Why your writers need to see your analytics reports

Would you like your editorial meetings more focused on your audience interests? Analytics can give them specific information to act upon.

Writers love feedback and will be fascinated by all this data, especially if they are more used to working in print media. Sometimes they are further removed from their audiences than they’d like and need to rely on internal resources for content ideas. Luckily it’s pretty easy to give them data they can trust more than opinions from higher ranking staff or executives.

Web analytics program like Google Analytics or Yahoo! Web Analytics—both free—provide insights into your readers’ interests.

What are people already reading on your site?

Top content

Screen shot of a Top Content report

This report tells writers where they’ve had success. But don’t just look at the list’s order. Take a look at which pages have the lowest bounce rates and the longer times on page. These are the pages keeping readers reading and on the site. (There could be several reasons for low bounce rates you should investigate a bit: the pages have great calls to action that take them deeper into the site, they have such engaging content that readers want more, or the reader doesn’t find what s/he wants and clicks around in hope of finding something better elsewhere on your site.)

For blog entries, don’t worry about bounce rates. Just look at number of page views and time on page to determine which pages people are reading. They might bounce right off the site immediately, but that’s often because they’ve read the previous entries already. But if an entry is getting a lot of traffic with three-seconds on the site, then you know you probably have a good headline but something’s wrong with the page. It could be a technical problem or an offensive photo or visitors expected to see a list and instead see volumes of text.

If you want to really dig deep, you can also look at pages which get the best number of returning visitors. This will be important for businesses with a long sales cycle where visitors might come several times before they commit to a purchase or giving their email address.

Take some time to celebrate the well-performing pages. Consider what might have made them successful. Are they well targeted to a specific niche? Are they mostly shorter pieces? Are they pages with the most informative graphics?

Make a list of the topics and keywords for these popular and well-performing pages. Is your page about recycled bedding showing surprisingly good numbers? Keep these pages in mind as you look at the next report.

Keywords

Screen shot of Keywords report

Look at your organic keywords and not those from your paid advertising campaigns. Review the most popular keywords and look for surprises. Are there words missing?

Now that you’ve dug a little deeper and you might discover that “linens for crafts” is a fairly popular keyword phrase. Maybe you want to add a new page with craft patterns using old bed sheets and link to it from your popular recycled bedding page. Or maybe you’re seeing “bamboo cloth” rating highly and you could write something on linens and other items made from bamboo fabrics.

Make a list of the poorly performing keywords. Is “recycled bedding” as a search phrase showing high bounce rates? Do your own Web search and you might discover that many of your visitors were probably looking for pet bedding and not how to recycle old sheets. Maybe you want to add an article for pet owners.

Now look at the terms in the middle. You’ll find many useful keywords on down the list that you can assemble into new topic areas to write about. Or you’ll find opportunities for capturing traffic from searchers who use a long string of keywords because know exactly what they want (and will be happy to find that you have it) or who keep adding terms because their previous searches haven’t been fruitful (and will be grateful to find you have what they seek.)

Referring pages and sites

Screen shot of referring URLs

See how bloggers and other sites owners are linking to your pages. These links are explicit votes for your content. Are links coming to the pages you already knew were popular? Or are many linking to more specialized pages that you thought weren’t performing well? Is that page on large steel storage containers showing up on farming blogs when you hadn’t even considered farmers as one of your target markets?

Are you seeing people coming to your pages from an image search engine? Maybe you should spend a bit more time considering your image and graphic choices.

Are you seeing traffic from Twitter? Maybe it’s time to spend more time writing content for it or other social media.

What are people searching for on your site?

If you have an internal search engine then you have a profitable mine to go digging around in. If you’re writing about student housing but seeing lots of searches for “room and board” then you know that there’s an audience out there using terminology you aren’t. This is a great place to go searching for synonyms you should be employing in your writing (and even navigation.)

Perhaps you’re finding people searching for “recipes” when your site is just about food safety issues. Perhaps adding a few recipes will draw in more readers and keep them engaged with your site. Or you’re finding people searching for your product “Mmmyummies” as “Yummers.” You’ll want to create a new page for those searches with a title like “Mmmyummies are yummers.” It might sound corny, but it’s better than giving them a “no page found” message.

What are people commenting on or sharing?

You probably won’t find this type of data from your regular analytics packages. However, your blogging tool might provide you with a listing of your most recent comments or entries with the most comments. Those comments can be mined for new content ideas.

Setting up a report from socialmention.com, bit.ly, Facebook Insights, Google Alerts or other similar tools will give you an idea of what’s being shared. These will also give you a great sense for how your product or service is being talked about. You might find that an article is needed to clarify an issue in your industry or to address a general concern expressed by your intended audiences.

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