I spent a good bit of 2020 avoiding looking at my web numbers. Honestly, the possibilities I expected Google Analytics to reveal scared me.
I intended to put off checking my web numbers for as long as I could. 2020 proved to be such an unusual year that I figured it would throw my numbers into a tailspin.
But a recent post by Mack Collier inspired me. Mack posted a study of his November web numbers, demonstrating what he accomplished after relaunching his blog. Mack admitted he dropped the number of posts he made in November compared to October and said his numbers suffered for it. But at the same time, November and December can be horrible months for sites like blogs because of the holidays and changing schedules.
But the fact that he showed a drop in numbers possibly caused by a reduction in post volume scared me a bit.
After all, earlier this year, I announced I would go from five posts per week to just four. I essentially reduced my volume by 20%. That, I feared, would likely drop my numbers considerably. Granted, I only made the announcement in November, not March, so there wouldn’t have been time for a great deal of impact.
Still, I worried about what I might see.
But I prepared to have a look at the numbers.
I always pay particular attention to certain stats: Page Views, Unique Visitors, Average Session Duration, Bounce Rate and Pages Per Visit.
Page views provide the number of pages your site’s viewers actually visited. The more pages the better, of course.
Unique visitors counts up the number of people who visited your site at least once during the measurement period. Unique visitors can be an important measure because if gives you a snapshot of the total number of visitors. If one person visited my site 200 times this year, they’d still only be counted once in the unique visitors count. (The exception to that is if they visited on different devices; each device might well be counted as a separate “visitor,” but again, only once for the year.)
The average session duration, also known as time on site, measures how long the average visitor spends here when they do visit. If you’ve never looked at this stat, prepare yourself: the numbers can be depressing. Many readers scan and many more read long enough to get the answer they’re looking for. Fewer and fewer read every single word these days. Could that be a sign we’re getting more and more dumb?
Bounce rate can be confusing to new bloggers. It represents the percentage of people who enter your site on one page and leave from the same page. If you tweet a link to your post, a visitor clicks it, reads it and leaves, that’s a 100% bounce rate. So you want a lower bounce rate, not a higher one. To add to the confusion, a blog’s bounce rate will typically be high to begin with. For many blogs doing SEO well, a Google Search might bring a visitor to your blog to get one question answered. If the post gives the answer they need, they may have no real reason to read further.
Pages per visit relates to bounce rate in a sense. Since you hope people will always visit more than one page while they’re on your site, you want to see more than one page per visit.
The actual numbers surprised me.
It turns out I may have been dreading looking at the web numbers for nothing. I compared Jan. 1-Nov. 30, 2020 with the same dates on the previous year. A year-to-year comparison will always give you a better measurement. A month-to-month won’t give you as good an idea because habits can change month to month.
The number of unique visitors was actually the only bad mark. That figure dropped year to year by 16.6%.
Everything else, it turns out, looked good.
My page views went up 30%. The time on site increased a mere four seconds, but that’s still a 13% increase.
The number of pages per visit jumped up 56.8%. I feel really good about that one.
But even better, my overall bounce rate dropped 53%. (Remember, you want your bounce rate to decrease, not increase. When it drops, it means people are clicking more pages on your site.)
If you’ve been dreading checking out your numbers, I suggest it’s time to look anyway. I hope you get better news than you expect. And as always, if you don’t, you might be able to come up with ideas to improve specific stats for 2021.
To all of you who stop by and contribute to these numbers, I appreciate it!