Talk Data to Me: Google Analytics Tips That Lead to Better Content Strategy
Katie McKenna and Ian Barrett Dec 6 2017
If you have any hand in the content on your company’s website or your clients’ websites, it’s important that data informs your decisions. Otherwise, you risk creating content that doesn’t meet your audience’s needs. But knowing this will only get you so far–it’s even more important that you know how to find and interpret the right data.
For many of us content folks, the idea of analyzing data can be intimidating. I know it was to me. But after learning the basics of Google Analytics, I warmed to the idea. Using data made my client recommendations stronger, and I felt more confident standing behind those recommendations.
Having ideas is great. Having ideas backed by numbers is even better.
Thanks to our analytics team, I learned about 4 reports in Google Analytics that made me a better content strategist. If you don’t have an in-house analytics strategist or you just want to understand a few things to kickstart your journey to data-informed content, I’ll show you how, when, and why to use these reports.
1. Behavior Flow Report
What: The Behavior Flow Report shows the path users traveled from one page or event to the next. You can use it to see what content keeps users engaged with your site.
Where: You can find it under Behavior > Behavior Flow
How: Although it’s important to look at metrics that show us how people interact with our content, we also need to look at what happens after people read our content to determine whether or not it’s helping us reach our business goals. The Behavior Flow Report is an excellent way to figure this out.
The report will look something like this:
Let’s look at an example. Let’s say I want to know whether the Portent SERP Preview Tool is leading to any contact form submissions. I would right-click on “Portent SERP Preview Tool” and click “Highlight traffic through here.”
Next, I would look at 1st interaction and notice where people go after they click on the SERP tool. After clicking on the group details for (>100 pages), we can see that our “Contact” page received 3.4K sessions after people click on the SERP tool.
If our primary goal is to have more people fill out the “Contact Us” submission and we think 3K is too low of a number, we may want to determine a way to make the “Contact Us” CTA more prominent on the page. If you’re wondering what the drop-off rate is (I know I was), this is just a proxy for Exit % for people who leave from that page without doing anything else on the site. But how is it different from the Bounce Rate? The only difference is that users could have seen a page previous to the one they left on.
2. Assisted Conversions
What: The purpose of the content on your site isn’t only to educate your users, it’s also to build trust and get people to do business with you. One way to tell if your content succeeds in this is to use the Assisted Conversions Report.
Where: To get to this report, go to Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions
How: If you haven’t already, you’ll need to set up specific goals in GA, which could include objectives such as newsletter subscriptions, ebook downloads, or visits to a specific landing page.
These goals should indicate actions you want your users to take when they visit your website and map back to your KPIs. If you want to learn more about what to track, read Ian Barrett’s blog post The Three Levels of Analytics Conversions You Need.
Once you’ve set up your goals, you can look at the data to see which landing pages helped you achieve those goals. And once you have that knowledge, you can determine if you should create similar content or find ways to optimize poorly performing content.
This report can also help you identify which content types perform best on what channels.
Here’s what you’ll see when you click on the Assisted Conversions Report:
Next, click on “Other,” type in “Landing Page,” and click on “Landing Page URL.”
From here you can see a list of the top landing pages that assisted in conversions. Here’s an example from Portent’s Assisted Conversions Report:
To pare this report down to specific conversions, use the drop-down list under “Conversion” in the upper left-hand corner of the report.
If you skip this step, it will be difficult to see meaningful down-funnel conversions such as signups and leads.
Note that we haven’t set up conversion values yet. If you have all the business numbers to do so, it will give you an additional way to evaluate your landing pages.
From this data, we can see that the “SERP Preview Tool” and “Portent Technical SEO Best Practices” landing pages performed a lot of assisted conversions. With this knowledge, we might create paid search or social ads to the “SERP Preview Tool” or write more technical SEO content on our website.
3. Site Search
What: Not every site has search functionality, but if yours does you should use the data from the site search report to glean information about your users. As Information Architecture: For the Web and Beyond explains:
“Through search-log analysis…we can gather useful data on what users actually want from your information environment (in the form of search queries). Over time, you can analyze this valuable data to diagnose and tune your search system, other aspects of its information architecture, the performance of its content, and many other areas as well.”
The Site Search Report will help you discover which concepts users are searching for frequently. Then you can compare those terms to the content on your site to decide if your content is effectively answering your users’ questions.
Where: To get to this report, go to Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms
How: When you click on “Search Terms,” you can find the words and phrases your users plugged into your search box. You can see every query, as well as metrics such as total unique searches, % of search exits, and time after search. These metrics will help you determine whether or not people are finding what they want.
The number of search refinements in the report and the number of times a user searches for something that’s in your primary navigation could indicate that your site navigation needs reworking. And just as I mentioned in the retailer example above, it can help you decide which products to feature prominently on category pages, etc.
Let’s pretend you’re an online clothing retailer who’s trying to decide what content types to feature on your website. You pull the Site Search Report and notice “Rompers,” “Turtlenecks,” and “Fall leggings,” have a high amount of search volume and only exist as product display pages on your site.
Based on the number of searches they both receive, you might decide that you want to add a sub-navigation label for “Rompers” or a blog post about “Fall leggings.”
When it comes to using the Site Search Report there are many possibilities. Just don’t forget to use it! I’ve found this is one of the more underutilized reports in content strategy.
4. Landing Page Report
What: This report shows you the most popular landing pages on a website. It also includes additional data such as pages per session, bounce rate, and average session duration. It’s the most obvious out of all of these but because it gives me a quick glance at the highest performing content, it’s the report I use the most.
Where: You can find this report under Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages
How: Set your date range to anywhere from a month to a year. It’s up to you to choose which dates you pull (this can depend on factors such as how much traffic your site receives or if you just did a site redesign).
Next, look at the top landing pages to discover what content on your site receives the highest number of sessions. Then, look at the pages themselves to see if they address topics that warrant additional content on your site.
The report will look something like this:
For example, at Portent one of our top landing pages is “Pay Per Click Management Explained.” This page has a high number of sessions and an average session duration of 1:21, which indicates that it resonates with our audience. It’s lengthy and broken into different sections, such as “Why PPC Advertising Can Be Challenging” and “PPC Tools You Need to Know About.”
Highly actionable tip: If I looked at our blog and discovered that we didn’t have any posts on either of those related sub-topics, I could immediately guide our PPC team to write about them.
There are many other reasons to use the Landing Page Report, but I recommend looking at it before your next ideation brainstorm.
Google Analytics can be complicated, but these reports are an excellent way to get your feet wet. I hope they inspire you to start using data to inform your content decisions. Play around with them and figure out how else you can use them at your organization!
Director of Content
Katie leads the Content Strategy team at Portent. She graduated with a Bachelor in Journalism from Indiana University. She loves helping brands tell stories through the content they produce and creating positive user experiences. Read More
Ian is an Analytics Strategist at Portent. He has over five years experience working with large to small brands in the digital marketing space. He is originally from Minnesota and will let you know about it. In his free time, he likes trying new restaurants, playing sports, and also loves dogs. Read More