Google Analytics Cheat Sheet: Steal My Go-To Blogging Dashboard

Last week was all about relationships and really focusing on higher quality traffic vs a higher quantity of traffic.

Here’s the quick review:

  • Instead of focusing on results (like higher traffic), you need to focus on the activities that bring in higher traffic (outreach, higher quality content, guest posts, interviews , social media, better sharing visuals, etc.) Traffic is a result, not the activity itself.
  • Higher quality traffic means the people who come to your blog and are engaged with what you say, do and your blog’s mission. These people are more likely to comment, share and engage with you, and shout your message from the frickin’ rooftops (aka free marketing).
  • Most bloggers chase higher quantity traffic, choosing to go after traffic sources that increase page view numbers but don’t actually help grow their blogs. The whole process becomes frustrating and ultimately not very successful because the blog turns into a graveyard with not much happening.

Today you’re going to use your Google Analytics account to identify higher quality traffic sources that your blog already has, so you can do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t. Combine these activities with what you learned last week about nurturing blog and brand advocates and you’re well on your way to a great traffic/growth strategy this year.

Before you run away screaming at the thought of opening your Google Analytics (GA) account, stay with me a bit, I’ve got your back, this will only hurt for a minute, promise.

Today, I’m going to share my own Google Analytics stats dashboard with you. It’s my Analytics “cheat sheet” so that anytime I need to check stats, I’m not digging through a million menus (that are endlessly changing).  I can just open up the dashboard and get the health of my site in about 5 minutes.

To install the actual dashboard I use, straight into your analytics account, click this link: Analytics Dashboard.

Clicking the link will take you into GA, you will then be asked what “view” you want to use this dashboard with, select your blog’s account, give your dashboard a new name if you like and click “create.”

If you can’t find the dashboard after you’ve installed it, check under Dashboards>Private.

GA Dashboard

Next, reset the date fields to the dates you want to review before getting started. You can do this review monthly throughout the year or you can take a bigger picture approach and take a look at the yearly stats in 3 month chunks.

GA Date

The Dashboard

Below you’ll see a sample dashboard and the 8 sections we’re going to review so you not only know what each section is, but also how to use the information you’re seeing to make changes and decisions.


Section 1: Overall Site Visits

Overall site visitors is pretty straight forward, this is the amount of visits your site had during a specific time frame.

The number itself isn’t as important as the larger trends that are happening. Has your traffic been moving upwards, each month more visitors than before?

Has your traffic been trending down over the year? Or the third option, has your traffic been pretty steady all year?

How to Use this Section:

  1. If there has been a traffic change, good or bad, what actions did you take, or not take that may have caused this result?
  2. Has your posting frequency changed throughout the year? If so, how did that affect your traffic?
  3. Has your outreach (guest posting, contributing to other blogs, interviews, getting interviewed, etc.) changed throughout the year? If so, how did that affect your traffic?
  4. Has you social media posting/marketing changed throughout the year? Where there times you were more consistent? How did that affect your traffic?
  5. In this analysis you’re looking for activities you did that caused your traffic to increase (this is stuff you need to do more) and then other times that your traffic dropped off (so you can avoid activities that caused this.)

I get that this sounds really basic but let’s walk through this very common example.

Say you’ve been blogging for about 12 months but aren’t really seeing any growth, or at least not as much as you’d like.

When looking back through your traffic trends over the year, you notice 2 dips when your traffic pretty much dried up.

Thinking back, those 2 periods of time were when you got super busy with school/life/kids and fell off the radar without any warning. You didn’t post or update your social media at all, for weeks. Then when you to started posting again, it took awhile to bring people back to your site and then after the second posting hiatus, your traffic never really returned to it’s previous levels.

This isn’t a finger pointing exercise, this is simply an acknowledge and learn exercise, so that’s all I want you to do. Realize that actions you take with your blog result in certain things happening to your traffic.

Too often, we sit and stare at numbers feeling crappy about them without digging a bit to see that there is a pretty simple (not easy, but simple) way to fix the issues.

