Ever since I’ve been online doing things with websites, I’ve been fascinated with analytics.
I mean, how can you not be? You get a glimpse into who the people visiting your site are and you have access to everything from where in the world they are located to the resolution of the screen they’re using.
I mean, sure, it’s also a little creepy, but this kind of information is vital if you’re going to run a successful business. If you don’t know who your customers and audience is, you can’t speak directly to them. If you can’t speak directly to them, you’ll find it a lot harder to succeed.
The truly beautiful thing about analytics these days is that not only do you know exactly who is visiting your site, but you are basically being handed a guide for perfectly targeting your content to speak directly to those people.
The longer your website has been running, the better the data. You’ll see more patterns that are clearly defined and, while those patterns may surprise you, they are probably one of the most effective tools for helping shape the content you create.
Properly used, analytics can not only help you decide what the best kind of content is for you to offer, you can also use them become a better writer.
Yup. That’s right. I’m going to show you how to use data and statistics to become a better writer.
Let’s get started.
Open and Click Through Rates (CTR)
Email open rates and click through rates are a good place to start the conversation because they tell you two very helpful pieces of information right off the top. The first is how effective your headlines. The emails with better (or more relevant) subject lines (which are basically headlines) will have better open rates.
The CTR for your email tells you how effective the email itself was. A low CTR means the email failed to connect with your reader enough to make them act by clicking a link (assuming that’s your goal).
Both of these stats immediately tell you a weakness in your email that needs to be worked on, which is great.
If you need to improve open rates, improve your subject lines.
If you need to improve CTRs, work on your emails.
Seems simple enough, right?
Here’s where it gets a little fun. If you combine the two (low open rates and low CTRs), there’s a really good chance you’re not writing about things your audience cares about. This means it’s time to think of new content ideas.
Start experimenting with different topics and see what works. Eventually you’ll hit on a topic (or two) that your readers just eat up.
Combine that with all the work you’ve done on your subject lines and emails and you’ll see your stats improve.
At first glance, Google Analytics can be overwhelming. There is a ton of information and, if you really start getting deep into it, it can be easy to get lost.
But man oh man is that data useful. It’s a smorgasbord of information about who you users are, where they came from, what they used to see your site. You name it, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find it here.
However, as I said, it can be easy to get lost, especially if you’re new to Google Analytics.
So, to help keep things simple, I’m only going to focus on a few piece of data to help you improve your content.
1. Where people are coming from
Knowing your referral sources can really help you focus your efforts on content that is going to speak more directly to your audience.
This helps you learn a bit more about where your audience is spending their time. If you’re getting most of your readers through social media referrals, then you should spend some time figuring out just where these readers are coming from.
Google Analytics tells you in the broadest sense where people are coming from. That is, you’ll know that X% of your traffic comes from Facebook, X% from Twitter, X% from LinkedIn and so on.
What you can’t do, however, is clearly see what channels or groups that traffic is coming from. This is the kind of information that is really helpful because it lets you know where the people who are clicking your links are coming from and what kinds of content they’re interested in.
Fortunately, there’s a way to find that information out.
You can use Google Analytics to create and monitor a campaign. This basically adds a tag into your link that Google can collect data on when someone clicks it. The folks over at Razor Social have an excellent post that covers how you can set up a campaign, it’s right here. The whole post is worth a read, if you’ve got the time.
Once you’ve figured out how to set up a campaign, one thing you can do is create a series of campaigns to track the various groups and places you drop your links. This provides you with a very clear view of which channels are bringing in readers and which topics are causing people to click. This really helps you ensure you’re showing the right content to the right people.
This is especially helpful if you’ve got a large back catalogue of content that you can dig through and use to target specific groups that you know will enjoy it (based on the data).
2. Most popular posts and least popular posts
When you know the posts that get the most and least amount of attention on your blog, you know what your audience is most and least interested in. Sure, that’s kind of an obvious statement, but these are two very important pieces of information when it comes to the kind of content that you produce.
There’s a few ways you can tell which your most and least popular content is. The most obvious one is how many (or few) clicks each piece gets. This provides you with a general idea of which blog posts your readers are clicking on.
