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directory publishers analytics metrics

The Most Important Analytics Metrics for Directory Publishers

Important decisions shouldn’t be left up to gut feelings. Using analytics metrics, directory publishers can get a big picture view of how their websites are performing and where areas for new opportunities exist.

Directory publishers don’t just have to worry about search engine traffic and visitor engagement, although those are powerful factors that can play a major role in impacting the bottom line. They also have to think about advertisers and the businesses signing up for paid listings. The latest analytics metrics give directory publishers insights into how visitors and advertisers are finding their websites and what makes them convert.

The goal here is twofold. Directory publishers want to use analytics metrics to make smarter business decisions, and they want to gain a deeper understanding of how visitors and paying advertisers are using their directory websites. Let’s take a closer look at what that means.

1. Top Keywords

How are people finding your directory? The answer may not be what you think. Using Google Webmaster Tools, directory publishers can find out what keywords are driving the most traffic to their sites. Navigate to Search Traffic, then Search Queries to see a list of the keywords driving traffic to your directory. You should see the click-through rate for each of these top keywords, letting you know how often someone clicked on your directory over another Google listing. Another option here is to use Google Analytics. Click over to Acquisition, then All Traffic, then Channels, then Organic Search.

Most directory publishers see 75% to 90% of their search volume coming through the top 200 phrases. For example, publishers with restaurant directories may find that most people are landing on their sites after typing Top [City] Restaurants or the name of a specific restaurant with a listing on the directory.

Regardless of what you discover through keyword analytics, you’ll want to use the information to optimize your content and take advantage of the keywords people are using.

2. Visitor Engagement

Clicks, shares, and time on page are all trackable metrics that directory publishers can look at as they gauge visitor engagement on their websites.

While engagement is often confused with reach, particularly when it comes to analytics metrics for online directories, they actually tell us two very different things. A directory’s reach is determined based on the number of people who see it, even if they only see it for a moment. Publishers can boost their reach by using clickbait headlines or landing pages that are only minimally related to the content in their directories. Are those stunts worthwhile in the long run? Probably not. Visitors who arrive at a directory under false pretenses—for example, thinking they are getting restaurant coupons when they are actually just seeing business listings—are likely to leave quickly and not return.

Engagement is something else entirely, and there’s a reason why we encourage directory publishers to focus on engagement over reach. Tracking engagement means looking at how involved visitors are with the content in a directory. There’s a number of ways to measure that. One idea is to track comments and shares. People don’t usually leave comments unless they are legitimately interested in the content. Tracking how commenting ebbs and flows over time, and which directory pages are receiving the most comments, can provide you with insight into how you should format landing pages or promote your most popular directory listings.

Another option here is to track scroll depth. Scroll depth means how far down a webpage a visitor scrolls. If a visitor is scrolling down to the bottom of a “Best Of” list or a directory listing, there is a good chance he is engaged with the content.

3. Email Capture Rates

Many directory publishers use email marketing to bring visitors, and advertisers, back to their websites. For these publishers, website email capture rates show how what percentage of website visitors are subscribing.

Determining a website email capture rate is fairly straightforward. Just divide the number of new email subscribers acquired via the directory website over a period of time (one week or one month) by the total number of unique visitors during the same time period.

Let’s say that through this process, a publisher learns that .1% of the visitors coming to his business directory are signing up to receive a monthly email newsletter. The next question is, how do you increase web-to-email conversion rates? A little bit of A/B testing can help determine whether simple changes to capture forms or landing pages could be enough to see major improvements.

What metrics do you analyze, and how could a deeper analysis of the trends lead to greater revenue on your directory? We’d love to learn more about what you’re doing and how we could help take your online directory to the next level.

Data Journalism Tools

The Small Publisher’s Guide to Editorial Analytics

Numbers don’t lie. For local publishers looking for new ways to boost traffic and click-through rates, editorial analytics can serve as a roadmap to success.

Rather than polling readers or simply guessing which articles will be most popular, more publishers are now relying on audience metrics and editorial analytics to inform their newsroom decisions.

Editorial analytics platforms can be setup to measure visitor activity on a publisher’s site. With popular platforms like Chartbeat and Parse.ly, publishers have the ability to track readers on their websites in real-time. Analytics platforms also track whether site visitors are actively reading, or whether they are just skimming content and saving articles to read later.

With this data in hand, publishers can make better decisions about which topics or stories to cover and how prominently certain articles should be promoted on their sites.

Three examples of how analytics can be used to make newsroom decisions include:

  1. People in the community may say they love reading stories about the public library, while editorial analytics suggest that sensational crime stories are actually driving the greatest engagement.
  2. Editors can track how small changes to published articles, such as changes to headlines or additional links to outside sources, impact how readers engage.
  3. When doling out annual bonuses and selecting candidates for promotion, publishers can look at reporters-specific metrics to determine which staff members are bringing the most value to the organization.

Should editorial analytics always be used to determine which topics get covered in a local publication? The answer to that is tricky. Just because a certain topic doesn’t generate traffic doesn’t always mean it’s not a topic worth covering. These are difficult questions that journalism ethicists have been debating for years.

In the years since digital-first publications like The Huffington Post and Gawker first started using analytics to make editorial decisions, the practice has gone mainstream. Many of the most popular tools for collecting this data at large media outlets have since been adapted for smaller digital publishers.

