In the age of content saturation, short attention spans and — dare I say it — fake news, audience engagement is more important for businesses than ever. Especially in the publishing industry.

While publishers constantly adjust to the ever-changing trends of the digital world (more recently Instagram is testing removing likes from posts), metrics related to audience engagement are crucial to their success.

In any business with a strong production of content, you shouldn’t act based on assumptions that are not founded in data. Simply guessing what your audience wants to read or how they will react to a story is likely to have a poor return on investment.

Content analytics allow publishers and marketers to identify trends and opportunities that ensure they understand their audience. With this, they can make the best data-driven decisions to increase engagement.

We’ve already covered this briefly in our guide about Dark Social and its use cases, but there’s a lot more to be said about content analytics and how you can use them to identify trends.

Use the right content analytics tool

First things first, we need the right tools to access the right content analytics.

Without a doubt, Google Analytics is the most popular web analytics platform and, possibly, the most used as well.

There are many others that could be named, but one thing most have in common with GA is that they’re not the best suited for the needs of a publisher.

It does seem convenient to access hundreds of metrics that date back to several years, but if the data you’re getting is not actionable, what is its use?

Let’s think about Avg. Session Duration, for example.

content analytics google analytics

At first sight, looking at this information from our blog, it’s great to see that between February and March our Avg. Session Duration increased by 141.65%. This means people are spending more time on our blog!

But… what exactly does that mean?

Why did this happen? What content were people reading in March that got them to stick around longer than what they were reading in February?

In this case, it would be more helpful to the content creation team to understand which stories had the highest recirculation, or if there was a particular page that was highly shared and brought in more traffic.

The point here is that simple metrics such as Avg. Session Duration, Sessions, Page Views, Bounce Rate, etc., although valuable in their own way, leave a lot to be desired for someone who’s looking to make data-driven decisions.

They only tell half of the story and publishers would know best how much of a deal-breaker that is.

You need to think beyond Page Views when determining which stories were successful on a given day.

content analytics trends

In the image above, you can see an example: Article 1 having more visits than Article 2 is not enough if the metric you really care about is Recirculation.

The best analytics tool for publishers should point in the direction of clear opportunities for improvement in content production, distribution and repurpose. It should tell you how readers are consuming and sharing content, and how that translates into a trend over time that you can take advantage of.

In true shameless self-plug fashion, we cannot go without mentioning GetSocial as a great content analytics tool.

But, more importantly, let’s actually get into how you can use content analytics to identify trends.

You need to ask yourself: can I recognize trends in our content and get insights into what is more effective to reach our goals?

If you’re overwhelmed by the massive amounts of data thrown your way to be interpreted, that’s normal. With so much to process, it can be difficult to recognize patterns in our results and take advantage of them.

We’ve outlined 5 trends to look at through your content analytics, and examples of how to make the most of each.

1. Top stories

Are you aware of which articles are more successful on your page? Generally speaking, there are usually topics that generate the best results and consequent categories that your audience is most interested in. Similarly, certain authors generate better articles than others.

Everything down to the Recommended Articles at the bottom of posts contributes to people staying on your website longer.

Content trends in this context go way beyond the content itself. We’re not talking about the virality of the subject in question, but everything else that helps the virality of a specific post on Publisher XZY.

Identifying these trends helps you understand what your audience wants to read, what stories help you achieve your goals better and even who’s the best person to write them.

2. Top channels

For example, if your analytics tell you that most of your shares are happening on private messaging apps such as WhatsApp, this presents a good opportunity to create a WhatsApp group with your audience to distribute content firsthand.

If your Facebook posts are highly lucrative, generating tons of traffic and bringing in new users that stick around for more content, you might consider automating your posts to reach the most people at the best times.

Contrarily, if you notice that users coming from Facebook have an overall lower recirculation percentage than most other channels, you can choose to invest less on distributing content here.

3. Top locations

You may find that your posts are more successful in countries that are not your own. This can be extremely helpful to your strategies.

For this, you can always open Google Analytics and see where most of your visits are coming from. More importantly, you should know where in the world your content is being shared.

Not so long ago we added this feature to our platform and included some examples of what to do with the information in our announcement, such as:

  • Custom audiences for organic distribution
  • Custom audiences for paid promotion
  • Real-time website personalization
  • Local newsletters

4. Best times to post

When do your posts normally get the most attention?

This is an obvious trend that most publishers care to look at in order to strategically plan the distribution of their content. Furthermore, knowing this can also help to define clear deadlines with journalists and editors for the delivery of stories.

Once you know the perfect timing to reach your audience, you can become comfortable with automating the distribution of your posts.

5. Stories that drive conversions

We all know that certain content is more effective in driving conversions, so it’s a given that you should distribute it as best as you can. Not only that, it allows you to plan similar content for the future.

One of the use cases for this relates to premium content. In the last few years, most publishers have introduced subscriptions to fight the low revenue from traditional public online publishing. For a small monthly fee, they give users special content that cannot be accessed in any other way.

As with anything revolving conversions, there’s a lot of data to look at here and underlying questions that arise from it.

How are your public top performing articles doing in terms of triggering conversions? If they have good results, where did the traffic from those conversions come from? And how does it compare to results from premium content?

The answers to these questions are all trends that can help you understand what’s working and what could be improved to call attention to your subscription.

Final notes

There’s no certain answer as to what will give you the highest ROI. There are too many things at play. Whether it’s because of the content you put out or the audience you’re targeting, your most important metrics depend on you solely.

One thing is certain: you do have to care about metrics. You have to look at them over time and understand what trends are telling you.

Hopefully with this post you’ve recognized some of the most important metrics such as recirculation, conversions, number of shares, etc.

Our suggestion is to look for trends in the following 5 areas:

  • Stories
  • Cannels
  • Locations
  • Best times to post
  • Stories that drive conversions

To access this, you need the right tools. GetSocial is a content analytics platform that helps publishers and marketers get this information easily. We help you understand how your audience is sharing content by tracking 100% of social shares, even the ones happening in Dark Social.