With consumers worldwide spending nearly seven hours each day online, and eCommerce projected to reach almost $7.4 trillion by 2025, smart merchants need to invest in content that reaches their audience now to obtain long-term results.
However, eCommerce is a numbers game, and content returns can be challenging to track if you’re unfamiliar with Google Analytics.
In this article, I share the benefits of using Google Analytics to measure your content ROI and 11 of the best metrics for eCommerce businesses to analyze.
Google Analytics tracking is a data goldmine
A number of moving pieces are involved in content marketing success, from finding the right voice and tone to writing for the right transactional keywords.
But to achieve consistent progress, you need accurate data to guide your actions. If you’re still on the fence, let’s explore some ways Google Analytics tracking can help your business grow.
Discover where your leads come from
If you’ve ever had a flood of leads come in with no concrete idea of where they came from, you know it’s time-consuming to trace and leaves a lot of money on the table.
Google Analytics tracking helps you dodge these tedious scenarios by keeping tabs on all the data in your brand’s ecosystem and identifying the channels and content pieces that brought leads to your store, from referrals to social media traffic.
When you know where your best leads come from, you can invest more into those topics, channels, and sources.
Spend your budget wisely
Optimization based on factual insights is a critical component of long-term content marketing success.
Knowing which content performs well over time and which doesn’t pays dividends. You can use this information to make informed decisions that push your business toward its content marketing goals and help your bottom line.
Rather than throw more ad spend behind a campaign that brings in visitors, but fails to, you can discover which content types have the greatest potential to succeed and allocate your budget accordingly.
As an example, I noticed one of my articles was bringing in conversions for a client, so we turned it into a video, email course, and webinar topic. Our email course landed more than 400 signups within months after launch.
Unlock search engine optimization (SEO) wins
SEO traffic is highly sought after — and for good reason. Once you write an article, it draws in leads organically and continues to do so as long as it remains live and relevant. Moreover, the traffic you earn from SEO (provided you’ve optimized for your niche) often closely matches your product or service.
With Google Analytics, you can see which pieces bring in lots of organic search traffic, then direct visitors to these top-converting pages to gain more conversions from your SEO strategy. This can enhance your funnel conversions, make your funnels more efficient, and stop “leaks.”
You can also use Google Analytics insights to improve top-performing (or underperforming) pages by inserting more, stronger keywords and CTAs to gain additional conversions.
Increase customer loyalty and engagement
Content marketing serves other purposes besides pushing products and services. With the right approach, you can use it to build loyalty, community, and brand affinity.
Tracking content metrics via Google Analytics shows you what content attracts your target customers and what kind retains them. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 63% of B2B content marketers use their content strategy to build loyalty in their existing clients.
Gain more confidence
An often-overlooked intrinsic benefit of tracking content results is that it inspires confidence in yourself and the rest of the team. When you have hard facts behind you, you can make decisions with certainty rather than hesitating and possibly missing important opportunities.
Content marketing can take months to begin producing results, and tweaks to your strategy compound over time, so positive reinforcement is important to maintain your resolve (and patience) when you don’t see major gains right away.
11 Key content marketing metrics and how to track them
Whether you’re launching a new product or want to expand your audience, Google Analytics tracking can earn you the top spot. But metrics vary in importance, with some considered “vanity” measurements that tell you little useful information.
Below are some recommended metrics you should analyze to gain a sense of your progress.
Session data reveals how many times a visitor interacted with your site. A session records when a person visits your site and ends after 30 minutes of inactivity.
You can access the Sessions report by navigating to Audience > Overview in the left-hand column in Google Analytics.
Examining sessions info helps you:
- Gauge audience engagement with greater accuracy
- Measure overall content marketing performance
The users metric uncovers how many visitors have been to your site at least once (note the count usually doesn’t include repeat visits). Google Analytics 4 goes the extra mile by distinguishing between new and returning visitors in its report.
For data on your users, go to Audience > Behavior > New vs Returning.
Tracking user data helps you:
- Work out whether or not your content is attracting your target customer
- Understand audience size, growth, and visitor retention over time
Pageviews measure how many pages were seen on your site. Google Analytics records multiple hits on a page from a user in the pageview metric. The tool also provides unique pageview data in the same report for a more granular view.
To find your Pageviews report, head to the dashboard after navigating to Behavior > Overview.
Observing pageviews stats helps you:
- Establish interest in your content to validate page optimizations
- Understand how much traffic individual content pieces bring in
4) Pages per session
The average number of pages someone views on your website each visit is counted in pages per session. This metric offers a quick way to analyze interest in your content. The more the user clicks beyond the first page they landed on, the more engagement measured.
