Make better decisions about your site with Google Analytics

If you publish a magazine or news site online you will often be faced with decisions on how to improve the experience for your readers. The answer is quite simple: you have to know how your readers got to your magazine and what articles and other content they are naturally gravitating to.

So how do you do this? The answer is with Google Analytics which tracks your visitor activity and with some study will tell you exactly what you need to do next with your magazine in order to make it better.

Watch this video [7:14] to understand the what kind of information is available to you and how to put it to work. You will start the path to building a better magazine… guaranteed.

Note: this video was published a while ago but still offers many fundamental tips on what kind of data is available and what it means.

Here is the audio transcript:

In this video, I’m going to show you how to make decisions about what to do next with your online magazine. And what this boils down to is interpreting what your visitors and readers are actually doing on your website.

Now, the problem today is there’s usually a lack of information. Most publishers are not paying attention to the reader activity on their website. In other words, each visitor, each reader that lands on the site, what are they doing? Where are they going? What are they enjoying?

Now, ask yourself a couple of questions. How do readers find you? Do you know how they get to your website? Or what keywords they’re using, in Google search, let’s say, to get to your website?

What other pages do they go to? And ultimately, where do you want them to go? Do you want them to click on ads, you want them to subscribe? If it’s a paid magazine, you want them to read, of course, comment maybe. There are things that you want them to on your website, and in order to get them to do that, you have to understand what’s working on your site and what’s not working on your site.

And ultimately, you need to make decisions about your publications. So, you need information. And that information comes from visitors who leave footprints on your website.

And your website should track every single visit. So, when a reader comes to your site, you’ll know exactly where they came from, what they clicked on, what they read, and how long they stayed for. And there’s a bunch of other information, but those are the primaries.

And what you’ll find is, some of your stories, some of the pages on your site, just don’t work. And you’ll also find that some of your stories and pages are home runs. You get tons of traffic to those pages. And you need to know which ones they are so you can make decisions about what to give your readership more of and what to give them less of.

So, what I would recommend you do is review every issue, take a look at the data. OK. How do you do this?

Well, this is the magic of Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a free service that you can install on your magazine, and what it does is, it tracks how visitors got to your magazine, it tracks what they were interested in on your site, and it also tracks what they didn’t look at, which is almost more important.

In other words, it’s great to know what people are interested in, but it’s as important to know what they didn’t like, so you can weed away the stuff that they don’t like, and keep and build upon the stuff they do like. And you get that direct feedback from Google Analytics. The data will tell you.

Now, in the next screen, I’m going to show you Google Analytics in action. And I think you’ll be impressed by the level of information that you get and how easy it is to use, really.

Let’s take a look at Google Analytics in action. And here, we’re looking at what we call the dashboard, which gives you a snapshot overview of what’s going on with the magazine. In this case, we have a date range, last 30 days, that’s automatically set. You can adjust that to whatever date range you like.

This is the amount of visitor traffic that has occurred during that range. And if we scroll down, we have the high points. How many visits came in, how many page views which translates into how many pages per visit the average visitor viewed.

The bounce rate, an important statistic. This is, if somebody lands on your magazine, whether it’s the home page or a story, and they go away, that’s called a bounce. So, how many people are bouncing off your magazine? Of course, the lower the number, the better.

How much time does the average person spend on your magazine? And how many new visitors were coming in?

The other thing I want to point out is the pie chart. Traffic sources overview. This is, what three main areas are people getting to your magazine? How are they getting to your magazine?

In this case, we have 60 percent are coming through search engines, mostly Google. 25 percent are coming in from other websites, and 14 percent know about the magazine and are going directly to it.

OK. Let’s take a look at another high point. And that is, what are the most popular pages or stories on your website? It’s under content and it’s called top content.

If we scroll down a little bit, what we’ll see here is the most popular page, this hash mark, is the home page. Gets the most amount of page views.

And what’s important here, when we look at what the most popular pages on a magazine are, is not only the page views, but things like bounce rates. So, for the home page, look at this, the bounce rate’s at 45 percent. That’s very good. That means most people that land on the home page are sticking around.

Archive section, number two most popular page. And then, we get into individual stories here that are popular. And you go down from there.

OK, those are top pages. Let’s shift gears and go to keywords. How did people, readers, find a magazine in Google search? So, we go to traffic sources, here, and then we go down to keywords. And that’ll bring up all the keywords that people are actually typing into Google and other search engines to find your magazine.

So, in this case, we have the name of the magazine, and then we have individual items that are usually in the stories, that are landing on different stories, science versus nature, here’s a John D., 007, alternative archaeology, and you can drop this down and continue to look at all the different keywords that readers will type in to find your stories.

And note, as I’ve said before, typically, these keywords take you not to the home page, but to the story itself.

All right. And last thing I want to look at is landing pages. And landing pages is related to top pages. And it falls under content. We go to top landing pages. These are pages that people land on, readers land on when they’re searching in Google, or Yahoo and they come in to your magazine.

So, in this case, we have one story here, Lake Michigan’s mastodon. This is, you know, in the last 30 days, the most popular story in the magazine. This is the one that’s landed on most often. It’s beating out the home page by a wide margin.

Archives is the second most popular landing page. Then the home page, and then other stories. So, obviously, the more you publish, the more people are going to land on those stories as they look for information that your story is about.

And that’s a quick overview of Google Analytics.

Bottom line, your online magazine is a living document, and you need to regularly update it to make it better, so it attracts more readers and keeps your existing readers happy. So, what it boils down to is assessing the strengths and the weaknesses of your publication, building on your strengths, removing your weaknesses, and that will build a stronger publication for you down the road. And Google Analytics is the way to do this.

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