Turning Analytics into Action

By Dawn Rigby, Xylem Marketing

Ren LaForme

In part two of the keynote Poynter Institute presentation at the 2019 TOCA Annual Meeting, Ren LaForme focused on analytics – which ones are important, what they mean and how to turn analytics into action.

“Analytics provide an overwhelming amount of information," he said. "You can ignore most of it.”

Analytics are the quantitative and qualitative information that can be used to measure the effectiveness of your work. It can show you what your audience cares about and it can tell you what you are wasting time on. Your overall goal will determine which metrics you should track.

Use analytics to set a bar and try to beat it. The metrics that you choose as important are your KPIs (key performance indicators).

Quantitative Metrics to Watch

Quantitative data tell us how many visitors have viewed our website or article, what types of content are doing well and where visitors are coming from. Here are some examples:

Pageviews – How many times was your page viewed in a specific time period? Pageviews is an industry standard, but this metric provides an imprecise way to judge an article’s performance.

Unique Visitors – How many different people viewed your page in a specific time period? This provides a slightly better but still imprecise way to judge an article’s performance. By comparing pageviews and unique visitors, we can draw some conclusions.

Try this: If pageviews and unique visitors are close in number, you might want to find ways to increase the number of articles a visitor views.

Try this: If pageviews and unique visitors are distant in number, it might be a good time to brainstorm ways to attract new audiences. What else can you offer that you are not currently offering?

Active Visitors – How many different people are on your site and various pages right now? This metric is great for judging “trending” articles and judging day-to-day performance.

Try this: Look for things that are spiking traffic and promote the heck out of them. Look for things that are underperforming and look for ways to boost them.

Referrals – Where did your visitors come from? Referrals tell us what websites sent traffic to your site and ranks them by the highest source. This is valuable information to know, especially if you can turn these into ongoing traffic streams.

Try this: Identify your biggest champions and start building relationships with them.

Qualitative Metrics to Watch – Qualitative data can tell us who is visiting your site, why they are visiting your site, how they behave on your site and even how they react to your content.

Time on Site/Page – How long are visitors spending on a specific article or page? You want to increase this.

Try this: Find ways to make articles more engaging. Use storytelling tools to draw the reader in and make them more likely to complete the article.

Bounce Rate – What percentage of people leave your site after entering from a specific page? This is different from the exit rate. Bounce rates often correlate closely with referrals. They are great for identifying articles and pages where you should be pitching readers more.

Try this: Watch for pages with high engagement and high bounce rates. On these pages, look for opportunities to add internal links.

Conversion – Conversions are the completion actions that are defined by your team. Newsletter sign-ups or purchases could be conversions. These can be tricky to set up but they are invaluable measurement tools.

Demographic/Browser/Device Info – Who is your actual audience? These metrics tell you the age, gender, device type, location and more about who is actually visiting your site.

Try this: Adjust coverage to cater to big audiences or pursue niche ones with impact.

Try this: Use this information to think and behave like your audience.

Take Action Right Now

Experiment with the following suggestions from Ren LaForme and see how they impact your analytics.

  • Try sharing articles at different times of the day. How often do you post to social? Why do you post at those times and days? “In general, weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. is the best time to share new content on Facebook and Twitter,” according to LaForme. He also recommended not sharing the same link more than once per week on Facebook, but he did recommend posting often and differently on Twitter. TweetDeck and Buffer are low-key tools to get started scheduling posts.
  • Experiment with scheduling posts for nights and weekends. It will not bring in as much traffic on average, but you may be surprised by what takes off.
  • Reshare older content that previously did well. It is a good idea to keep a list of evergreen content to pull from throughout the year.
  • Improve your headlines. Consider all of the places across the Internet where your headline will appear. According to LaForme, “A good SEO-friendly headline contains keywords, proper nouns, full names and unique words and phrases.”
  • Pick an underserved demographic and brainstorm ways to appeal to them.
  • Set up alerts for spiking articles and share them wildly when one hits.
  • Tell stories with interactives, videos or other gold coins.
  • Aim for five-minute read times with newsletters.

Analytics Tools to Try