Content marketing is still misused by a lot of companies who create content without any real goal in mind. It’s a case of ‘yes, let’s do some content marketing’ and that’s where the thinking stops.
We like a more targeted approach. So here’s part 1 of our guide on how to understand the impact of content marketing using Google Analytics – with this first part focused on internal pages, especially landing pages.
First: set up goals and add them to Google Analytics
If you are going to do any kind of content marketing whatsoever, and aim to measure the impact, it’s really important to set up website goals. These goals need to be fair and proportionate – e.g. you shouldn’t aim to generate sign-ups for a $10k training course from a single blog post that’s written up in few hours.
Goals vary a lot but some common goals are:
- Direct conversions and ecommerce transactions.
- Indirect conversions – conversions that are made after viewing a given page, but not immediately afterwards or as part of the same session.
- Directing users to other pages – influencing the user-journey to provide information and remove psychological barriers (e.g. a travel company offering a holiday package with no travel included – might wish to create a blog post showing how easy it is to get to the destination).
- Refer more traffic to the site from certain sources, i.e. search engines.
Here’s how to measure these four goals in Google Analytics.
Note: this post doesn’t discuss how to setup goals, for on this see this guide from Google.
1. How many conversions / transactions are my landing pages getting?
Once goals are setup, you can quickly look at how many goal completions landing pages are generating. Doing this is easy – just navigate to Behaviour – Site Content – Landing Pages, and then just use the goals filter on the right (highlighted in red) to see how many conversions your landing pages are generating. Simple as that, see below:
Using the filter, you can take either an individual goal view or an overall view. And you can navigate to ecommerce to see transaction details.
But there is a limitation here: what about conversions that involve pages but are completed by the same user further down the line?
See the next point…
2. How many indirect conversions are my landing pages getting?
Looking at direct conversions is one thing but Google Analytics has developed over the past while to include better ‘attribution’. The analogy that’s often used to describe attribution is that of a sporting team – e.g. when a football player scores a goal then the player that finishes the move by scoring is the one who gets the glory – but what about the other players who were involved in the build up?
Applying this analogy to a website: a user may visit a landing page one day, return another day from a different source, like organic search, and convert from that source, which will then be the source labelled as driving the conversion – but shouldn’t the landing page that played a part in the build up to the ‘goal’ be given some credit too?
Yes, it should. And attributing this credit is pretty simple. To get the basics setup go to Conversions – Multi Channel Funnels – Assisted Conversions. You’ll see that there are predefined channels setup:
There are a few ways to add landing pages to the mix but an easy way is to go to Channel Groupings – Copy MCF Channel Grouping Template – and then ‘Define a new channel’ in the box that pops up. You can add a single landing page, or a group of landing pages that are held under a common directory – e.g. if all of your blog pages were located under a /blog/ subdirectory then to add all of these blog pages you would just add ‘landing page URL contains blog‘, and give the channel a descriptive name – as shown below.
Once this new channel is setup to measure a page or page set, then you can access the new channel grouping from the main assisted conversions screen and you’ll be able to see how many conversions and transactions internal page content has assisted – alongside the usual suspects.
If you’ve defined a set of pages and you want even more detail on the exact pages involved then you can apply basic filters (highlighted in red) to see the exact pages involved.
3. Where are visitors to my pages going next?
Regardless of the goals that you have setup you may want to know if your pages (in this case general pages, not just landing pages) are directing users to other destinations and goals. There are a few ways to do this, probably the easiest is just to go to a page in Behaviour – Site Content – All Pages – and look at the Navigation Summary to see where visitors came from before viewing this page, and where they went to afterwards.
Another intuitive way to view navigation is through the In-page Analytics section in the Behaviour reports. There’s a good guide on this from Google here. The ‘Reverse Goal Path‘ report under Conversions – Goals is insightful too (and underused) – it shows you pages that visitors have been to before completing your defined website goals.
But for a detailed look at the user journey you can use flow reports, of which there are a few variations. The basic Users Flow in the Audience reports is a good enough place to start.
The default view is pretty messy, chaos actually, so it’s best to have segments setup to only look at visits that have involved certain pages. Once you’ve setup segments to only include visits to specific pages, you can see how users have interacted with these pages in a lot of detail, at different levels of interaction (e.g. when this page was the starting page; the second page; the third page) – and you can filter by source, locations and all sorts of other criteria to get even more info.
E.g. the visualization below, from a ski chalet company called The Chalet Company, shows only sessions that have included a blog page. The goal of the page (or the content strategy, if you like) is to give users who visited the special offers page some more information on how to get to France, as flights are not included in the offer prices.
The flow is filtered to show sessions that included this page (highlighted in red). It shows how users interacted with the page (up to the 2nd level of interaction) after landing on the special offers page. It confirms that visitors are moving from the offers page to the guide – and back – and some of them are going on to visit chalet pages and convert. Basically, looking at this flow confirms the main goal of the page – to influence the user journey from the special offers page by providing helpful information.
There are lots of cuts and conclusions you can draw from these visualizations, based on your intent and strategy, and if there’s a content marketing effort to direct visitors in a certain direction as part of their user journey then you can confirm it by looking at these reports. But it’s a more open and subjective view than just looking at pure goals and conversions and is best combined with simpler data.
4. How much traffic am I getting and where from?
A common content marketing goal is to get traffic – we’d normally suggest a more final goal but getting traffic’s an understandable target. And understanding what sources traffic is coming from at least helps to tweak the continuing strategy, to get even more visits and conversions.
So to know how much traffic pages are getting and where this landing page traffic is coming from, navigate to Behaviour – Landing Pages, select your page, then tweak the secondary dimension to also show Source / Medium (as shown below).
Now you’ll be able to see the total traffic to that page but also where that traffic has come from.
In reverse, you can also filter referral sources (e.g. Reddit, Facebook) to see what landing pages these sources refer the most visits to. But the most logical starting point is usually the page rather than the referring network.
SEO visibility is also a common content goal – and impressions and rankings of site pages are sometimes important. So to see how landing pages are performing, not just in terms of traffic but in terms of their search engine visibility; their impressions and rankings – then navigate to Acquisition – Search Engine Optimisation – Landing Pages to see the number of impressions and average rankings of given pages, and the number of clicks to them.
Note: Be careful with these metrics, they can be a bit misleading, you can check Google’s definitions here.
When it comes to keyword referrals, you can filter by keyword but you’ll have the ‘not provided’ issue to contend with and most of your keywords will be obscured under a sweeping title. For more on this issue and how to handle it take a look at our previous post on the issue.
Other goals and things to measure:
(a good metric to use for SEO and brand awareness goals):
- The easiest way to measure shares of a given page is through third-party tools and plug-ins. Sharing buttons themselves will often display the number of shares but tools like Open Site Explorer and Ahrefs give a more consistent view.
(for an overall view of how engaging your content is)
- Metrics like bounce rate, exit rate, and time on site can provide a pretty good, surface-level indication of how well content is performing. To see this, go to Behaviour – Site Content – All Pages – and look at these metrics in the default table.
That’s about all – we could go into more detail but this post is far too long already. Any other ideas on how to use Google Analytics to measure content marketing?