Google Analytics: Gaining insight on audiences, content

Jun 10 2013

Part of maintaining an online news presence involves being able to calculate your organization’s reach, analyze your audiences and determine which efforts are most successful in drawing people in and bringing them back.  Google Analytics is an easy, free tool that can help you answer many of these kinds of questions. Last week, Reese News Lab’s executive director, John Clark, gave the STEMwire team an overview in how we can best use the Google tool and which kind of questions we can expect it to answer, such as:

  • Which stories have been most popular over the last month or the last day?
  • Do audiences tend to visit the site from their computers or their phones?
  • How many new visitors do we have versus returning visitors?

I decided to look at the four stories I’ve published so far through and see how the sources visitors used to find the the stories differed. More specifically, I wanted to know which stories were found more often through social media versus search engines such as Google.

For the values listed below, I combined the numbers for Facebook and Facebook mobile.

The first story, published October 3, 2012, discussed the unfilled STEM jobs across the U.S. and why there might be a mismatch between job-seekers and employers.

The top three sources for this story were 1) Google, with 385 unique page views to date, 2) direct links, with 186 unique page views and 3) Twitter, with 67 unique page views.  I can see that search terms such as “unfilled tech jobs” and “stem jobs unfilled” led readers to the story via Google.

The second story, published November 2, 2012, explained U.S. immigration policies and visa processes that may be affecting STEM-educated workers.

The top three sources for this story were 1) Google, with 137 unique page views to date, 2) direct links, with 40 unique page views and 3) the website, with 31 unique page views. It’s interesting that none of these top sources include social media outlets, because this story, like almost everything we publish, was tweeted and shared on Facebook.

The last two stories were published much more recently and therefore haven’t been live on the site as long—but though the readership numbers are smaller so far, a new trend is already seen in both.

The third story, about the Mathalicious organization and its efforts to spice up math education, was published May 28, 2013.

The top three sources for this story were 1) Twitter, with 42 unique page views to date, 2) direct links, with 31 unique page views and 3) Facebook, with 26 unique page views.

The fourth story, about Mytonomy’s efforts to get kids more involved in their college decisions by using near-peer resources and testimonials, was published June 3, 2013.

The top three sources for this story were 1) direct links, with 35 unique page views to date, 2) Twitter, with nine unique page views and 3) Facebook, with three unique page views.

As we can see, the unfilled STEM jobs story garnered 67 views via Twitter over a span of about eight months; the Mathalicious story got 42 views via Twitter over the span of about a week.

Both of the more recent stories include Twitter and Facebook as the top sources of traffic, while Google searches dominate the two older stories.  While more time will tell if this trend will continue, I think it could be seen as the beginning of results of our redoubled efforts to use Twitter, in particular, more often and more effectively to promote STEMwire stories.

This source data is only one of many metrics we can measure and analyze using Google Analytics, and I look forward to exploring the tool more thoroughly as we continue to build the content.

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