Weekly Web Analytics Check-Up (for busy managers)

web analytics

This is a follow-up to post on a 5-minute web analytics snapshot.

Even as a busy manager, you should be able to find 2-3 minutes a week (or every day) to check in on your website traffic, your top stories, and to identify whether there’s a problem. This checkup will give you tactical information that you can use today to inform your editorial and marketing decisions.  It won’t take long unless you discover a problem – and then you’ll be able to act quickly to resolve it.

This blog post will guide you through three questions you can answer using web analytics:

  1. How’s my website doing?
  2. What are the top stories on my website?
  3. Has anything big changed on my website? If so, what actions can I take?

1. How’s my website doing?

This is a repeat of what you did when you made your baseline worksheet. Check daily traffic patterns and weekly visits against your baseline to see if anything is unexpected. (In Google Analytics, Audience> Overview)

Check: Does your daily traffic follow the pattern you’re expecting? Change your view to weekly to see if your weekly visits is within your expected range. Remember to ignore the first and last weeks displayed in your analytics tool – they do not always include a whole week of traffic.

Analyze:
Is everything as expected? Great, move on to step 2.
Do you see an unexpected change – high or low weekly traffic, or an odd emerging pattern? Ask yourself if anything else is going on.

Act:

  • If you see low traffic, can you explain it? Maybe your web editor is on vacation, your target audience had a holiday, or it’s just a dismally slow news week. Or maybe something’s wrong. If you can’t explain something abnormally low, ask your web team or ask your resident analytics expert. Something might be wrong.
  • Did you break a big story that resulted in high traffic? Send a quick note to your staff in congratulation or to your manager to let them know!

2. What are people reading on my website?

Page and Page Title views in Google Analytics

Check: Change to viewing just a day of traffic. Yesterday is a good place to start.  Go into the All Pages report (from the left nav, Content > Site Content > All Pages).  In Google Analtyics, you can change the display from showing URLs to showing headlines by changing the primary dimension from Page to Page Title (see the picture, right).

Look at the top stories for the day (ignore your home page and any pages that do not have a headline). If you use advanced segments, you can look at just what a specific part of your audience is reading. Remember – there are only 1-4 top stories a day. Look at the number of page views to see which stories really stood out in terms of page views. If all of your stories have the same number of page views, none of them are the top story.

Analyze: After a few check-ins, you’ll get an idea of whether your audience is interested in particular topics, only comes for breaking news stories, or really loves your video page. Your goal here is to see trends in interest.

Act:

  • If one story had more traffic than you expect a story to get, send an email to your web team and congratulate the author.
  • Keep yesterday’s top stories in mind when you go into editorial meetings. Once you’re looking at them regularly, you’ll have a sense of what stories, and what type of content plays well online.
  • If you know a lot of effort or good journalism went into a web story and you don’t see it at the top, check in with your web editor to see if they can highlight it or promote it on social media.

3. Has anything big changed?

Check: Change your timeframe to look at the last 7 days. Look at the percentages in the Traffic Sources overview and the Location report. (In Google Analytics, Traffic Sources > Overview and Audience > Demographics > Location) Do they match the percentages you’re expecting on your baseline?

Analyze and Act – Location Change: Did the location of your audience change? If your audience changed dramatically from one geographic region to another, your audience composition may have changed. Ask yourself if that’s an opportunity (a new target audience maybe?) or a problem (your target audience isn’t coming to your website).  Use this knowledge to guide marketing and content decisions.

Analyze and Act – Traffic Source Change: If your traffic sources changed dramatically to favor one source that you’re not expecting, look and see what your top referrer is. Compare to last week to see if anything major has changed.

  • If Reddit, Balatarin, Huffington Post or another huge website linked to you, you’ll expect short-term surge in traffic – this is unreliable traffic, but you can be happy for the increase!
  • If you see a huge increase in traffic from Facebook, Twitter, or other social media site, let your social media manager know that you noticed.
  • If you see an unexpected referrer that might make a good digital affiliate, pass it on to your web editor or division, or reach out to them yourself.
  • If you see a huge change in your search traffic, your search engine optimization might be getting better, or a huge drop might mean something is broken.
  • If you see your direct traffic fall, you should check on your newsletter or on-air announcements about your website – these are some of the ways you get direct traffic.
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Rebecca Shakespeare

Rebecca Shakespeare

Rebecca Shakespeare is the Senior Digital Media Analyst for the Office of Digital & Design Innovation. Follow her on Twitter: @Shakespearean.
Rebecca Shakespeare

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