How To Use GA To Measure And Improve Content Marketing Effectiveness
Investing in content is worth it, but how can you use Google Analytics to report on content?
The Google Analytics Mixed Tape of Content Reporting Happiness
Do you remember the feeling of getting a mixed tape (playlist for those of you who are too young to remember a cassette tape)?
How did you feel when you got one? You play the tracks and you are reminded of songs you love, and you got the opportunity to discover new songs, without having to do much work. Personally, I loved the feeling of getting a mixed tape. Someone making something for you was special.
They were special because they were a total ball ache to make. The time it took to make a mixed tape needs to be remembered and cherished. It was utterly painstaking to create a tape, blood, sweat, tears, and cramp in your hands from hitting pause so you can move between songs.
You needed to have a mood in mind, you thought about the soundtrack, the order, so you could express something and hope that the recipient of your tape would feel the same thing.
So, this, ladies and gentleman is my mixed tape for you on Google Analytics, bet none of you ever thought you would get a mixed tape about Google Analytics did you? First time for everything and all that. It is based on my Learn Inbound talk I presented on Friday 16th August 2019.
The sentiment and patience are all in here. I have spent years and years learning how GA works. It is a ballache to use sometimes, and yes, blood, sweat, tears, and cramp in my hand clicking away at my laptop, lost down the rabbit hole of reporting is real.
Come Together: The Beatles
Now, investing in content, good content, is worth it, but how can you use Google Analytics to report on content?
Content can be your blog posts, articles, and case studies. Maybe you have started a podcast or hosting some webinars. Or perhaps you have focused on optimizing your content ala conversion copywriting style.
Before you dive into your analytics to see what your content is doing for you. You need to take a step back and see how it all comes together a 100-foot view kinda thing.
Map Out Your Content
Starting with your typical customer journey.
1 Pain or Problem Aware: This is where you have a visitor who is aware of a problem but they have not found a solution yet.
2 Solution Aware: They are well aware of the pain or problem and they have discovered that solutions exist for them.
3 Product Aware: They know that you are one of the products in the solutions to their pain.
4 Most Aware: They know you are the best solution with a product or service for their pain.
Then look at your keyword modifiers. A modifier is a word that in combination with your core keyword creates your long-tail strategy. In this use case, we look at grouping them by their stage of intent. This is a tactic that can be used for both SEO and Paid Media. Typically, at the start of the journey, the keywords are non-brand. People don’t know what they don’t know. So the intent is around questions. The who, what, why, when, etc. Move to the middle of the journey and they are a mix of brand and non-brand as they become exposed to solutions and products. Right at the end. Well, it all brand my friend, they know your name now.
You can apply the same thinking to your content types. There are different types of content that will be more receptive to your prospects and website visitors as they move down their customer journey. Think about it, you have to be quite invested in a company to dedicate time to download and read a large report.
We recommend that you map out your content types to the customer journey and investigate your current ecosystem, as this will have an impact on how you need to approach your GA setup.
For example, if your webinars are hosted on a 3rd party site, you may need to look at UTM tracking and possibly cross-domain tracking. If you have video on your website, you will need to set up event tracking so you know if someone played the video or not. In the past, we have done this activity using a spreadsheet similar to the one pictured. It provided a high-level overview of the content we were creating and what we needed to do to track it all correctly.
Eye of the Tiger, Survivor
All websites, no matter how large or small, need to have some way of measuring whether or not we are all doing a good job, or not. Goals are used in Google Analyticsas a way to find this out because you really need to have a way to measure effectiveness.
You need to know how well your marketing on one hand, and website content on another – is actually contributing towards making your visitors convert, and convert – we mean doing the thing you need them to do so you’re still in business tomorrow. Hello Macro and Micro Goals!
Macro are the main key performance indicators for your business, AKA, if this doesn’t happen your business will go bust!
Micro are the small interactions of people actually moving towards what you want them to do. There is value here; don’t throw this data away!
You can have a whopping twenty Goals on your site, yet, more often than not, we have found that Goals aren’t set up in Google Analytics, or if they are, there are only a small few, and they have been focused on the big hitter elements.
You should be thinking about your Goals from a Macro and Micro point of view at all times. There is so much value, in our humble opinion, when it comes to tracking your Micro Goals. To put it another way…let’s say you just focused on the one big Macro Goal, revenue. Let’s say then, that your Macro Goal converts at 2%. Are you going to throw away the data and insights of the 98% of your visitors that didn’t give you money today?No, you totally aren’t.
When you start to dig into this, you will most likely notice that your Micro conversions are going to look very similar to your content production.
So, go audit how many Goals you have, and see if you are indeed tracking everything that you should be.
We recommend reporting on both Micro and Macro Goals. It will give you a richer story when you are reporting on what your users are doing on your website and how well your marketing flywheel is working for you.
Like this use case (see picture below) we reported in Data Studio a mix of Micro and Macro goals. Notice how one of the Goals is for content that was downloaded. We used heat maps to help visualize conversion rates across these goals and listed the sources of traffic to see how well our marketing was doing to drive conversions.
Never Enough, The Greatest Show
Your tracking your Micro and Macro Goals
You have setup a few swanky dashboards for conversions. Some of which include your awesome content.
However, you may think your reports show all the credit for your conversions correctly, there is a ‘however’ in here. That ‘however’ been on how GA allocates credit. Which depends on a few things, such as with the attribution models that Google Analytics uses within reports. Before your eyes roll into the back of your head in boredom at the thought of attribution.
When we talk about attribution, remember it’s just a fancy way of saying who gets the credit.
Who do we attribute success to?
We all know that our website visitors are people, and these people have a customer journey. We know that they touch multiple channels before they convert. So we need to make sure that when we’re reporting on how our marketing channels are working for us, that we don’t make bad or biased decisions on that data. By that I mean just focusing on the superstar channels, that score most of the goals.
