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Using Google Analytics to Compare Search Engine Traffic Over Time

What statistics do you monitor in Google Analytics?

I’ve written before on some of the statistics that I monitor on my blogs but one that I didn’t include is to look at the traffic coming in from Search Engines over time.

Here’s one of my favorite ways to get a quick overview of whether my blog is on the rise or not with regards to traffic from Search Engines.


The above graph (click to enlarge) is generated in Google Analytics and compares traffic from search engines to Digital Photography School (just the blog, not the forum) over the last two months.

The last 30 day period is the blue line and the month before that is the green line.

This graph immediately tells me that traffic is up from search engines over the last month.


The screen shot above (click to enlarge) shows that Search Engine traffic is up by 12.85% and also highlights where the rises in traffic have come from over the two periods (as well as other information between the two periods like the bounce rate, average time on site, pages visited per visitor etc).

How do you get this graph and information?

Here’s a quick step by step process (to do this you need to have run Google Analytics for at least two months).

1. Log into your Google Analytics account

2. In the left hand menu click ‘Traffic Sources’

traffic sources.png

3. Then select ‘Search Engines’ in the sub menu that opens up

search engines.png

4. This will open up the last month of your Search Engine traffic with a graph.

5. On the right hand side of your screen and towards the top you’ll see the date range of the last month. Click this open to get to this screen.


6. In that box you’ll see a ‘Comparison’ drop down menu. Click on the ‘Date Range’ option.

date range.png

7. You can leave the blue date range as is – but with the 2nd date range (green) select the dates you want to compare. Then click ‘Apply’.

Note: I always choose dates that correspond to the days of the week chosen in the 1st (blue) date range. If the blue date range starts on a Sunday and ends on a Monday make the green range start on Sunday and end on Monday too.

While this leaves a few days not charted in between the date ranges it means that you’re comparing days of the week with the same days of the week in the two months. This makes it easier to see the comparison as the graph will usually rise and fall in the same pattern.

2nd date range.png

You now can see how the two month’s compare. This is where my analysis often stops as it gives me a snapshot view of how things are going. But from this point there are any number of ways to drill down further including:

Drilling Down Further

You can drill down further to see a graph for each search engine by scrolling down the page a little and clicking on one of the links of the search engine you want to compare over the two months.


This will take you to a page where you can see just the comparison in what traffic Google, or Yahoo might have brought. For example clicking on the Google stats takes me to a graph like this (similar to the above one as Google is my major source of SE traffic):


Once on this page there’s more interesting insights to be had as they allow you to see your top keywords. For example I can see the comparison for the search term ‘DSLR’ for the two months which has seen a 17.03% increase in traffic as a result of people searching for that term.


If I click on the ‘dslr’ link I can even see a graph of the two months again and the traffic for each day of the week for that particular keyword.

dslr comparison.png

This is useful if you’ve been optimizing a particular word or just simply to analyze one search result might have been having a significant shift. I now have some hints on a keyword that I might want to optimize a little better now.

There are literally hundreds of threads of statistics that Google Analytics can provide you with. This is just one of my favorites. How do you use it to provide you with interesting and more importantly useful information on your blog and how it’s going?

PS: Here’s another fun comparison for those of you who have been using Google Analytics for a longer period of time. Use the same process outlined above to compare longer periods of traffic. For example – here’s my overall traffic at DPS from the first five months of this year as compared to the first five months of last year:


There might not be a lot to glean from this graph – but it sure is motivating to look where you’ve come from – it’s a 94% increase. Something to motivate me for the next 12 months!

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Thanks Darren. A week ago Google Analytics announced that they lost some of their data. I am not sure whether it is a reliable reference anymore…What do you think?

  2. Thanks, Darren! How do you analyze Bounce Rate? Is the average, as seen above, quite normal?

  3. Thank you Darren another great post with plenty of value. You live what you preach, thanks…

  4. Are google traffic estimates conservative? They are far less than the hosting providers estimate.

  5. Emon, bounce rate is generally dependant on what kind of site you have and how you post.

    A high bounce rate means they came, saw and left after about one or two pages. If you have only the main page and don’t have any extended post summaries (think Click to Read More! style posts), then you would have people hit your root page, read your newest post and then leave, giving you a really high bounce rate. occasionally, someone might stumble upon your page through search or a link and hit the actual article or post link instead of the main page, thus, giving you a lower bounce rate sometimes. However, typically, you’d expect a high bounce rate.

    If you use post summaries, you’d hope for at least 2 page views per visitor, one for hte main page and one for the Click for More link to the article. Thus, you’d expect a middle range bounce rate, typically around 50% if you post one new article a day.

    Also, if you post a lot of posts in a day with summaries, you’d expect a lower boucne rate, maybe 30-40% range, in hopes the new visitors either click through multiple articles or come back for more later.

