How to Interpret Your AO3 Fanfiction Data using Google Analytics

Who is reading your fanfiction and how are they finding it?

Tablet with data, charts, and graphs onscreen with a coffee mug in the background

You’ve written the words, you’ve developed the characters, now you’re ready to post your fanfiction online for the world to see. Most fanfic writers are perfectly content using the built-in statistics trackers on fanfiction archives like and Archive Of Our Own (AO3), but what if you want more? In our previous fanfiction data post, we showed you how to track AO3 fanfiction statistics using Google Analytics. But setting up codes to track your statistics doesn’t do much unless you know how to interpret and make use of these statistics. This tutorial shows you how to interpret your AO3 fanfiction data using Google Analytics.

(Note: If you haven’t yet set up Google Analytics to track your AO3 fanfiction data, follow the instructions in Part 1 and then come back in about a week’s time. Ready to proceed? Let’s do it!)

Interpreting Your Google Analytics Data

Now that you’ve waited about a week for the data tracking to kick in, it’s time to log back in to Google Analytics to see some statistics, including how many people are reading your fanfiction, at what time of day they are reading it, and if your fic summary hooks them enough to click “Next Chapter.” For those not familiar with analytics or marketing lingo (not even a little bit), the user interface can look quite daunting. But fear not! Here is how to find and interpret the data that will be the most relevant for fanfiction writers.

Commander Data from Star Trek The Next Generation

We could all use a little more Data in our lives. (© Star Trek: The Next Generation)

How Many People Are Reading My Fanfiction? And For How Long?

The best way to view your data is through the Behavior tab. On the left sidebar, click “Behavior” and then “Events” and “Overview” for a comprehensive overview of the total events (pageviews, clicks, duration, etc.) that’s occurred on your tracked fanfiction. Set the date range in the upper right corner to whatever you’d like. I’m going to set mine to read the data for the month of March 2018.

1 Event Overview

As we can see here, from the time I installed Analytics (March 20, 2018) until the end of the month, there were 855 total events on my fic. Note the numerical difference between total events (855), unique events (419), and sessions with events (106). Unique events and sessions are lower because those figures only count each unique ISP address (a.k.a. each individual reader visiting from a unique location (e.g. their laptop)) once per session. Scroll down in the Analytics interface to see what I mean.

2 Event Action

For instance, if your fanfiction has five chapters and a reader clicks through all five chapters as they read your fic, this will count as 5 total events but only 1 session (because it’s the same person clicking through from the same laptop). If the same user returns to re-read your fic the next day, this will count as a different session.

Looking at sessions versus total events can give you a good idea of whether or not your readers are spending a lot of time reading your fanfiction at one time (because they will tend to click from chapter to chapter if they do). As we can see, my ratio of Events / Session with Event is 8.07, which means that for every unique session (or person reading), people are clicking through my fic chapters 8 times. This may sound strange — if my fic only has 6 chapters, then why are people clicking 8 times? Well, perhaps they are clicking on other things in addition to “Next Chapter,” such as “Bookmark” or “Kudos” or “Comment.” (Aw, that would be so sweet of them!)

At What Time Of Day Are People Finding and Viewing My Fanfiction?

Let’s get more specific. On the left sidebar, click “Behavior” and then “Events” and “Top Events” to view all of the events that occurred in the month of March. (You can adjust the date range, or if you want to view statistics hourly, for a day, week, month, etc.)

3 Top Events

From here, you can find all kinds of data about your readers’ habits. For example, I want to know at what times of day are people reading my fanfiction. This way, I can plan to publish my new chapters to target those times.

4 By Hour

To do this, click the “Secondary Dimension” Button and select “Time” and then “Hour” from the dropdown menu. Once I’ve sorted my data, I can see that the most popular times of day people read my fanfiction are at 11pm (“23” on a 24 hour clock) and at 2pm (“14”). Neat!

From Where In The World Are People Reading My Fanfiction?

Let’s choose another “Secondary Dimension” variable. On the same dropdown menu, I chose “Users” and “Country” to see what countries people live in who are reading my fanfiction.

5 By Country

As we can see, the majority of my readers are from the United States and Brazil. (Fascinante! And my own home country of Canada is nowhere to be seen. Hmm, maybe I should start spelling things the American way… “color” instead of “colour” and all that.)

From Which External Websites Are People Finding My Fanfiction?

Let’s do one more. This time, I’m setting my Secondary Dimension variable to “Acquisition” and “Source” to see where the traffic on my fanfiction comes from. This can be useful if you link to your fanfiction from external sites, such as Tumblr or LiveJournal, and you want to know where people found the link to your AO3 story.

6 Acquisition Source

As we can see from my example, all of my hits have come directly from the AO3 site itself. I might want to step up the self-promotion of my fanfics on my Tumblr if I want more people to find my fanfic.

There you have it! These are just a few ways to interpret your AO3 fanfiction data using Google Analytics. Do you have other variables you like to track? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below. And happy data-ing!

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About Marty Stu (7 Articles)
Marty Stu lives a dangerous lifestyle and is desired by all women. He is also a multi-user pseudonym for writers who wish to publish anonymously for FAN/FIC Magazine.

3 Comments on How to Interpret Your AO3 Fanfiction Data using Google Analytics

  1. This is super helpful, but any idea how to get it to accurately track New Users in google analytics? I’m getting the data to successfully come in, but it’s showing everyone as the same user, even if the data is registering from different devices (and obviously different IP addresses). Would love to know how many new users or IP addresses relates to hits.

  2. Hello!

    I have to say, these couple of articles have been insanely useful!! So thank you for that.

    I have just one question: I see that in your screencaps you can choose to see the data for all the accounts/fics at the same time but somehow I cannot seem to find that option for me. Any idea why could that be?

    Thank you!

    • Hey! I know you commented months ago, but I wanted to respond in case you’re still looking for an answer.

      Did you mean why the OP can see all chapters at the same time? I’m not sure what you meant by all accounts/fics, so I felt compelled to ask. By not being able to see the option, do you mean you can’t see the option in Google Analytics, or that you can’t see all chapters after clicking the option? If you meant you can’t see the option to the data of all event actions (e.g. Ch 1, ch 2, ch 3), it’s most likely because you didn’t add the HTML code to every chapter of your fan-fiction. The little url in which you add the tracking code and the key word (chapter 1, 2) has to be added to every single chapter in your fic (while remembering to use the ” apostrophe instead of the curved one).

      I don’t know if that’s what you meant to ask, so sorry if I got it wrong!

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