By Jodi Harris published January 13, 2016

How to Uncover Critical Content Marketing Insights Using Google Analytics


How do you measure up when it comes to measuring the impact and value of the content you are publishing?

Chances are you are using Google Analytics to analyze your content marketing performance – and that is a great start. But Google Analytics is a robust, yet complex tool that offers plenty of insights beyond the basic site-visitor metrics that most marketers are tracking.

Consider this: CMI’s latest B2B Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report found that only 30% of B2B marketers feel their organization is effective or very effective in its use of content marketing. And 34% don’t even have clarity on what success looks like.

With 52% of marketers also reporting that they feel challenged by the need to determine the ROI of a content marketing program, any data left on the table is a missed opportunity to understand how your content is affecting your audience – and your business’ bottom line.

If you aren’t familiar with, or aren’t actively tracking, data like what Orbit Media co-founder Andy Crestodina has outlined in our new e-book: How to Apply Analytics Data to Make Better Content Marketing Decisions, you could be overlooking the critical insights you need to optimize your content for greater success.

How to turn data into decisions

In his top-rated presentation on applied analytics at Content Marketing World 2015, Andy asserts that the best way to use analytics is as a decision-support tool – a way of answering your key questions about what’s working, how well it’s working, and what actions you should take as a result. To do this, he uses this simple, five-step process:

.@crestodina says that the best way to use #analytics is as a decision-support tool via @cmicontent Click To Tweet
  1. Formulate an idea about your content performance.
  2. Determine a question you can ask to support this idea.
  3. Create the report that will provide the appropriate data to answer that question.
  4. Take action based on your analysis of that data.
  5. Measure the results of the actions you take against the baseline data you initially gathered.

Analytics Decision-Making

4 reports to rule them all

When using Google Analytics as your data source for this process, there are four categories of reports you can view – each one is the key to understanding certain insights that impact the performance of the content marketing on your website:

  1. Audience reports: Understand who your audience members are, what their content interests are, and how they interact with the content you publish.
  1. Acquisition reports: Glean insights on the search terms visitors are using to discover your content, and the specific sources of your traffic.
  1. Behavior reports: Evaluate the actions of your site visitors, uncover ways to improve their user experience, and optimize the engagement potential of your content.
  1. Conversion reports: Determine if your content is helping your business achieve its marketing goals, and discover which content efforts are achieving the best results.

Take a look at just a few of the questions these four reports can answer, along with some tips that Andy offers for analyzing and applying their insights:

Performance by platform

Question: Are mobile visitors less engaged than visitors on other platforms?

Report to generate: Mobile Overview (Audience >> Mobile >> Overview)

The Mobile Overview report shows the number of sessions (visits) from a mobile device. By clicking on the Comparison View button in the options selector, you can clearly see how mobile visitor sessions compare to other platforms in terms of the engagement metric you prefer – such as bounce rates, pages per session, or average session duration.


Click to enlarge

Sample analysis: If your bounce rates are extremely high among your mobile users, it could mean you need to better optimize your site’s user experience on mobile.

Suggested actions:

  • Create a schedule for regular mobile testing.
  • Check the design of your website landing pages to see if they are optimized for mobile visitors.

Social media traffic

Question: Which social network drives the best traffic to our site?

Report to generate: Channel reports (Acquisition >> All Traffic >> Channels, filtered by goal)

When considering traffic from your social networks, the “best” channels are those that convert visitors at a higher rate. You need to view the data that relates to the specific conversion goals. As you can see in the sample report below, LinkedIn had the highest conversion rate of the four most popular social channels.


Click to enlarge

Sample analysis: Once you set up your conversion goal in Google Analytics – subscribing to your newsletter, downloading an e-book, completing a lead-gen form, etc. – this report provides data on how successful your content is at meeting that goal.

Suggested action:

Blog post engagement

Question: Which of our blog posts are the most engaging to visitors?

Report to generate: All Pages Report (Behavior >> Site Content >> All Pages)

If your site page URLs are categorized by content type (e.g., if the word “blog” appears in the URL of every blog post), you can use the search filter on the All Pages report to view only the data related to your blog posts. Then, click on Comparison View to see relative engagement data for your blog posts.


Click to enlarge

Suggested actions:

  • Use high relative engagement to discover the topics that visitors find most engaging – indicating that you should create more content on those topics.
  • Link from high-traffic posts to high-converting posts.

Go forth and analyze

Remember: Tracking and analyzing your performance data is not a one-time task. You need to revisit these reports on a regular basis to ensure that the actions you take are producing positive results and are accounting for any new trends and tactics that may impact your content’s performance.

For a more detailed explanation on analyzing and applying the insights found in these reports – as well as the additional performance questions Andy addresses, in each of the four categories – download the complete e-book, How to Apply Analytics Data to Make Better Content Marketing Decisions.

Want to stay updated on the latest analysis trends and CMI e-book releases? Subscribe to CMI’s blog posts.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Please note:  All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team.  No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

Author: Jodi Harris

Jodi Harris is the Director of Editorial Content & Curation at Content Marketing Institute. As a content strategy consultant, Jodi helps businesses evaluate their content needs and resources; build infrastructure and operations; and create compelling stories to be delivered across multiple media channels and platforms. Follow Jodi on Twitter at @Joderama.

Other posts by Jodi Harris

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  • Paul Manwaring

    I literally had GA open when I saw this pop up on feedly. Some very helpful tweaks, i especially like that comparison view for engagement!

  • Brent Pittman

    Don’t forget custom GA dashboards to mine some of this data easily.

  • Austin Anderson

    Great Content Jodi. But I did have one question about “the best channels are those that convert visitors at a higher rate. You need to view the data that relates to the specific conversion goals.” Would you say that you promoted all the content equally across all channel or did you have a specific content strategy in this example? I plan to apply the social media concept to our first whitepaper
    Thanks for your help!

    • Cody

      Yes! I also found it difficult to measure true blog post success as some were more promoted than others, but the overall point is very good. Will definitely be looking closer at blog visits.

    • Jodi Harris

      Great question, Austin. I can’t speak to the specifics in this case, since the
      information wasn’t included in Andy’s original presentation. In a real-world scenario there would likely be posts that were promoted more (or less) than others. But for the purposes of this discussion, we can assume its an apples-to-apples comparison in terms of how the content was promoted.

      I also thought it would be helpful to ask Andy to weigh in on your comment. Here’s what he had to say:

      Each source of traffic converts against each goal at a different rate. Knowing this can help you focus resources on the sources that support specific outcomes, rather than blindly doing everything, without knowing which efforts achieve which outcomes.

      But… unless you try something, such as promotion something differently or being active in a new network, you’ll never get data to analyze. GA only shows the results from something that happened. It doesn’t measure what you didn’t do.

      So, yes! Experiment. Test. Try something new. Especially in the beginning. Promote something more heavily in a different network. Send that email on a weekend. Change your topics, frequency and format. Once you have the data, the insights will follow…

  • David Kamm

    Great info, Jodi and Andy. I love the way GA encourages and allows users to answer such a wide range of important questions (or prove/disprove hypotheses), above and beyond the very basic metrics most marketers pay attention to. Also helps to create “Shortcuts” for these reports so they can be easily revisited. Thanks!