3 Must-Review Custom Google Analytics Reports for Travel Bloggers

| | Optimization

As much as it is a creative task, blogging is also data driven.

As often as you brainstorm ideas about posts or edit photos, you should be analyzing your web analytics to assess your site’s strengths.

In both creative and strategic efforts, you should focus your energy on maximizing your desired outcomes. These can include increasing your traffic, improving your engagement, or delivering for brands you’ve partnered with.

Google Analytics is by far one of the most powerful tools available to bloggers to help us understand how our blog is performing. Unfortunately, for those new to the platform, it might be confusing.

Here are some custom reports to assist you with analyzing your data.

How to Set Up Custom Reports in Google Analytics

Creating custom reports in Google Analytics is done by clicking “Customize” in the left sidebar, then clicking “Custom Reports.”

Basically, you name the report and then select the variables you want to add to the report. In each report below, we’ll tell you which variables to add.

Setting up these custom reports can be a little confusing at first, so we created a quick video to show you how to get started:

In each of the reports in this post, there’s also a link where you can automatically save a ‘template’ of the report and use it to see your own data. That’s the easiest way to get these reports set up quickly!

Custom Report #1: Which of Your Posts Perform Best?

“Content is king!” This phrase is as prevalent as ever and with recent algorithm changes to Google, the search engine is better understanding personalize search intent. Google can tell the difference between a crappy blog post that was uninspiring and an amazing piece of informative visual content.

One of the best ways to measure the performance of a piece of content is to look at the user engagement of the post by new website entrances. The following custom report will outline what content draws people in and their level of engagement.

To create this report:

You can automatically add a template of this report by clicking here. The template should take your data and render the report automatically.

Your report should look something like this:

Here’s what these numbers mean for any given Page Title:

  • Entrances outlines the number of website visitors that entered your website through this page.
  • Bounce Rate is the number of visitors (as a percentage) that hit your blog post and then left before navigating to any other pages.
  • % New Sessions is the ratio new visitors to returning visitors. This tells you how many people were brand new when they arrived on this page of your site.
  • Pages / Session tells you the average number of pages a person who entered through this page visited.
  • Avg. Time on Site tells you the average amount of time someone spent on your site after landing on this page. The format is minutes : seconds.

How can you understand this report?

Find the pages which have a low bounce rate, and high average time on page – these are your pages which are performing well.  Ask yourself, what did I do differently when writing the content of these pages?

Now find a high performing page and click on it, we’ll take a look at the sources and mediums which have sent traffic to this site. For example, I clicked the post titled “How to Pick the Perfect Pacific Coast Highway Rental Car:”

This report will also allow you to see the specific search keywords driving traffic to this page. From the above screen, click “organic.” Here is my example:

Just like that, you can see your top content, where your traffic is coming from, and the search terms they’re using to find you in Google or other search engines.

Custom Report #2: When is the Best Time To Publish A Post?

This is an excellent report for working out when the best time to publish a post is. By analyzing what hour of the day and day of week receive the most favorable engagement metrics would it not make sense to schedule your posts to be at that same time? This is such a simple optimization strategy which can yield fantastic results!

To create this report:

You can automatically add a template of this report by clicking here. The template should take your data and render the report automatically.

Your report should look something like this:

We’re using the exact same metrics as in the first report, but we have changed our dimension; in this case it’s hour. The settings are in 24 hour time, so “06” is 6 am and “18” is 6 pm.

This report has two tabs if you switch to the other tab you can view these visitor and engagement metrics over days of the week.

The Day of Week is listed as a number from 0 to 6 with 0 being a Sunday and 6 being a Saturday. It is a little confusing, but you will get the hang of it.

How can you understand this report?

This chart can help you get a much better understanding of the day of week and time of day when most of your traffic is online. In my case, based on the screenshots above, the best times for me to post are:

  • Sundays or Mondays
  • 11 am or 1 pm

Hopefully, now you might have a few exact hours and days of the week in which your audience are the most engaged and by scheduling your posts to publish at this time can maximize on this. Even if you only get an extra 30 seconds per person on a page or 0.8 pages per visit – for such little effort, this is a great strategy.

Bonus! Remember how in the first report we could click on a page title, and it would take us into a set of data just for that page? The same can be done on this report, just click on a time of day or day of the week, and you can view the traffic sources for this data set.

Custom Report #3: Where are Your Most Engaged Readers?

Now that you’ve found out the best performing content and when the best times are to publish, you need to figure out who your best readers are. Taking these three pieces together, you can improve your content strategy to wow these readers and bring new people to your blog too!

For the regular travel blogger, you may think the world is your target audience; actually, it’s better to learn who your audience actually is and provide those people with the best content possible. Over time, you’ll grow and can think about the whole world.

To create this report:

You can automatically add a template of this report by clicking here. The template should take your data and render the report automatically.

Your report should look something like this:

We’re using the exact same metrics as in the first report, but we have changed our dimension to be Country.

This report has two tabs if you switch to the other tab you can view these visitor and engagement metrics for different cities.

How can you understand this report?

This report gives you a lot of information about how readers from different places are behaving on your blog. For example, you might see that readers from Russia have an exceptionally low bounce rate on my site; this is spam traffic that I’ve worked to filter out over the past few months!

A better example is to look at Seattle readers: they ‘bounce’ less from my website and have a tendency to stay about 20 seconds longer on my blog. That’s a great insight if I can then create content they want to read!

But wait, there’s more! It turns you-you can see which pages readers from each country or city are visiting.

If we click down into the second level of this report, we have effectively created a filter only viewing visitors from that specific country/city. For example, here’s what Seattle readers are looking at on my blog; unsurprisingly, these highly engaged readers are most interested in Seattle-area content!

Main Takeaways from These Custom Reports

Travel bloggers tend to have a tendency to focus on raw visitor numbers and other goals they have set up in the Analytics profiles.

Google – more now than ever – is focused on content and an excellent way to measure the quality of your content is to review the engagement statistics per page – this is what the first report outlines.

Creating and analyzing a report that shows us how engaged our audience is per time of day and then aligning up our posts to be published at this time, is an easy method of maximizing engagement. This is quick, easy and a must for all travel bloggers.

The final report lets us examine which countries and content are the most engaged. This report is less valuable if your target audience is global (which is mostly the case in the travel blogging niche), but can still give you some fantastic insight into what countries are viewing what pages.

Together, these reports give you a powerful way to understand how, when, and where from readers come to your blog – as well as what they most want to read. These reports help provide a more complete picture and can help drive your content strategy.

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This post was originally written by Chris from FreelanceBackpacker.com in December 2011. It was updated in March 2017 by Valerie Stimac using data from her blog, Valerie & Valise.


Recent Comments

  • Love this – so helpful! Especially the day and time of day! And I’ve just been on autopilot with posting this whole time. Definitely will put this report to good use. Wish you guys had a pinnable image (vertical) on this post so I could save it for future reference!

    • Same here, Kathryn! We do have a pin – tap that little Pinterest button and it should show up 🙂

  • Thanks Valerie! This is really helpful and the templates make everything so easy ?

    • Thanks for the feedback! Good luck with your new GA knowledge! 🙂

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