Evaluating Content Performance For Reaching Site Goals
Continuing my blog posts on using Google Analytics to make your online marketing measurable, the topic of measuring the actual performance of the website content itself can be much harder to calculate. After all there may be any number of reasons why you have content on your site. It may be there to inform and educate customers to reduce your customer service costs. It might also be that the content is there for the whole purpose of link building, to attract links and increase the authority of your website and improve the rankings of other pages for targeted keywords.
However, for the purpose of this article, we are going to assume that the content on the page is for the sole purpose of persuading visitors to perform the goal of your website, be that to sell products, receive emails enquiring about your products, or subscribe to your service. However, even this isn’t simple or obvious to calculate. For example, a website visitor might read 5 pages of your website and then subscribe to your emails, but which piece of content persuaded them to do so? The first page, the last page, or all of them equally?
While you may never know the answers to some of these questions, the information available to you in Google Analytics can certainly help in understanding how visitors use your website content to fulfill your websites goals. I have covered setting up goals in analytics before, so I won’t do that again here, but it is crucial that you not only set these up correctly, but give them a monetary value. Not only does this help for measuring content performance, but also for understanding the value of everything you do, from traffic sources, keywords etc.
There are a number of reports in the Content section of Google Analytics, which show some standard metrics like the top landing and exit pages, as well as breaking down the content by URL, Title, or the most popular subdirectories. Again, the purpose of this post is not to outline each of these individually, as it is pretty intuitive.
However, the ‘Top Content’ report is the one that I primarily use to see the performance of each individual page. This reports the normal information of time on site, page views, bounce rate etc, but the metric we are most interested in for the purpose of Goal performance is the $ Index;
$ Index is explained well in the Analytics Conversion University but is essentially a way of ranking pages (high numbers are good), although the numbers themselves don’t particularly mean anything or provide insight. However, it is calculated as follows;
(Revenue + Goal Value)/Unique Views of Page Before Conversion = $ Index
By ranking your content in this way, you can see which pages are having the greater affect on conversions in persuading your visitors to do the action you want them to do.
It might be that certain pages on your site are great at converting; you just aren’t directing enough of them to that particular page, and are hidden away from easy navigation. For example, in the following diagram, everyone who visits the ‘Features’ page converts, so you may wish to consider directing visitors to this more easily, or moving this content onto the homepage itself.
However, because of how the $ Index works, it is unable to provide the more comprehensive information that I, and other website owners, would like. For example, you don’t know how big a part that content played in the conversion, or if it was merely on the path to conversion, where they stayed for a couple of seconds. Ranking solely by $ Index can also leave you at risk to content being highly ranked due to small sample sizes.
However, more detailed information is available in Google Analytics, you just have to dig a little deeper to find it.
To do this, you have to create custom reports, located at the bottom of the left hand navigation, and select ‘Manage Custom Reports’ and then ‘Create New’. The potential options open to you within these custom reports is much more in depth and almost endless to find the information that would be most useful for your business. However, for the purposes of this article, I would recommend choosing just from the ‘Goals’ metrics (the column titles) and the ‘Content’ dimensions (the rows of each report), as shown in the image to the right (click to enlarge).
You then have to drag and drop the information you want into the main screen on the page. For example, in the following example, the report will show various goal metrics for each landing page. You are almost unlimited in terms of information available, and can create addition sub-dimensions and tabs (although some combinations of metrics and dimensions aren’t possible in Google Analytics).
Now armed with this information you are able to make smarter decisions about your website and its content. The best landing pages for archiving different goals, the pages which improve conversion compared to when they aren’t visited and so on. For example, one report I have previously created and use, shown below, shows me much more information about the pages on a website and their impact on conversions, from absolute quantities, monetary value and conversion rate.
This can help you better understand what your visitors are on your website to see, and the information they feel they need to make a purchase or subscribe to your feed. In this way you can not only make your website perform better, but also create happier, more loyal, website visitors.
About James Constable
James is a Campaign Manager at Vertical Measures, looking at client's Internet Marketing from a strategic viewpoint to get them the best possible results for their business needs and budget. His blog posts revolve around strategy, analytics and keyword selection.
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