As a best practice, editors should consider asking themselves these questions when deciding the best ways to utilize editorial analytics in the newsroom:

  • Which readers are we trying to reach?
  • What types of reader behaviors do we want to cultivate or encourage?
  • Which metrics are we using as benchmarks for success?

In a survey of news editors, CEOs, and “digital leaders” conducted by Reuters Institute, 76% said improving the way newsrooms use data to understand and target audiences is going to be “very important” for their organizations.

Larger newsrooms have added analytics teams to the mix at a furious pace. Audience development editors and data analysts pour over the data to uncover new areas for opportunity. In smaller newsrooms, journalists themselves have access to analytics tools and metrics for their own published stories.

For publishers who’ve decided to start using editorial analytics to make strategic newsroom decisions, the next question is which platforms or tools to use. We’ve put together a list of some of the top choices for small and mid-size publishers who run their websites on WordPress.

Top WordPress Plugins for Editorial Analytics

  1. Chartbeat: For existing Chartbeat users, this plugin makes it easy to install Chartbeat’s code and start tracking website traffic and audience behaviors.
  2. Google Analytics: The Google Analytics plugin for WordPress connects publishers to Google Analytics and lets them see how visitors are finding and using their websites.
  3. Parse.ly: Designed for writers, editors, and website managers, Parse.ly helps publishers understand how audiences are connecting with the content they publish.
  4. Google Analytics Post Pageviews: This plugin links to a publisher’s Google Analytics account to retrieve the pageviews for individual articles or posts.
  5. Clicky by Yoast: Publishers who use this plugin can track individual posts and pages as goals and also assign revenue to specific pages or posts.
  6. Crazy Egg: With Crazy Egg, publishers can see exactly what visitors are doing on their websites and where they are clicking. They can also see where visitors are coming from and what types of content are bringing people back.
Data Journalism Tools

How Local Publishers Use Analytics to Make Editorial Decisions

In digital newsrooms across the country, editorial judgment is being replaced by web analytics. Which news events should a hyperlocal publication cover, how much coverage should a particular story get, and what sort of resources should be thrown at it? Those are all measurable questions that can be answered by looking at a publication’s web analytics report.

According to a study by the Donald J. Reynolds Journalism Institute, editors of mid-size community newspapers are more likely to base editorial decisions in part on web analytics. Ninety-percent of editors receive web analytics reports that show page views, length of visit, and traffic on their websites, and 49% make decisions about which topics to cover based on those web analytics reports.

Google Analytics and Chartbeat are two of the most popular tools for tracking publishing metrics, like time-on-site, time-on-page, and engaged-time-on-page, in real-time. Sometimes these sources can give conflicting answers about the success or failure of a particular article. That’s because Google Analytics and Chartbeat each have their own way to count visitors. But larger trends should still help guide hyperlocal newsrooms in their editorial decisions.

Just as no two publications are exactly alike, no two editors measure content performance in exactly the same way. At some local publications, analytics are used to make day-to-day decisions that optimize traffic and reach, while other publishers utilize the same data to form longer-term business strategies. There is no right way or wrong way to use web analytics to make editorial decisions. Context, priorities, goals, and expertise all go a long way in determining how digital publishers use the web analytics they collect.

Understanding the Audience

Web analytics make it possible for local publishers to get a clear view of who their audience really is. It’s easy to assume that readers engaging with hyperlocal content must live in the surrounding community, but is that really the case? Without analytics to back up their assertions, publishers are essentially flying blind.

A few questions that publishers can answer with basic analytics tools include:

  • Who is visiting the website, including location, age, gender, and income
  • How are readers interacting with content
  • What types of content are readers engaging with the most
  • Where are readers arriving from
  • Which segments of readers are most likely to share content
  • Where do readers go after they leave the publication

Gauging Reader Interest

Publications like the Wall Street Journal, and many others, rely on algorithms and web analytics reports to gauge which topics and stories readers are most interested in learning about.

Page views can help determine which topics readers are interested in, but when they’re used in a generic fashion, they can also send local publishers down the rabbit hole chasing celebrity slide shows and other content that’s irrelevant to their niche in the market.

One solution that many hyperlocal publishers have settled on is to keep a closer eye on engagement metrics, like time-on-page, which offer more insight into how the audience is receiving a particular piece of content.

Improving Headlines

In addition to influencing the coverage that certain topics receive, web analytics can be used to improve the quality of headlines. Publishers can test different headlines to see which keywords attract the most attention or generate the greatest click-through rates.
Intrinsic factors that made print headlines meaningful are lost in the digital world. A successful headline for an online publication is one that can stand on its own in a social media post and also inspire people to click on a link. “Descriptive and direct” is the definition of a great headline most often used in digital newsrooms today.

Keyword selection is incredibly important, as well. Headlines filled with puns, but missing keywords that describe what the article is actually about, are duds in an online world. Editors can improve an article’s traffic by using descriptive keywords and short, punchy headlines.

Of course, data rarely tells the complete story. In an ideal world, editors would be combining qualitative judgment with their own journalism expertise to make important decisions about what topics their reporters will cover.

If you’d like more guidance on how to use web analytics to improve your own editorial workflow and cultivate a more engaged readership, let’s connect.