While setting up a website or blog is an important step in your marketing efforts, it is only the first step. In order for your website to catch the attention of potential readers, you must add new content of value and interest to those readers. But just adding more content when you come across it may not be the most efficient use of your time. Use your sites statistics to see what succeeds and when people come to the site most often.
Most website platforms capture and provide statistics. For this post, I'll use WordPress' Dashboard and stats features to illustrate what you can learn and how to use what you learn to improve the likelihood your potential readers will see what you want and what you think they are interested in.
First, here's a quick introduction to what you can find on a WordPress site's Dashboard.
The top left column of the Dashboard provides a quick overview of the number of posts, pages, and comments are on the site. In this case, there are 108 posts, 22 pages, and 85 comments. By themselves, these numbers mean nothing. But together they provide a quick overview of the level of engagement your site has with its readers. In an ideal world, every post would lead to the reader taking an action--clicking on a link to read more, posting a comment, or (in the case of a site where it is possible to purchase something) select a link to buy something. The fact that the site has 108 posts and 22 pages, but only 85 comments indicates not every page or post has engaged the readers enough to add a comment. But there are other measures of engagement we will look at later. Below the "At a Glance" block, information regarding the number of spam comments blocked as well as the amount of space the website used can be found. And the top of the Activity block, showing articles scheduled to be published soon, appears next in the left column.
The top of the right column deals with Draft articles, including a space to add a new draft post within the Dashboard itself. Below that a list of items begun, but still in Draft format, appears.
Scroll down and the left column continues with recent activities, this time indicating posts that have been published and comments recently posted.
In the right column, a chart representing the number of times the site has been accessed during the past two weeks. Hovering the cursor over a specific date provides more information about what was posted as well as the number of visits. See screen excerpt below showing what was published on October 24 in addition to the number of page view that day.
Note also that the Top Posts, as well as the top Searches for the past week, are listed, the first indication of which pages or posts are accessed most often and what search criteria users have entered that resulted in the site being accessed. The Top Search criteria are useful when deciding what tags to add to your articles.
Continue scrolling to see a summary of your other activity on the site, including what you have recently updated, added, and what comments have been added. Both the screen shot above and below illustrate this.
But WordPress provides much more information than what you can see on the Dashboard. Once the Dashboard has been opened, additional options appear in the far left menu of the WordPress site.
Of the options shown above, this post will only look at "Site Stats."
The top of the Stats screen displays recent stats by day. Note the tabs at the top that allow switching to by Weeks or Months. From experience, I know the tallest bar on this chart by Days will be the date of our most recent meeting. From this chart, you can see this is September 28 by hovering the cursor over the tallest bar.
More details can be seen by clicking on a specific date. See below for September 28.
Referrers are listed in the left column. These are sites outside of this one with links back to this one. Note that the final one in this list is from the website of T. Jefferson Parker, our guest speaker at the September meeting.
The right column lists pages and posts on this website that were visited on this date. As expected, the highest number of visits were to the site's home page with the second highest number to the Meetings/Programs page. It may seem surprising that the number of visits to the Meetings/Programs page isn't higher, but keep in mind that information about the upcoming meeting is always included in the left column of the homepage as well, making it unnecessary to go to the specific page unless more information about the program is sought.
A summary view of the website's visit statistics is also available. The link is in the upper right corner of the bar chart. The summary view looks like this:
I consider the site to be successful so long as the number of visitors trends upward--not day by day, but overall. The numbers appearing in the Months and Years and Average per Day are all moving upward. The two numbers highlighted in green are the highest for the site overall. The fact that this was last month is also evidence that the trend is going in the right direction.
Other details to be gathered from WordPress's stats include the number of referrers, site visitors, clicks through to other sites, search criteria, all with the option to display by week, month, quarter, year, or since launching the site. See below for samples.
Top Posts indicate where your visitors are going when they get onto the site. Since the home page will likely be at the top of this list, consider adding content there, or at least links to recent content to increase its visibility.
Knowing where to find where your site is linked is especially important if you have to make a change to the url of any content on your site. Check out where the referrers point to. Check out what else is on the referrers' sites. You may find an opportunity to engage in a conversation with visitors on those other sites.
If you link to content on other sites, checking out the Top Clicks will make it clear just which of those links your audience found valuable enough to check out. Clicking through to another url may be the action you desire your readers to take after reading a post, an alternative to measuring engagement indicated by the number of comments. Again, visit those sites your audience checked out to see if there is something you can learn from the other site about how to improve your site.
If you use a different platform for your website or blog, check out what site statistics you can get for that platform. Hopefully, this description of what is available from WordPress will help you be able to interpret the information on your site as well.
In the future, I'll be looking at Google Analytics, another tool that you can use on any website platform to gather even more valuable metrics.