Measuring content performance in GA: analysis and dashboards

*This article is about Universal Analytics which will sunset on 1 July 2023 and be replaced with Google Analytics 4. You can find our GA4 content here.

When it comes to measuring engagement with your content, improving your analytics implementation will only take you so far. For this newly acquired data to be of use, you need to have a plan beyond gathering the information.

So far in this series, you’ve discovered how to make sense of content data and gathered metrics that are applicable to content. Now it’s time to evaluate and present the findings to those who can benefit from it in the business.

Analysing content data

Analysing content data enables you to learn from existing content on your site and feed these learnings into ongoing content planning and production, as well as optimising current content on the website. Before we start diving into the analysis, we need to define the success metrics.

Setting the right KPIs for your content

To create valid success metrics, you need first to outline what the content is trying to achieve. The best way of doing this is by building out a measurement plan.

ObjectiveHow?Measurement plan
1. Rank for high volume, long tail, awareness stage keywords with medium or high conversion intentLong tail keyword research and optimised pagesRankings and visibility
2. Entice users to click through from the SERPsCRO driven title tags and meta description, mark up for SERP featuresCTR, organic sessions, bounce rate
3. Encourage users to find out more about your businessLinks to related content and content further up the funnelClicks on links, Visits to About Us
4. Encourage users to convertRelevant CTA, Related lower funnel content CTAClicks on CTAs

A measurement plan outlines the objectives for the content on your site, how you’re going to achieve it and how you’re going to measure this success.

Objectives can be split into micro and macro conversions:

Don’t forget that you needn’t (and often shouldn’t) set objectives on a per-page basis. In many cases, your content will fall into logical groups that are broadly reflective of your site’s taxonomy. The Content Groupings feature is particularly helpful here, as it enables performance analysis in aggregate. If you haven’t already set this up, I’ve previously written about retroactively pulling data off the website and combining it with historical data in Google Analytics.

Tracking relevant interactions

Once you’ve got your goals in place, it’s time to start tracking the interactions that will give you the most insight into your content.

Every business is bound to have similar overarching macro objectives, but micro objectives can differ considerably. Micro interactions might not necessarily be classed as ‘conversions’ but rather actions taken by a user that can impact whether they’re likely to convert on your site.

Here are some interactions that you might want to start tracking:

Once you start analysing these interactions, you should find trends that you might not have been aware of before, which ultimately enable you to then justify spending budget on improving features that are helping to convert users on your site.

Making sense of analysis

Landing page analysis is a common place to start – and for good reason – as we can discover the exact content that has driven a user to the website. Our main goal here is to meet the user intent; we can analyse this at a top level by looking at whether the user has ‘bounced’ or ‘converted’.

Google Analytics already tracks both of these things by default (as long as you have set up your goals) and presents them in the ‘Landing Pages’ report.

You’ll find the ‘Bounce Rate’ within this report (which, if you followed the guide in the last part of this series, will now be measured accurately) and ‘Conversion Rate’. There’s often an inverse correlation between these two metrics, since the more users that bounce on a page, the fewer there are to convert eventually.

This isn’t always the case, however. Your highest bounced landing page could also be your highest converting; it all depends on where a user is within the funnel and the purpose of the content itself.

Proving the worth of your content through analysis

If you followed the advice in the last article, then you should have a measurement plan in place for your content and begun tracking meaningful micro and macro conversions on your site.

Segmenting users who have performed specific actions reveals the content they engaged with during a session. For instance, if we wanted to understand what content was driving newsletter sign-ups on the website, we can create a session-level segment as so:

By applying this segment to the ‘All Pages’ report, we can see which pages users viewed before they converted. While these pages weren’t necessarily the pages that converted the user, they did help to push them towards converting.

Page TitlePageviewsAssisted PageviewsAssisted Rate
Luke Skywalker70175918.42%
Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back82187749.42%
The Force73261592.17%
Bounty hunter81896978.51%
Garven Dreis22951245.40%
Invasion of Naboo502556411.22%

If we add these ‘Pageviews’ with the ‘Assisted Pageviews’ metric, we can start to create a calculated metric for the percentage of traffic to a page that went on to convert. By pulling out pages that had lots of traffic but low conversions, we can start to analyse why these pages haven’t been working as hard as they should be.

You can also set up a value for performing these actions. For our newsletter sign-ups, we could calculate the cost of acquiring a newsletter sign-up via a paid channel and use this as the value. This can be set up within the goal configuration itself by using the ‘Event Value’.

Using this data, you can start to calculate ROI on the content you’re producing. Our Head of Content, Rebecca Brown, has written a fantastic article about how you can use your analytics to justify more investment into content.

Presenting data back to the wider team

Google Analytics can be difficult to understand and hard to navigate if a user isn’t familiar with the tool. Extracting even the simplest data can become a frustrating task, especially if we add custom set-ups into the mix.

One of the best – if not the best – format to present data back to the wider business in the most presentable, user-friendly way possible is through Data Studio. This data visualisation tool enables users to get a full view of the data in a readable, easy-to-use interactive dashboard.

Data Studio has a great community; blog posts are written daily on how to improve the way you’re visualising data and there’s even a Data Studio for all these resources created by Lee Hurst. It’s free to use and can be trialled before moving onto more expensive solutions in the market (if required).

The types of analysis mentioned above can all be set up within Data Studio, allowing you to track changes you’ve made over time easily. Opening the data access up to different members of your team and your client’s team will gather insights from a host of professional backgrounds and their unique perspectives helping to improve content in ways that aren’t just from an analytics viewpoint.

Unless you’re a one-person team, the first piece of advice when building out a dashboard is to map out the target audience for the dashboard. Your target audience is the people who will be viewing, analysing and reporting on the data to improve content across the site.

It’s essential to work with these stakeholders to gather their requirements for the dashboard as these will differ depending on the team:

Once you’ve gathered the varying requirements of the business, it’s time to start building the dashboard. Start playing around with different ways of visualising the data; the beauty of Data Studio is the flexibility it provides. It’s important to present the data in a way that everyone can understand, which can then be combined with their own experience and skillsets to produce insights.

Sending a report across the business is a great way to ensure that data is always at the forefront of decision making. You can forward the dashboard with ‘Email Delivery’ or by using ‘Custom Report’ in Google Analytics and scheduling this to be sent to the relevant stakeholders.

Going forward

Content performance needs to be tailored to the goals of your business, whether that’s creating content to increase brand awareness or content that directly pushes a user to make a purchase. Unless you’re tracking these interactions, there’s no way to determine how much impact your content is having.

Understanding how users are interacting with your content and the impact this has on your overall website is the best way to start building out a data-driven content strategy and justify spending on content within your organisation.

When you’re creating new content for your site, you should be referring back to your measurement plan, updating where necessary and adding new tracking as your business grows and develops.

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