Use analytics to address issues — and identify opportunities — in your content strategy.

Referral traffic. Page views. Time on page. Bounce rate. Social referrals. Conversion rates. These are just a few of the numerous ways to determine whether your brand is creating engaging content that people find valuable, and to pinpoint the ways in which people are discovering your brand’s various channels.

With any marketing strategy, tracking and data analysis are extremely important in measuring ROI, and content marketing is no exception. But before diving into the metrics and sifting through reports, it’s essential for marketers to understand why they are creating content to begin with. Ask yourself: what are your specific goals and targets? The metrics you measure will depend on your overall objectives, which may include increasing brand awareness, lead generation, customer retention or upselling.

Whatever your objectives may be, it’s likely that the necessary metrics can be tracked using the trusty tool employed by most companies today: Google Analytics. Below, we’ll take a look at how to interpret the Google Analytics metrics that are most useful for content marketers seeking to gauge the impact of their efforts.

Overall Traffic & Time On Page

Beautifully written, resonant content doesn’t always spark a traffic boom. But it’s important to track the types of content pages that receive the most traffic on your website. Do lists perform best? Is how-to or service-oriented content consistently popular? Do interviews perform or fall flat? Measured over time, the average traffic that specific content categories receive should inform the kind of content you produce.

“I like to track traffic to certain sections of the site — the main pages, the category pages, the product or informational pages, and the blog or news pages,” says Google Analytics expert Jenny Halasz for Search Engine Journal. “This helps me more effectively narrow what impact certain efforts have had on our success.”

Another important metric is the average amount of time users spend on specific pages in comparison to other, similar pages, and to the overall site average. When the average time-on-page for a certain page is higher than the site average, this indicates that the content featured there has more successfully captured and held visitors’ attention than what’s available on other pages.

Google Analytics also makes it possible to analyze consumption metrics that measure what devices your consumers are using to access your content, and where your consumers are located geographically. Specific details like these paint a more detailed picture of your website’s traffic volume.

Referral and Social Traffic

Another valuable metric to track is referral traffic, which tells you how users are finding your website. For example, if a visitor clicks a link on a social media site like Twitter that leads to your website, that visit is considered a referral. Similarly, if your brand is featured in a news outlet that links back to your site, a reader might click through to learn more about your products or services.

According to Content Marketing Institute, measuring referral traffic in Google Analytics can be done by running a referral traffic report (under “acquisition”) or by choosing “referral path” or “full referrer” from the list of secondary dimensions.

Referral traffic serves as a testament to the effectiveness of your promotion and distribution efforts, providing insights about which sites are referring the most traffic and the timing of the traffic being referred. You may learn that Facebook refers considerably more traffic to your site than Twitter. From there, you can explore how your content is being shared on Facebook in order to determine what aspects, exactly, are resonating with audiences. How are they engaging? What points are they drawing attention to?


What constitutes a conversion differs across industries. For ecommerce platforms, a conversion is a completed purchase. For content marketers, conversions may take the form of newsletter signups or contact form completion. In a perfect world, branded content pulls customers directly into the purchase funnel and toward a completed purchase.

However your company and content team define conversions, it is essential to track the consumer journey and identify behavioral patterns. Are customers repeatedly falling out of the sales funnel at a specific juncture? Are readers more likely to sign up for brand alerts after reading a particular type of article?

In order for conversions to be tracked effectively, set up a “goal” in Google Analytics. When setting up a goal, there are different types to choose from:

  • Destination: track when a visitor gets to a specified page on your website
  • Duration: set a length of time in hours/minutes/seconds and select a condition (greater than or less than) that identifies visitors who stay on-site for the specified amount of time
  • Pages per visit: track visitors that view greater or less than a particular number of pages
  • Event: track “events” like video plays or brochure downloads

Eyes on the Prize

Google Analytics is an extremely valuable resource for content marketers. There’s a reason an estimated 30 to 50 million websites have downloaded the service. But for marketers concerned with proving the tangible ROI of their content strategy, it’s essential to determine how and why different metrics indicate success for their specific brand. Gaining a holistic understanding of a content strategy’s success or failure should be contingent upon several metrics considered in relation to each other, measured over a significant period of time, and tracked against a marketing team’s editorial strategy and promotional efforts.

Longneck and Thunderfoot offer search engine optimization and analytics services to help businesses transform their websites into visible sources of knowledge online and answer the questions that matter most to your prospects. Learn more about SEO and analytics here.

Author Jamie Ayers

A graduate of Skidmore College, Jamie works at L&T as a content strategist, account manager, and editorial lead across a wide range of industries and fields, specializing in the digital economy, experiential marketing, and campaign-led initiatives. His other interests include electronics, Agatha Christie novels, and being outside.

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