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Content Analytics for Publishers – Take Your Content to the Next Level

Whether you’re a large corporate online publisher or a small-time blogger that runs a website in your spare time, you’re likely using some sort of analytics platform on your websites. But the question is, are you taking full advantage of it for your content-creating process?

In the old days, print publishers could only dream of the amounts of data that today’s small publishers hold. In order to get even a fraction of the information we have today (in a matter of seconds), they would need to invest a great deal of time and money on focus groups and surveys. Still, the data wouldn’t have been close to what the evolving technology gives us today.

Think of it like the difference between the computing powers that took the Apollo 11 crew to the moon – where entire rooms were filled with gigantic computers – to the computers you have in your back pocket, with which you use to share pictures of cats and your latest meals on Instagram.

Most people will use their analytics system (Adobe, Mixpanel, or, most likely, Google Analytics) to learn the basic statistics of their website traffic and analyze their campaigns’ performances. Still, while knowing how many people read your articles in a specific timeframe is nice, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a whole world of information out there that is just waiting for you, and it’s just a few clicks away.

Start by Setting Your Goals

Before you start using all the data to your advantage, you need to understand what is most important for your business and what should count as “good performance.” Do you want your readers to spend more time on each page, or would you rather them view as many pages as possible, regardless of the time spent on each page?

Do you want them to opt into your newsletter, or buy a monthly subscription? This is something you need to consider before setting up your analytics account since it reflects on the structure of your account. And, on some occasions, it influences the way your analytics script is implemented across the website.

Never Make Assumptions Regarding Your Audience

Photo by Tom Werner, Getty Images

The most important rule you need to follow is: never make any assumptions regarding your audience and their online behavior. You don’t need to assume – you have all the data in your hands, and it’s only a matter of analyzing it properly.

For example, you might think that your target audience is middle-aged women from the mid-west and focus all your energy on creating content that fits the persona you have built with your marketing team. But if you investigate your data, you will figure out that this could not be farther from the truth. By knowing your audience better, your task of creating relevant content becomes a heck of a lot easier.

Find Your Audience’s Interests

One of the most powerful insights you can get from your analytics is your website’s demographics and interests. While knowing where your audience is located and what their age group is indeed interesting, finding out their interest and taking action in that direction has the potential of massively increasing your conversion rate.

Many publishers don’t know this, but most analytics systems already have this data; it’s just a matter of knowing where to look and what to do with it. The source of this data is not limited to the users’ actions on your website – it’s cross-referenced from data collected anonymously during their visits to different websites across the internet. Now that you know your users’ interests, you can take your content planning to a whole new level.

Screen Capture from Google Analytics

For example, let’s say you have a lifestyle magazine that relies heavily on newsletter subscriptions to distribute your content and sell products, and you discover that people who are interested in cooking tend to subscribe more to your newsletter. This might lead you to create cooking-related content – recipes, interviews with top chefs, cooking tips, or even cooking show reviews.

Use Content Grouping to Analyze Your Content’s Performance

There is a lot you can learn from the content you already have on your website when creating your future editorial plan. To get to the bottom of things, you need to break down your data and try to understand why certain types of content perform better than others. This can be done by arranging the content in relative groups and try to connect the dots.

By digging further into your data, you could extract that golden element that pushes your content to its full potential. Here are some ideas for content groups that could help you get to know your audience better:

  • Group Based on Top Level Categories
    This is probably the easiest to configure, and the simplest way to start diving into the content grouping world. Here you could find out what your audience is really interested in, based on your past experience. You can also set sub-categories.
  • Group Based on Authors
    This grouping strategy will help you figure out if one of the authors in your team manages to engage the readers better than the others, which can help improve the other writers by learning from their success.
  • Group Based on Page Layout
    Easily measure your website’s performance based on different designs. Even little things like placing a large image before the main content can have a drastic influence on your users’ behavior.
  • Group Based on Article Length
    Does your audience prefer long articles or shorter ones? Maybe your users spend more time on the site when they are reading short articles, instead of long ones. Maybe users tend to sign up to your newsletter while reading long articles.

Knowing your audience and their onsite behavior can also lead to productive cooperation with advertisers. It can involve publishing sponsored content in which you can ensure high levels of engagement based on history performances, gaining revenue from affiliate programs related to your audience, or simply selling your online property on direct contracts with advertisers, but that’s a whole other article.