By Michele Linn published March 3, 2017

4 Google Analytics Reports Every Content Marketer Should Use

analytics-reports-content-markters

While you can use the data from Google Analytics in infinite ways, you need to understand the four most helpful reports for your content marketing – traffic, navigation summary, traffic from organic search, and conversions.

Once you understand what this data is and how to track it, you’ll be able to mix and match insights to take advantage of opportunities with your web-based content, driving more traffic to your website and (more importantly) doing more with the traffic you have.

Traffic

Why this report is useful:

The traffic report (referred to as Pages report in Google Analytics) looks at the pages getting the most traffic on your website. By default, it also displays metrics such as time on site and bounce rate.

How to find in Google Analytics:

Go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.

To expand the list of pages, change the number of rows displayed by going to “Show Rows” at the bottom left of the screen.

Also, make sure the report encompasses a sufficient period. I typically look at search volume from the past quarter, six months, or year for this exercise.

Traffic-Report-Google-Analytics-blurred

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How to act on this data:

This list of pages is a gold mine! Because so many people arrive on your website through these pages, keep a running list and review them on a regular basis. Remember, though, just because a page gets a lot of traffic does not mean it’s an effective page. That’s why you should review the pages that get the most traffic to:

Just because a page gets a lot of traffic does not mean it’s an effective page, says @michelelinn. Click To Tweet
  • Ensure that the page puts your brand’s best foot forward. Is this page on message? Does it have current information and the best calls to action?
  • Include your best links. Given that high-traffic pages bring a lot of visitors, make sure to include links to relevant, high-converting pages and posts.
  • See what visitors are doing. Are visitors spending time on the page? Are they exiting or moving to other pages on the site? (See the next section on Navigation Summary for more details.)

Navigation Summary

Why this report is useful:

Though there are several ways to dig into pages to see how visitors are behaving, my favorite report is the Navigation Summary, where you can see 1) how visitors get to a page and 2) where they click once they are there.

How to find this data in Google Analytics:

When you are in the traffic report, click on any page. At the top of the page, you’ll see an option for Navigation Summary.

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This page shows how visitors are navigating to this page from within your website – and you can see where visitors are clicking. Just as you can do with the traffic report, you can adjust the number of rows displayed.

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Alternative: You can use In-Page Analytics to view where visitors are clicking on any page on your website, but this report does not show how visitors are getting to the page. When viewing single-page data, this option is next to Navigation Summary or you can download the Google Page Analytics extension for Chrome.

How to act on this data:

There are two parts of this report to which you’ll want to pay attention:

  • The Previous Page Path is useful to know which page someone visited on your website right before they arrived on this page. It offers some context to understand how people get to this page, and it may offer clues as to what information people have – and what they still need.
  • The Next Page Path shows what people click on from that page when they are continuing on your site. This data is useful as it shows what questions people still have. Additionally, you can see whether people are clicking to pages that convert well (more on that later).

Traffic from organic search

Why this report is useful:

Not only do you want to know which pages are getting traffic in general, but it’s also useful to understand which pages are popular in organic search.

There are two reasons why search traffic matters:

  • If a page is getting a lot of traffic from search, it’s useful to be more sensitive when you make changes to that page. For instance, you would not want to rewrite it because that could significantly affect how Google ranks that page.
  • It offers the opportunity to learn more about the traffic on these pages with some additional work.

How to find this data in Google Analytics:

Go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels. You see a list of the channels driving traffic to your web pages.

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Select Organic Search and then Landing Page (under Primary Dimension)

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To find traffic on a specific page, such as a blog post, search by pasting everything after your primary URL into the search box. You can see the effect of organic search traffic on that page by looking at the absolute number of sessions as well as a percentage of your search traffic.

How to act on this data:

There are two things to consider with pages that get a lot of search traffic.

First, use caution when making changes. Understand that these pages likely rank well in Google. Be careful of how much you change on this page as you don’t want to negatively impact how it comes up in search. I’m not suggesting that you never change anything on the page, but tread more carefully and monitor more frequently how the pages perform after you make changes.

For web pages that get a lot of search traffic, use caution when making changes, says @michelelinn. Click To Tweet

The good news is that there are ways to learn more about why people are visiting these pages. I use SEMrush for this purpose.

Here’s an example of how to do this using one of our search-magnet pages – Developing a Strategy.

Go to SEMrush and paste in the URL of the page.

SEMrush-URL

Scroll down on the page to the section for top organic keywords.

