When you’re running a content marketing operation, Google Analytics can be a tough cookie.
On one hand, there is a mountain of metrics, segments, dimension, and many other details to keep track of and attribute value to.
On another, it’s really easy to look at the growing number of visitors and pageviews and trick yourself into believing all is great and your business is growing.
Even when you’re an advanced marketer, there might simply be a little too much on your plate to retain full control over the results of the content you and your team have created.
When that happens, you can fall into the trap of continuing to create content because you’ve seen an increase in traffic and potentially even in conversions—but you can’t pinpoint the reason behind it.
Here’s the good news—with a well thought-out, content-driven analytics process, you can create and maintain a reporting strategy that will both save you time and help you optimize your content campaigns for success.
The four reports I take you through will give you hyper-actionable insights to improve content that underperforms and optimize the pieces that bring you success. Make sure to run these reports monthly or quarterly for best results.
Individual blog post performance
First things first: you must dig into the performance of each of your blog posts after they’ve had enough time to make an impact on your audience. Any data that’s being collected for under a month can probably be excluded until the month after.
To generate this report, to to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. If you can, add a filter so you can only view your blog content (in my case, I searched for /blog at the top right corner of the table).
Here’s the top portion of my report:
I want to learn and create key action items from this report based on the activity and engagement on each of my blog posts.
It’s worth mentioning that some of these posts are actually shownotes for podcast episodes, which definitely impacts time on page. Nonetheless, it provides insights into areas for improvements.
Most of the insights from here are self-explanatory, but there are a few things I do on a recurring basis each time I analyze this type of report to refresh and optimize my blog posts.
Here are some of my most successful approaches to this:
- Identify a high-traffic post and analyze its time on page versus bounce rate. For example, my readers seem to like my top-traffic blog post and spend almost 5 minutes reading it. However, less than 15% of those who find me through it stick around for other blog posts. My action point here is to look into the blog post, see what keeps taking people away (such as external links), and adding links to resources on my own website to keep them browsing for longer.
- Identify all posts with less than 2 minutes of time on page. I use this approach on my blog because all of my posts are 2,000 words and longer, so if a post only keeps people for 90 seconds, I’ll assume there are improvements to be made from formatting or depth of coverage point of view. Pick a minimum time on page that works for your type of content and analyze your report based on it.
- Identify low-traffic posts with high time on page and low bounce rate. These posts seem to work well with my audience, but I’m not attracting enough eyeballs on it. The list of posts I come up with this way is always my priority in content promotion for the upcoming period as the insights tell me they actually impact my audience.
If you want to get even more specific, and especially if you create long-form content, I recommend checking out scroll depth reporting. I’ve never implemented it personally, but I’ve had clients use it and see great success from the actions they took when they analyzed results.
The quality of traffic sources
There’s a somewhat popular approach I see with content promotion and analysis: “We’ve used X channel to increase our traffic Y times.” It’s too easy to look at the superficial numbers and a vanity metric like traffic and feel like all is going the way it should be.
This is where the acquisition section of Google Analytics comes into play.
Although the generic traffic breakdown by source is a solid big-picture indicator of the health of your traffic, in order to take action from the report, we have to dig a little deeper.
For this report, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium.
In this report, you can stay on Source/Medium as a primary dimension, or switch to just Source—that’s entirely up to you.
Here’s my version of this report!
Through this report, you can look through some of the key metrics, such as overall traffic, bounce rate, session duration, and even goal completion for each of your traffic sources.
Organic traffic from Google seems to be doing well, bringing more traffic than any other source. It looks like high-quality traffic, too, with longer sessions and low bounce rates. On top of that, it converts the highest percentage of traffic to my goal of completing the contact form!
Looking at quality of other traffic sources, I have definitely expected some of the insights. For example, Twitter brings in more traffic than other social networks as it’s where I’m most present. It also converts more traffic than other socials do.
I also wasn’t surprised that community sources such as Inbound.org, GrowthHackers, and Zest.is resulted in short sessions and high bounce rates.
However, I was positively surprised by the amount and quality of the traffic coming from Facebook and LinkedIn. Not only do I rarely ever (!) share my links on these platforms—I definitely didn’t expect shares from others to bring that amount of traffic and get it to stay, click through, and engage with the content.
