In this guest post, Analytics consultant Lana Gibson interviews Sara Greig (DIA) on how content designers can get started with analytics.
Content is often a low priority on the digital food chain, but user-focussed content is a crucial part of successful digital products. You can have all the functionality in the world, but if users can’t understand how to use your services your product will fail!
Google Analytics (GA) can help you to create user-friendly content, and show that it’s meeting the mark. Good content isn’t easy! It takes a lot more than data to make it great, but data can help you and your organisation understand what’s working and what isn’t.
The problem is that GA can be a rabbit hole that sucks in hours of your time without yielding any value. You know that if you could just tweak the right knobs it would probably show you’re a content genius, or at least that you help people navigate the complexity of your organisation. Instead you find yourself asking lots of questions like ‘Do thousands of pageviews mean that my content is good?’ and ‘What the hell is that random spike in traffic!?’
This interview is designed to give you insight into how using GA can help you. And hopefully it proves that you don’t need to be a data scientist, or have hours per week free to stumble around trying to make sense of all the numbers.
What made you start using data?
I started using GA when I created my own website — initially to check how many people were visiting and what country they were from. You can become a bit obsessed with numbers at the start. Once I started to use Google Analytics on a regular basis I discovered all of the other insights that can be really helpful when you create a new website.
I started to look at referral traffic, which helped me to see what marketing was working. For example, it showed me that a lot of traffic was coming from Pinterest so I knew my efforts on this were working. When I started working at DIA I learnt a lot more about GA through training sessions with you (Lanalytics). These helped me to focus on bringing a business perspective to using GA to improve user experience.
How did you initially find using GA?
Initially, I didn’t know where to start and Googled a lot of questions! It can be quite overwhelming as there are a lot of reports. I think the best thing to do is first think about what you want to find out and then just focus on one thing at a time. It’s very easy to go down a rabbit hole and forget where you started.
How do you use GA reports now to make your content better?
I use GA to help investigate how content is performing before and after content changes. As a content designer for DIA, I want to improve content for users so that they have a good experience when they interact with government. If they are able get the information they need then I know the content is working well. GA gives me insights into how content is performing and these can help me to decide if changes are needed. It works well alongside looking at user feedback to make changes.
I use a range of reports including search page and search terms, which are really helpful to see what people are searching for on specific pages and on your homepage. If there’s a lot of searches on a page for a particular topic it could indicate that people aren’t finding what they’re looking for. GA also helps me to see how links, including linked buttons, are performing. For example, if there aren’t many clicks on a button that goes to an online application we might look at moving the button up the page or rearranging the layout to improve its visibility.
I also find the page navigation summary, which shows you what pages people were on before and after they looked at your content, is really useful. I use this to see what path people take and sometimes it can identify if people are searching after visiting a page because they might not have found what they’re looking for.
Knowing your content is a big part of understanding analytics — it’s not just about interpreting data. What would normally look like a bad result in Google Analytics can, in some cases, be okay. For example higher bounce rates (where people visit one page and leave) would normally be a bad result, but for some content it could tell us that people are getting what they want and leaving. This is the case for the public holidays page on Govt.nz. I know that there is limited content on this page and it’s just a list of public holidays. So in this case there’s no need for people to stick around — they get the information they need and can leave, which is a good thing.
How often do you use GA and how long does it take?
I tend to use GA little and often. It’s a great tool to check in with as you work and before you make changes. You can set up dashboards that show you key insights and compare different reports. Setting these up can save you time if you tend to look at the same reports over and over.
Have you had measurable success with data?
Small changes can have a big impact. As an example, in the past we’ve added a couple of words around pricing to a Govt.nz page summary, and as a result site searches about price and cost dropped significantly. I’ve recently made content changes to information about fines on Govt.nz because there were a lot of searches for fine related terms and we had received some user feedback about this topic. These changes included renaming a section, changing keywords on the homepage and creating a redirector page so that information about fines across the site is better linked together. We’ll now monitor these changes in GA and hopefully we’ll see a drop in site searches for information about fines over the next couple of months. You might not always get it right the first time, but by monitoring changes with GA you can at least see the impact and make further changes if needed.
Did it help you show success to your team or management?
Being able to backup your content decisions with data and show you have made a positive difference can be very powerful. GA helps content designers to illustrate the impact of a change. If you can show, say in a report, a comparison of data before and after you made content changes that can really help to prove the importance of designing user-focussed content written in plain English.
Want to see some more of our great tips about working with Google Analytics, take a look at our Google Analytics cheat sheet