Saturday, October 11, 2008

Content Strategy and Web Analytics

Web Analytics is the process of collection, measurement, and analysis of user activity on a website to understand, and help achieve, the intended objective of the site. Now I’m not suggesting that as a content strategist you need to be a Web analytics expert. There are plenty of smart people who make a whole career in the field. But Web analytics does need to be addressed as part of a complete content strategy.

At a minimum, I include two analytics-related sections in any content strategy document I create:

WCMS Impacts
Get a basic understanding of what Web analytics package is going to be used, and then find out what information needs to be included in each Web page to ensure that usable data can be captured for each user visit. Does the WCMS need to be able to capture analytics-related information as part of each page’s metadata? Often some kind of process completion or campaign ID must be assigned to some or all HTML pages. If new fields need to be added to the WCMS input templates, this needs to be captured and documented in the project’s requirements so that this work can be added to the overall project size and scope.

What Do You Plan to do with the Data?
Web analytics data will be analyzed by many departments with their own interests, but from an overall Web content perspective, I want to make sure that we address at least these three items:

  1. Optimize the top 10 entry pages. Once we have a reasonable amount of data, plan an analysis to identify the top ten entry pages for the website. Obviously your home page will be high on the list, but you may be surprised at some of the others. Maybe a deeply buried help page will have just the right keywords to show up in a large number of Google searches. For these unintended entry pages, think about adding links with compelling titles to try and entice some of these users into your main marketing or functional funnels.

  2. Analyze the bottom 20 pages. Again, when there is a good amount of data, plan to look at the 20 least frequently visited pages. Make some guesses about why no one is going there. Is it just very obscure content? Are the pages just too hard to find? Are the wrong titles or keywords used? Then decide what to do with the page:
      • Leave it as is
      • Re-write the content
      • Delete the page and the content
      • Delete the page but condense the content and include it on another existing page

    This should be an ongoing exercise.

  3. Understand the main task abandonment rates. You can’t set a goal to improve something until you know where you currently are. So when your project first launches, make sure that the correct data is being captured for the top four or five tasks you want your users to accomplish. For these tasks, figure out how many users are starting the task but not completing it. Once you have a good understanding of the abandonment rate for each task, then you can start making site changes to try and reduce this number.

Web analytics is a powerful tool for measuring and improving the site’s content. But you can’t do everything at once. Start with the basics, learn how the system and reports work, and build from there.

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