Blog performance tracking with Google Data Studio

Blog performance tracking with Google Data Studio

Author: Lucy Barfoot

Marketing Automation whizz and creative entrepreneur. I love analysing what visually works (and what doesn't) in the marketing industry and helping people to devise marketing campaigns from a creative angle.

You’re blogging, right?

We really believe that content is KING. If you’re running a business then blogging is a powerful route to people finding you. And, you need to be able to measure your blog performance to succeed. 

Your content can position you as the expert voice that answers questions. You can help your audience understand the problems they face, and the solutions that are available. All of this can build trust and likeability with your brand - which every business should be looking to achieve.

Your blogs need to provide value. Value that speaks to their awareness levels, that they can consume with ease, and that educates them on subjects of importance. 

If you’re new to blogging, please keep reading - it’s great you’re here - working out what to track and measure is a grand place to start when you’re beginning to blog.

Psst. If the whole blogging concept is new to you, we have some useful advice in a different blog post of ours. It will take you through creating content plans, understanding awareness levels of your audience, and more top tips for getting started. Check it out - ‘How to start blogging for your business’.

The time investment for better blog performance

If you’re blogging for your business, It’s likely taking up a fair bit of your time.

Google loves content, and the more blogs you have, the more Google will index your site.

But what if your blogs aren’t performing well? Are you wasting your time?

Well, yes! You are. Time is our most valuable resource and because of that, it’s really important to keep your eyes focused on how your blogging content is performing. 

Why would you want to track your blog performance?

If you know what’s working, you can do more of it. 

If you know what’s not working, you can tweak that content to be more useful.

Improvements such as bounce rates, read time and page views should be considered. Knowing your blog performance stats will help indicate which topics which just ain’t interesting/useful/insightful enough for your target audience to want to read.

The ‘fire and forget’ method of blogging will simply not make the most of your content.

You want as much content on your site to get served as relevant search results to your potential audience, and to do that you need to gain insight into the performance of your blogs. 

How to create Google Data Studio reports to track blog performance

I want to make it easy for you to track your blogging stats. 

No one wants a regular task which is a real eye-roll when it comes around to complete again.

There is value in making this as streamlined as possible, so that it’s a JOY TO DO. 

Imagine that, finding joy in retrieving and analysing stats... I want to help you to get to a place where that is possible.

I’m going to run through some of the elements of a Google Data Studio report which shows the performance of your blog content. I’ll explain what each reporting element is, how to set it up and how to interpret the data.  

If you follow my instructions, you’ll have a Google Data Studio report which tells you which pieces of blog content are performing well and what’s not performing well - illustrated by a few different reporting methods.

We’ll look at pageviews, bounce rates, referral sources and more. 

Before we start… Three things… 

1. Using Google Data Studio for blog performance

You have your website data from Google Analytics hooked up to Google Data Studio, right? If you don’t, here’s instruction from Google on how to do that.

And if you’re keen to know the ins and outs, I can really recommend taking part in Google Data Studio’s ‘Analytics Academy’. Here you can complete a free course which shows you how to use the whole of Google Data Studio. 

2. Create a filter for the whole report

You need to create a new report, and you are only going to pull blog data into that, not your whole website data. To do this, you need to create a filter.

The easiest way is to a add a ‘filter’ to your entire report, here’s how you do that:

File > report settings > under ‘filter’ hit ‘add a filter’ 

blog performance tracking

Ideally you will have your website split into sub-domains.

For example, if your URL is something like www.domainname/blog/blog-title, you have bundled your individual blogs under a sub-domain: /blog/

If you haven't done this, it's going to be tricky to view your blog data as a whole (you may have noticed if using Google Analytics). I would suggest you speak to your CMS manager about getting this implemented if it's not in place.

Back to Google Data Studio set up.

We need to set up this filter to only show blog posts in your reporting dashboard. You do this by setting your filter to include pages which contain/or start with 'blog' (or whatever your chosen sub-domain is). 

3. Add in a date range

blog performance tracking

Hit this icon in the toolbar to pop your date range in. If you set this to the current year to date, you’ll see the data showing up as you make this juicy report.

blog performance tracking

Stat 1: How many page views is your blog content getting and how does this impact blog performance?

I like to see the total of 'sessions' and 'pageviews' for a specified time frame, and see how this data is spread throughout that time frame.

A graph is great as an overview, and also having a little table which shows the blog content in order of page views. 

What is a Pageview? It's simply a view of that page of your site.

What is a Unique Pageview? Same as the above, but doesn’t include that same person refreshing the page or coming back to the page later on.

What is a Session? This is a session of ‘surfing’ your website. On your website, someone might read a couple of blogs, put something in their shopping cart, look at your T&C’s - that’s all one session. The things that create a new session are if there’s 30 minutes of inactivity, and all sessions end at midnight too. That’s the simple description. You can see more info about session scenarios here. 