In this example, it’s pretty clear to see that going randomly missing a couple times a year causes this blog’s audience to lose interest and ultimately some trust, and they aren’t returning when posting starts again.

Coming up with a better writing process and a system to get tasks completed could help this situation.

Section 2: Visits by Channel

Visits by channel is telling you where your traffic is coming from, viewed as a percentage.

This will include things like:

  • organic (which means showing up and getting clicked through non-paid search results)
  • referral (traffic from other sites linking to you, guest posts, mentions in link-ups, etc.)
  • none (usually direct traffic where people just type your blog name into the address bar)
  • social (traffic from social media links/status updates) and other.

How to Use this Section:

Ideally, in this chart you’ll want to aim for lots of different channels, each bringing in a healthy percentage so that one source isn’t bringing in the majority of your traffic.

This diversification helps insulate your blog from being affected by Google search algorithm changes, another blogger who links to you closing up shop, or a social media network (Facebook, for example) changing how they display your updates to users.

In the example above, you can see the blue piece of the pie, search, is over half of the traffic.

Although that points to good SEO on certain pages, as we’ll see later, search traffic might not be the high quality traffic you’re looking for and maybe your efforts are better spent elsewhere. Either way, if this is the sort of chart you’re seeing, aim to increase some of those thinner pie sections to balance out the makeup of your traffic.

Having all your eggs in one traffic basket makes your site vulnerable and makes it harder to grow!

Section 3: Traffic From Social Networks

How much traffic is social actually bringing you?

This section will show you which social networks are bringing in the traffic and which aren’t. There’s also another goodie here too: pages per session.

More pages per session means the person landed from a social network and then clicked around some. You can use these metrics to see which social networks bring in traffic that actually hangs around.

How to Use this Section:

Essentially, this section is telling you the results of your social media activities.

  1. Which social network brings in the most traffic? Is that a network that you focus on? Should some of your time be re-routed to the network that’s already bringing in the most traffic?
  2. Do you spend a lot of time on a particular social network that isn’t bringing in a lot of traffic for you? If so, how can you rework your posting strategy to be more engaging or decide if that network is the right one for your blog.

If you’ve dabbled with social media for your blog but never really say the benefit of it, here’s the proof! You can also use this section to monitor your efforts over time. More activity on social networks should translate into more traffic here!

Section 4: Top Referral Sources

Section 4 is simply section 2, in more detail. It’s showing you which sites make up your top 10 traffic sources so you can get a clear idea of where your traffic is coming from.

Section 5: Landing Pages Pageviews and Avg. Time on Page

Where are people entering your site?

It’s easy to forget that people don’t always enter your site on the homepage. This section showcases that fact very clearly.

In the sample above, you can see that although the homepage tops the list of landing pages  (it’s the “/”) when you combine all the other pages that people land on first, only about 50% of visitors hit the homepage first. The rest of the time, they’re landing on an inner page, somewhere else on the blog.

How to Use this Section:

This section amounts to your most visited content so it’s time to spruce these pages up to make them stand out as the gateways to your site and your brand.

  1. Review the post or page to make sure it’s up to date. Are there any additional resources you can add, make new images or any other improvement that can help it stand out?
  2. Can you add more links within the content of this page to help readers explore more? I’m talking about being spammy here but interlinking posts together is a great way to help people naturally find posts they want to read and it’s something easy to forget!
  3. Add an email opt-in to the post or page to help build your email list with the steady flow of visitors.

Section 6: Conversion Rates from All Sources

Before this section is going to work for you, you’re going to need to create a “Conversion Goal” within your GA account.

A conversion goal is going to track how many people sign up for your blog’s subscription list. It’s more complicated than it sounds and I’m going to walk you through how to do this below.

Step 1: Start by creating a thank you page that people are redirected to after a successful email sign up.

This page can be where people access your opt-in incentive or maybe it’s just a thanks for signing up page. Whatever the specific page, it just needs to be somewhere that people are redirected to after they sign up.