SEMrush-top-organic-keywords

In this example, we can see that people who arrive on this page want to learn more about content strategy, content marketing strategy, marketing plan, and content plan. As such, it’s a good idea to make sure the page addresses each of these topic areas. (Note that your high-traffic search-landing pages often are works in progress and should be continually reviewed and updated to best answer searchers’ questions.)

See how well your keyword results for the page match your intentions for the page. If you intended for this page to do something else but you see it is working for something different relevant to your business, keep this page as is. Then create a new page that better helps with the initial topic you had in mind.

Conversions

Why this report is useful:

In most content marketing programs, conversions are a critical metric – they are action(s) you want visitors to take when they arrive on your website. Do you want them to sign up for an email? Download something? Attend an event?

How to find this data in Google Analytics:

How you get this info varies and likely requires manual work. First, you need to set up your goals. Andy Crestodina, my go-to person on setting up goals, outlines the eight-step process in this video, How to Set Up Goals in Google Analytics:

Once your goals are set up, you can track them under Conversion > Goals > Overview. You can either look at all goals in aggregate or you can look at which pages are converting to specific goals.

How you can act on this data:

While the raw number of conversions is somewhat useful, what is even more useful is the number of conversions divided by the number of page views. This results in your conversion percentage.

The higher your conversion percentage, the more likely a visitor to that page will convert. These are the pages (which Andy calls conversion champions) that you should share and promote.

Share and promote your conversion champion web pages, says @michelelinn. Click To Tweet

Once you identify your conversion champions:

  • Optimize these pages so they have a higher likelihood to show up in search.
  • Push these pages on social.
  • Link to these pages from your high-traffic pages.

These are just four ways to use Google Analytics so you can take action. Want more? Read How to Apply Analytics Data to Make Better Content Marketing Decisions.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Michele Linn

Michele is the Vice President of Content at the Content Marketing Institute. She is one of those people who truly loves what she does and who she works with. You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

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  • Arvind Kesh

    Great article Linn! I wanted to know what you’d do if you find out that the keywords that appear in Semrush are significantly different from what you actually wrote for. So, do you change the article a lot in order to suite the majority traffic? But what if those changes you make, affect your search rankings?

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      Hi Arvind,
      Great question. It will depend on the page. Often the keywords match up, but in the example above with our Developing a Strategy page, I have been making updates to the copy on the page to better address the keywords I know are leading people to this page. As you can see above, I know people use words like content strategy, content marketing strategy and content plan to get to the page, so I updated the intro on that page to address those people.

      Once I make a change to page, I’ll make an annotation in Google Analytics so I remember when the change occurred, and then I’ll monitor that page to see what is happening.

      Does that help?

      • Arvind Kesh

        Okay! Thanks for your answer Linn. I am a bit curious though. I’m sure if works perfectly well 99% of the time. But has this ever resulted negatively? Like, when you changed the content to suit the searches, has the analytics ever gone down? If so, can you please tell me why it might have went down? I think it’s quite an interesting topic (which can even be a blog article on its own) if you have such case study in hand that is! Let me know your thoughts.

        • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

          Well, nothing works perfectly, even 80% of the time. But, I’m a believer in making educated guesses and seeing what happens. It’s why I like to include annotations in Google.

          I don’t have a case study in hand on this, but I have made changes to web pages that I thought would improve things, but what occurred was the opposite. There are so many factors that go into all of this (the way the Google algorithm changes; how it displays it’s results; how visitors respond) that’s it can be tough to find direct causality. If anyone else has a case study or other experiences, I would love to learn about them!

          • Arvind Kesh

            Yeah! Not using annotations can be lethal if things don’t work out! Thanks a lot for a very honest answer Linn.

            As you said, too many factors are involved at play here. It is very hard to find direct results. If someone with a hell lotta data puts in the time and effort to analyse patterns as result of content change, that would make a killer case study!! I really hope someone reads this conversation of ours and goes on to do it.

  • http://www.brianbrassaw.com Brian Brassaw

    Thanks for the great article. I haven’t spent much time with the Navigation Summary report but it definitely seems useful, especially as an ecommerce site. I’ll be spending some time checking it out this week!

  • Jacquie Chakirelis

    This is an excellent post Michele. I am going to share with my team. Thank you!

  • Supreme Landscaping

    Hi Michele, great post!

    I just wish I had more time to look into my analytics but wearing so many hats during the course of a day makes it tough to dwell on the finer points this time of year. Maybe when things are a tad less hectic, maybe December or January.

    However, I enjoyed the read and will follow your lead in a number of ways.

    This is the kind of post that needs sharing and I’m off the sharing it right now.

    Thanks for the insight.

    Best regards

    Peter