Analyzing Your Content With Google Analytics: How to Know What Works : Social Media Examiner

Do you study your website’s Google Analytics?

Want to go beyond reporting what you see?

To discover how to analyze content using Google Analytics, I interview Andy Crestodina.

More About This Show

The Social Media Marketing podcast is an on-demand talk radio show from Social Media Examiner. It’s designed to help busy marketers and business owners discover what works with social media marketing.

In this episode I interview Andy Crestodina, author of Content Chemistry (3rd edition) and co-founder of Orbit Media (a Chicago-based web design agency). Andy is a Google Analytics expert.

Andy will explore how to analyze your educational and sales content using Google Analytics.

You’ll discover what mistakes marketers make with analytics.

podcast 162 andy crestodina google analytics

Listen as Andy Crestodina shares what marketers need to know about analyzing their content with Google Analytics.

Share your feedback, read the show notes and get the links mentioned in this episode below.

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Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:

Analyzing Your Content With Google Analytics

Andy’s start in analytics

Andy began doing analytics in 2000, even before Google Analytics was a thing. Andy created websites for clients, and realized there was more to it than building the site. To help someone get results, you need to have a lot of activity around it, and the only way to measure that activity is to look at the stats. Back then, everyone used Webtrends, which was software that downloaded all of the log files and then ran a program to generate charts.

Then, Google Analytics came along and revolutionized the industry.

Andy talks about Google Analytics then versus now, as well as how it compares to the tools he used in the past.

Since Google Analytics doesn’t have access to log files, it does everything through JavaScript on web pages, which talks to cookies on visitors’ computers and sends the data back to Google.

The old tools showed the specific amount of time someone spends on pages and how they move through the site. In some ways the data was more accurate, because it looked at the actual log files that were sitting on the server. Google Analytics is based on JavaScript, which might be turned off, and talking to cookies, which might not be accepted.

Google Analytics does lots of things that we didn’t have access to before, Andy explains.

google analytics features

Google Analytics has a broad range of features.

No one talked about bounce rates and other metrics we now watch all the time. Even though the old tools were based on sometimes better data (the log files), they did a much more basic analysis. Now we get a lot more granular metrics we can use to make decisions.

Plus, even though there are other analytics tools out there, Google Analytics blows everything else away.

Listen to the show to discover Google Analytics’ original name and the meaning of UTM.

Mistakes marketers make with Google Analytics

Andy says there are a handful of important things marketers need to do when they get started with Google Analytics, such as filter out traffic using an IP filter and set up goals.

What people do not do as well is use analytics for analysis.

Andy explains how it’s common for people to use Google Analytics for reporting; to look at charts and see a line go up or down. However, not enough people use Google Analytics as a decision support tool. Marketers need to ask a question, come up with a hypothesis and test it out.

Reporting on your analytics does not affect your marketing, but doing analysis does. Only actions change outcomes.

Ask questions like“How are people finding this site? What social networks are sending us the most traffic? Which social networks are sending us visitors who are most likely to act? Are people on different pages seeing it from different devices?”

landing page views by device

Google Analytics can show you page view data by device type.

Andy shares an example from when they were updating a page on their website. It had a right-side rail that showcased samples of sites they built. The question was: Should they put a limited number of items on the sidebar, since on a mobile device a page reorganizes itself and might push down some of the content?

Analytics told Andy that only 8% of visitors to that page are on mobile, so he didn’t have to worry about it being a problem. He could add lots of portfolio samples on the right side, because he knows that the responsive mobile view will not affect a large percentage of his visitors.

Andy also explains bounce rate, which is a one-page visit. If a visitor reads just one page without taking action, then it’s considered a bounce. Whether this matters depends on whether it’s an educational page or a sales page. Bounce rates don’t matter for educational pages, because if readers come for the specific purpose of clicking on one article and reading it, accomplish this and leave, they met that goal.

Time on site varies a lot, Andy adds, but the data is available. Go to and put in competitors’ sites in your industry to see what information you might get. Generally a lot of sites will have 1 1/2 to 2 minutes as the average time on site.

Listen to the show to hear why and how to do a rolling audit of your website.

How to know when educational content works

While Andy does not think bounce rates matter for educational content, he does care about time on site. The content is not helpful if 95% of site visitors leave after 2 seconds.

