The Ins and Outs of Publisher Analytics

Publisher analytics tools are great but what use is the data if you don’t know what to look for or how to use what you’ve found? Here are a couple key metrics and questions you should be asking yourself in order to get the most out of your analytics tools.

A page view is basically a visit to your site from anywhere on the internet, including apps, social networks, email, instant message, and other sites. The first step in understanding page views is to look at what is driving them – social, email/im/apps, internal, other sites, or search. While page views can’t explain what people did once they came to your site, they can shed light as to where your content is gaining traction and where you should be spending more time engaging with your audience.

Some common questions when using the page view metric:

  • Where is your content being consumed?
  • Which sources are driving the most traffic?
  • Are pageviews being driven by unique or returning visitors?

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A social referral is anyone getting to your content from a social network, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other networks. Once you understand where readers are consuming your content, you’ll know where you should be spending majority of your time and effort building up a user base.

Some common questions when looking at social referrals:

  • What networks drive your social engagement and traffic?
  • Is it mainly from one network or spread out across many?

If it’s driven mainly by one network, you should be spending the majority of your time and energy on these networks through:

  • Posting trending content to this network
  • Engaging with both influencers and loyal users to build your following
  • If it’s Twitter – engage in Twitter chats about relevant topics
  • Improving your page by adding profile pictures, uploading a description
  • Paid distribution, if possible
  • Is there one network where you should be improving your presence?

If so, try the above strategies!

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Trending content is content that’s resonating with audiences right now. We’ve learned that the top 10% of content drives 90% of social traffic and the top 1% drives 85%! Identifying what’s trending will help you identify which has the potential to jump into the 10% and even the 1%. Then you can take action on this content as soon as possible!

Some common questions when looking at trending content are:

  • What content is trending?
  • Is different content trending on different networks?

Here are some possible actions to take on trending content:

  • Post it to all social network accounts
  • Engage with influencers on these networks
  • Feature it on your homepage
  • Distribute in any newsletters, email blasts, etc.
  • Paid distribution, if feasible

We’ve found that taking action on content on the network it’s trending on at the time that it’s trending is the best way to drive more traffic back to your site.

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Utilizing categories, tags, and authors are essential to understanding the makeup of your content. Once you know what content performs best, you’ll know what you should be producing more of.

Some common questions when comparing categories, tags, and authors:

  • Which content are people reading and sharing?
  • Does certain content resonate best with different audiences?

Different content tends to perform better from different sources – whether it be Facebook vs. Twitter or Internal vs. Search. Once you know that you’ll be able to optimize your strategy based on what content resonates where. For example, if a certain category does better on Facebook while another does better on Twitter, you’ll know to post the first category to Facebook and the second to Twitter.

  • Does one category/tag/author make up a small percentage of content but drive a large percentage of traffic?

If so, it’s worth it to dedicate more resources to producing this type of content.

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Everything’s relative – 1,000 page views means something very different to versus a small blog. Use historical data to build benchmarks around how your content has done in the past and compare what’s going on now to those benchmarks.

Some possible benchmarks:

  • Overall pageviews
  • Breakdown of page views by source
  • Average pageviews per article
  • Distribution of traffic and engagement from social networks
  • Traffic driven by top x% of content

Some common questions when comparing to benchmarks:

  • Is there a significant difference between this period and your benchmarks?

If so, have you done anything differently? One thing to keep in mind is that sometimes large changes in traffic should be expected. For example, if you’re a sports site, you know that your traffic in February will be much higher than in January because of the Super Bowl.

  • Did you write one piece of content this period or last that did much better than the rest?
  • If so, what was this piece of content about? Can you write more similar content?

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Looking at data around the time of the day will help you optimize your posting strategy. It can help you figure out when people are consuming your content and where. If your Facebook audience are early birds and your Twitter followers are night owls, you’ll know to post content to Facebook in the morning and Twitter at night. If your readers read your content on the web during the day and on mobile at night and in the morning you’ll be able to adapt your strategy accordingly.

Some common questions when looking at time of day data:

  • Do different types of content do better at different times of the day?
  • Does this differ between networks or between devices?

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Time spent is the amount of time a reader has spent on your content, whether they’re actively reading it or it’s just open in the background. Engaged time is exactly what it sounds like, it’s the amount of time a reader has spent engaging with your content (reading, scrolling, moving their mouse, etc.). Traditionally analytics tools have just calculated time spent but since that’s not a great indicator of how engaging your content is, there’s been a switch to engaged time.

Some common questions when looking at time spent and engaged time:

  • How long are people engaging with your content?
  • Is there one piece of content with a higher than average engaged time?

If so, give it as much exposure as possible (use some of the strategies for when content is trending).

  • Is there one category/tag/topic with a higher than average engaged time?

If so, adapt your content strategy to produce more of this type of content..

We know analytics can be overwhelming and we’ve just thrown a lot of data at you. When starting with analytics, pick a metric that’s relevant to the goals you’re trying to accomplish and expand as needed. There is no one metric that’s good for everyone, optimize based on your KPIs.

About Claire Schwimmer

Claire is a content strategist at SimpleReach trying to avoid becoming a hipster while living in Williamsburg.

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