Using Google Analytics to Find Blog Topics

If you’re still struggling with brainstorming topics to complete 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Day 11’s Ten Post Ideas task, let’s take a more practical (and yes, analytical) approach to finding topics of interest!

Google Analytics Filter
Photo Credit: Igor ™

I don’t know about you, but a big “what’s in it for me” payoff is a key reason I go back to visit a blog time and time again. Being helpful will get you noticed and have people coming back to you frequently so they can learn more!

Chances are, you’re learning more about blogging and your niche every day. Sharing these learning experiences with your readers and teaching them in your individual area of expertise will set you apart and gain you not just traffic, but also a good reputation. It might be more fruitful for you to think of post topics as ways you can help your readers and your niche’s key communities.

Find blog topics the practical way:

Here are some quick tips for coming up with helpful post topics:

  • Solve your own problems.
  • Ask readers for questions. Email a few readers, send out a tweet or write an entry asking for questions.
  • Look for problems on other sites. What’s always being asked on the forums and blogs you frequent?
  • Ask your friends and family. What would they like to know about your area(s) of expertise?

There are also a couple of techie ways for you to monitor what is asked of you indirectly based on your reputation and content of your site. I’m talking about internal searches on your site and external searches coming into your site. Knowing what people are searching for has many uses, one of which is to see what your readers want to find on your site!

Analyze internal searches

Internal searches are those initiated within your site of your site’s content. These are visitors who’ve come onto your site and liked what they read enough to want to ask a specific question to see what you have to say!

You should already have Google Analytics installed. It’s free and easy to set up, even if it’s kind of confusing to look at. Analytics makes it easy to track your internal site searches. Most blogs already have a search bar somewhere on it. If yours does, take a second to perform a test search. The URL you’re redirected to should look something like this:

http://yourdomain.com/?s=test+term

If you see that question mark and equal sign in the URL returned, you’re good to go and this set up is going to be easy as pie! You need to make note of your query string, which in this case is simply “s”. You can skip ahead as this next part will help those who don’t get a query string returned when they search.

If the URL you’re taken to after you click on search does not yield a result with a question mark and equal sign (for example: http://yourdomain.com/#uds-search-results) then the process is much more complicated. The query string needs to be passed along to the page in order for Google Analytics to pick it up and track it.

Internal site search for Blogger blogs

Of course the Custom Search gadget provided by default for Blogger blogs does not utilize a query string and therefore is useless, as far as I can see, to track your internal searches. You’re going to need to set up a separate site search. There are dozens of ways you can do this: I’m going to briefly cover only one.

  1. Create a new Custom Search Engine for your blog using Google’s tools.
  2. When you get to the 3rd step, there’s an option to click on a link for Look and Feel. Click that, then on the left-hand side directly under Look and Feel you’ll see Get Code. If you get lost, you can go back to the Custom Search Engine link and select manage existing searches, then go to the control panel.
  3. Under Get Code on the control panel menu, check the box to Include Google Analytics Site Search tracking code. Paste your Google Analytics ID and make note of your query string, which is “q” by default.
  4. Copy the provided code in the text box and paste it into a new HTML/Javascript gadget if you’re on Blogger, or elsewhere on your site if you use another blogging platform.

Setting up site search with Google Analytics

Good. Okay! So remember that query string and then follow these steps to activate Internal Site Search in Analytics:

  1. Log into Google Analytics, then select your site profile.
  2. Once you’ve selected your profile, click Edit (make sure you’re not still at the first screen, as it also has an Edit link!)
  3. At the top of the page you’ll see, Main Website Profile Information and an option to Edit the information to the right of that box. Click to edit.
  4. Under Site Search, select the option to track and indicate the query string you noted earlier.

How to Use Google Analytics

That’s it! In a day or so you’ll be able to navigate to Content > Site Search in your Analytics!

To learn how to read this information, check out these articles:

Analyzing external searches.

External searches are ones coming to you from search engine queries. Someone typed a keyword or phrase into Google and your page ranked high enough and looked interesting enough for them to click into it. This, by the way, is the reason people go gah-gah over SEO.

It’s a lot easier to look at these results. No extra configuring is needed in Google Analytics!

From the left-hand menu, select Traffic Sources > Keywords. You’ll see a page with a list of your most frequent search engine queries in the time period you have specified.

Using this as a tool to find out how people are finding your site can help you find out what to write about more and also topics you might want to stay away from. For example, I wrote an entry about an alcoholic beverage and now a big chuck of search results to my site are about that beverage!

Write a post that solves a reader’s problem.

Whether you gather questions the old fashioned way or use analytics tools to decipher what your readers want to know, pick a topic you know something about and answer a key question about it.

Once down, add a link to your helpful post below! We’d love to read the advice and tips you have on your blog.

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Comments

  1. I’m on Blogger and tried installing the Google Custom Search Engine, but I couldn’t find a setup that didn’t look hideous :( So it’s back to the Blogger Search widget. You’d think they’d have built this in by now, since Blogger and Google Analytics are both run by Google!

    By the way, when I try to tab through the fields to leave a comment, it keeps tabbing me over to the Monthly Newsletter fields on the side.

  2. GREAT information!

  3. Great information. I agree with asking family and friends what they’d be interested in because that’s just what I did!

  4. The analytics, seos, and such do go over my head too. I need to hunker down and study up to figure it all out as it seems pretty important. I’m really loving this 31dbbb and have truly benefited from all the support from my SITS-tahs. Love supporting them as well.

