By Scott Frangos published April 18, 2011

How to Turn Your Analytics into Actionable Tasks for Content Marketing

Are you feeling overwhelmed by all of your analytics? Last Friday I explained how to figure out the business goals for your website, assign dollar values and set up customized reports so you can view your key performance indicators (KPIs).

Taking these steps is a great start, but what do you do with this information? Ask yourself these three questions.

What percentage of visitors are engaging at your site?

The answer to this question depends on how you define “engagement.” I define an engaged visitor as someone who has viewed three or more pages in a session.  Others use the metric of time on the site, but I don’t think this is as meaningful because it doesn’t account for time that people aren’t viewing your website (how many times have you left a website open when you are not viewing it?)

Regardless of the metric you use, aim to increase the percentage of engaged users by adjusting what content is offered and how navigation “surfaces” valuable content for your visitors. Specifically, you can:

  • Add different content to the site. Look at the popular content and keywords as reported by analytics, and build content around those.
  • Bring more content readily into view by using different pathways to get to content areas on your site.

Of course, continually test and measure.

What keywords cause your visitors to engage or bounce?

It is not uncommon to have a high bounce rate.* If you find that a good percentage of the traffic you attract is not interested in the content you currently present, there are a couple of things you can do:

  • Add content that the visitors you are attracting are seeking.  You can learn a bit about this in your analytics, but you may also want to do an exit survey and ask visitors directly.  Polls also help (e.g., “Vote for Content You’d Like to See at this Site”).
  • Seek a different visitor target. Do an SEO/PPC campaign to better attract those you believe will be interested in your content.

It’s best to use SEO and PPC campaigns after after you test ways to make more content visible by making it easy for users to search for information or  adding tag clouds.

TIP:  Think of your SEO work not as optimizing for visitors, but optimizing for engagement with your specific content that will lead to a connection resulting in sales.

*A few notes on bounce rates:

  • There are no industry benchmarks for bounce rates.  Google removed its popular “benchmarking” analysis feature in March 2011 with little explanation.  My guess is that it is dangerous to obsess on what others are doing.  Instead, concentrate on optimizing for the psychology of your own visitors and the variations in content and delivery you can provide.
  • While you want to shoot for lower bounce rates, in some cases a bounce rate of 70% or greater might be OK.  Why?  Because most visitors to your site may have previously read the content they initially needed and are returning only to read the newest article.
  • If you have an established “magazine style” site, look at bounce rate of  “new visitors.” How high is too high?  It is reasonable to assume that if you are serving your new visitors content in which they are interested, a high percentage will NOT bounce away after viewing just one page.

Is your design interfering with your visitors’ ability to find desired content?

While there are better tests to help you determine the appropriateness of your design, there are a few things you can look for in your analytics:

What gets clicked?
Use “In Page Analytics” (Content >> In Page Analytics) on some of the pages with high bounce rates to learn which links visitors clicked on and which they did not.  Look for patterns across a number of pages.  If you see that people are not clicking much on category links, you may need to move them higher up on the sidebar, change their color, etc.

Can users find links?
Use an eye-tracking analysis tool like AttentionWizard to see if your design is preventing people from finding key links.  Note that this tool does not track real people’s eyes (which is expensive) but instead uses an algorithm based on real experiments.

What is the real page heat?
Get a real “heatmap” generated by real people interacting with your page layout and read their comments to questions you pose with a tool like FiveSecondTest.

Why are visitors doing what they are doing?
Do an exit survey and ask if visitors found what they needed and why.

Are your desired business outcomes being met at an acceptable rate?

As the previous post discussed, you need to determine the business outcome goals for your site. In B2B, this could be the number of leads or downloads, and in B2C this often equates to sales. The short answer is that if you believe you need more leads or sales from your site, then you need to do some optimization testing.

