By Michele Linn published April 12, 2019

How to Use the 4 Most Helpful Reports in Google Analytics

Editor’s note: Google Analytics is a treasure trove of information – sometimes too much data. That’s why we brought back this article about four Analytics reports that every content marketer should review.

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

Once you understand what this data is and how to track it, you can mix and match insights to take advantage of opportunities with your web-based content, driving more traffic to your site 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 an appropriate period. I typically look at search volume from the past quarter, six months, or year for this exercise.

Click to enlarge

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 regularly. 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:

  • 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.)
Just because a page gets a lot of traffic doesn’t mean it’s effective, says @MicheleLinn. Click To Tweet

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

In the traffic report, click on any page. At the top, click the 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. As with the traffic report, you can adjust the number of rows displayed.

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Google Analytics used to offer an In-Page Analytics report, which showed where visitors are clicking any page on your website, but that report didn’t show how visitors were getting to the page. You can add that feature to your browser with the Google Page Analytics extension for Chrome.

Add @Google Page Analytics Chrome extension to show how visitors are getting to your page. @MicheleLinn Click To Tweet

How to act on this data

Pay attention to two parts of this report:

  • The Previous Page Path is useful so you know which page someone visited on your website right before they arrived on the page you’re analyzing. 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 clicked on that page to continue on your site. This data may indicate what questions people still have. Additionally, you can see whether people are clicking to pages that convert well (more on that later).
Google’s Next Page Path analytic can indicate what questions people still have, says @michelelinn. Click To Tweet

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.

Search traffic matters for a couple reasons:

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

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, paste 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

Consider two things about 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 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 the page but tread more carefully and monitor more frequently how the pages perform after you make changes.

Use caution when making changes to pages that rank well in @Google, advises @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.

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

In this example, 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 topics. (Note: High-traffic landing pages often are works in progress and should be continually reviewed and updated to best answer searchers’ questions.)

Use @semrush to learn more about why people are visiting highly searched pages. @michelelinn #tools Click To Tweet

See how well your keyword results for the page match your intentions for the page. If you see that your intent for the page is different than the way visitors are using it (and their needs are 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 actions 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 information varies and likely requires manual work. First, set up your goals. Andy Crestodina, my go-to person on setting up goals, outlines the process in this section of his video How to Set Up Google Analytics:

Once your goals are set, track them under Conversion > Goals > Overview. You can look at the goals in aggregate or by pages converting to specific goals.

How you can act on this data

While the raw number of conversions is useful, the number of conversions divided by the number of page views – the conversion percentage – is more useful.

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

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.

Want more information to make your content marketing measurement easier? Subscribe to our free weekday newsletter.

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).

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Michele Linn

Michele Linn is the co-founder and chief strategy officer of Mantis Research, a consultancy focused on helping brands create and amplify original research they can use in their marketing. Before starting Mantis, Michele was head of editorial at Content Marketing Institute, where she led the company's strategic editorial direction, co-developed its annual research studies, wrote hundreds of articles, spoke at industry events and was instrumental in building the platform to 200,000 subscribers. In 2015, she was named one of Folio's Top Women in Media (Corporate Visionary). You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

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