So I’ve decided that blogging can be a really lonely business if you don’t reach out and ask when you are uncertain about things. Luckily for you lovelies I’ve also decided to be your blogger bestie. As I fumble through hand learn new things myself I will bring them to the forefront for you!!! Many of the questions that I have received about blogging, I only learned recently the hard way of course! As Trials N’ Tresses approaches its three year mark I’m still surprised and baffled at the amount of things that I still learn on a consistent basis. Case in point: Google Analytics. Now I’m no noobie when it comes to GA, but the ins and outs and can sometimes be baffling. However if used properly and understood correctly, Google Analytics can become your best friend for many reasons. Particularly when it comes to pitching brands, and setting up prices for sponsored posts…etc.
What You Need to Know About Google Analytics
What Is Google Analytics?
For those that are unfamiliar Google Analytics is a tracking tool created by Google to help you track just about any type of data you are looking to collect from your blog. At the most basic level, GA helps you figure out how many people have visited your page on a daily basis. At a much more complicated level it also helps you figure out who is clicking what, where is your audience coming from, where they are located, how they found you and much more. I was first introduced to Google Analytics in March 2014 (almost a whole year after Trials N’ Tresses came to be). I was using Jetpack a WordPress plugin to track our data, and learned the hard way that you should always have a few different tracking methods (that will be saved for another post). When Jetpack died, I learned about the monster the Google Analytics was and jumped aboard.
Unfortunately I didn’t take the necessary time to fully learn the basics of GA, and spent the better part of a year reading it completely wrong. For a good amount of time I thought “sessions” was the same as “page views” and couldn’t understand why the numbers were different. (FYI: A session is my visit to your site from start to finish. A Page view is how many pages I’ve actually visited on your site. So it is possible to have 1 session and 30 page views) I started Googling about Google Analytics ONLY after I broke it. How’d I do that?
How I Broke My Google Analytics Tracking Twice
When our web designer redesigned our site in August 2014 she added the analytics code for us. In February 2015 I installed a dashboard plugin of Google Analytics and started tracking events. An “event’ is any interaction someone has with your site. This means when anyone downloads something, signs up for something, or clicks a link…etc. If you do not install the coding correctly an event will register as a page view as well giving you skewed data. Meaning… the tracking code is tracking someones one page view twice. With people clicking to sign up for my mailing list, or affiliate links the tracking was firing twice and I saw a huge unexpected jump in “traffic”. To make matters even worse… when I installed the dashboard plugin, that installed my tracking code onto my site for a second time… therefore not only was my event tracking causing a skew, but so was the presence of the double coding! YIKES! Talk about false happiness!
I thought I was seeing a huge jump in traffic and was thrilled. I even blogged about how I went from 20k to 70k in two months to help others. Once I fixed the problems I did see I had an actual real boost in traffic (from around 30k to 50k a month) so I was doing a lot of things right. Fast forward to last week and I saw the same thing happening again! And this time it took me much longer to figure out the fix!
How I Fixed The Problems Twice
The first time I had a Google Analytics issue it was brought to my attention when someone told me my bounce rate was WAY too low! Sounds crazy right? You want to have a low bounce rate, because that means people really love your site and the lower the better for SEO purposes. Ehh… right and wrong! You want to have a lower bounce rate between 50-70% is the average going rate for most blogs. Normally my bounce rate was at about 80%. In my February stats I was averaging 24,000 page views at 78.50 percent. Fast forward to my March and April stats we see my page views more than doubled in March, and tripped in April with a whopping bounce rate of 6.84 percent! That is a huge RED FLAG!
I removed the tracking of events and got rid of the second tracking code. My June stats dropped from the 72,000 I thought I was actually getting (notice sessions and users didn’t increase much… thats also a sign to look out for whenever there is a traffic spike) to 51,000. So I did have a real spike in traffic. I was getting on average 50k a month, a nice jump from 24k in February. My sessions and users moved up accordingly with my page views, and my bounce rate was back up to 81%.
But that wasn’t my happy ending! A week ago I saw a similar occurrence! I saw a huge traffic spike over the course of one week… so I went directly into investigation mode. This time what was the culprit? Two and a half things! First… I was getting tons of spam referrals. Always check where your traffic is coming from. The Acquisition tab saves up all that information for you and puts it in a simple chart like this:
As you can see sites like trafficmonetize, 4webmasters, and webmonetizer have nothing to do with my site and were sending tons of “false traffic” my way with 99/100 % bounce rates! This article here really helped me figure out how to filter out the spam referrals that were skewing my analytics. Besides creating filters to remove spam from my referrals and host server, I also checked if my code was installed twice again. And for some odd reason my google verification coding was causing a double tracking again! I didn’t realize this until I deleted just about every single Plugin on Trials N Tresses to see what could be causing such an issue. Last but certainly not least there was an “event” tracked somehow through a post shared on Facebook. I don’t know how that was tracked on my analytics but it was surely annoying. With the problem now fixed for a second time, I notice yet again a true spike in real traffic without any spam bots skewing my stats. Over the past two days we’ve been averaging a bit higher than usual (predominately from Pinterest referrals increasing drastically) and are on track for another monthly increase.
Recap: What You Should Know & Pay Close Attention To
- Make Sure Your Bounce Rate is not extremely low. Pay attention to how much time people are spending on your site. If it says 30 seconds is the average time and you have a bounce rate of 7% that is a problem! People have to “bounce” off your site so if you see a bounce rate of 0 (which I was seeing last week) know that is also a huge issue!
- Pay attention to your page views vs sessions/users. They should be pretty relatable in regards to how many pages a single user views. Our sessions/users are usually about 1/2 of our page views. When ever we start seeing that change we start investigating.
- Make sure that your analytics tracking code is only installed once on your site to avoid double dipping in your own stats. Also make sure no plugins are accidentally tracking page views or events as well.
- Check Up on your referrals. Always know where your traffic is coming from. If something looks suspicious do not click it. It is more than likely spam and even though most of the time is harmless can lead to malware. Instead set specific filters (host name filter is most effective) to get rid of ghost spam referrals and bots.
- Learn the ins and outs of Google Analytics. Especially if you have an ecommerce site or blog, google analytics isn’t really as scary as it seems at first. It has tons of information that can be beneficial for you and helps you learn about your audience.
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Hey there! I’m Melissa, co-founder of Trials n Tresses, natural hair and beauty lover, binge tv watcher and lover of life. When I am not creating content for TNT, I’m busy teaching the future of society.