to work on formatting your report so that it looks “pretty”. Once you’re done, you can click on “View” at the top of the page. The report then goes into “consultation” mode.
This time, you can navigate within each table using pagination, change the dates using the date range, and have your data update automatically.
At the top of the page, you can also share your report with other users if necessary using the “Share” button. You can also click on File> Download in PDF format to export your report.
Go further with Google Data Studio
The reporting I offer in this article is quite simple, but it has the advantage of allowing you to follow important performance indicators for your blog for free.
You can go much further: for example, it is possible to create a visible filter in your report performance monitoring, using the “Filter command” button:
We can imagine a filter based on the traffic source, which allows you to “recalculate the data” for a specific source in the blink of an eye (see only data from SEO, or data from social networks).
Google Data Studio offers you a multitude of Additional “connectors”, that is, integrations with other third-party tools, to import even more data into your reports.
Already, you have the possibility of linking Data Studio to Google Spreadsheets (“Excel of Google”): one can completely copy a positioning report in a Spreadsheet, then view this report on Google Data Studio.