Here are some actions you can take from your report:
- Look for traffic sources that bring a lot of quality traffic and find ways to increase your promotion efforts on it
- Find traffic sources that attract a lot of traffic that doesn’t stick around and test new and different ways to promote your content there to make it more relevant for the reader
- If there are traffic sources that attract high-quality traffic, but in small portions, increase your promotion efforts on them
Finally, make sure to always be on the lookout for new communities and interactive ways to get your content in front of audiences that will resonate with it.
Breakdown of organic search traffic
By looking at the portion of organic search traffic that each of your blog posts brings you, you will understand:
- How various topics, keywords, and formats perform in search
- The best approach to refreshing and updating your content
To generate this report, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels, then select Organic Search.
Next, click on Landing Page as the primary dimension and filter just your blog content by using the search bar at the top right corner of the table.
Here’s what it might look like for a period of time you selected:
From this list of blog posts from my own website, I can notice a few things:
First, there is a blog post that brings in over a third of my organic search traffic.
Secondly, there are several blog posts that keep people on my website for over five minutes, but they make up less than 10% of the organic search traffic.
And finally, some blog posts make people click through to other resources on my website, while others make visitors bounce almost every time.
Organic search metrics are even more valuable when the topics you’ve covered are evergreen. If their value doesn’t expire with the new year or season, these are the metrics to improve.
Here is a list of actions you can take from insights in this report:
- Analyze blog posts with low average session duration: Why don’t people stay longer? Could the formatting be better and more readable? Is there something that obviously gets people to click away so fast?
- Optimize blog posts with high session duration, but low organic search traffic: Audit these blog posts, from headline and subheaders through to the depth of the actual content. Are there actions you can take to optimize them to rank higher?
- Create and/or optimize content hub pages: If there is a topic that attracts far more traffic than other ones, even though they are equally important based on your products or services, what content can you create or update to balance this out?
Blog posts that lead to conversions
Finally, to measure the power of your content when it comes to lead generation, list building, and your bottom line, it’s crucial to analyze the role each piece of your content plays in sessions that end up in conversions.
To view this report, go to Conversions > Goals > Reverse Goal Path.
Of course, to view and leverage this report, you’ll have to first set up your goal(s) in Admin > View > Goals > New goal and set the triggers that define your goal.
In my case, the goal was to get the visitor to reach my ‘Contact me’ page as I was measuring the impact of content on my lead generation and client base growth. Of course, you can set up a purchase, a signup, and many other events as your goal.
Once your data is being collected for some time, you can use the Reverse Goal Path report to see the impact of each single page on your website, including content, in helping your visitor reach that goal.
This is one part of my report after I’ve used the browser search function to find all blog URLs:
The first column is the goal completion location, the second column is the page that preceded that step, and so on.
By looking through this long report, I can identify blog posts and podcast episodes that show up frequently. When I create this list, I review each post on its own and look for cues that might have taken my reader to the next step and to the contact page.
Ultimately, you can only optimize your content marketing for better conversion results if you’re able to point to pieces that do or don’t help on the path to conversion.
This is a valuable report for any type of goal you set. Based on the action you want your reader to take, you can analyze the results of this report and optimize your content to drive more goal completions. For example:
- If your goal is viewing a video, and a high traffic blog post doesn’t have high goal completions, the video might be too low on the page, or its title/thumbnail aren’t appealing to the reader based on the blog post they’re reading
- If, like above, your goal is a destination page, you can optimize high-traffic, low-converting blog posts with a more prominent call-to-action
- You can increase promotion on any blog posts that show up frequently in any of the preceding steps to the goal
Using this report along with the first one listed in this guide—the individual blog post performance—will help you make the most out of high-traffic blog posts that don’t convert well and vice versa.
It’s your turn
With these reports in your analytics toolbox, you’ll end up with action items that can make a difference in the way you execute your content marketing strategy.
To make the most of your time, you can also:
- Assign tasks from these reports to your team based on the expertise of each member
- Leverage custom dashboards in GA and/or Google Data Studio
- Set a dedicated day each month to analyze these reports so they don’t slip through the cracks
Are there any other reports you’d add to the list? Make sure to let me know.