Friday, August 26, 2011

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.

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