By Ann Gynn published August 27, 2015

12+ Ways to Use Web Analytics for Better Content Marketing

12-web analytics-content marketing

Bounce rates, referring links, time on site, page views – the availability of data about your website visitors can astound even the best content marketer. How do you know what data is important to your content marketing and how do you turn it into a treasure trove for your content marketing success?

Some of the experts presenting at Content Marketing World offer their tips on how to use Google Analytics (or any web-data measurement system) so you can make informed decisions instead of wading in analysis paralysis.

Don’t let them leave, show the way

We like looking at pages with high page views that also have high exit or bounce rates. It shows us that the article is probably valuable but the user doesn’t have a clear path to take after reading it. We use that info to think of ways to retain the reader: Can we provide a feature showing more related content? What would the reader want or need to do after reading that article? We need to clearly show a helpful path for him or her to take.

Aubrae Wagner, chief operations officer, EnVeritas Group | @AubraeAWagner

Make it a daily habit

Check in every day to see your top pages, or even better, set up Google Analytics to receive a daily email with the report. You may be surprised at which pages show up in the top 10. It may be an old blog post, your team page, or maybe your pricing page. Increased interest in these pages may signal an opportunity to take a few quick actions to further promote that content, such as scheduling social shares or running some social ads featuring those pages.

Paul Roetzer, founder and CEO, PR 20/20 | @PaulRoetzer

Get to the bottom

So many people focus on the top pages, but noticing what’s happening at the bottom will reset your attention. Are they pages you want people to see but aren’t getting enough love with content or optimization? Are they not useful anymore? Is it time to archive them?

A website needs its own feng shui – when it’s too cluttered, nobody can find what they need. Once a quarter, move to the bottom of the page view list and see what you might be able to lose. You won’t regret it and it will make the rest of your data more meaningful.

Ahava Leibtag, president and founder, Aha Media Group | @ahaval

Translate data into English

I ask the geeks to turn any five data points into five plain English sentences that include the phrase, “which means.”

Doug Kessler, co-founder and creative director, Velocity Partners | @dougkessler

Look at the intent

Regardless of the analytics system, my No. 1 recommendation is to understand how the metrics translate to reader intention. People get caught up in the number of page views or visitors without thinking about what they mean for the big picture or without connecting them to other key performance indicators like revenue or conversions.

Sachin Kamdar, CEO & co-founder, |@SachinKamdar

Have objectives

Set up goals, even for non-revenue-producing content. Track user interaction and engagement for valuable feedback on what works and what doesn’t in terms of your goals.

John Hunt, senior manager digital marketing corporate communications & content, Smead Manufacturing |@Smead_JohnH

Can you buy a beer?

Set up conversion events. Traffic and stickiness don’t mean anything unless they lead to revenue. As a good friend of mine says, “If you can’t buy a beer with it, it’s not really worth as much as you think.”

Matt Heinz, president and founder, Heinz Marketing|@HeinzMarketing

Know when viewers bail

The traffic flow report has been instrumental in showing clients and teams how well or poorly a user navigates a website from a specific entry point to a desired page, piece of information, or call to action. Stakeholders are often shocked to learn the number of users who enter their site at point X only to abandon before they reach point Y.

Joey Hall, vice president of client services, EnVeritas Group |@JKHallJr

Learn from your referrals

Look at the list of websites (not social media or search engines) that have sent you the most traffic. See what the top 20 to 50 are writing about, to whom they link, and what their writers or founders are sharing on social.

Use that intelligence to create content that you can feel confident is up your referral viewers’ alley. Chances are that you’ll be much more informed about the types of stuff that will earn you amplification, links, traffic, and mentions from influencers.

Rand Fishkin, co-author, The Art of SEO, co-founder, and Moz |@randfish

Bet on success

Uncover what works based on meaningful measures such as page views, time on page, and conversion, and create more of it. More may mean more content on that topic, more of a form or style, more from the content creator, and so on. Essentially, I’m saying double down on your winners.

Barry Feldman, founder, Feldman Creative | @FeldmanCreative

Take a long-range view

Some people get in the habit of checking analytics every day, but it’s hard to spot trends that way and easy to make knee-jerk decisions. We look at our data once a month and record it on a spreadsheet so we can easily see how things change month to month. This makes it easier for us to see what is working and see trends over time.

Stoney deGeyter, president, Pole Position Marketing|@StoneyD

Doing something

A Forbes article helps us understand what data points are important and what really matters to the bottom line. The key is to collect and analyze data that will help increase your conversions and add revenue to your bottom line.

Some of the data you should be tracking includes:

  • Users who viewed a landing page or blog post. By measuring this, you can determine what content is most engaging to your readers.
  • Users who clicked a button, filled out a form, or downloaded a piece of content you created. (Use Google Tag Manager for this.)
  • Subscribers who opened your emails and clicked through to your site
  • Qualified leads gained through site
  • Revenue impact over time

Arnie Kuenn, CEO, Vertical Measures |@ArnieK

Looking for a better understanding of how well your content marketing is working? Check out this guide to metrics made easy.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Ann Gynn

Ann Gynn edits the CMI blog. She also serves as the Tech Tools editor for Chief Content Officer magazine. Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. Former college adjunct faculty, Ann also helps train professionals in content so they can do it themselves. Follow Ann on Twitter @anngynn or connect on LinkedIn.