To reach your Pages per Session report, navigate to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels.
Tracking pages per session helps you:
- Ascertain how well readers engage with your content
- Track how changes to your content affect the reader’s experience
5) Average session duration
Average session duration calculates how long someone typically stays on your website (not to be confused with time on page, which tracks the time a user spends on an individual page). You’ll find this metric on the dashboard under Audience > Overview.
Monitoring average session duration helps you:
- Gain more perspective on what keeps readers hooked or sends them packing
- Determine which pages you should invest more resources into to supercharge results
6) Bounce rate
When someone goes to your website, views a page, then leaves, Google Analytics records this action as a “bounce.”
Your bounce rate indicates how many people leave your site without exploring it. A high bounce rate generally means the content quality is low, or you’re targeting the wrong audience.
A “good” bounce rate differs by industry and content type. However, the FullStory team offers some advice on what results to expect:
“As a general guideline, a bounce rate of 40% or lower is considered good, while a bounce rate of 55% or higher is considered high and may indicate that improvements are needed to engage visitors and encourage them to explore more of your website.” – What is a good bounce rate? And what’s a bad one?
To find your bounce rate, add it into your reports by going to Metrics and selecting Bounce rate.
Tracking your bounce rate helps you:
- Measure content relevancy and on-page experience
- Learn how readers interact with your content to guide optimization
Update: GA4 has shifted how they track bounce rate to the inverse of engagement rate. It’s now defined as sessions less than 10 seconds long, with 0 conversion events, or fewer than 2 pages or screen views.
7) Percent of new sessions
The ratio of first-time visitors to your site to overall visitors is your percentage of new sessions. You’ll find this metric on the dashboard under Audience > Overview.
Tracking percent of new sessions helps you:
- Understand how many users you retain
- Identify how much your content is growing your audience
8) Conversion rate
To obtain your website’s conversion rate, Google Analytics takes the number of goal conversions achieved and divides it by the number of sessions. Goal conversions can range from hitting a “Request a Demo” button to making a purchase. Additionally, you can monitor attribution models under Conversion > Attribution > Model Attribution Tool.
There are three types of attribution to pay attention to:
- First touch attribution — The first time a person engages with your site before a conversion is documented as a conversion driver.
- Assisted attribution — All the touchpoints that contributed to the conversion are acknowledged.
- Last touch attribution — The final interaction a user has with your site is counted as a conversion driver.
Example path: Landing page A > Internal web page B > Form completion
If we track “form completion” as the goal conversion:
- First touch attribution = Landing page A
- Last touch attribution = Internal web page B
- Assisted attribution = Landing page A + web page B
Tip: To take advantage of these attribution features, you’ll need to set up conversions for your brand. Here’s how to make it happen on Google Analytics 4 (GA4):
- Install the Google Analytics site tag on your website.
- Go to the “Admin” option on the bottom left navigation in GA4 and, under the “View” dimension, head to “Goals.”
- Hit the “+ New Goal” button to make a new goal.
- Select the relevant goal type.
- Name and choose your goal type.
- Input your goal details.
- Click “Verify Goal” to check everything works.
- Hit “Save.”
Measuring your conversion rate helps you:
- Gauge your content and site’s ability to meet targets
- Pinpoint areas to improve and scale
9) Referral sources
Referral sources assess the strength of your affiliates and partners, and if your backlink efforts are fruitful. Different referral types contribute to your overall referral traffic, like organic search, direct traffic, referral, and social. With Google Analytics tracking, you can easily trace each referral source’s results over time.
To check your referral sources, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals.
Watching your referral sources can help you:
- Determine which traffic sources to concentrate on to scale faster
- Learn what’s working in your traffic generation strategy and what’s not
10) Community engagement
While not an official metric in Google Analytics, you can measure community engagement by looking at your owned channels and how well they drive traffic to your site.
For example, you could track your email and social media performance to see how strongly your content resonates in the channels where you share them.
It’ll also reveal how well you’ve built your brand to inspire others to share your content assets on their marketing channels.
To obtain a complete picture of your community engagement performance, you can also check out the Engagement stats in Google Analytics. This section combines data from various reports to provide a bird’s-eye view of engagement rates on your website.
To access this report, navigate to Reports > Engagement.
Observing community engagement helps you:
- Understand if your marketing efforts are inspiring brand advocacy
- Assess whether your content and offers are enticing to your audience
11) Individual page performance
Like community engagement, Google Analytics doesn’t have a single metric to represent the performance of particular pages. Instead, the tool combines a handful of results from various metrics.
