How To Measure Content Engagement And Effectiveness With Analytics & WordPress

For many of us that own blogs and generate excellent relatable content, engagement seems to linger just beyond our reach. We write well, there’s praise, tweets, shares, +1′s – but just how much of your content is being read?

Going beyond the search and keyword into how those keywords bring the visitor into content they either read or don’t read, is the next step beyond basic Google Analytics. Many in the industry believe a fast bounce from your page back to the search results is a negative in Google’s eyes. That user is basically voting your content down, saying “this isn’t what I wanted when I entered this specific query.”

If this is true, and I happen to believe it is or it will be, reducing bounce rate by investigating user behavior is a great way to increase your chances of a nice ranking for any given phrase. Nice ranking plus amazing user-pleasing content equals goal achievement. You can picture how this works in a circle.

SEL_4-2_content_ranking_cycle

How long are folks staying on a page, and how much scrolling are they really doing? I’d like to explore some ideas I have for measuring visitor engagement with a page of content.

First, you have to have good content. If you’re struggling along to get 300 words on a page that contains 3-4 keyword phrases and no care as to what the user does after they land, then you probably really don’t care about this. If you’re writing with an eye toward engaging the reader and retaining them as a reader and a consumer of some sort, then this will be of interest; read on, MacDuff.

Google Analytics

There are simple and difficult ways to track page engagement with Google Analytics. Event tracking is the easiest way; however, there are easy and complicated ways to implement and trigger the events you desire.

Scroll Depth

You can set events to trigger as a user scrolls to or past a certain point on the page. I love the idea, but I haven’t gotten it to work yet without using a WordPress plug-in. That doesn’t mean it can’t work, it just means it’s a bit too complicated to implement for a coding novice like myself.

If you’re interested in implementing this type of tracking on a non-WordPress site, check out this article by Justin Cutroni – and this one at Savio.no. They go through setting up the event step by step. If you have WordPress, you’re in luck. Keep reading!

Rating Events

I like the idea of creating a button at the end of your content that contains a simple thumbs up or thumbs down voting capability. You could also use a star rating system if you like. If the reader scrolls down to the buttons and clicks either one, that can trigger an event in your Google Analytics dashboard. This tells you that they at least scrolled down the page.

It can also help you understand what content the reader might like or dislike. Getting these votes is not the easiest thing in the world, so you would need a good amount of traffic to your site to ensure a representative sample vote.

Pagination Of Content

This is probably my least favorite way to deliver content. Many big news magazines do it, and I’m convinced it’s purely to show a low bounce rate and a high “pages-per-visit” so they can charge more for advertising. That being said, putting event tracking on the “page 2″ of the article can help you understand how many people are reading at least to the bottom of page 1.

In-Page Analytics

I don’t think this feature is used enough by even heavy Google Analytics users. Granted, when it was first available, it was a hot mess and not very useful. Today, it’s a different animal. There are still some weird features that you need to be aware of – if more than one link goes to the same page from the page you’re looking at – every link to that page reports the same number.

For example – my home button, the WordPress admin bar home button, and my header logo all link to my homepage, but all are used very differently. Google reports that 8.3% of users – an equal number – used all three ways to get to my homepage. That’s not a true statement; Google is combining their clicks because they all point at the same page. This is a feature that needs to be fixed, but doesn’t completely render this tool useless.

SEL_4-2_no_use

I know from In-Page Analytics that nobody is using my social media links in the upper right hand side of the page. I need to redesign that feature to promote engagement. No clicks means nobody is using them, and I need to do something about that.

WordPress

While there are plug-ins and other content management systems that many people use to create and update their blogs, I am strictly a WordPress user. If you use Drupal or Joomla, sorry, I can’t help. I have found there are some great WordPress plug-ins that can help you track content engagement; some even report that right into the events section of Google Analytics; and, all are free.

Google Analytics Suite

The Google Analytics Suite plug-in will hook into your Google Analytics and AdSense accounts and report page views, scroll depth, page speed, downloads and AdSense links as events. It is really simple to set up, and it hooks in easily to your Google Analytics account. The results are nice.

Below is information on scroll depth in Event tracking, just a few hours after installation. Now, you can see how far down your page the reader got. You can also see this data in Real Time event tracking.