Other posts by Ann Gynn

  • Janet Aldrich

    How about some help for those of us not selling something “quick” and which applies to a niche market? A visit to our websites will not prompt a quick conversion — our machine tools cost from $250000 up. We’re not “selling a beer”. The process from first contact to final sale could take a year, even more. And the most successful search for us is our company name — we’re known in the markets we serve; we’ve been around almost 125 years. What should I take from my analytics?

    • DanielHochuli

      Hi Janet,

      Sounds like you are ranking on Google for ‘branded’ search terms. People only search for those terms when they know your company or product by name. That means they are also likely familiar with your products, but may need more convincing to convert. It also sounds like new audiences are not finding you, which means you could be missing out on a large amount of potential transactions (more on this later).

      For your existing audience, your search content to provide answers to those questions your audience may have about the suitability of the product for them, as well as provide insights on how the product can help them. I would also target this content for some more Informational search terms (e.g. “which ‘machine tool’ is right for X job”), not just Navigational terms (like your brand name). Do some keyword research to discover what questions your audience is asking online and create content around it.

      As for analytics, the goal of this type of content is to move this audience from the Discovery phase to the Conversion phase of the buyer funnel. This means you want them to do something ‘transactional’ after they have read your content. This could be to sign up for a newsletter, visit another blog or visit your product page. I would track the path from your content to the product page in Google Analytics with the Behaviour Flow graph. In addition, set up Event tracking for any link clicks to email signups or links in your content that directs to a product page. You should then be able to see how effective your content is at moving audiences closer toward conversion.

      Now if you want to reach new audiences, you should look to promote your content on social media (pay to boost the posts). This content should mention your brand or product but not be conversion orientated. People don’t search for your product on Facebook, they use Google, so your goal on social media is to create content for top of funnel audiences – those who do not know who you are, what you do or how you can help them. It’s a chance to make a great first impression with emotional, visual and entertaining content. This is the ‘viral’ stuff.

      Once again, track your social traffic from this content via link clicks. Create campaigns in Google Analytics with custom cookies: and monitor their levels of engagement on the site. I would use either ‘Unique Pageviews’ or ‘Sessions’ to monitor the traffic that comes in (not Pageviews as it is wildly inaccurate). I would also pay more attention to the visitor’s Average Time On Site, rather than Bounce Rate as bounce rates are commonly high for blog content and this does not necessarily mean the content is not working.

      As for the company being around for 125 years – who cares? You’ll find not many people other than those who work for the company find that fact important. I have a client in your exact situation. They have the same pedigree of age as your company and an 8 year customer lead time. They constantly spouted that they were the oldest (and therefore most prestigious) in their industry. It was in all their marketing as a headline point of difference. After two customer surveys and a deep dive into their audiences, it turned out the customer didn’t care about age. What was important to the customer was the product itself, the usability of the site and their content and how the brand is relevant today. I would suggest you look for other points of difference in your company other than age when marketing to a digital audience.

      Hope some of this helps.

    • Ann Gynn

      Hi Janet:

      You ask some good questions. In your case — and many others — the website is only one tool. Since they aren’t buying directly from your site, why do they visit it? Is it to learn more about the company, the products, get contact information, become more educated about your industry (see your company as an expert that provides information to help them), etc.?

      I would suggest looking at your analytics to see how your visitors use the site — where in the sales funnel are they. For example, you can start to identify this by looking at the top-visited pages (don’t forget to look at the low-visited pages to see why they are NOT visitng the site). Then you can use the analysis to deliver more or better content that focuses on what most of your visitors seek. And adjust accordingly.

      I also think email subscriptions/sign-up rates from your website would be helpful in a number of ways — they’ll indicate how valuable the visitors think your content is to them and it gives you their contact information for ongoing content delivery (which is important in any scenario but especially important in scenarios where the buying process is long because you’re regularly delivering content and at the same time reminding them of your value/presence.)

  • DanielHochuli

    Ann, this article was not helpful at all.

    I came looking for 12 practical ways to use web analytics. But found a bunch of generic opinions, no insights and no graphs. And you gave us bunch of links directing me to other content. This is making me work really hard for the info I want. Not a great experience.

    For those looking for a proper article on aligning analytics with content check out this post:

    • Ann Gynn

      Thanks Daniel for taking the time to provide feedback. It’s always helpful to understand our readers’ perspectives.

      We found it valuable to ask some of the leading content marketers to share how they use analytics by looking at how and why they decide what’s important from all the data available to their content marketing programs.

      Thanks for sharing the Moz link — we think the Moz folks have great insight and are looking forward to having the Wizard of Moz, Rand Fishkin, share his insights as a presenter at Content Marketing World in two weeks.

  • Kay Bush

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  • Hector Bailey

    I think the title is a bit misleading, it should have been 12 tips to improve instead of 12 ways to use… anyway I like a few tips specially ‘Learn from Referrals’ thing.. etc.. FYI, I do not use Google Analytics instead I use GoStats, easier, simpler and effective.. 🙂

    • Ann Gynn

      Appreciate your input, Hector. Glad you shared GoStats with readers. It’s always good to know about other options that others find helpful.

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  • OCP

    Simplifying this Ann, there are a range of tools nowadays for SMB’s and small digital agencies such as CrazyEgg to provide insights into how users engage with content. Their heatmaps can help small businesses to interpret GA data to some extent. Enterprise led products such as Decibel Insight (our partner SaaS) delivers content heatmaps, visitor replays, and a range of other features to make light of any data showing lack of engagement with content; allowing for smarter optimisation decisions. It’s important to stress that Google Analytics still has a place in identifying where content isn’t performing; but it does lack significantly lack in the provision of “insight” – which is what we all seek for full transparency