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How I use Google Analytics ‘Compare’ Feature to Motivate Me to Grow My Blog

This morning, a reader asked me this question:

“How do you motivate yourself to grow your blog traffic from day to day?”

We’ve covered a whole heap of techniques for growing the amount of traffic you attract to your blog in our Blog Promotion category (also check out this ‘how to find readers page‘ and listen to my recent finding reader webinar) but one thing that has helped me on the ‘motivation’ front lately is the report below in Google Analytics (click to enlarge).

comparing-traffic.png

What you’re looking at is the traffic so far today (the blue line) on Digital Photography School compared to the traffic on the site one week ago (the orange line) – arranged by the hour.

I’ll tell you how to get this report below but first, the reason I love this report is that it tells me whether I’m on track to get as much traffic to my site today as I had this time last week.

Having something to compare traffic keeps me motivated to better the previous week’s result.

Note: I always choose to compare traffic from exactly 1 week previous because on our site we see quite distinct rises and falls in traffic on different days of the week.

In the chart above you can see the day’s traffic started well, with the first 4 hours between 1.7% and 18.1% higher than the previous week.

This all happened while I was asleep so when I checked in at 9am I was pleased! However, I also saw that from 6am-8am that we were beginning to slip behind.

Knowing this gave me a little bit of motivation to find some ways to drive more traffic to the site today.

I took a look at the schedule of Facebook updates that I had planned for the day and decided to move a status update I thought would drive some traffic to be earlier in the day.

That status update went live at 9am and resulted in a nice bump in traffic to get the blue line trending up above the orange again.

I also identified some older posts from my archives that I then scheduled to be tweeted throughout the next 24 hours (based upon my advice from last month to promote old content), which I thought would help us to keep nudging the traffic up higher for the rest of the day.

Having this report open is a great little source of motivation to keep working not only at writing great content but also driving traffic to it.

I also find that having this comparison open during the day (and watching ‘real time’ stats) helps me to spot anomalies in traffic. It helps me to quickly spot if there’s a problem (server issues) or on the flip side it shows me when a post might have been shared on a big blog or social media account.

Knowing this information helps me to react quickly to fix a problem or leverage a traffic event.

UPDATE: here’s how the traffic looked at the end of the day in the comparison view:

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 8.56.20 am.png

Things slipped for the last hour or two but over the full day visitor numbers were up by 4.22%.

While a 4% increase in traffic isn’t the most spectacular result I see it is a small step in a larger race I’m running. I know if I can see even a 1% increase in traffic each week that over a year or longer that it’ll significantly grow the site over time.

How to Get This Report

For those of you new to Google Analytics here’s the easy process to get this report (it will only take you a couple of minutes).

1. Login to your Google Analytics Account

2. In the menu click on the ‘Overview’ link under ‘Audience’

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics.png

3. By default you’ll be looking at the last months traffic. You want to drill down now to today so in the top right corner click on the date range and a calendar will open up like this:

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics-6.png

4. Select today’s date.

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics-5.png

5. Check the ‘compare to’ box and then in the new date field that opens up underneath you can put in last weeks date by clicking on the day you want to compare it to. Once you have – click ‘Apply’.

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics-7.png

6. You’re almost done now. You should be looking at a report that compares the two days but by default it’ll be showing you the total of the days in the chart as two dots. You want to view this now as ‘hourly’ so hit the ‘hourly’ tab.

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics-8.png

You now should be looking at the comparison of today’s traffic with the same day last week (note: your current days report won’t yet be complete unless the day is almost over and it does run an hour behind).

Variations on this report to check out

This comparison tool is really useful for a while heap of reports.

For example you can choose to compare one week with another:

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics-10.png

In fact, any period of time can be compared with any other period.

Also, with a date range locked in you can drill down into many other metrics.

For example, earlier today I was doing some analysis comparing this last week with the corresponding week in September, which was just before we did our new redesign on Digital Photography School.

A day by day comparison showed a great improvement in overall traffic.

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics-11.png

Drilling down further, and viewing the two weeks by the hour, was also fascinating and showed that the two weeks had remarkably similar patterns in traffic from hour to hour – so the increase in traffic was very even across the week.

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics-12.png

Under that chart was some interesting data:

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics-16.png

Not only were Visits and Page views well up – but being able to see that bounce rate was slightly down and that average visitor duration was up was encouraging. Seeing Pages Viewed Per Visit was down showed we have an area to improve on (we’re already working on this) and seeing that we had a good rise in ‘new’ visitors was something that should be investigated further.

To investigate the rise in ‘new’ visitors I moved into the ‘Acquisition’ menu on Google analytics. The same date range and comparison is still selected so now I’m able to compare the two periods when it comes to different sources of traffic and see why we’ve had rises in traffic:

It turns out we’ve seen increases in a few area:

Search Traffic is up:

All_Traffic_-_Google_Analytics_and_Preview_of_“Untitled”.png

Facebook Traffic is up (due to my recent experiments):

All_Traffic_-_Google_Analytics-2.png

But interestingly Feed traffic is down (giving us something to investigate).

All_Traffic_-_Google_Analytics-3.png

There are many other areas you can drill down into with the comparison tool – almost anything that Google Analytics has a report for you can compare from period to period and get a great overview of how that stat compares very quickly.

Have a go yourself – do some comparisons and let me know what you find in comments below!