    I linked up my tute on claiming your username on fb. Fan pages, and personal profile pages alike. Why keep…
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/homemom/88198156569
    when you can claim…
    http://www.facebook.com/HomeMom

    I think big pages feel they’ll lose fans if they switch. Wrong. Both the long and short urls points fans to the same place. No back auditing or fixing broken links. Hope it helps .)

    • That’s a great post, Christy! Thanks for sharing it!

      Unfortunately, Google’s pretty much screwed Blogger users out of getting much of a return from search engine optimization. I’m not 100% sure why this is, but I’ve read several articles explaining that they index blogger/blogspot sites differently. For WordPress self-hosted users there are a few plugins that make SEO really simple.

      It’s much more complicated than it sounds… basically you pick out a keyword or key phrase and try to stick that into your post title, post URL, post headings and throughout the post as much as possible without coming off as being cheesy or an unimaginative writer. :)

      PICKING that keyword or key phrase is the difficult part. I just pick whatever suits the article best, but SEO gurus will tell you to analyze your keyword across a few different tools (free) to see how often it’s being searched. You don’t want to pick a keyword/phrase that’s being searched too much because you’ll have too much competition in the results. Likewise, you don’t want to pick a keyword/phrase that’s too obscure because no one’s going to be searching for it. :)

  5. So glad I found this site. I am new at blogging and I am learning so much! Thanks!

  6. very awesome post. i’m gonna implement the search thing on my site and see how i do :P

  7. Great information and I now have google analytics for my blog! Thanks for the information and the easy directions!!! Looking forward to getting my stats in the next couple days!!!

  8. Finally subscribed to the SITS blog because of your awesome posts ;)

  9. Very good info., thanks! ;)

  10. This is great- I have used Google Analytics for years and did not realize I could track my searches! Just set it up on both sites.

  11. I write online, and it took me awhile to learn how to use my Google Analytics. It is a fabulous tool for anyone who works online!

  12. Awesome info. I use analytics, but I never knew how to set up that parameter query thing, thanks so much for that info! The first read through was a bit confusing for me too, but after I read through it a little better, it was not so bad to set up.

    • Thanks! For me, I find the only way to really understand all this techno-babble is to roll up my sleeves and try to dig in!

      Sometimes it results in tears, but when I finally get things set up as I’d dreamed, there’s so much satisfaction! :)

  13. Thanks again for a super-duper post. These are things that I know, but it when you lay it all out like that, something clicks and it suddenly makes tons more sense and I see how I can use it to my advantage. LOL I just had this thought of taking over the world on Google stat at a time…

  14. Great tips! I use sitemeter.com for tracking and always interested to see what key word searches link readers to my site. It helps me gauge what I’m writing about. Those are few and far between. I’ve also conducted polls and surveys, another great way to see what gets people interested.

    • I use Sitemeter too and love it. It’s great to monitor your stats daily. Google Analytics is really wonderful for the big picture. Even if you have no plans to learn analytics in the near future, it’s still valuable to get it installed on your site so it can collect data. :)

      I’m going to be doing another post here on SITS in mid-July about monitoring stats using different methods. Some more basic info about Google Analytics and then other tools like Sitemeter too!

  15. awesome post! i do have google analytics on my blog and love it :)

  16. Gosh, I’m still confused. I just woke up though. Hopefully, I can re-read and “get it” later today.

  17. The Google Analytics seems like really good advice. Im going to save this project for one of my afternoons when I’m off work. It never occurred to me that I could know what people search on my blog. But now I must know!

  18. OMG is this complicated. I’m sure this is valuable but way over my head.

    • Sorry Lori! Personally, I think gathering questions from readers simply by asking and paying attention to what’s going on at your favorite blogs is more than enough for blog fodder! Honestly, I rarely check my stats for this info. It’s good to know it’s there, but not necessary!

  19. Linky didn’t give me much room for a blog title. It should be “10 Things You Can do for Your Business or Blog for Under $10 or 10 Minutes”. Aren’t we always suffering from time and money constraints?

  20. That’s one thing I haven’t done! I will though. The more we know about what our readers are looking for the better.

  21. Oh, that is something I must do now. Although I have been using google analytics for a long time, I haven’t enabled site search. Honestly, I didn’t know what it was. Had no idea that it could be used to know what my visitors were looking for after landing on my site.

    • To be honest, while I knew about internal site search in analytics and even had it set up, I’d never looked at it before writing this entry!

      There is SOOOOO much that can be done with Google Analytics! I’m planning a meatier post in mid-July about monitoring stats with Google Analytics and other tools!

  22. PS What hapened to ComLuv?? I loved that pulg-in and only wish Blogger could use it :)
    x

  23. There are some great ideas in this post… although some of the techie stuff goes right over my head!
    I have started to write step-by-step posts to help other bloggers with some of the tricks I have learnt over the past three years.
    Here’s a link to my latest one…
    http://www.greatfun4kidsblog.com/2011/05/blog-tips-making-photo-collages-using.html
    Lots of readers were always asking me how I make my photo collages, so this post is a response to that – I’ve noticed lots of people using the tools I share in this post since I wrote it :)

    There’s also a link in it to the other blog-tips posts I’ve done.
    It will be something I continue to do, as I learn new skills and tips.
    I’m not a techie so my tips are easy to follow for people who are not techie as well.
    Hope you’ll come by and check out my tips and tools!
    x

    • Simone, it’s a SUPER GREAT IDEA to write help posts from the perspective of a non-techie! Your audience is going to love you for that! It sounds like you’re already making great practice of gathering relevant help topics and writing about them!

      I personally find that the helpful posts are some of the ones that do the best and have others referring people to my site time and time again.

    • BTW Simone, I’ve added your great post to the linky on this page since it wasn’t operational yet when you left your comment!

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