What Site Metrics Can Tell You About Your Blog - and How They'll Make It Better
Blogging is more than just writing posts. It's also learning how your site works on a fundamental level -- its reach and popularity -- as well as how it performs. This is true whether your self-host your blog or use free software such as Blogger or Wordpress. Statistics help unlock how visitors use and engage with your blog. Armed with this traffic knowledge, you can then figure out how to make your blog an even better experience for your readers.
Here are the site metric programs that I use on a daily basis to measure, track and hone my blog into the most robust website it can be.
How Popular is My Blog?
Interested in how your blog is performing compared to other websites globally? For that, you'll want to turn to Alexa. Alexa measures the popularity of your website compared to all other sites on the internet, assigning it both a Global Rank and Traffic Rank within a given country. With a free account, you can discover more detailed metrics about visits and visitors to your site, including demographics.
Visitor Behavior, Popular Content and Keywords: Power Stats
If you're ready to start rolling up your sleeves to really dig deep into visitor behavior, services like Jetpack for WordPress and Google Analytics will really take you down the site metric rabbit hole.
If you have a WordPress.com blog, Jetpack is already built into the functionality of your dashboard. Self-hosted WordPress users can download Jetpack as a plugin. Their site metrics can tell you everything from how many visits your blog has received to top posts and content, to your top referring sites sending traffic to your blog.
Google Analytics is basically the same as Jetpack, but isn't proprietary to WordPress and offers much more in-depth statistical analysis, from real-time reporting (who's visiting your website right now) to visitor flow (how visitors move from one page to the next on your blog) to even key data points to maximize monetization. While you can copy and paste your unique tracking code into the theme of your website, basic stats are provided for all Blogger blogs and there's a standalone Google Analytics plugin for WordPress users.
The Need for Speed
Do you know the fastest thing that will turn away readers from your blog? A blog that takes too long to load. You have some idea of how fast your blog loads on your own home devices, but that might not be the same experience that other visitors may have on their devices. And since website loading times are often measured in milliseconds, loading your page and trying to time it yourself isn't exactly realistic. That's where tools like Google PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom and YSlow come in.
Google PageSpeed Insights (part of the Google Developers toolkit) is simple to use. Simply head to the PageSpeed Insights website and plug in your blog's URL. The site quickly analyzes your blog's response time and provides you with a quick numerical assessment of its performance out of 100 possible points; higher scores indicate a fast, optimized blog. PageSpeed Insights even gives you a snapshot of how mobile versions of your blog perform, along with detailed recommendations for how to improve things that may be slowing down your site.
Pingdom basically does the same thing as PageSpeed Insights, but presents your performance data into a more visual presentation. You can get your performance date the same way, too: head to the Pingdom website, enter in your blog URL and go. YSlow is a developer tool from Yahoo! that also measures page speed and offers performance recommendations. What makes YSlow different is that it can integrate into your web browser so you can do a one-click spot check of your site performance at any time. YSlow also provides you with a letter grade rating your blog's speed and performance.