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. JP says:

    Thanks for sharing this Darren. I’ve recently been trying to get more use out of the huge amount of data available in Google Adsense, and while the Nathalie Lussier videos’ on the topic are fantastic I don’t think she covers this functionality.
    It looks like a great way to compete with yourself and grow readership week-over-week and month-over-month.

  2. dojo says:

    Have started paying more attention to my analytics, but never tried this trick. Really good idea. I’m constantly trying to improve the blog, so these details would clearly help and motivate me.

  3. Rohan Mod says:

    Comparing and being happy. I hope, My website will also have same traffic some day. But it will work really well to get motivated.

  4. Candice says:

    This post just motivated me! I need to start promoting older posts. Thanks!

  5. Arshi Farha says:

    Darren, it’s really informative. i just followed the blind race and registered my blog with GA. but after reading this post; i think i must stay put with it. thanks a lot. GA got my 100% attention now.

  6. Michael lynch says:

    Apart from the obvious analytics help, this is the kind of post I wish there were more of. No wooliness , no sales pitch and a pretty deep insight into just what kind of dedication and juggling it takes to run a top blog.

    .. and yes I read yesterday’s post about not leaving a link . I just don’t have one yet.

  7. Ryan Hache says:

    I love this feature, I’ve used it to find gaping holes in traffic losses especially when you launch a redesign very helpful to do this on a routine too.

  8. I’m still very new to Google Analytics (and blogging), but this has given me a lot to think about. Thank you!

  9. marty says:

    wait… I have to bookmark this! Okay done .This is great especially for beginners to help keep themselves on track and to really harness the power of traffic and stats.I always knew that the analytics meant something and that they could be useful I just felt like they were a map I didn’t know how to read .I think I just got the key thanks

  10. Segun says:

    Thanks for the insightful post Darren. I have always used GA but I never thought to compare traffic. I only focus on the day. I just made a quick comparison between this week and the previous. I was indeed encouraged.

    I think my GA code isn’t placed correctly as my bounce rate is about 5%. Where should it be located on my page? Thanks again.

  11. Dee Wall says:

    Darren Thanks! I found this very useful since I’m a beginner on this Analytics world. When I first viewed the analytics it really confused me. The idea of promoting your old post is pretty clever.

  12. Marija says:

    I definitely have to examine my Google Analytics deeper, it’s been months since I invested more time in it, and I’ll definitely try out this method, Darren. Thank you for guiding us to be better bloggers!

  13. Beth Hewitt says:

    Hi Darren,

    Thanks for the reminder about using GA in a to motivate me. I look regularly to see how I am doing, but never really compare week by week and certainly never make the correlation between what I could be doing more of.

    Beth :)

  14. Robert says:

    My Google Analytics is no longer credible, simply because cookie law in Europe. Now users must agree if they accept or not cookies on my website, so with that I do not know real traffic on my website, I can only guessing is there are 50%, 60% of people accept cookies from my site, because I maybe have around half less traffic than before this cookie law.

  15. Salman says:

    To be frank, I haven’t tried the compare feature although it remains visible every time I check the stats. But your post has inspired me to use this feature. Comparing current results with previous one’s can really help to motivate us to grow our blogs.

  16. Liudas says:

    I think this would be a good way to drive myself nuts :D

  17. hi darren,
    this is my first time bump into your blog and from the start read, it has already inspired me. i use to watch the visit hit from the normal WP stats tracker (jack pack) but now it seems GA can play a bigger role in providing info that can some way another inspire to keep writing and posting to keep my blog alive…

  18. Such a great idea for optimizing how & when you post. Never thought of that! It must have been exciting when you first made those changes, based on trends you spotted and saw your hits start to soar, as a result.

  19. Drewry says:

    hi Darren,

    I was just wondering when you first started out with blogging, was there such a thing around like automated content sharing? And if so, did you use that method as a means of sharing your newly published blog posts on social networks at once? If you didn’t resort to that if it was around at the time you started blogging, what are some of the natural method you used to effectively promote your blog across the web? Did you use article marketing or paid press releases by chance? Forum networking? Or just blogging and that was it? Thanks for your input. :-)

  20. Darren,

    Really been enjoying your blog. Are you starting to use colors as a part of your brand image?

    Greg

  21. Rhea says:

    Looking at the figures and upwards going graph of how many people like your website and spending their valuable time on your post gives enough motivation to keep running your blog and work towards improving it further.

  22. Nice information i am new blogger and read about how to use google analytic your informationm is also very good and helpful to compare your visitor at particular date

  23. Jack says:

    Interesting use of Google Analytics compare feature. I know of the Real Time reports, but wasn’t aware that the current day’s “hourly” view was updated so quickly.

    One question: what is “Feed”? Is that your RSS feed? In my GA, that shows up as “rss / rss” for source / medium. Just curious if I’m missing out on a feature of GA, or a possible new traffic source…

  24. Cameron says:

    I literally didn’t even finish your article before I went and generated these reports on my GA. Thank you thank you! I love this idea so much and I can’t wait to begin comparing my traffic week by week.

  25. Hemant says:

    Hi Darren,

    Your article is really helpful, thanks for writing. I am looking forward to read more articles in future. Keep writing!!! cheers.

  26. Vlad says:

    Good stuff.. I’ve been using newstatpress plugin for my site.. I need to spend more time on google analytics. Thank you..