The first of the breakout sessions I attended at #pbevent 2015 was presented by Benjamin Mangold, Google Analytics certified expert from Loves Data.
The importance of Google Analytics (GA) was a recurring theme through most of the sessions at the conference. Nearly every presenter mentioned their use of GA to gather intelligence to better improve their blogging – whether to monitor brand campaigns, identify the posts that worked best or to find out more about their audience.
As Benjamin stated straight up – you need to measure, in order to analyse, in order to improve.
He noted that analytics can inform you of what people like. Analytics can help determine what creates value on your site. And analytics can ultimately help you identify what to post on your site, making it a powerful tool for any blogger.
Benjamin started off by making sure we all understood common GA terminology:
Metric = piece of data
Dimensions = rows
Metrics = columns
Sessions = visits (Multiple pageviews can be included in a session. A session with more than a 30 minute gap between activity will be divided into 2 separate sessions)
User = visitor
Bounce rate = percentage of sessions with a single page view
Benjamin then provided an overview of the main reporting elements:
Dashboard = snapshot
Shortcuts = a way to save searches, reports, etc.
Intelligence Events = insights
Real Time = what is happening right now
Audience = who is coming to your site
Acquisition = how people come to your site
Behaviour = what are people doing on your site
Conversions = what people are buying/interacting with on your site
I knew a lot of these definitions but I found it useful to have my understanding confirmed and to also actually understand what some of what I didn’t know, actually meant!
Benjamin explained how content grouping (a GA module found on the Admin page) can allow you to delve deeper into analytics. This strategy allows you to group similar content (e.g. travel, parenting, craft, recipes) to get a real feel of what topics are engaging your audience.
Your top post may be a recipe but, as a whole, that topic may not be of real value and interest to your audience. That’s where content grouping can be used to delve deeper and identify the type of posts you should be writing.
Social interactions give you the ability to measure social sharing on your blog, for instance, how many shares you receive for a post across the main social media platforms. Integrating a third party application such as Add This can give you an even greater level of detail – even breaking down shares by page level too.
Promotions can track the progress and success of competitions, giveaways and advertising on your site. Event tracking can be activated by modifying the code in the image used for promotion, utilising a wordpress plugin (to measure outbound links from the promotion) or using Google Tag Manager.
I had not looked at goals in great detail before but Benjamin presented a compelling argument why we should ALL be using them. Goals can be measured in so many ways and can provide extremely valuable insights into the performance of pages, posts and the blog as a whole.
Goals can be measured in terms of pageviews; events (such as promotions); engagement (time spent vs number of pages viewed), conversions (email signups), social interaction (shares) and comments.
You can set a core goal (which may be email signups) plus goals for micro conversions (social media shares, etc.). There is also the ability to measure and set goals for key pages on your site (such as advertising, contact and work with me pages).
The key to using goals in GA is assigning a value to them. You may already have a monetary value you can assign to a goal (actual or calculated) or you can use a symbolic number (a guesstimate or symbolic value for a conversion). Assigning a value, real or symbolic, allows you to calculate page value which is a simple and very valuable metric.
Understanding page value allows you to identify which content is the most valuable on your site. Even if you use a symbolic goal of $1 (which is what I’ve done above) you will clearly be able to see which posts are the most valuable.
To do this you need to first, set a goal and then second, assign a goal value.
For instance, say you give each post a symbolic value of $2. Post A gets a view and Post B gets a view, giving them both a value of $2 as the value is split across the pages. However, over time, Post B gets 10 more views than Post A, making it the post which generates the most value – therefore, becoming the most valuable post.
Another way that GA can help identify potential post topics is via the site search function. Setting up this function in GA will allow you to see what people are searching for within your site. You can set this up on the admin page by clicking the site search tracking tool on and using “S=” as the search query perameter.
Identifying terms and topics that people are searching for on your site can allow you to fill the gaps and create content that people are already looking for. You can then provide more targeted content to answer their queries and better serve your audience as a whole.
It’s such a simple way to generate more useful content for future posts (although as you can see I’ve only just set this up so have no search information to review as yet!)
It makes sense to set up your own personalised dashboard so you can look at all the metrics that are important to you in the one place. Benjamin shared his dashboard and what metrics he includes in it:
- Users (total numbers of visitors)
- Pages per Session (health indicator for your site)
- Page Views (top posts)
- Social Interactions (ideally use a social plugin like Add This to identify the content most shared on social media)
- Page Value (indicates the most valuable pages)
- Events (to measure promotions)
- Pageviews by Hour (which shows you WHEN people are reading your blog)
- Internal Searches (site search, to identify gaps in content)
- Affinity Categories (demographic info to identify areas of interest to your readers, based on their online activity)
- Goals (goal completions)
- Channels (to see where readers are coming from)
- Page Views + Users
You can use this as a basis for setting up your own dashboard in Google Analytics.
- Use a dashboard to better understand the behaviour and activity of your audience
- Focus on the metrics that matter to YOU
- Only configure what you will actually use (goals, search, events, social, content groupings)
- Use the data to improve (to identify potential post ideas, understand what topics are of more interest to your audience, etc).
I found Benjamin’s session to be a great mixture of theory and practical advice. For the first time I really understood WHY metrics matter and I actually came home and had a good look around GA. Yay for me!
It’s still early days but even assigning a symbolic $1 value to goals has given me insights I didn’t have a month ago. And how good was the tip on analysing internal searches on your site? What a simple way to understand what your readers are looking for!
How much time have you spent in GA? Do you have any other useful tips to share?