To show this data in the three ways I’ve just described:

Create a Scorecard.

Set the metric as ‘Sessions’ and then a separate scorecard which has the metric of ‘Unique Pageviews’:

blog performance tracking
blog performance tracking

Next, create a Time Series chart. 

The  dimension is auto-set as ‘Date’ but set the breakdown dimension to ‘Page Title’ and the metric as ‘Unique Pageviews’.

blog performance tracking

Create a Table. Set the dimension as ‘Page Title’ and the metric as ‘Unique Pageviews’.

blog performance tracking

How do you interpret pageviews for blog performance?

Being able to see sessions and pageviews narrowed down by blog post is the kind of detail which is incredibly useful.

You should look at the data and take note of what’s most popular - maybe those blog posts relate to a certain topic or content category?

This will indicate what you should spend time writing more content about. 

The same goes for the opposite. Blogs with low sessions and page views are likely to be less interesting to your audience and perhaps it’s time to drop that topic, or talk about it less. 

Don't ignore niche topics that need to be addressed though. Not everything you create content-wise will be SEO-first. Sometimes we simply need to write about a subject that is important to our audience, and will educate them, even if they aren't actually searching the web for it specifically.

Other interpretations of high pageviews include: 

  • Great blog titles.
  • You’re actively sharing your blog posts (in an engaging way) across social media (more on that in the ‘blog referral source’ section…) 
  • How good the SEO within your blog posts is. Our blog post ‘How to optimise your blog posts for SEO’ is your friend if you want to check you have your SEO nailed).
  • You’ve hit the sweet-spot of a topic which is a bit niche (hard to find information on and you’re sharing your expert voice) and your blog not being drowned out by millions of people writing blogs on the same topic meaning that you’re lost on page 1000001 of google. 
  • You’ve been blogging a long time and Google trusts your content.

Stat 2: Users vs new users arriving on your blog posts

This is a lovely trip of data representations. I like to create a table which has the raw data, and allows us to compare new users and total users, and then a little pie chart of the New, and a pie of the total users. 

What is a New User? A visit to your website from someone who doesn't yet have a tracking cookie.

What is a Returning User? A visit to your website from someone who already has tracking cookie.

What is a User? New + returning user visits. 

A couple of quirks here in case you’re looking to get a bit granular, because the data here can be a touch misleading…

Some people clear their cookies out, so they’d show as a new user when they’re not officially one.

Also, new + returning visitors often doesn’t add up to total users. This is because a single user could visit your site multiple times and they would be reported as a new visitor once, then a returning visitor each time they returned to your site. 

To show this data:

Create a Table. Set the dimension as ‘Page Title’ and then the metrics as ‘New Users’ and ‘Users’.

blog performance tracking

Create a Pie Chart. Set the dimension as ‘Page Title’ and then the metric ‘Users’ and then a separate pie chart for ‘new users’.

blog performance tracking
blog performance tracking

How do you interpret users vs new users for blog performance?

Users - they’re all good! You want to bring both new users and returning users to your site. Setting goals to both retain your loyal readers and attract new users is key to any marketing strategy. 

We like new users! They’re like new leads (if you’ve got great calls to action on your blog posts).

A data drill down is really useful here. And I recommend that you create another chart here. One which shows the channels people come to your site from, and how many new users and total users each of those channels have created. 

To show this data create a Bar Chart. Set the dimension as ‘Source/Medium’ and then two metrics: ‘New Users’ and ‘Users’. (Extra tip: Tick ‘stacked bars’ as it allows you to fit more rows in).

blog performance tracking
blog performance tracking

This data is useful as it gives you a simple comparison of the different ways you’re attracting users.

It’ll show you the new users you’re attracting from organic Google search for instance, alongside all of the social channels. An interpretation of this data could be that if you’re attracting lots of new users through Twitter, your social presence there is a place to focus more on. You can look at the data and take action.

A general rule of thumb is that if your new visitors from organic search is low, you would benefit from optimising your blog posts for SEO. 

Stat 3: Time spent on blog content

So you’ve attracted someone to your site, but are they consuming your content? Are they coming in for a matter of seconds and then moving on? Low read times are a red flag and you should make it a priority to tweak that copy,

To see stats for this, I think a simple table illustrates it best. Here are your instructions:

Create a table.

Set the dimension to ‘Page Title’ and then two metrics: ‘Time on Page’ and ‘Avg. Time on Page. 

blog performance tracking

I like to see the total time on page (in the time period you set - eg. the past month) and also the average time on page for users.

How do you interpret time spent on site pages for blog performance?

Please note - it’s detail, but it’s important! 

The metric of time on page / average time on page does not take into account people who bounce right off your page (more on that in a minute), analytics here also keep counting even if someone opens the page up, reads a bit, then opens a new tab.

