Google Analytics for content design
Some features in Google Analytics are useful for making content design decisions. But others should be treated with caution.
The benefit of evidence
With evidence from Google Analytics to back you up, it can be easier to:
- make decisions about content design, for example how to arrange topics on a page
- influence content stakeholders — decisions are based on evidence, not opinion.
Use Google Data Studio to present evidence
Google Data Studio presents information from Google Analytics and other sources as a dashboard.
It may be easier to influence content stakeholders with a dashboard, rather than raw data.
When you change content, take note of what you did and when. Then monitor the impact of the change on your analytics.
Use ‘search pages’ to identify what’s missing
‘Search pages’ show you the search terms people use on each page of your site.
When you know the terms people are searching for, you know what content you need to include and make prominent.
For example, if there are a lot of searches for ‘cost’ on the page, you need to make cost information clearer.
‘Search pages’ are in the ‘site search’ section of ‘behaviour’ in Google Analytics. Every page searched from is listed in this section. When you click to a page listed in this section, you see all the terms searched for on that page.
If you can’t enable ‘search pages’
Site search must be enabled for you to access ‘search pages’.
However, some websites are not set up for using ‘search pages’, for example the search function may be on its own page, rather than embedded in pages.
If you can’t enable ‘search pages’, you can use ‘search terms’ to see what people are searching on your site overall. A lot of similar search terms shows you which content needs to be easier to find.
- Set up site search
- Case study from Govt.nz: Improving content and user experience with Google Analytics search pages
Use ‘events’ to adapt content to user needs
Monitoring events (like downloads, link clicks or form submissions) helps you understand how users interact with a page.
For example, use events to see:
- how many times something has been downloaded — the result can influence where you position the download link on the page
- which links are the most popular — this can help you decide the order of links in a list
- where people leave your site by a link to another website — you might count exiting to a particular link a success metric.
- About events
- How to set up events: Event measurement
- Case study from Govt.nz: Making published content more user-friendly with Google Analytics
Because events must be set up manually, you may need developer expertise and access to the content management system.
Use Google Trends to match your language to your users’
Google Trends shows search terms used around the world, and allows you to compare 1 term with another.
This can be useful if you need to decide on how to phrase something.
For example, do more people search for ‘IRD number’ or ‘tax number’?
When you match your language to your users’ you will make your content easier to find and understand.
Take care with some Google Analytics features
Metrics that can be misleading include:
- Time on page — do users spend a lot of time on the page because it’s useful, or because they are struggling to understand or find something?
- Page views — a page may have a high number of views, but if no one finds what they are looking for, is the page successful?
- Bounce rate — a high or low bounce rate might be good or bad. Consider whether the user needs to visit more pages to be counted as a success.
GOV.UK include information about a range of metrics in their ‘A basic guide to Google Analytics’ section of Data and Analytics.
Use qualitative research as well as quantitative
Google Analytics is good for measuring numbers. But to get the full picture of your users’ experience, it’s important to use qualitative measures.
An online way to find out if your users are able to complete their task is to use a survey to ask them directly.
There are tools to help you do this, or you can build a survey page in your CMS.
The best questions to ask are:
- What did you come here to do?
- Were you able to do it?
- If not, why not?
Do you use other Google Analytics metrics to improve content?
If you’d like to share other useful metrics for content design, email firstname.lastname@example.org.