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by Gemma Holloway on 3rd January 2014
The past year or so has seen content marketing grow rapidly in its importance as a marketing mechanism. But like all marketing techniques, to ensure your efforts are a success it is important to understand what works and what doesn’t. The most accurate way of determining this is through the use of empirical data: That’s where Google Analytics comes into play.
In this post I am going to cover a number of ways Google Analytics can be used to help you enhance your content marketing strategy. Feel free to add to this post in the comments with any other ways you use your data for this purpose.
By understanding which pages are most popular on your website, you can determine what products and services your users are most interested in; helping you to decide what topics are most beneficial to cover when putting together your content marketing plan. It may also be worth considering what products and services are lacking in interest so that content can be created to help them gain popularity (especially if these items are of high value).
In order to view this data you can navigate to the All Pages report under the Behaviour menu. When analysing your data, consider what metrics are most important, the page with the highest number of visits may not necessarily be the most popular, for example it may have a particularly high bounce rate. When looking for popular topics I would recommend choosing the pages with the most conversions.
Content marketing is particularly useful for boosting both Organic and Referral traffic; therefore, I would suggest analysing which products perform poorly for these traffic sources but well for other sources such as direct and paid. Creating content for these products can then help boost their popularity across Organic and Referral sources making it an all-round, well-performing product.
So you now know what topics you should be focusing on, but how should you write about those topics? By viewing your top performing blog posts you can determine the type of content which your users engage with the most; this will help you to decide whether you should be writing more top 10 lists, reviews, news articles and so on.
To view this data, again navigate to the All Pages report under Behaviour. Using an advanced filter, make sure only pages containing blog posts are showing.
Again, you need to carefully consider which metrics you use to determine which blog posts are the most popular – The one with the highest visits can be deceiving if the bounce rate is high and the average time on page is low. However, it is important to remember that average time on page is only calculated when a bounce doesn’t occur. Because blog posts tend to have a significantly high bounce rate; it is likely to be that your average time on page data is based on an insignificant number of visits. For a more accurate interpretation of your data I would recommend setting up a goal which fires after a certain time is spent on page – This will trigger even if a bounce occurs. This can be set up in the Admin section.
Make sure you carefully consider how long you would expect someone to spend on one of your blog posts to consider it a successful engagement. Once set up, you can analyse you blog posts based on the number of goals each post has completed.
For anyone that isn’t familiar with UTM Parameters, I previously wrote a blog post explaining exactly what they are and how to use them. UTM parameters allow you to attach additional information to links pointing to your website so that you can collect more in depth data about the clicks leading to your website.
Note: It is essential these are only ever used externally.
The most common use of UTM parameters in a content marketing strategy is during the promotion stage. By using UTM parameters to tag social posts which share the content marketing posted on your site you can determine not only which social networks are most beneficial for your strategy, but even what types of content are most successful, and at what time of day they should be posted. To collect this data simply enter the necessary metrics within the correct fields in the parameter. For example, enter the title of the blog post and the time it is shared within the Content field.
UTM Parameters can also be useful when posting content externally on third party sites where two or more links are used per post. For example, if in your guest post you link to your website in both the first paragraph and the author bio you can use UTM parameters to tag these links and differentiate between the two. This will help you to determine the optimum location for links in future posts. For example, if the author bio provides 70% more referrals than the first paragraph link, then in future you may choose to present users with the author bio link only.
For further information on how to use UTM Parameters, please see my previous blog post. To analyse the data collected by UTM parameters view the Campaigns report under Acquisition.
Enabling the site search functionality within Google Analytics can be an excellent way for understanding what type of content users are looking for on your website. To enable this functionality, simply navigate to the View Settings within the Admin panel and ensure the Site Search Tracking slider is switched to on. You then need to enter your Query parameter.
To identify this, perform a simple search using the search functionality on your site. The query parameter is the single letter or string of letters prior to the equals sign detailing your search term.
Once this is set up Google Analytics will collect the details of any searches performed on your website in the Search Terms Report under Behaviour. Analysing this data will allow you to determine topics your users are looking for which have currently not been covered on your website. To know which topics to focus on as a matter of priority, identify the search terms with the highest number of searches and the largest percentage of search refinements. This means that a further search was carried out as no relevant content was returned, highlighting a gap to be filled.
It is important to understand how users engage with on site content marketing so that you can ensure that it is optimised for conversions. The In-Page Analytics Report within the Behaviour section allows you to see which clickable elements on your page users interacted with. This facility is automatically set up when the Google Analytics tracking code is installed; however, the biggest downfall is that the percentage relates to the destination page and not the clickable elements. For example, if two elements lead to the services page but one element receives no clicks, then both elements will still show the same percentage as the destination URL is the same.
To get a more accurate view of where users clicked, you can upgrade In-Page Analytics to incorporate Enhanced Link Attribution so that percentages are based on the individual elements. This involves inserting two lines of additional code into your Google Analytics tracking code, find out more here.
Once implemented you can view both what elements within your content marketing users engage most with and what page positions achieve the highest percentage of clicks. You can then optimise your page by moving the various elements to ensure your calls to action are moved to the positions that receive the highest number of clicks.
A huge part of content marketing revolves around social and ensuring that your content is being seen and shared. There are two main reports within this section that offer content marketing gold; Trackbacks and Data Hub.
Using the trackbacks report you can determine which pages containing a link to your website are being shared via social media. Not only is this great for checking that the guests posts you have distributed are being shared, but you may also be able to identify possible new sources to approach in the future. It is likely that if a site has linked to you in one of their previous posts, they appreciate your work. In instances such as this, it would be beneficial to approach these sites and form relationships, putting yourself on their radar for any future content marketing opportunities.
When executing your content marketing strategy it is important to be aware of the key influencers within your industry. Whilst there are other tools and apps to help you do this, Google Analytics now offers you this information alongside all of your existing reports. The Data Hub allows you to see not only who is posting links to your website, but also exactly what they said – allowing you to gain further context. Viewing this report on a regular basis will allow you to easily identify your advocates, providing you with the opportunity to strengthen this loyalty further.
Data is not only good for helping you analyse your content marketing, it can also be the substance from which your content marketing is based upon. For example, creating content based around statistics and data you have harvested from your Google Analytics account within your industry. Digiday recently covered a case study where a video site did exactly that – Creating content based around user statistics; what days were busiest, how viewing was affected by public holidays etc. An excellent idea for using your data in all aspects of your content marketing.
So as you can see there are lots of ways that Google Analytics can help you get the most out of your content marketing strategy, but to give you a helping hand I have put together this simple dashboard to help you consolidate all of the most important data. I hope you find it useful.
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