So it’s not the most accurate data reporting, and it’s important to take that into account, and not interpret it incorrectly...

With that in mind, although a high read time is a lovely stat to see, you’re going to need to ignore it for now. Look at the pieces of content with a low read time, and take some action there. Here are some possible interpretations: 

  • A low read time may indicate that your blogs are not what people are expecting. This links into SEO once again - take a look at what your meta descriptions are, make sure that they describe what is to be found in your blog posts. 
  • Same with your blog titles - are they describing what the blog content is, or are they misleading? 
  • Then look at the quality of the writing itself - is the content engaging? Are you explaining what you’ll be covering in the blog post - setting the scene?
    Top tip - use the rule of three: Tell them what you're going to tell them (intro), tell them (body), then tell them what you've told them (conclusion).
  • Are you using engaging visuals, headings and paragraphs to break up the copy and make it easy to read?
  • Do you have annoying pop-ups which are turning people off?
  • Is your site page taking too long to load?

Food for thought there, and without stats like time on site pages, you wouldn’t know this info. Happy optimising! Top tip: check the traffic on blog posts with a low read-time before carving out time to optimise them.

Stat 4: Blog Bounce Rate

A bounce is when a user visits one page on your site, then exits without interacting with anything. 

We don’t like bounces! 

Bounce rates are also known as a single-page session and your bounce rate is calculated by the number of users having these single page sessions, divided by all sessions. 

The higher the bounce rate, the more people are leaving your site after only visiting one page (which often means they have zero interaction with your site). So yes, a high bounce rate is bad. 

But what is a high bounce rate? It will vary between industries. Neil Patel put together this infographic to show the variations:

blog performance tracking

It’s really tempting to compare your bounce rate to others, but easy tiger - comparisons get you nowhere. The goal here is to learn what your average bounce rate is, and to try and decrease it. 

Want to see your blog’s bounce rate stats in Google Data Studio? Here’s how - it’s simple:

Create a table. Set the dimension to ‘Page Title’ and then ‘Bounce Rate’ as the metric.

blog performance tracking

How do you interpret bounce rates on your blog?

When people consume your blog content, we want to push them to read more, to give them more value. Low bounce rate on your blog posts shows that you are succeeding in this. People are being encouraged to do something more than just visit that one page of your site. Woop!

It’s a great measurement of your content performance. 

I recommend that you look out your blog posts which have higher bounce rates. Writing better content and adding more calls to action for them to stay on site is the solution to a high bounce rate.

Also look at your blog posts which have a low bounce rate - examine what you’re doing right on those and mirror it! 

Stat 5: Blog Referral Source

Referral sources are the sources of traffic which are referring people to your blog. It's usually made up of the big boys: Google, Email and Socials, as well as people searching on other search engines, people coming to your blog direct and other referrers like someone else’s blog which mentions yours.  

Here’s how you illustrate this data: 

Create a Bar Chart.

Set the breakdown dimension to ‘Month of the Year’ and add ‘Source/Medium’ as the breakdown dimension. You then add the metric ‘Unique Pageviews’.  

I like to include this breakdown dimension for separating the date out by month so you can get an at-a-glance comparison for the past months.

Top tip: in the ‘style’ panel for this chart, change the ‘bars’ to the amount of months you’d like to show and then tick the box for ‘stacked data’ which makes it show ever so nicely!

blog performance tracking
blog performance tracking

How do you interpret referral source data on your blog?

Referral sources tell us which websites are sending people to you. You can analyse the data by asking yourself some of these questions: 

  • If you have low figures for the social media referral sources, ask if your social media promotion of your blog content exists, and is it working on some of those social channels better than others?
    That could indicate that some platforms are more receptive and appropriate for your blog-post promotion, but also maybe you’ve got some work to do here in the way you’re sharing your content. 
  • How's your organic search? A low organic search will show that your blog content could be optimised better so it gets shown when people search for the topics you're writing about.
  • It’s also interesting sometimes to see which other websites are referring you. If you’re getting a lot of traffic though someone else’s website, which has surprised you… how about reaching out and thanking them. Perhaps you could suggest more ways they could refer to your blog. 

Go forth and measure your content performance.

Blog performance

Don't forget to check in with your report regularly, and set aside the time to tweak your content based on your interpretation of the data: 

  • Find out which blogs are performing well and add more blogs on those topics to your content plan.
  • Find out which blogs are not working and get a hit list of which content needs to be tweaked (improving bounce rates, read time and pageviews), or binned - which will also impact your content planning.

Having a strong blog performance benefits your customers and your business… Plus, your future self will be very happy if you follow my steps to make reporting less of a nightmare and more of a streamlined dream. 

If you're in the zone for enhancing your content, here are some Ninja blogs that you might find interesting.

How to optimise blog posts for SEO
What is content lifecycle management
how to plan strategic content for your marketing automation
How to add value to your content 2
What is Gated Content?