Which channels are exposing customers to our brand, which channels are helping the top of the funnel?
Which channels are supporting us and driving consideration? The channels helping people work through the middle of the funnel.
Which channels and the closers, ding ding bam – the conversion happened. Hello Multi-Channel-Attribution > Assisted Conversion Report! This report is going to show you how your marketing channels are assisting in converting for you.
In addition to looking at your marketing channels, which is very useful, you can change the dimensions in the report from channels to landing pages.
At the top of the report, you will see ‘Primary Dimension:” move over to ‘Other’ and click on it. You then need to type in the dimension called “Landing Page URL”
This will give you a report showing how your website pages (that host your super content) are helping assist in conversions. You can look at conversions and assisted conversions for All Goals, or drill down to a specific Goal in your reporting view.
You can also repeat the process with the Multi-Channel-Funnel> Top Conversion Report, by changing the primary dimension to Landing Page URL, you get to see the top conversion path by website pages.
This will help you get an idea of how people are moving through your website.
My last song ladies and gentleman, is for a feature in GA that in my humble opinion doesn’t get enough attention. It is one of my faves.
Let’s set the scene.
It is a sunny day, you are logged into Google Analytics and pumped full of excitement to see how well your content is doing.
You head over to Behaviour> Site Content> All Pages report and that smile on your face suddenly turns into a frown, you poor marketing soul. Because you notice on the bottom right that you have oodles of pages, indeed tons of pages, to work through. The pain is real. All you wanted is to shuffle through the report and see what your top pages are, which is really easy to do.
But, how can you work out how many blog pages are being viewed? Or product pages?
Or if you have multiple brands, which are getting the lions share of page Views? Could you find this out without having to manually count, or worse, export and try some complex excel workaround?
Now, imagine if you could organize these website pages, grouped under nice neat umbrellas?
Wouldn’t that be smashingly good?
Well, you can do this with Content Groupings, and you can have five of these per View. As the Google Demo Account has created them, we can see an example in action. If you click on ‘none’ (found where you see Primary Dimension just above the table) you will get to see that there are three content groupings out of a possible five. If you select one of them, let’s look at Product Categories, you will see something like this:
It works at the View level, so you have to create these for every reporting View that you have, and it works by setting up rules, like anything else. As you can imagine, as its Google Analytics here, they work the day you create them.
You have 3 options to create Content Groupings.
Rule Set The Rule Set option is the quickest and easiest of the three options to create a content grouping. All you really need to know is what the page URL, Page Title or Screen Name is. The other routes require some development work, but this one is surprisingly easy to create, the hard part is working out what goes into each group.
Assign content via extraction If you have a larger site, with a slightly more complex URL structure then you will need to use this option, which will require some Regex work. You would follow a similar pattern from our Rule Set, but select Add Extraction as your option, give the content rule a name, and then select either Page URL, Page Title or Screen Name.
What should you create? Start by thinking about what it is you want to achieve. We always like to use one of our five to group a companies website structure. That way, you can look at the All Pages report and use the Content Grouping to see how many page views are going to your homepage, product pages, blog pages, campaign pages, contact pages, etc. After your website structure, you should think about other use cases. Like pages defined by stages of awareness, or by content type.
The Google Demo Account has three content groupings, as we’ve just seen. One to look at brands (Google, Youtube, Android). One to focus on Product (Apparel, Bags, Electronics etc). The last one used to define clothing by Gender (Mens, Womens).
They are worth the investment. Not only will it help you navigate your Behaviour> All Pages reports, but they have other use cases within Google Analytics. You can apply a Content Grouping as a Secondary Dimension. You can also use them to create Segments.
Imagine having a Content Grouping for your content types, and you wanted to know more about people that say, look at your audio website pages. You could create a GA Segment and dive into your Audience Reports to know more about their demographics, and Acquisition Reports to find out what channels are driving them to your website. You could use these insights to improve the targeting of your campaigns focused on content.
Now, as I mentioned before, they work the day you create them, but there is a workaround. Hello, Data Studio you total babe! The picture below is from a report that shows Organic traffic, but to help bring our long Behavior> All Pages report into a more digestible format, we used something called Case Statements that allowed us to look historically at content by stages of awareness.
If you have gone through the process of working out what your URL structure is for your Content Groupings, then Case Statements will likely follow a similar set of rules. A Case Statement is a set of logical rules that you create, so you can categorize data in a certain way.
In our example we are essentially saying, when a page has ‘case study’ in the url then please put in a data set that is called ‘Product Aware’.
It really is a lot of fun to play with this, especially in Data Studio as you are manipulating data that has already been collected, so you can make a mistake and it is ok. I encourage you to explore how you can use Data Studio to show how well your content works for you. Here is one I made with Sam Marsden from Deep Crawl.
This is an example of a data mashup with did using Content Grouping (aka Case Statements) in Data Studio blending GA data, and data from a crawl using Deep Crawl. I will write up a post about this in more detail soon, watch this space!
The aim was to show all the website traffic from Organic (medium = organic) and include some goals to give a high-level view of what SEO is doing for traffic and conversions.
Now I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I have done a crawl, I just sit there and look at all the data and I think to myself. Where do I start? One way is to split the site into our 4 stages of awareness.
This allowed us to look for opportunities to improve website performance at each stage of awareness. Are there pages that are alive on the website but not indexed. Do you have pages that are indexed but the impressions are high but no clicks? Is that down to the SERP (hi featured snippet pain aware content) or is it down to missing metadata? Could you improve the performance of the content, speed, URL fetch time, etc And that is it my friends.
If you want more, ‘cos there is always more…head over this way to look over our Google Analytics course. We cover everything, and we mean everything.Go have a little look