Saturday, January 03, 2009

How to find out what are the most popular posts on your blog

How to find out what are the most popular posts on your blog by putting Google Analytics to your blog. On Wednesday I highlighted what were some of the most popular posts on Making A Mark in 2008. I was able to do this using Google Analytics which then prompted a number of requests for me to tell people how to get Google Analytics for a blog.

Cosmo - A study for his SOFA portrait
11" x 8, pencil

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

First off I only know how to do this for Blogger (and my two principal websites). I'm sure it's possible for other types of blogging webware but can't say for sure how to do this (perhaps others could comment?). It really depends on whether or not you can access the html for your template.

If you're the sort of person who likes to have the instructions printed out and sitting next to you while you try to do something, I've produced a guide (pdf file) which you can download for free and print out.

Making A Mark Guide - Installing Google Analytics on your Blog is now available and is also listed on the website page for Making A Mark Publications.

How to get Google Analytics on your blog

First things first - access and awareness. You'll need a Google Account and you need to know a very little about what Google Analytics is.
  • To access Google Analytics you'll need to get a Google Account - which is a stage which all Blogger owners can miss out as you've already got one!
Google Analytics is free to everyone, whether you are an advertiser, publisher or site owner.
  • This is the Google Analytics site - for those using and for those using Both provide an explanation of features and a tour. Don't be put off! Analytics is actually designed for websites which are a great deal more complex than a blog and is not as user-friendly as it could. It took me a long time to get round to getting to grips with Analytics and that's because it appears to be far from simple. What Google ideally needs to do is create a cutdown version for Bloggers. At the moment it's a bit like being confronted with the whole of Photoshop when all you want is PS Elements - just look at this! You can take the tour (but please bear in mind my comment about Photoshop). However, the good news is that if you've ever inserted html code into the template then you should be able to do this.
  • This is the Google Analytics Help Centre - always a good place to start! We're now going to look at sign-up and installation
  • Note that the Blogger Help Centre is completely unhelpful! This is how Blogger tells you to install Google Analytics (!) Like I said - Google hasn't got its head around the idea of a simple front end!
Signing up for Google Analytics (and signing in)

OK - once you've got the Google Account you need to go to 'My Account' when in the Google Browser view and click on Analytics - then you need to sign up for Analytics. Alternatively access it via (The access site will vary depending on your country. Another sign-up site is or . Check what it says in the Help Centre relevant to your country).
To create an Analytics account:
  1. Visit
  2. Enter your Google Account email and password and click Sign In. If you don't have a Google Account, click Sign up now to create one.
  3. Click Sign Up.
  4. Enter your Website's URL, making sure to select either http:// or https:// from the drop-down list. Enter a nickname for this account in the Account Name field and then, click Continue.
  5. Enter your contact information and click Continue.
  6. Read the Google Analytics Terms of Service. If you agree to these terms, select the Yes tick box and click Create New Account to continue.
Reference: Step 1 - Create a Google Analytics account
For the nickname, I suggest you use the name you call your blog (as opposed to whatever it's official title is). If you've only got one blog then 'my blog' is just fine!

Installation of Google Analytics

The Google Help Centre has an Installation Guide which provides a series of steps for moving on to the next step. The following are from the UK site
  • Step 2 - Configure your profile I entered the URL for my blog (, the country, the timezone and ignored the rest. I think you are automatically added as the Administrator
  • Step 3 - Edit the tracking code for custom website setups - my recollection is that there is no need for Blogger people to edit the tracking code
  • Step 4 - Add the tracking code to your pages Now this is the bit where it gets tricky - but only as tricky as anything else where you need to add in an html snippet of code. You now need to add in the Google Analytics code to the Blogger template you're using. You MUST insert the code which is specific to your profile. Read this first - then I'll tell you how easy it is!
Google Analytics only tracks pages that contain the Google Analytics tracking code. You will need to add this code to each page of your site, either manually or through the use of includes or other methods.

To access your tracking code:

  1. Sign in to Google Analytics.
  2. From the Analytics Settings page, find the profile for which you would like to retrieve the tracking code. Please note that tracking codes are profile specific.
  3. From that profile's Settings column, click Edit.
  4. At the top right of the Main Website Profile Information box, click Check Status.
  5. Your tracking code can be copied and pasted from the text box in the Instructions for adding tracking section.

Basic installation Copy and paste the code segment into the bottom of your content, immediately before the body tag of each page that you are planning to track. If you use a common include or template, you can enter it there.

(Note refer to the step 4 page for correct quoting of the html code - which won't appear correctly in this blog post)

  • Essentially in Blogger you now need to go to Layout and then you need to click the 'edit html' tab. Now is not the time to go and make a cup of coffee or answer the phone. Be focused while you've got this tab on screen to avoid doing anything silly which makes your blog 'look' go bonkers. You do NOT need to expand widgets. Instead scroll carefully right down to the very end of the html code where you will see the the end "body" code. Copy the Analytics code and then insert it just before this tag. In my template it says it comes just after the "end outer-wrapper" note. (Note refer to the step 4 page for correct quoting of the html code - which won't appear correctly in this blog post) Now save your template (just below - the orange button). There's no point in doing a preview - you won't see anything.
  • ....and that's it! Google Analytics will begin collecting traffic data. The data will be displayed in your reports within 24 hours.
If you can access the html code and do something similiar in other website or blogging webware then you can insert it on those as well.

