This video tutorial gives a brief overview of analytics available for WordPress sites. Analytics are discussed in Chapter 6 and the Social Media Analytics Checklist is a helpful guide to measure the effectiveness of your social media activity.
Google Analytics is one of the more popular tools to track website activity. WordPress also has an analytics dashboard for websites built on that platform. You can imagine, there are many other analytics tools. Regardless of the platform, below are the common features of website analytics tools most frequently monitored by newsrooms.
First, a note for student journalists. I recommend you build your own professional website using WordPress (as noted in Chapter 3). The website can act as a central location for stories you produce while in college. From there, you can share via social media. This approach allows you to practice viewing and analyzing your own website analytics on WordPress. Most of the following metrics are available through WordPress’s analytics dashboard.
Unique Visitors. Unique visitors are the number of visitors who accessed pages on the website within the time frame you are examining. This does not count people who visit multiple times from the same device. If a page was viewed 100 times by 50 different visitors, the 50 people represent the number of unique visitors. If the same person visits the website from two different devices, such as laptop and mobile, that would count as two unique visits.
Page Views. Page views are the number of times a page was accessed. This includes multiple visits by the same person. It is one of the most commonly used metrics because it gives an indication of which stories or pages on a news website are viewed the most – and least. Sometimes this information is listed as Top Posts or Top Pages.
Session Duration. Session duration, sometimes called “time on site,” is the average amount of time visitors spent on the website. Analytics tools can also calculate the session duration for a particular page. Most visitors to news websites spend one to two minutes before clicking off the site. Pages with short session durations should be reviewed because it could mean the content, story layout or site design are not resonating with viewers. Even a slight change to a headline or placing a more compelling visual at the beginning of a story can make a difference.
Bounce Rate. Related to session duration is bounce rate, another important number to pay attention to. The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who leave a site after visiting just one page. Generally, the lower the bounce rate, the better. A high bounce rate, however, doesn’t necessarily mean visitors were unsatisfied with what they saw. A visitor might leave the site after viewing only one page because they found the information they were looking for.
Source. How did a visitor end up on your website? Source data, sometimes called referrals or referrers, provides this information. Direct traffic is when someone types in your sites URL. But, as we’ve discussed, increasingly social media is a key driver of traffic. That’s where this metric really becomes handy. Most website analytics tools monitor which social media platforms are driving traffic to your site during a given time period. It shows you how many visitors clicked a link on a social media platforms and ended up on your site. For example, a link in your Facebook post or a tweet. Sites, other than social media, that refer visitors to your website are usually also listed.
Source information is a valuable tool in determining if there’s a correlation between your activity on social media and people visiting your website. (Test this out for yourself by using the Social Media Analytics Checklist.) The source section also shows the number of people who came to your site after conducting an online search using keywords. Keywords are the words visitors typed into a search engine and which then lead them to your website. This normally means for the keywords they typed, your website ranked high in the search results.
Technology. Many website analytics tools provide data on the number of people viewing a site while using a desktop, mobile phone, and tablet. Some platforms even give a breakdown of the brand of devices, such as iPhone or Android. Monitoring the types of devices people are using while viewing your site is critical. The data helps newsroom ensure a positive experience for website visitors. Newsrooms can test how their website functions on each type of device and catch potential viewing problems that may cause a visitor to click off the site.