SEL_4-2-13_scroll_depth

Google Analytics For WordPress By Yoast

I really enjoy this Google Analytics plugin by Yoast de Valk. It’s easy to install and configure, and it reports on a variety of events.  Justin Cutroni stated in his blog post referenced above that scroll depth would be implemented in the Event Tracking on this plug-in; but, I don’t see evidence of that yet.

What I love about this tool is the ability to track exit links and affiliate links. If you link out to a lot of sites, you can easily see those as “exit links” as opposed to exit pages – where your visitor just disappears. This is something that Indextools/Yahoo Web Analytics used to do very well, and Google never did very nicely.

Outbound clicks are tracked as page views, so they’re easy to isolate in your Analytics dashboard under “Site Content” and “All Pages.”

SEL_4-2_outbound

Knowing how users interact with your pages is as important as knowing users are getting to your pages. Whether you share recipes or sell computers, understanding how your users behave once they land on any page of your site helps you write the content that best suits their needs.

You cannot know or understand user behaviors without analytics. Try one, two, or all of the methods shared above until you find the piece that fits with your site and your setup. Once you understand the type of content users engage with, and what form or shape they’re most likely to read, you can write and share more content more efficiently.

Postscript: It was pointed out in the comments that I missed a few configuration steps that make these tools even more valuable.

While the Yoast plugin is really useful, he actually recommends tracking outbound clicks as events, not pageviews. Under Advanced Settings in the Plugin Settings — make sure you have not checked the box that says “Track Outbound Links as Pageviews.” My installation had it checked.

When looking at InPage Analytics, Google announced a fix that sets attribution by link, not by landing page. You will need to alter your analytics code slightly — the directions are fairly easy to follow on this blog post.

Thanks so much to SearchEngineMan and Paul Thompson for helping me ensure the accuracy of my article.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Beginner | Channel: Analytics | Google: Analytics | How To: Analytics | Search & Analytics

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About The Author: is the co-founder of Ignitor Digital, along with long-time colleague Mary Bowling. At Ignitor, Carrie tackles tough technical SEO roadblocks many small business owners don't even know they have. Her experience with analytics and troubleshooting helps her get to the root of issues. When not working, Carrie loves to cook for friends and family, hang out with her pretty awesome kids, and read books that have little-to-no educational value! You can also follow Carrie on twitter, @carriehill.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • http://www.stanleyoppenheimer.com searchengineman

    You may want to recheck the In-page Analytics settings – Google did fix this problem last year, it requires you to alter the GATC – So Google reports enhanced link attribution. per page, not site wide.

    http://marketingland.com/google-analytics-in-page-analytics-gets-important-upgrade-26077

  • http://twitter.com/thompsonpaul Paul Thompson

    As searchengineman points out, the issue you complain about with In-Page Analytics was fixed five months ago – http://analytics.blogspot.ca/2012/11/announcing-enhanced-link-attribution.html

    Also, by default, Yoast’s Google Analytics plugin tracks external links as events – as it should – not as pageviews. You have to enable advanced settings, then check the box to change the behaviour to track as pageviews. And as Yoast himself says, tracking outbound links as pageviews is NOT recommended as it badly skews pageview and bounce metrics.

    The only reason to track outbound links as pageviews is if you need to track them as part of a goal funnel, which you still can’t do in Analytics. As goals – yes. But not as part of a goal funnel. (And if tracked as pageviews, need to set up a filter to filter them out so they don’t skew the data)

    The accuracy of this article falls short of what I would expect from SearchEngineLand.

  • http://www.facebook.com/carrie.hill1 Carrie Hill

    Hi – Thanks so much for your comment. I use the Yoast Google Analytics plugin to manage my tracking code, so this didnt work with my setup. I figured out how to manually handle my tracking code while still using the Yoast Google analytics plugin and have added the lines of code today to fix attribution in in-page analytics.

    Thanks for the heads up – It’s definitely a reminder that you cant use a plugin for EVERYTHING in GA.