Another piece of data that will really help you out here is time spent on page. If you’ve written a long, involved piece of content and you notice that the average user is only spending about 2 minutes on the page (and it’s a 10 minute read), you’ve missed the mark somewhere. I’ll touch on how you can figure out exactly where you went wrong in a bit.
The most popular content tells you, among other things, the topics that your audience wants to learn the most about. If you see there’s a huge demand for content on one aspect of your business and people gobble up everything you’re writing about the subject, you need to focus more of your energies on this topic.
This is helpful because it gives you a sense of where the pain points that your audience is experiencing are. You can solve these pain points a few ways. You can create more blog posts that address the topic or you can get really bold and create something bigger. This is a great opportunity to create a whitepaper or even an ebook (depending on the topic and how much demand there is out there).
Longer, more involved content does a couple of things for you. The first is that it really, really helps establish your authority on a topic. Nothing says, “I really know what I’m talking about in this industry,” than writing a book on the topic.
The second thing this does is that it gives you an opportunity to not only get people onto your mailing list, but you move them a little deeper into your funnel and closer to a sale.
What you learn from the posts that aren’t performing well is that your audience isn’t really interested in this. Sure, there’s probably a small portion of readers who care, but odds are, they are few and far between.
Knowing what topics your audience doesn’t really care about helps you focus your energies on things that are helping your business, not hindering it. Content that isn’t performing well is the same as walking into a car dealership and having the sales staff talk your ears off about goldfish. It might be interesting, but it’s not the content you are looking for.
3. What search words are being used to find your content
Search words are glorious. If you know the words that people are searching to find your site, you’re sitting on a wealth of information that can only make your content better.
Using Google Analytics, along with Google Search Console (this takes some figuring and configuring to get properly set up. This link covers all that you need to know) is something that everyone should do.
These keywords are the topics that you should be focusing on.
It’s just that simple. If people are coming to your site after searching for something specific, produce more content based around that. Be sure that you’re careful about how you do this, though. The last thing you want on your site is a bunch of keyword stuffed content that is effectively meaningless. If you do this, you’ll lose cred with Google pretty fast.
Instead, produce high-quality content on the subject. This is a perfect opportunity for you to really go in-depth on a topic and put out a nice, long blog post. Longer posts really help you show off what you know (just like I mentioned with the ebook above) and, if you’re ranking for the keyword on the topic, it’s likely going to help your standing. The key, though, is to focus on quality.
Hotjar, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is a program that people use to learn more about how users interact with their website. It does this by recording user’s sessions on your website. It’s a little creepy, but it’s super helpful.
Most people use Hotjar to find out why or how their site is or isn’t converting (depending on what your problem is) and gives you a sense of what you need to do to correct the problem. At first blush, this doesn’t exactly help you with content, but it can if you know what you’re looking for.
See, Hotjar records everything. Everything from page scrolls to mouse clicks. What this means is that, if someone is reading your blog and they lose interest, you can pinpoint the exact spot (more or less) where you lose them. If you notice that lots of people are drifting off in the same spot, it’s time to fix that spot.
This is even better than having a critique group or writing buddy look over your content because these people A) probably don’t care about your feelings and won’t lie about loving it (like happens in critique groups all the time) and B) don’t know you’re watching them bounce. This is real-time feedback from your audience. The more recordings you have from a piece of content, the better.
Integrating Hotjar into your website is dead simple and, if you’re not already using it, I can’t recommend it enough.
Go forth and make it better
And there you have it. A few tips for how you can use numbers and data to make your written content better (plus the trick with Hotjar). I’m really barely scratching the surface here. There are so many ways you can use analytics to improve your content, but for the sake of keeping it simple, I’m going to leave you here.
Of course, if you’re not in a position to dig into your analytics and figure out exactly what’s working for you and what isn’t, the best piece of advice I can offer you is to find someone who is. I love to get my hands dirty by looking at statistics and videos to help make my content better. And, I’d love to help you do the same. If you’re ready to take it to the next level with your content, contact me today.