Your conversion goal is going to measure how many people land on that special page and then we’ll use that information later to uncover some great info for list and traffic building.

Step 2: Create a Goal in Google Analytics

Navigate to Admin at the top of the screen, then Goals on the right hand side.

GA Goals

Click on +New Goal to create your first goal.

GA New Goal

Next, name your goal so you know what it means (you’ll be searching for it later) and then select “Destination” as your Goal Type. Click “Next Step” to continue.

GA Step 1

Now, enter in the page address you created in Step 1.

You only enter in the last part of the URL, GA knows the first part is your blog’s address. If your thank you page has been around for awhile, you can click “Verify this Goal” to see if the system is working. If your thank you page is brand new, you can check back in a few days to verify.

GA Step 2

You’ll now be able to save your goal and it will appear in your Goal list. Do a quick double check that the Recording field is “on” so you’ll see the results in your dashboard.

GA Goal On

Step 3: Configure Your Dashboard Widget to Include Your New Goal

Back to your Dashboard. Next. click on the little “pencil” in the upper right hand corner of the widget area “Conversion Rates for All Sources.”

GA Convert 1

Next, you need to find your newly created goal and link it to this widget.

GA Convert 2

Leave the Source/Medium section alone, and click the small arrow to get a drop down box.

Start typing in the name of your goal and the list will shorten to make this more manageable. You’ll see a few options with your goal in the title but you want to choose the option with “conversion rate” in it.

Once the conversion rate is selected, click Save and your widget is complete.

How to Use this Section:

This section takes the longest to set up but it’s one of the most important parts of this dashboard. At a glance, you can see what traffic sources are sending you the highest quality traffic!

As I’ve mentioned throughout the last 2 weeks, quality traffic trumps quantity every time.

In this sample dashboard, you can see that Google (aka search traffic) is converting at a dismal 0.09%. Sure, you could work on trying to increase that percentage but search traffic is notoriously fickle and time is likely better spent elsewhere.

So what about all the way down at traffic source #10?

GA Convert 3

Facebook traffic is converting at 3.33% so that means out of every 100 people who come from Facebook, about 3 people sign up. That’s a pretty average conversion rate too, 3-5% is just fine so do don’t get discouraged by these small numbers.

For this sample blog, Facebook is a higher quality traffic source than organic search. For my site, Facebook often converts at +7% and referrals from guest post sites or link round ups can convert upwards of 9% so I get a lot more bang for my buck focusing on building out those traffic sources than spending hours upon hours on search engine optimization.

This is why it’s so important to know which sites are bringing in your best traffic. When you find your sweet spot, focus there and do more of what works.

Section 7: Social Conversion Rates

For section 7, you’ll need to configure this widget just as you did in section 6 by clicking the pencil and selecting the appropriate goal from the drop down menu.

This chart is going to show you, just for social, where you’re converting best.

How to Use this Section:

  1. For social media networks that aren’t converting well, can you change the type of content you post on the network to make it more in line with your blog content?
  2. Should you change your email opt-in incentive (or make one!) to fit your audience and encourage more sign ups?
  3. Can you ramp up your activity on the social networks that are converting well to bring in higher traffic numbers (and therefore more subscribers?)

Section 8: Traffic Via Device

The last piece of our traffic puzzle is understanding how your visitors are accessing your site because that affects pageviews, conversions and time on site.

Section 8 is broken down into 3 sections: Desktop, Mobile and Tablet. Our sample Dashboard isn’t too heavily weighted to mobile, but depending on your audience, you may see upwards of 50% coming to you on a mobile device!

How to Use this Section:

  1. Review your blog on different screen sizes so you can see what your visitors see. Make any necessary design changes to make your site as user friendly as possible across all devices.
  2. If you’re building an email list, assess how easy sign ups are on mobile and make adjustments accordingly.

It’s not uncommon to see a reduction in bounce rate and increases in both time on site and email sign ups with a little TLC to your mobile design!

Now it’s Your Turn

Which one of these sections resonates with you and your blog? Any a-ha traffic moments? Let me know… below.