As the Internet focuses more on content, especially high-quality content, as a way to keep visitors engaged, blogs both large and small need to find effective and efficient ways to find out exactly what works, and what doesn't. Creative use of a web analytics solution, such as the free and popular Google Analytics
, combined with a determination to listen to the data rather than one's own "gut feeling", can lead the way to better content and better websites. The ability to read between the line graphs and find out what needs to be tweaked, how and why, can be the difference between success and failure in the increasingly crowded marketplace of ideas.
Exit Rate Metric
One way to find content that is either misaligned with a website's audience (or is potentially problematic in other ways) is to check for higher-than-average exit rates. This particular metric tells you the percentage of visits for which a given page was the last one a visitor saw before leaving the site. The more pronounced the 'peak', the more likely the individual piece of content is to be a contentious issue.
Average Time On Page
These kinds of conclusions can be confirmed, contradicted or even expanded upon by examining the 'average time on page', a metric which describes the amount of time an average visitor may have spent on a particular part of a website. A long piece of content, laid out as a single webpage, that shows both a high exit rate and a low average time on page, can raise some red flags: the content is either boring, disgusting, poorly aligned to the audience, or even exhibits a combination of several undesirable characteristics.
In the case of a blog or a website designed to act as a reference, a high exit rate can also signal a highly satisfied audience who has found a particular piece of content extremely informative, interesting or helpful, especially when combined with a high average time on page. The visitor behavior report in Google Analytics, for example, can help to confirm or debunk this sort of hypothesis by showing you how many visitors came back, how many times and how often - even at the level of an individual page or blog post.
Remember, above all else, to always consider the context within which any given metric is to be interpreted: the same data can lead to different conclusions depending on what it describes and in what circumstances.
This, as you may be starting to see, is powerful and immensely useful information to have when making decisions about a content-based website. Whether those decisions are about the best kind of content to commission for a blog site or even the sorts of design changes that may be required in order to improve the experience of your visitors on that same site, the wise use of web analytics data can help you to improve your site and encourage more frequent visits.