Adventures in Analytics, Google and Otherwise: More about SEO and Data Analysis

Editor’s note:  This is the second in a series of posts about SEO and data analysis, skills that many content marketing clients are looking for and that can help you assess your own marketing efforts. In this post, we talk with Sree Sreenivasan, digital and social media consultant and strategist (and friend of ASJA) about the data analysis you need to better serve your clients and support your business as a freelance writer.

I scanned a couple of recent job postings for content writers and found these requirements:

  • Write headlines for articles, webinars and emails to maximize engagement /CTR [click-through rates] on search engines, social media and email campaigns.
  • Write killer headlines and compelling copy for SEO and social metadata.
  • Use Google Analytics to track web traffic, visitor behavior, social media and more, providing key insights into website performance and goals, identifying trends and integrating other data sources.

And that’s in addition to having “alien-like” writing and editing skills.

But before you head to the magazine rack of your local bookstore to see which print publications could use some help, consider what digital and social media consultant and strategist Sree Sreenivasan has to say about the church of what’s happening now. Along with being a frequent presenter on various aspects of social/digital media at several ASJA NYC conferences, and again this year on Member’s Day, he was formerly the city’s Chief Digital Officer (CDO), running the Mayor’s Office of Digital Strategy. Before that, he served as the first CDO at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he lead the 150-year-old institution into the smartphone age. He joined the Met after spending 20 years at Columbia University as a professor at the Columbia Journalism School and a year as Columbia’s first CDO. One of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business in 2015, Sree now works as a consultant, speaker and trainer for nonprofits, corporations and more. He shared some practical tidbits on Google Analytics and other aspects of the technology with ASJA Confidential.

  • Today, being a great writer just a start. We also need to be savvy about technology. Otherwise, your career will suffer. No matter what kind of writing you do, you should be able to understand and utilize tools such as Google Analytics, SEO and metadata to help you work smarter, rather than harder, to reach your goals.
  • The old way of doing business is gone. Whether you publish a blog, print article or book, the onus is on you to help your work find an audience. And that means using various mechanisms to bring your content to the world and call attention to your work. Otherwise no one will know about it.
  • Become a student of your own audience. What topics in your subject area are people reading and sharing the most? Which groups care about what you are writing?  The answer may be both surprising and diverse. For example, if you are writing about pharmaceuticals and opioid addiction, your audience may be the pharma companies themselves, healthcare professionals and parents, all of whom may see the market in a completely different way. It’s up to you to figure out how to tailor your message to reach each of these groups.
  • The only way to learn how to use the various tools is to try them out yourself. Start a blog, even a small one, to help get the feel of what you audience will respond to. Get a business Facebook page which provides statistics on engagement as well as providing data on which posts draws the most likes, shares and click-throughs. What kind of comments did you receive? This will help gauge the reaction of the audience. Twitter can provide feedback as well: Which tweets got the most retweets and likes? 
  • I also encourage people to create an email newsletter; open rates in that as well will provide a measure of success and audience response. A newsletter is also a great tool in building an audience and an easy vehicle to publicize books, articles, and author events. If you have a website, Google has tools that provide metadata on click-throughs, shares, and open rates.

“All this data can be used pre-test in developing your audience and platform,” Sree continues. “Become a student of your own numbers and you’ll begin to get a sense of what resonates and what doesn’t. While there’s no easy mechanism to learn these various tools, the best way to start is to do it with your own projects.”

If you do use Google Analytics, various terms can also help you understand and identify what kind of information you’ll be receiving:

  • Tracking ID — a unique code added to your site that allows Google Analytics to track it
  • Conversion — visits that turn into customers or potential customers
  • Channel/Traffic source — shows where your traffic came from, such as referrals or links from other sites, search engines, social media and emails
  • Session duration — how long visitors spend on your site
  • Bounce rate — percentage of visitors that view only a single page and then leave
  • Event — specific visitor behavior, such as when a visitor clicks on an ad, watches or stops a video, downloads a file and more
  • Landing page — the first page a visitor sees when visiting your website
  • Organic search — visitors who visit your site from a link on a search results page
  • Segment — a way to filter data, such as by category and types of visitors


Although it’s fairly simple to set up a tracking ID or property number with Google Analytics, things can get complicated if, for example, the Google Analytics plug-in isn’t available on your WordPress web page software. You can use Tutorials for WordPress or other platforms or the services of a web page designer or other expert to help you get started.

Once the tracking ID is in though, you’ll have access to the following reports that can offer a gold mine of information:

  • Acquisition — shows you where traffic comes from, such as search engines, social media, email marketing campaigns and links from other websites.
  • Keywords — tells you what search words visitors used to find your website on a search engine.
  • Conversions — tracks how many visitors are converting into newsletter subscribers, shoppers and actual customers.
  • Lifetime value (beta) — tracks visitors throughout their lifetime, from their first visit to conversions, return visits, future purchases and beyond. This can help you figure out what turned these visitors into customers and what made them keep coming back so you can implement changes.
  • Landing page — shows you which pages are the most frequent landing pages so you can track down where those visitors are coming from and what’s working on those top pages that’s attracting customers.
  • Active users — monitors how many visitors are actually active on your site within a specific time period, such as the past week, 14 days or month. This will show you what pages the most active users are visiting so you can figure out what’s keeping their attention and apply it to the rest of your website.


Although as writers, some of this data may not seem particularly relevant, familiarity with it can be translated into other projects and help sharpen content writing skills and insights.

Gain valuable insight into what’s working and what isn’t in social media from Sree on
Friday, Member’s Day at Navigate. Motivate. Captivate., ASJA’s annual New York conference on May 18-19. Not yet a member? Click
here for more information. Discounts are still available until Saturday, April 7! For more information on the schedule, keynotes, and hotel, please click here.