  • http://www.facebook.com/carrie.hill1 Carrie Hill

    Hi Paul:

    I just went and looked at my install. according to the instruction page on Yoast.com, I was okay. It wasn’t until I went to the TINY print on the plugin page itself and read INTO the paragraph below the box that said “track outbound links as pageviews” that I saw his recommendation not to do so. Interesting that 1) it’s available if you shouldn’t do it, and 2) that he doesn’t mention it on the plugin page: http://yoast.com/wordpress/google-analytics/

    I will submit an update to the editors, thanks for pointing out my error and helping me make sure my data is accurate.

    Have a nice weekend.

  • http://www.facebook.com/trish.corlew Trish Corlew

    Great article! I am a newbie wordpress blogger (less than 60 days) so I’m trying to drink from a firehouse right now! But I am learning! Can you tell me what plugin/widget you are using for the “Like This Story? Please Share!” section? Thank you!

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  • Donald Miller

    You’ve got good useful information here. Yet for social blogging, what we cannot control is the mindset with which we must contend: people–in my opinion–are easily distracted, have difficulty focusing their attention, and do not form bonds that allow for anything more than an extremely superficial relationship that is all-too-easily forgotten.

    I think the key is to find a group of people who have similar interests and values, and among those values are one of abiding friendship. If someone really likes someone else, they ought to be able to truly be interested in what their friend has written and then comment on it.

    If you find out where I can find some of that, let me know, because I’m not finding it. I see lots of people who have hundreds or even thousands of “friends”, but few people are really involved. And that’s a huge problem. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read outstanding posts that have few if any comments. Comments are king in my book because they show that someone cares enough to actually communicate, and that’s a good thing–especially when the commenter abides by your comment policy.

  • http://twitter.com/globalinbound David Temple

    Darn, that’s the comment I wanted to make but you beat me to it!

  • http://twitter.com/robertpucc Robert

    Installing Crazy Egg is a good idea to get a sense of engagement. It provides a scroll heatmap and other detailed features. Although it’s $10/month I believe there is a 30 or 60 day free trial period.

  • http://www.facebook.com/carrie.hill1 Carrie Hill

    Crazy Egg is a great tool! Thanks for the suggestion. I think it can also provide click information, even if where the user clicks isn’t a link – that’s useful to help make a page more user-friendly!

  • http://www.facebook.com/carrie.hill1 Carrie Hill

    Comments are absolutely great measurement, but a comment is a high barrier to entry. I’m finding with scroll depth that about 25% of people are getting to the bottom of my page, but comments are probably happening about .5% of that time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/carrie.hill1 Carrie Hill

    David – :: giggle ::

  • http://www.facebook.com/carrie.hill1 Carrie Hill

    Hi Trish, I dont run the infrastructure of this blog, so sorry I cant help you there – on my blogs I use “Social Ring” – good luck!

  • Matt McGee

    Hi Trish – that’s not a plugin or widget. It’s manually coded into our theme.

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  • Hamza Hamza

    Thanks for this post. I was looking for a simple Google analytics wordpress plugin but didn’t knew where to find one. I’m using wordpress SEO by Yoast and hope their Analytics plugin is also useful like the SEO one

  • or zilberman

    Seeing how users engage with your pages really is one of the more important things to see in a website, specially after you have made some changes in design or structure.

    To most of my clients I install tools such as crazyegg or clicktale to see how users perform.
    It is a subject that is really almost overlooked by people’s that do not actively engage in CRO, and I love the way you showed it’s uses for something less obvious then a product page on an E Commerce site.

  • http://twitter.com/MaryKayLofurno Mary Kay Lofurno

    We have implemented Cutroni’s advanced content tracking on our vertical pub sites. We added a segment so we have scanners 1 minute or less, readers 1 to 3 minutes, and deep divers, 3 to 5 minutes. Makes it a bit better.

  • Finn_Jake

    Also a WordPress user here but I used ColibriTool (http://colibritool.com) to handle all statistical analysis of my site. Its not free but what I’m after are the consolidated results, convenience, and level of help support.

  • http://twitter.com/johnbixby John Bixby

    Cardinal Path’s “GAS” is my favorite way to extend plain-vanilla GA with minimal effort. Tracks scroll depth, downloads, outbound links, video plays, etc. Easiest way I’ve found to rig this up on my WordPress sites is to just go into the template editor and drop in the one line of Google Tag Manager code and then create a custom HTML tag in GTM to manage GAS.

 

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