Analytics Best Practices

What if you could find out more about how your members use your website? You could learn whether they prefer to read or stream audio content, how they get to your site and what programs they love. You could find out what emails they find most interesting and what types of gifts they want with their membership. If you are already tracking pledges using eCommerce tagging they you can learn how to use segments and standard Google analytics report. If you aren't tracking eCommerce yet, you can find tips and guidance on how to get started.

We spend a lot of time talking about user engagement, how to measure it and how to encourage it. We want to be sure that our content reaches the right audience, but when much of our audience only interacts with a single page how do we know that we are encouraging the right behaviors to build audience and membership? For each page a user sees we have a chance to encourage them to interact with our content but a single page of viewing only gives us one chance to capture their attention.

Last week was our monthly analytics webinar, where we gather together the top insights across the system on both audience and engagement. 

As you might expect, election coverage was a big focus for the system this month, and we broke down  audience consumption of election coverage, as well as its impact on retention rate. And the results are significant: politics and election coverage had more than double the one-week retention rate of the previous 12 weeks. 

On the December Station Analytics Insights call we talked about our recent upgrade to the newest version of Google Analytics, Universal Analytics.  One of the key benefits of the transition was the ability to store additional data in Custom Dimensions.  Custom dimensions are used to collect and analyze data that isn’t automatically tracked by Google Analytics and they replace Custom Variables that were used in the previous version of the tracking code. This new information will allow us to answer lots of interesting questions - on the webinar we walked through the following examples:

We’re pleased to announce that the Sources Dashboard is now available in the Station Analytics System (SAS)!

The dashboard will provide stations the opportunity to compare traffic trends in channels like direct, search, referrals, email and social, and view what those trends look like compared to the average station.

Recently, the station analytics team was asked to help solve a debate in a local newsroom. This station was trying to decide if it would be  beneficial to supplement its strong local coverage with some national news from the NPR API. Since we have data about web performance for over 200 stations, we were glad to offer some insight. We started by looking at a group of 25 stations with strong digital newsrooms and monthly users between 50k and 300k. We found that, in these stations, local news drove higher engagement and encouraged users to come back.

The Core Publisher development team has been working hard to introduce a fully functioned responsive web theme. Over the past few months a handful of sites have moved to this new theme which provides a cleaner look and allows a consistent experience across devices. While we can't share sites confidential details, we can point to a few positive trends that we have seen post launch.

Lately lots of people have been emailing me links to articles about a phenomena called "dark social." This is interesting because "dark social" is the phrase coined to describe what was originally thought to be impact of the social sharing of links directly between individuals through email and chat.  Back in 2012, Alexis Madrigal wrote an article about a concerning trend that he was seeing on theatlantic.com.

On this month’s webinar we discussed an interesting new feature in Google Analytics. Google Analytics is currently in the process of rolling out new Benchmarking reports. While our team has not yet worked with these extensively, we find it an interesting options for stations who are interested in comparing their performance with sites outside of public media. 

Mobile traffic has once again hit a new peak for our station sites and we eagerly anticipate the time when more of our traffic will come from mobile and from tablet than from desktop devices. All this growth can lead us to want to know more about our mobile users - who are they, what are they doing, are we helping them find what they are looking for?

Limitations of Segments in Google Analytics

Ever have one of those days when the next big thing has just launched and everyone is waiting for the good news, but instead of spiking, Google Analytics seems to suddenly have flat-lined? Before you have a coronary there are few things to keep in mind.

There's nothing like hyperbole to get someone's attention.  Oh boy, did Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile get people's attention when he said "what you think you know about the web is wrong"- but let's all take a breath before we start throwing out our Google Analytics data.

Have you been seeing messages in your Google Analytics account pushing you to upgrade to Universal Analytics? If you haven't, then you probably aren't looking at your reports enough.  If you have, you can go ahead and ignore them for now.

The most basic reason for you to ignore these is that if you are using the Station Analytics System (SAS) tag won't be supporting Universal Analytics anytime soon. Here's why we've decided to wait:  

On our November Station Analytics Insights webinar we presented some data about the tremendous audience growth coming from social media.  If you have ever wondered how much of your social traffic is Facebook or whether to be concerned with Reddit we' shared some answers about where the audience is really coming from.  Perhaps you wonder if social media is the best platform  for reaching new audience, then you'll want to set aside 15 minutes to watch the video.  Once you've watched  - join the conversation by tweeting your thoughts using #PubMetrics.

On October 9th  I hosted a training about how to use Google Analytics to supercharge your pledge reporting. Your pledge platform is probably giving you information about how many people have donated and how close you are to meeting your goal, but when properly set up and used Google Analytics can give you a wealth of additional insight. We covered a lot of information in the one hour session and I've pulled out some of the important points below or you can review the slides from the presentation.

The web is a visual medium. Since the html blink tag was created we have all been focused on the appearance of our websites, but for the public radio audience listening is critically important - even on the web. Rather than thinking of the homepage as a whole, we looked at the individual parts or functional elements to determine which were most effective at engaging visitors.

Our dashboards and monthly reports feature traffic source pretty prominently. You are probably well aware of how much of your traffic is from Direct, Search, and Referrals - if you're not, learn more about Traffic Sources in this Google Analytics Training Video. Google Analytics reporting devotes an entire section to Traffic Source, but if it isn't meaning much to you perhaps there is something missing from your reports.

Creating a goal in Google Analytics is not difficult if you have a clear idea of what your goal is and how to identify it on your website. We recommend using goals that are built around URL destinations or events  to track how successful your website is at meeting your goals. This post will walk you through the steps to create your goal in Google Analytics but if you'd like to, you can read more about why you need goals.

If you have decided to take advantage of the station roll-up feature in the the Station Analytics System (SAS) here are some helpful hints on how to create and setup the web property in Google Analytics.

Login to your Google Analytics account and click into the Admin section. Once in your account you will see your current properties in the first tab.  You'll want to click +New Property to get started.

Having trouble getting setup in the Station Analytics System?  Not sure what you need in order to get started?  Follow the steps below to get your station up and running on the new system and start benefiting from the new tracking tag today! 

Creating a Login at analytics.nprstations.org :

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