Matt Huggins has put together a useful article titled Beginner’s Guide to Interpreting Website Traffic Metrics with Google Analytics which will be very useful for anyone wanting a primer on how to use Google Analytics. Matt’s post reminded me of something I’ve been using Google Analytics a lot more for recently – comparing different periods of time to one another.
I’ve been getting a lot more into Google Analytics over the past few months – it’s one of the most useful metrics programs that I’ve ever used and has so much power under the hood.
There are a number of metrics that I keep an eye on but one of them that I’ve been tracking lately is to compare traffic from one month to another.
Let me illustrate. Here’s the last month’s traffic graph from ProBlogger (click to enlarge):
Now lets compare the this graph with traffic last month? (note – I’ve lined it up so that the periods both start on the same day of the week so that we can compare Mondays to Mondays and Saturdays to Saturdays):
You can immediately see that the dips and flows in traffic had some similarities on many days but that there were a couple of big variations. The first spike was when one of my posts got some attention on Digg’s front page for a few hours and the spike around July 2 was when we had some server issues one day.
OK – to this point it’s just an interesting graph – but one of the things I then like to do is drill down to different types of traffic.
Lets take a look at search engine traffic over the period:
With this graph we can see that from last month (green) to this month (blue) there is a noticeable increase in traffic coming from search engines. In fact lower on the metrics page we can see that there was a 6.11% increase over the month. Not bad considering that on the day of my server issues there was a 60% decrease. You can also clearly see the weekly cycle of traffic which is almost perfectly mirrored from one month to the next for the first half of the month.
Drilling down even further we can check out the comparison by actual search engine:
Knowing this helps you in thinking about the SEO strategies that you’re using. Obviously some of the changes that I made a couple of weeks ago are paying off when it comes to optimizing for Yahoo.
Drill down even further and you can do the same analysis on particular keywords. Lets take a look at one from the same period – the word ‘blog':
Obviously something was going on this month with this word. Either there was a lot more searching for the word mid June or my ranking for the word shot up.
The type of analysis that you could do using these types of comparisons are endless. You can compare how many pages are being viewed, time on site, bounce rate, page views, ad word campaigns etc. You can also do it with different periods of time (week to week, year to year) and you can drill it down in any number of ways.
You can even compare how a specific post does from one month to the next. For example after revealing that ‘About Me’ was the #1 search term to bring me traffic from Google last week – the page that the traffic all went to (How to write your About Me Page) has had an increase in traffic:
Virtually every stat that you can check on Google Analytics can be compared from one period to the next – and the results of doing so can be quite illuminating – particularly when you’re tracking changes that you’ve made to your blog to see how they convert.
PS – How to Compare Periods: I just mentioned that I was writing this post to a friend on IM and they told me that they didn’t know that Google Analytics could do this. I suspect others will want to know how to compare different periods also – so here’s how:
Once you’re on your analytics dashboard click on the date area in the top right hand corner. This will open up a screen like this:
Select the first period of time that you want to compare.
Once you’ve done this check the ‘Compare to Past’ box and the ability to select another period will open up:
As mentioned above – I don’t just choose the period exactly before the first one as I like to start the periods on the same day of the week. You could do it with calendar periods though if you wish.
After you’ve done this simply click ‘Apply Range’ and it’ll compare the periods for you.