On Andy’s site, he sees a strong correlation between time on page and high rankings. It’s called dwell time. If someone comes to your site from Google and spends 5 minutes, then someone comes from another site for the same search phrase and spends 5 seconds, Google sees that. Andy cares about getting visitors to stay for a while. He adds video and puts in lot of images, so visitors dig in.

orbit media blog

Andy puts rich content in each blog post, including images and video, to get people to stay a while.

Engagement on your website is what matters. Visitors don’t help unless they take some action. Successful educational content will convert visitors into subscribers. The same way successful sales content converts visitors into leads or customers.

Listen to the show to hear what high bounce rates Andy has on certain pages.

Reverse Goal Path

To see if a post is successfully converting visitors into subscribers, you can use the reverse goal path. It’s in the reporting analytics and conversion section, and you can see which blog post someone was reading before they subscribed.

The goal path is the steps that people take on their way to completing a goal, Andy explains. A goal is a thank-you page with its unique URL, specified in analytics, in the goal section. It’s relevant in the educational content area, because someone might be on a lot of different pages before they become a subscriber. (It’s not a funnel, where someone is going through a specific set of pages, like a shopping cart checkout process.)

google analytics menu

Google Analytics reports are organized in an AABC order.

Andy explains how the sections in Google Analytics are organized via AABC: Audience, Acquisition, Behavior and Conversion. The top of the funnel is acquisition, the middle is behavior (interactions) and the bottom is conversions (goals). You can find the report in Google Analytics under Conversions > Goals > Reverse Goal Path.

When you go to that page, you see something that looks like a spreadsheet data set. The goal completion is located on the left, and there might be many different goals in there, such as ecommerce purchases, lead subscribers, new leads or event registrants. There’s a drop-down at the top where you can choose from any of your goals.

For example, if you choose the newsletter subscriber goal, everything in that far left column will be the same goal. The next column over will have a giant list of all of your content. This chart shows how compelling or inspirational each piece of content is, or how well it triggers each action. The ones at the top attracted the most subscribers, while those farther down the list attracted fewer.

This is not the percentage. It’s the list of all the blog posts and pages people were looking at right before they subscribed in order of the number of people who subscribed. Since it’s the raw number and not the conversion rate, you need to do a little math, Andy suggests. Move data into a spreadsheet, and divide the total number of people who subscribed by the page views for each post. That will give you the conversion rate per blog post from visitors into newsletter subscribers.

Once you have the data, there are several options. Put your popular content into heavy social rotation, create more similar content, push that content to the home page, put it in your home page slide show and so on. There are so many things you can do once you know which content is more compelling to visitors and inspires them to act.

You can also see which content has value in the Behavior section. Under Site Content, All Pages, the far-right column is called Page Value. For all of your content, you can see how well that content contributed to the goals of the site in terms of dollars.

Andy adds it’s important to understand that sessions and users are the equivalent of visits and visitors. Google Analytics changed that because they want to be the universal tool for apps, as well as websites. When you calculate a conversion rate, normally you’d use page views. If 100 people subscribed after seeing a piece of content, and there were 10,000 page views from it, there was a 1% conversion rate of visitors to subscribers.

Listen to the show to discover why it’s important to set up filters and crunch numbers.

How to analyze sales pages

Sales pages have a completely different goal than educational pages. They have different visitors with a different mindset: potential buyers. Therefore, you treat them differently in analytics. Look for different behaviors and track different metrics, Andy says.

On a lead generation site, visitors will go through a series of pages before they have enough trust, information and questions answered to take action and become a lead. Bounce rates matter for sales pages. It matters whether visitors exited on the site from a service page or if they kept flowing down the site to subsequent pages.

Since pages per visit and exit percentages are more important, you should use a different tool and report in the conversion section called Funnel Visualization. To find the report, go to Conversions > GoalsFunnel Visualization.

funnel visualization report

The Funnel Visualization report makes it easy to see how people interact with goal pages on your website.

The Funnel Visualization report shows the step drop of every series of pages in a process. An ecommerce site would have a shopping cart, a checkout page and a thank-you page. An event registration site might have an event detail page, an event registration page and then the thank-you page. People always end up at the thank-you page. The whole point of web marketing is to get people to those thank-you pages.

The Funnel Visualization report lets you see what percentage of people dropped off at each step in the process.

If you have an event site and you see there are a lot of people who go to the event registration page and then go back to the event detail page, they must be looking for information they didn’t find. In this report you’ll find clues about what information is missing and what you need to put in the registration page to keep the visitor flowing through the funnel. This will help you optimize that funnel to maximize conversion rate.