As a reminder, analytics only answers the “what” of visitor behavior. If you have a high bounce rate, for example, you may not really know why until you ask your actual visitors via an exit survey

And remember that while it’s fun to set dollar goals in analytics and watch how your site performs, these numbers must be tied as closely to real sales that result from your site. These come as a result of authentic connections, which we’ll cover in the next article on Connection Cycle Marketing (CCM).

This is the fourth post in this CMI series on Connection Cycle Marketing (CCM). Other posts in this series:

I look forward to your comments and questions.

Author: Scott Frangos

Scott Frangos (see G+), is a career MarCom professional focused on Content Marketing, Social Media, and WordPress Web Development. He loves introducing strategies and tactics to boost ROI at your websites. He also loves pizza, coffee, and Tai Chi — not necessarily in that order. Scott serves as Developer and Optimizer for CMI, and works on a variety of related projects as Founder, Chief Optimizer and Strategist at WebDirexion.com. He recently taught a class on Content Marketing with WordPress for the Langley Center for New Media, and in May of 2012, speaks on Content Marketing with G+ and WordPress Combo, at WebVisions PDX. Scott is the lead imagineer behind the popular Max-Ref Content Marketing Widgets plugin for WordPress. Link up with Scott at ScottLinkedIn.com.

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  • http://www.acSellerant.com Bob Leonard

    Scott,

    Great job explaining what’s important in all of that analytical data that’s generated. I think I’m fairly representative of most marketers in that I find all of these numbers a bit overwhelming. Now, I have a question. The bounce rate on my site is extremely low… typically 2% or less. Is that a good thing, or am I missing something? Might there be something amiss?

    Thanks,

    Bob

    • http://www.webfadds.com Scott Frangos

      Hi Bob –

      Could be something amiss — seems very low. It’s hard to get benchmarks these days, since Google removed a built in benchmarking tool in Analytics. Also, purposes and content varies from sites that are both B2B presentation (of services… usually via ages, rather than posts) and have a business blog, versus those that primarily offer posts in a magazine format. Generally speaking, bounce rates average 50% – 75%. What you want to do is isolate blog posts, then filter for new visitors. Since you want your blog posts to engage — leading toward an authentic contact (to turn into a sale) — the bounce rate should be lower for business blog posts. Shoot for 55% – 65%, but remember that each business, subject matter, audience are different. Good writing engages better, and while I know you are in that category, 2% is odd. Better check that.

      – Scott

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  • http://blogging.compendiumblog.com/blog/blogging-best-practices chrisbaggott

    Move click through rates to the top of the list. It supersedes all other interaction like bounce rates or page view….and it’s something the Content Marketer can have some control over. We have two goals: Increase qualified traffic and convert that traffic into a meaningful relationship.

    For most many marketers that conversion thing is often overlooked.

    • http://www.webfadds.com Scott Frangos

      Hi Chris –

      Click-through rates (CTR) are a good metric to look at too — particularly with Pay Per Click ads — is that what you meant? I am not aware of a metric that reports CTR for anything else external, other than ads from within Analytics. Some Social Media services calculate clicks on links in Twitter and other Social Venues (I like HootSuite for this). I also think your short formula of Increase Qualified Traffic, and Convert is good. But what’s the bottom line for a “meaningful relationship”? Unless you are not interested in linking your efforts directly to revenue I think you have to be more specific than that. Thanks for the discussion!

      – Scott

  • http://www.3hatscommunications.com/blog/ davinabrewer

    I need all the ‘analytic tutorials’ I can get, so thanks.

  • http://www.allurenewmedia.com Brody Dorland

    Nice job Scott…Depending on the sophistication level of the client, it can certainly be a challenge to help them understand how to pull out actionable insights. We’ve even created a webinar that we can provide clients to help them understand the ins and outs (http://bit.ly/lyWecj). For most clients, I just try to get the idea across that they shouldn’t live and die by their numbers, but should establish baselines with various key metrics and then monitor those month over month to watch for steady improvement. If the outcomes they want aren’t happening, then they need to “feed their machine”…;o)