What Do All My Site Statistics Mean, Anyways? Understanding Analytics

Metrics, statistics, and analytics are all major components of any online business. Having the ability to track traffic and gather data is easy enough, it takes care of itself! But being able to interpret that information is another thing entirely, and takes an understanding of how people actually use the internet. Your website doesn’t just sit around and magically drive business to you: it engages your potential customers, and in turn, your potential customers engage with it. Separate data points can tell you things about your website you would never have guessed otherwise, and can provide real, measurable results that tell you exactly how your content strategy is working.

Let’s take a look at some sample analytics just to get a grasp of the fundamentals. I’ll use my goofy personal blog as an example. This is a Tumblr.com blog account, meaning it’s heavily tied in to social networking and is part of a complete content management system already. In simple terms, I’m already linked up to social networking with this blog, and draw a great deal of outside traffic from Twitter, Facebook, and other social sites.

My content strategy is pretty mundane: I just want to share things with my friends. My blog is content-rich, but not necessarily rich with text content—more often than not, I’ll just re-post images, videos, and other multimedia that catch my eye. Those original posts often have very little metadata (searchable text) included with them, or sometimes it is scrubbed away by the previous poster. Occasionally though, I’ll feel like writing something and will put up a text-heavy, search-friendly post.

Knowing that most of my traffic comes solely from Tumblr’s internal “dashboard,” a Twitter-like timeline of posts from people you follow, my results are still interesting to look at.

Back in February, I posted a video of a sleeping hummingbird (very cute!) that ended up being very popular: to this day it has been shared and liked 10,042 times by Tumblr users. The spikes you see through February and March are above-average traffic driven by people looking for that post and coming back to my blog. Other than those blips, I have fairly consistent pageviews.

I have a handful of people that follow me and regularly “Like” my posts. These visitors would be considered “Returning Visitors,” and the rest are entirely new. You can make a pretty educated guess, then, that the majority of my New Visitors comes from popular posts, like the sleeping hummingbird. That hypothesis can be further confirmed with the rest of my data.

My Pages Per Visit and Average Visit Duration tell me a good deal about the quality of my content and the ways people use my blog. People are willing to look at roughly one and a half pages on my blog—but keep in mind that the page people see first is often the main page if they’re arriving directly, which features five or six pieces of my most current posts. So we can assume that most visitors come to the front page, then 50% of the time, they find a specific post they want to click on. Sometimes they may also follow a direct link to a post from their dashboard, so they will likely not see more than one page. They click a post, like it, post it to their own blog, then leave.

The Average Visit Duration and Bounce Rate seem to confirm this: 35 seconds is enough time to notice something, decide whether or not you like it, then press the Like and Reblog buttons and leave. A 77% Bounce Rate means that the other 23% of the time, visitors are compelled to see more posts: a surprisingly positive metric on a site that people typically visit just long enough to swipe some cute bird video for themselves.

These aren’t the best statistics for a standalone blog, but because it is part of the Tumblr network, user behavior will be different, and so will traffic results. I’m not setting any Olympic records with my statistics, but when you consider that many people use Tumblr as a social media platform first and a blogging platform second, these statistics highlight interesting trends with my subscribers.

I can see more metrics, like which specific posts are bringing in the most traffic, or how people are finding me with search terms, but for introductory purposes, just knowing how to interpret your recent hits timeline and your major percentages is a good place to start. Having the actual data is only half of understanding and using site analytics to your benefit. The other half of the equation requires understanding how people use your website or the service you provide, and understanding how your content strategy engages your audience.

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Andrew Glasscock is currently based in Nashville, Tennessee. He graduated with a BA in English, specialized in Creative Writing, with a minor in Marketing this past May. Along with copywriting, he loves being an improv comedian, playing frisbee, and dogs.

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