There are other reports that can help you measure the performance of sales-based content, such as the navigation summary.

On Google Analytics, go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. Now choose a specific page, perhaps a sales page or a page in the checkout or conversion process. Go to the tab at the top, above the chart, that says Navigation Summary. This is a similar report, but it’s for any piece of content, not just the conversion funnel. The Navigation Summary report lets you see how people got to the page you just clicked on, and if they left, where they went.

You can sometimes see people bouncing back and forth between pages, which means they’re looking for more information. It’ll give you a clue that you need to answer another important question on that page, add some social proof like a testimonial or build up the content to keep the visitor traveling forward through the process.

Andy summarizes the uses for reverse goal path and funnel visualization. The reverse goal path is more useful in measuring the performance of educational content, because there are many possible places from which that person might subscribe to the newsletter.

Funnel visualization is better for measuring conversions from sales-based content, because more likely you’ve got a specific flow of pages, such as visitors going from a contact page to a thank-you page. Reverse goal path is good for measuring conversions to subscribers in your marketing content, while funnel visualization is more about transactional activities.

Plus, enhanced ecommerce reporting will show even more insightful information. It will tell you things like how many times the average visitor had to come to the site before buying. That’s called path length. Another report is for time lag: How quickly did people buy and what was the lag in number of days?

Listen to the show to discover what happened to Andy’s conversion rate when he cut a form from 10 pages down to 5.

Discovery of the Week

Are you familiar with the See First feature that Facebook recently released? It allows Facebook users to tell their feed to always see a particular person’s or page’s content first.

It’s a marketer’s dream, since you can train your Facebook fans to request that your content be seen at the top of their news feed.

Here’s how to request that your content be seen first.

How to use Facebook’s new “See First” feature: Facebook News Feed Changes: How to Get Your Page More Visibility From Your Fans

Discover how to use Facebook’s new “See First” feature for desktop and mobile users.

Posted by Social Media Examiner on Monday, July 13, 2015


On the desktop, hover over the Liked button, scroll down and then click See First. On a mobile device, click to like the page. Then, next to it, click where it says Following and then you can select See First.

Do that for all of your favorite pages. And feel free to share this video with your fans, so they will check the See First box on your page.

Everybody wants his or her page to show up first in the news feed. Train your fans and help them understand the value of checking the See First box.

Listen to the show to learn more and let us know how See First on Facebook works for you and your fans.

Other Show Mentions

social media success summitToday’s show is sponsored by Social Media Success Summit 2015.

Want to improve your social media marketing? Need to prove your efforts are working? Join 4,000 fellow marketers at the online mega-conference, designed to inspire and empower you.

Discover the best and newest ways to market your business on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest. Find new ways to improve your content and measure your results all from the comfort of your home or office.

You’ll be led by 35 of the top social media pros, including Mark Schaefer, Mari Smith, Christopher Penn, Amy Porterfield, Neal Schaffer, Ian Cleary, Viveka Von Rosen, Jon Loomer, Andrea Vahl, Steve Dotto, Amy Schmittauer, Peg Fitzpatrick, Brian Fanzo, Sue Zimmerman, Kim Garst, Andy Crestodina, Pam Moore, Martin Shervington, Donna Moritz, Ron Nash, Michael Stelzner and more. We have selectively recruited the top experts on every major social network to share tactical, step-by-step, hands-on information.

Sue Zimmerman is excited to be teaching how to use Instagram’s new Explore feature. You’ll learn how to see what’s trending daily, how to do market research for your business and the best ways to lead people where you want them to go so you grow your email list daily.

Also, Andy Crestodina will focus on a variety of different Google Analytics tactics that range from beginner to more advanced. He’ll take you through a guided tour of the practical lessons you can learn, the questions you can ask and the insights you can discover for each of the main sections: Audience, Acquisition, Behavior and Conversions.

Social Media Success Summit is an online conference. It’s 36 different sessions spread across 4 weeks. There are three sessions per day, three times per week, over four weeks. And it’s on every social media platform you can imagine. Check it out. Visit for significant early bird discounts.

Listen to the show!

Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:

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What do you think? What are your thoughts on analyzing content with Google Analytics? Please leave your comments below.

social media marketing podcast 162 andy crestodina

Andy Crestodina talks with Michael Stelzner about how to analyze your content with Google Analytics.

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