Using Google Analytics for Editorial Planning

Last week we talked about the importance of comments and I loved hearing from the folks who read this blog all the time but rarely comment. It was great to see all your blogs and get a peek into what you do everyday. Thanks for sharing.

This week, I want to address Google Analytics. For those of you who don’t know what Google Analytics is, it’s a free tool created by Google to provide information about your website traffic, including the number of pageviews you get, the keywords that people searched to land on your site, and the number of people who visit your site. Now, keep in mind, I’m still new regarding this so I’m not going to get too technical. I just want to share some of the amazing capabilities/information you can get from this tool, and how it can help you plan your blog content.

Before we start, I must ask: Do you have Google Analytics tracking installed on your blog? I have to admit that I didn’t start tracking mine until last year and I wish I had done it when I first started my blog. If you don’t have Google Analytics tracking your site or blog, get it started today. (It’s fairly simple to integrate, but if you’re not technically savvy, reach out to a friend or colleague who has some experience. There are also many articles to help you get started online. If you Google, “Getting started with Google Analytics,” you’ll find a lot of information. I especially thought this tutorial was helpful.)

I also want to ask: how do you plan your blog posts now? Do you just write whatever comes to mind? This is not a bad strategy (it’s actually how I wrote my blog for the longest time), but it’s definitely one that can be refined and made better (just like everything else we learn through experience.)

Once you have your Analytics tracking in place, I’d recommend waiting for at least a month’s worth of data before you do the following steps. While you’re waiting, I suggest playing around with Analytics to explore the different types of information it gives you. It may be confusing/daunting at first, but if you force yourself to use it, you’ll become familiar with it in no time.

So, the first question I’ve always had about my blog is–what is my most popular content? I want to understand which blog posts are resonating with you and which ones are falling flat. This is important to me for two reasons:

  1. I want to write about things I think will be interesting/engaging to you. If I’m writing things that only interest me and don’t spur on a conversation, I could just stick to writing in my journal.
  2. This helps me understand what to write in the future. If the topic of “hot colors” or “flowers in season” is what gets everyone excited, I’ll probably continue on that track. If the topic of “summer reading” is boring to you, I probably won’t re-visit that topic.

I must warn you, though. This is not an exact science. Editorial planning is a mixture of analyzing your traffic numbers, and the intuition you have for what could possibly resonate with your audience. Just because something is not popular immediately, doesn’t mean that it’s not a valuable piece of information, and vice versa–just because something is popular doesn’t mean that it’s exactly quality. (I always joke that if I wanted to just post things that were guaranteed to be popular, that I’d start posting naked pictures…of myself.)

Here is how to find your top content:

  • In your Google Analytics dashboard, you’ll see a section that says “Content Overview.”
  • If you click “view report” you’ll see a more detailed look into that section, including a pageviews graph.
  • If you click “view report” again (under the area titled “Top Content) you can see an expanded view of all the top content on your site. I like to focus on the top 10 to make my life easier.
  • Keep in mind that you can view this report in any date range you want. At the top right, you’ll see a date range with a drop down menu. If you click that drop down menu, you can pick any beginning and end date you want. As I mentioned, I recommend looking at your numbers in a monthly fashion because it gives you a good overview. If you focus too much on the daily details, you may get bogged down with minutiae.

So now, here’s where the mixture of art and science comes in. I click each link within my top 10 (there’s a little icon that looks like a box with an arrow next to the left of the blue underlined link) and quickly review the post and its comments. From there, I approximate the reasons why I think this post landed in the top 10. (After several months of doing this practice, you’ll start noticing trends about what resonates with your audience.)

For example, whenever I talk about business practices and how to make money, it generally lands in my top 10. That’s not too surprising, right The key here is to figure out other ways to explore the same subject, but not just continually repeat yourself. Can I re-visit the topic of money making in a new way? Is there a different aspect of money making that I didn’t address or need to re-address to provide further detail?

By the time I’ve reviewed my entire top 10, I have a list of new ideas for blog posts. One of the most helpful aspects of this exercise is re-reading the comments associated with each top 10 post. You folks leave a lot of great feedback that always provokes further discussion, or you have questions I find myself wanting to answer.

This isn’t the ONLY way to plan new editorial content, but it is a good way to use the information you have to help you make informed decisions. I generally mix this list and information with a few other factors to help me determine what to write about. The factors can be as varied as how I’m feeling that day to what is going on in the news or other blogs.

For those of you very familiar with Google Analytics, I know this was just a basic overview for you, but I hope it helped. I’d love to hear about any tricks or tips you have for Google Analytics, or the process you use if it’s different from mine. Please share them with me in the comments below. Or, if you have any questions about Google Analytics and the editorial planning process, let me know.

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