To sharpen your content marketing with Google Analytics tracking, it’s helpful to explore page performance, which involves zooming in on your website metrics at the page level. Some numbers you’ll come across include:
- Pageviews – how many times a page was viewed
- Unique pageviews – how many times unique individuals saw that page
- Average time on page – how long people spend on that page
- Entrances – how many times a visitor entered your site through this page
- Bounce rate – single page visits
- % Exit – how many people left your website right after viewing the page
- Page value – (Transaction Revenue + Total Goal Value) / Unique Pageviews
To track your individual page performance, navigate to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.
Monitoring individual page performance helps you:
- Highlight top-performing content assets pushing your brand towards its goals to optimize them for stronger results
- Learn which content types and topics resonate with your brand
Quick tips to improve your content metrics like a pro
Now that you have the basics of Google Analytics and know what you can track, let’s talk about how to use them to produce better results.
Ensure your setup tracks insights correctly
Like most technology, Google Analytics isn’t immune to hiccups and disruptions. These problems can affect the accuracy of Google Analytics’ tracking and your resulting data.
So, it’s important to check regularly that your account is gathering and processing data correctly. Some key tasks include ensuring your:
- Google Analytics account is set up and linked to your website
- Events are firing on the right pages (e.g., your page records an event when someone hits the “Request a demo” button)
- Google Tags are set correctly. You can use Google Tag Assistant and Tag Manager to make optimization easier and stay organized
- Google Analytics picks up every visitor (side note: Don’t panic if you experience short lags in data; these are normal and often rectify within a day)
Set realistic KPIs to track
To position your content marketing for great results, it’s critical you set achievable key performance indicators (KPIs) and monitor them with Google Analytics.
For an eCommerce business, you could track KPIs like:
- Conversion rate
- Average order value
- Cost of acquisition
To ensure you pursue realistic KPIs, research benchmarks and typical results in your niche and industry. Then, compare these results to your business’s current state to determine your KPI target numbers.
This approach helps you focus on a few crucial goals instead of spreading your resources too thin on multiple initiatives. You’ll also be able to use your Google Analytics Tracking data to adjust your strategy for faster progress towards your goals.
Track metrics in cohorts
The next task on your Google Analytics tracking to-do list is to split metrics into relevant groups before analyzing them. Segmenting your metrics this way will clarify your content performance for different objectives.
For instance, you could separate engagement metrics from growth metrics. The good news is Google Analytics will do the heavy lifting in this task. For guidance on setting up cohort analysis, check out this handy guide from Google.
Stay informed on the latest updates in Google Analytics and other tracking tools
To ensure you never miss a beat in your content marketing, it’s critical you stay on top of the latest updates in Google Analytics and learn how to use new features to your advantage. For example, GA4 launched upgrades like AI-backed analysis of customer journeys across various channels and devices.
Google offers an entire resource library and course designed to sharpen your Google Analytics and data analysis knowledge. You can also find helpful content online from marketing experts to help you gain the most from data mining on GA4.
While it’s vital to enrich your Google Analytics tracking skills, don’t allow your skills and knowledge to stop here. Learn other analytics tools too. This way, you’ll have data from different tools to compare and use as a plan B in the event Google Analytics goes down. You’ll also gain a more holistic understanding of data analysis for content marketing.
To get started, here are some must-read resources:
Supplement your tracking systems with backups
While it’s essential to stick to one source of truth for consistency in your day-to-day data analysis, no tool is perfect. Due to the varied ways each insight tracking solution processes and presents your data, you can have different results for the same data pool.
So, collect and review insights occasionally from other analytics tools and compare results to get a sense check and access to a reliable sounding board regularly. For example, if Google Analytics says you’re trending up in sales, but Heap says you’re trending down, you’ll know you need to check your systems and tracking setup.
Wrapping up — Supercharge your Google Analytics tracking
Google Analytics tracking has a big learning curve which can feel intimidating in the beginning, but stay the course.
Content marketing success begins with reliable insights. So, with the right data, an agile strategy, desire to learn, and some patience sprinkled in you can scale your content marketing and business to new heights.
Watch out for content assets and strategies moving the needle in your business so you can double-down on them. Also, don’t be afraid to test, test, test to uncover new ways to attract and keep your target customer.
Soon you’ll be an Analytics pro, driving your business forward with cold, hard, facts.
Published: August 1, 2016
Updated: May 16, 2022