Friday, August 26, 2011

Going beyond metrics of page views and visitors

This is Part 1 on going deeper in Analytics.

Publishers of digital news sites have a chance to know their audience far better than their print counterparts ever could.

The data available in tools such as Google Analytics lets you see when people are using your site, where they live and how loyal they are. 

Let’s start with the dashboard page. 

Click to see a larger image.

To the upper left, a click on "Visitors", "Traffic Sources" or "Content" will give you a more detailed profile of your users. To the bottom, the same is true with the six measurements that are visible.

If you click on "Visits", you can compare the traffic on particular days of the week to see if your users have a preference. 

(Click to see a larger image.)
Tuesday July 26 was a big day for traffic; maybe there was a big story published that day. No other pattern seems to emerge. 

The publisher at the site above should analyze his content to see what was so popular on July 26. 

Within Analytics you can see the pattern for the entire month, or whatever period you choose. One of the participants in a recent session was able to see that Mondays were the big day for traffic on his site.

Possible responses? He could look at the popular content on Mondays and produce some of it on other days of the week to keep traffic steady. Or maybe he should follow his users’ lead and produce more content for the Monday audience. 
(Click to see a larger image.) Traffic starts rising at 6 a.m.

While you are within the "Visits" section, you can change the view from days of the week to hours of the day with the buttons at the upper right. Then you can see the pattern of use by hour for the entire month. 

By looking at the entire day, you can make editorial decisions about staffing levels or deadlines. For example, at El País in Spain, site traffic starts rising rapidly at 9 a.m., so the editorial department starts work several hours earlier to produce fresh content for this audience. A second peak in traffic occurs in late afternoon, so fresh stories and updates are ready for this audience.

Let the data help you decide when to publish and when to update stories during the day. 

Know where your audience lives

Part 2 of going deeper in Analytics.

 While consulting for a Mexican newspaper group, I had them dig into their Analytics report to see where their users lived. They were surprised to find out that 40% of the audience for their provincial papers was in Mexico City, evidently for work.

 What were the implications of that finding? Two possibilities:
  • Perhaps they should look for advertisers based in Mexico City who wanted to reach an audience that moves between the two regions -- travel services, real estate agents, telephone services and so on. 
  • Maybe their editorial coverage should reflect the special interests of Mexico city residents living away from their home provinces. 
  • What are some others? 
The publishers of a Latin American website focused on the country’s leading soccer team found that more than a third of their audience lived in the United States. This attracted the attention of a potential advertiser,  a U.S.-based cable television service that carried games from Latin America.

The lesson: you need to know where your audience is accessing your site, for editorial and marketing reasons. Here is how you can do that.

Start in the Dashboard at the upper left. Click on Visitors, then click on Map Overlay and you will see a list of countries. Click on any of them and you will see a breakdown by city or, in the case of the U.S., by state. Then you can click down further for information about particular cities. 
Let’s take a look at the map overlay for the Latin American soccer site mentioned above.
(Click to see a larger image.) 
Based on the color intensity, California, Texas, New York and North Carolina have high interest in a Latin American site covering soccer. Within Analytics, you can roll the cursor over a state for more details.
When you click on California, you can see even more detail about the site’s users. 
Rolling the cursor over the dots in Analytics shows the city and the number of users. 
The users for this site are concentrated in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas. This information could be used in a number of ways.
  • Potential website advertisers in the U.S. could be immigration lawyers, travel services, airlines, hotels, moving companies, financial services companies (money transfers) and so on.
  • On the editorial side, there are possibilities for reader polls that segment the audience by place of residence or stories about U.S. based fan groups.
  • What are some others? 
Related: How to tell what your core readers prefer and Going beyond metrics of page views and users. 

How to tell what your core users prefer

This is Part 3 on how to go deeper in Analytics.

Let’s say you have a local news website and you publish an article about a famous athlete visiting town. Your traffic gets a big bump, but you don’t really cover sports. You want to know if your core users were interested in this story or if you were annoying them with sports coverage.

 There is a way to get a feel for this. Go to the upper right of the Dashboard. Where you see "Advanced Segments", click on the dropdown "All Visits"and then add "Returning Visitors". Now all the measures you see will break out the totals for returning visitors.

After doing this, go to the left side of the Dashboard page, click on "Content" and from the dropdown select "Content by Title". You will see a display like this.

(Click to see a larger image.) Story headlines blacked out intentionally.

You will see a total of all visits to a particular article with the returning visitors broken out. When there is a high percentage (in green), it means returning visitors found the headline interesting enough to click on it. When the percentage is low, it means that returning visitors were not interested in the subject. 

Returning visitors are those who have visited the site more than once. Although this comparison does not work well for fine distinctions, it is a fairly strong indicator when 75% of returning visitors clicked on one headline and only 6% on another. If traffic is low, it could mean that the headline was unappealing (and should have been rewritten) or that the subject matter itself has no interest for returning visitors.

 As the site publisher or editor, you will have to apply your own interpretation to these data in the context of other information you have about the content. The important thing is to start measuring it and look for patterns.

 Perhaps one of the programmers reading this can suggest a more refined way of tracking the content viewed by loyal users. I will be all ears.

  Related: Know where your users live and Going beyond metrics of pageviews and visitors.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Good data is worth more than a thousand words

Versión en español aquí.

An in-depth analysis of the most popular contents on your website can produce some  surprises and yield some financial benefits.
I was recently advising the editor of a small newspaper whose website was not generating the desired traffic. We dug into the content section of Google Analytics to see what was popular with users. The consistent favorite was the town’s bus schedules.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

How much to charge advertisers? As much as possible

Many digital news entrepreneurs have no idea how much to charge for the advertising on their sites.

To set a fair price you have to balance the interests of both the publisher and the advertiser. A fair price should represent the full value of service to the advertiser as well as a just reward for the media outlet.

Generally, Google’s Adsense will not give a publisher a decent price that reflects the content’s value. Adsense is an auction that favors the buyer of advertising since the supply of potential ad space is virtually unlimited.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Total users and pageviews are misleading measures of web traffic

Versión en español aquí.

When web entrepreneurs take a deeper look at their traffic in Google Analytics, they might be surprised and alarmed to learn that most of the visits probably last no more than an eyeblink, 10 seconds or less.

(This is not the bounce rate, but we will get to that in a minute.)

The dirty little secret among web publishers is that visitors to most websites have little or no interest in the content and are either browsing or lost. They arrive through referrals or search engines, don´t like what they see and leave.