Analyze and Plan Your Content Effectively With Google Analytics

By Brian Skarin

This week, as we wrap up our month long series on Analytics (check out uno y dos y tres!), we’re going to dive into the world of content development and how we can use engagement metrics to measure the effectiveness of the content on our site in order to plan for the future. Our goal is to determine exactly what our visitors are looking for when they find us, where they came from, and what they did once they arrived. Did we provide them with useful information that they actually took the time to read, or did they just click away?

In order to track this data, there are some essential metrics in analytics that every content writer needs to be familiar with in order to measure the usefulness of their work.

The 5 Engagement Metrics You Can’t Live Without 

1. Average Time on Page

The average time on page measures….well, you know, and can be found under Content>SiteContent>Pages. It’s important to dig deep to discover which pages, exactly, are affecting the overall time on site.

For example, if we’re looking at a blog post containing 150 words or so, an average of 2:38 indicates that most of the people who found the page took the time to actually read it. Given that the average attention span hangs around 20 seconds, it looks like the post is achieving it’s goal of engaging the extremely fickle online reader who has the power to leave the page the second they become uninterested.

Average Time on Page

2. Bounce Rate

This handy tool gives you a percentage that measures how many single-page visits were made to your site. It allows you to see how many visitors left your site from the page they entered on rather than clicking through to explore other pages. Using these percentages can be huge when evaluating the (in)effectiveness of your top landing pages based on the behavior of visitors.

Bounce Rate

3. Top Landing Pages

Your Top Landing Pages are the places where the majority of visitors enter (land) on the site. You can find this data under Content>Site Content>Landing Pages. These are the key places where content must be scrutinized from every angle to determine why it is or isn’t working. Doing some solid keyword research can help you optimize these pages to boost your sites ability to capitalize on the organic traffic you’re already getting and, ideally, send it to other areas of the site to drive conversions.

Landing Pages

4. Top Referring Sites

For content purposes, your Top Referring Sites metric will allow you to see the effectiveness of your social media efforts (you ARE tracking social media efforts, aren’t you?). After promoting your content across the various social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc), you can gauge the effectiveness of your efforts and refine your strategy for the future.

Referral Traffic Sources

5. Top Exit Pages

Exit Pages are the places where visitors finally decide they’ve had enough. They’re through, done, kaput! Ideally, these will be pages where exiting is appropriate, such as a “contact us” page, purchase confirmation, etc.

Analyzing & Planning for the Future

While you can get more in-depth with each page of your site, for the purposes of this post I want to focus specifically on blog content. Blog posts will make up the majority of your shareable content so evaluating what works is essential before wasting time and effort writing for an audience who isn’t there.

Lets take a look at a blog and determine which posts are becoming top landing pages for users, and whether they are going to other areas of the site from the post. Doing so can help us to better understand the average user’s actions as well as if you should consider changing future content to influence the audience’s behavior after reading.

This post in particular comes from the blog of a client who owns apartment buildings in cities across the country.  They regularly post about local events, restaurants, shops, and other interesting tidbits for the neighborhoods around their properties as opposed to focusing on advertising for their rentals and amenities, etc.

The first major mistake made when writing content for your blog is to assume that it should be as much an advertisement for the business as it is an informative piece for the reader. Planning content with keywords that are likely to be highly searched (such as this one) are great ways to grab some organic traffic. In this case, the post was planned out ahead of time and posted almost a week before Presidents Day to allow time for Google to index the post, landing it on Page 1 of the SERP’s in searches for keywords involving variations on “President’s Day,” “DC” “Events” and “2012” in the days leading up the to holiday and for about a week afterwards.

The Average Time on Page numbers (see above) proved the post worked in keeping readers on the page once they arrived, but where did they come from and what did they do once they got there?

Secondary Dimensions

We can isolate the individual page using Content>Site Content>Pages and then use the
Seconday Dimension option to discover exactly where our traffic is coming from.

Secondary Sources

It’s clear that the forethought in shooting for that page 1 Google ranking paid off as the majority of our traffic arrived there through the SERP’s (which also drove the post to the top of our Top Landing Pages as well!) .

If we want to take it a step further, we can use the “keyword” option under Seconday Dimensions to discover all the search variations that led them there. Barring the “not provided” results (I’ll leave that one to Max), it’s clear that the keyword rich SEO title played a huge role in gaining an audience. If you really want to get crazy with me ese, Secondary Dimensions can be used to discover the geographical location of visitors by city, state and continent as well as whether they used a browser (and which browser at that) or a mobile device (and WHICH mobile device at that!) LOCO!

As you can see, for this post the Exit % and Bounce Rate % is pretty high, but the aim of the blog post in this case was to offer valuable and trustworthy information rather than make a sale. You can’t win em’ all, and despite the fact that the majority of visitors coming to this specific post did not proceed onwards to explore the rest of the site, our Avg. Time on Page is proof that they took the time to read it before leaving, and ideally gained something of value from the post.

When it comes down to it, content development efforts should be focused on providing relevant and engaging information that exists on it’s own outside of a sales pitch. Don’t forget that even if the content is not directly related to selling something, you’re still branding. Use your search data from analytics to evaluate what is or isn’t working for your audience, and focus on establishing an editorial calender that takes variables like major events into account. Your engaged website visitors will thank you later!

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