    Another thing to consider is high RSS numbers. They will maybe click once and hit up the random article to comment or whatever and that’ll only give you one click and actually increase the bounce rate if you have post summaries enabled when you’d expect 50% or thereabouts.

    In general, Bounce Rate requires knowledge of your site, post frequency, reader counts and so on to gauge if its good or not. There’s no “average”, as it applies differently to most.

  6. Oh ya, typically, you want your entry pages, like the root or a “top 10 posts” or some other post with many links to your other content to have low bounce rates, meaning people click the links and move deeper into the site.

    Pages with no links and just, say, a random news post or column, should typically have higher bounce rates, as people read it and probably are done and just close the site or navigate to another site.

  7. I’m just starting to look at analytics again after using statcounter for a long time. I like the real-time counting, but I’m sure that Analytics will offer more valuable data in the end.

    Excellent post, Darren!

  8. Thanks Darren, and as a new blogger (Just launched this week), I will certainly take your advice to heart and look out for any future posts.

  9. Nice and very helpful indeed specially for someone like me that’s new to blogging. I’ve tried a lot of tools to analyze my blog traffic and I must say that Google Analytics is still the best resource. Thanks for this tip!

  10. i am using analytics but i’m not really satisfied with the information provided … hmm … is it really acurate ?

  11. What a helpful post! I’ve been using Analytics for some time now, but I get the feeling I’ve barely scratched the surface of the information I can get out of it.

  12. Thanks Darren, a very helpful post.

    I’m hoping someone can help. I’m struggling with the answers in the Google Analytics help section.

    In my traffic report I get 11.97% of traffic from (direct) / (none) What is this?

    Also in my adwords campaign 48.59% of clicks are coming from a campaign (not set). I’ve understood this to be a linking problem but when I add a new campaign it reports with no problem. Any ideas?

    Cheers Ian

  13. Your blog stats are very impressive.

  14. Google analytics is easy to use and has a vast amount of information. But beware…it is an addictive tool!

  15. Google analytics is easy to use and has a vast amount of information. But beware…it is addictive (in a good way of course).

  16. Hey Darren, stop rubbing our noses in your stats!

    J/K, I consider this a great resource. I did not utilize google analytics to it’s full capacity before, and I’m hoping that will change.

  17. Nice tips !

  18. Wow this is a great post. I use google analytics for my blog and I haven’t tried this yet….but I definately will.
    Thanks Darren
    Question: Do you only use google analytics or do you use any other tracking software? Is google the best?

  19. Many people know that google analytics is a very useful thing but dont know how to use it. even if some one goes to help, it is tedious steps to get what you need.

    nice tutorial, darren.

    you do know the art of telling with beauty… :-) congrats…

  20. I have been using a wordpress plugin that displays the analytics in the back end, although not as deep as going to your account dashboard, nevertheless it’s a neat tool. As my readership grows I shall be taking more time to dig deeper – nice post

  21. Google Analytics is a great and powerful site tracking system. But i prefer to use more than one tools like Site Meter or other system as comparison. So we don’t rely on one system only..

  22. I’m a total technophobe so if *I* can navigate through Google Analytics and learn something about my site, that’s saying a lot. I find myself asking all the time, “What makes people link to a particular post and why?” so I look at Analytics – Traffic Sources Overview to see who the referring sites are. I have a figure skating site and recently covered some of the 2008 Adult Figure Skating Championships. I interviewed skaters, featured them on stories and guess what, their skating clubs linked to my stories about their club member/s. I know it’s obvious but it motivates me somehow to think of other creative ways that other sites would find my work interesting.

  23. Good post. Thanks for the tips. I hadn’t seen that particular feature yet.

  24. I installed GA on my WordPress blog and it threw my site into chaos. There was a problem with the urchin tracker and I found a patch, but it was old and ineffective.

    I’m sure there is someone doing this, but it would be nice to find a site with truly useful information regarding WordPress. I’ve had nothing but trouble with it. My old platform wasn’t great but at least it wasn’t finicky.

  25. Thanks for the details. I started my Google Analytics account few weeks ago and experimenting with that.

  26. Great Article! It reminds me of the saying “If you want friends, be friendly”. :)

    It seems basic in a sense, and tedious approaching one person at a time but
    I’m sure it could snow ball as you get in the mix and meet friends of each
    new friend make.

    I just found your a blog a couple days ago and signed up to your newsletter
    shortly after. It is clear you’re a generous guy that actually wants to help
    people make money online, and that you know what you’re talking about.

    Keep up the great work!

  27. Hi Darren, Is there a way to “Schedule” a year over year comparison? I would like to auto-email a weekly report comparing against traffic from the same week (or month) from the year previous – I can’t find a way to do this?

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