How to find out what are the most popular posts on your blog

Now obviously Google Analytics can't tell you which are your most popular posts until you've generated some data so I'd suggest you make a note in your calendar of a date - like the end of the month - when you're going to take a look to see which ones did the best at attracting traffic to your site.

What follows is what you need to identify your most popular posts:
  1. In the Overview screen - click on 'view report' (to the right of your blog URL)
  2. In the Dashboard view - click on 'Content' in the menu
  3. View the Top Content (bottom left) - click on full report
  4. In View Report - go to the top right of the screen where it shows you the dates for the period under review. Click the arrow icon and it will reveal a calendar
  5. Now define the date range for under review. You need to set a start date and an end date and then click 'apply'. Your start date can be any date AFTER your Google Account started. If I put in the date that my blog started I get a flatline on the chart up to the date when my Google Analytics Account started and I put the code on my blog.
  6. You can then view the most popular posts in order of popularity. The table shows: the number of page views; unique page views; time of the page and the percentage who exited the blog after reading that post.
  7. I took a look at the results for the last week this morning. In the last week all the top posts kept people on my blog for at least 3 minutes. The post which kept people on the blog longest was Making A Mark in 2009 - The Plan. Blogging Art in 2008 - The Making A Mark Awards (Part One) post had the lowest bounce rate and was very successful at keeping people on the blog (ie it made visitors want to read more).

Do let me know if you find any of the above puzzling and I'll try to explain better - however I'm afraid I can't offer to do a 'handhold' on this one.

For those who now want to know more about Google Analytics here is a summary of the free support and other free resources
  1. I normally do studies before committing to the feline artwork I do for the Annual Exhibition for SOFA - and that's what this study of Cosmo, my Somali boy cat, is all about.
  2. You can see more feline art in feline art on this blog and in Feline Art and Catnapping


Felicity Grace said...

I did in fact look at Google Analytics from a link on your blog a few days ago! I'm afraid I just can't get past copy pasting the code into my template, it won't accept it. I tried Blogflux and Sitemeter too - Blogflux has 3 easy steps which lead down the garden path and a website with links that go round in circles. Sitemeter has code that my template rejects but I did receive a speedy breakdown by e-mail showing no-one had visited! After that I Googled and found some blogs are having problems from this code in the template and I don't want to risk it until I know what I'm doing!

Jo Reimer said...

Thanks so much, Katherine. I added Google Analytics to my blog a few months ago but could never figure out how to get the analysis so I deleted it. You've made this all very clear so I'll try it once more.

Robyn Sinclair said...

Thank you for the time and effort you've put into this one, Katherine. I get terribly nervous about doing something in html that I can't undo. I'll have to ponder the instructions for a while.

Anonymous said...

Interesting information. I wonder how true it actually is.
You mention about time spent on a blog post. Many times I open a site and link from that post to many other pages. It keeps the original post up but I am not actually looking at the post. So this might be a misleading number.
Also I sometimes forget to close a tab, or in fact leave it open to read again later. Again this messes with the stats.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful service you've provided. Great info here, even for those who don't use blogger for their blogging platform. It appears for users there are a number of plugins to integrate Google Analytics into your blog. Not sure which plugin will be the most seamless/easy to install one for me, but I'll have to do a little investigating and give it a try!

Anonymous said...

Hi Katherine,
If this post is too long or goes off topic, feel free to edit (I asumme you can edit comments in Blogger? you can in WP).
FYI, provides these and a lot more blog statistics without users having to do anything. I love WordPress; their technical support is fabulous; you send a question and get an answer almost immediately and their forums and help files are great. They provide an excellent spam blocker so it's not necessary to make visitors type word verification codes (a pet peeve of mine). Jennifer mentioned which is different, that's for people hosting on their own computers. If you use the WordPress hosted blogging platform at the analytics are all there for you.

Adam Cope said...

Fine looking cat - nice to see a smile.

Thanks for this googlery. Google Analytics is poor at instructions, especially, as you say, for those of us who like to have them all together printed out & not scattered all over the place in web clickable form. (manipulation over communication?)

The Dummies Guide to Google? (SEO)waiting to be written.

Katherine please could you help? I can't figure out how to install a google analytics self-exclusion filter on a blog. I'm OK for a static www. page but can't figure it out for blogspot, even less find the right help via analytics.

(OK a lot people would like to find an adam cope exclusion filter - arggggg! ;-)

Making A Mark said...

Adam - I haven't found that yet in Google Analytics either so I'm sorry I can't help.

However statcounter has one that you can use - you have to accept a blocking cookie

You'll never ever get any stats service agreeing what the number of visitors are. Plus there are bigger and techier brains than mine that have been completely unable to work out the explanations for the difference between the numbers counted by different services.

My personal view is that numbers are never ever precise and are always going to be distorted to a certain extent by people's practices. That's why it's really important to look at trends because you can see changes over time irrespective of the habits of yourself or your readers.

Robin - I'm forever leaving tabs open in error and probably contribute enormously to enhancing the length of blog stay stats on other people's blogs!!! That said, most services stop counting after an hour. Again I only really look at trends and not at absolute numbers.

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