Getting More from Google Analytics: 3 Tips for Editors
Over the last year or so, I’ve had the chance to run several editorial training sessions with B2B media players. In these sessions, the number-one question I get from content teams is how to best judge success for their site content, video, podcasts, and other efforts.
The good news is the questions are being asked, showing that the shift toward editorial teams embracing analytics is alive and well. But the feeling I get is that editors are looking for more than Google Analytics (GA) to find their answers.
It’s true that there are a host of tools in market today that can provide advanced analytics depth. Content teams, however, can still find most of what they need if they use Google Analytics the right way. Here are three tips that will help in that process.
Tip 1: Use the Page Title Option
One of the most common searches by editorial teams is to find out which content is performing the best on site. To find this info, editors often rely on the Site Content - All Pages report, which can be found in the Behavior section of GA.
Here’s the problem. By default, Google Analytics provides a URL view of the most popular pages of the site. So, in years past, the only way to see the title of a page was to click on the link in GA that opens the page in a new window.
Fortunately, there’s an easier solution to this problem. GA now offers the ability to change the primary dimension from Page (which displays the URL) to Page Title.
This simple click makes it much easier to digest the data in GA. Once you do this, the URLs immediately change to a more editorial view with headlines (or page titles). But, keep in mind, all pages are in the report. So, you’ll still have to sort through all pages on the site to get to the editorial content items.
Tip 2: UTM Codes Are Your Friend
Some of my favorite questions from content teams are: "How do I know how much traffic my newsletter generated?" and "how do I know how well this article did on Twitter?" To help answer these questions, editors should get to know UTM codes and how they can be used with Google Analytics.
So, what is a UTM code? Basically, a UTM code is a configurable URL string that you add to the end of a URL to provide additional levels of trackability to your content through GA.
Here’s an example of a UTM code:
As mentioned, this is a configurable URL string and the three elements in bold can all be set by the content team. These three areas (in order) are:
- Source: The source denotes where the content is coming from. This could be a website or broad terms like “online” or “social.”
- Medium: Medium is the way in which the content came to your site. Example medium designations in the editorial world could be newsletter, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
- Campaign: Campaign comes from the marketing world and is often used to differentiate campaigns coming from Google Ad Words and other marketing channels. In the case of editorial, this is a great way to tell how well pieces of a newsletter are performing or how different content is working in a social channel. For example, in the case of a newsletter, you can use this to track the performance of the featured story versus an industry report.
To use the UTM code, all you have to do is add it to the end of the URL of the content you’re posting or promoting. In my example, the URL could look something like: http://www.publicationxyz.com/article1?utm_source=KeenanMedia&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_campaign=FeaturedStory.
There are a few things to keep in mind when using UTM codes.
- First, if you can have your newsletter auto-generate the code, do it. This saves time and prevents mistakes.
- Second, there are tools that make generating UTM codes really easy. One of the best can be found here.
- Third, when adding a source, medium, or campaign, you cannot put spaces between words. If you need a space use a hyphen or underscore.
Tip 3: Use the Secondary Dimension Function
When you use Google Analytics’ All Pages report (referenced above), you’ll get a host of standard metrics, including users, new users, sessions, avg time on page, bounces, and more. But you are not limited to these “out-of-the-box” metrics. GA offers a host of metrics, which can bring a deeper understanding of your content's effectiveness.
For example, you may have a piece of content that is trending well, and you want to know what’s driving that traffic. You can run a custom report to dive further into the content. Those reports, however, take time.
Fortunately, Google Analytics offers a quicker option. On many reports, GA allows you to add a secondary dimension to a report, so you can apply that metric as a new column.
If you're looking at a particular story and want to know where traffic came from, adding the secondary dimension of source lets you see whether the traffic came directly or from a third-party source. A similar report can be done with metrics like social networks, regions, states, etc. Thus, the secondary dimension is a great way to quickly get extra insights beyond just sessions, users, and new users.
It All Starts with Access
The key to leveraging the three tips above is to provide the entire editorial team with access to GA. It still amazes me that I still get notes from editors telling me they do not have access to GA or any analytics tool. So, it is critical that from the top executives down, we give editors GA access and share best practices for using the tool to inform their content decisions.
Related story: How to Build Data Literacy in Your Media Organization
Rob Keenan is the President of Keenan Media, LLC, a consultancy firm providing digital, content, marketing, and audience support to the media sector. Rob has worked in the BtoB media sector for 20 years, most recently at the VP of Online Media for Edgell Communications. You can contact Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org.You can also follow him on twitter @robkeenan11 or connect with him on LinkedIn.