These 3 Numbers in Google Analytics Will Help You Make Better Content


Google Analytics (GA) is a digital marketer’s best friend. I use it all the time to check metrics, spot trends, and see what type of content my audience appreciates the most.

Of course, there are other tools you could use to analyze your metrics, but they’re not as valuable as GA for two reasons.

First, Google Analytics is free. The price can’t be beat.

Second, Google Analytics is a tool designed by the company that also gave us the most popular search engine in the world. That means it can (and does) provide you with information about the browsing and search history of the people who visit your site.

Beyond that, Google Analytics offers a wealth of information you can use to improve your reach. GA makes it easy to check conversion rates, view your visitors’ demographics, discover the way people follow the links within your site, and analyze your e-commerce funnel.

Basically, Google Analytics is awesome.

Obviously, I use several tools to track my data and analyze it. But I strongly recommend Google Analytics.

If you’re a digital marketer, you need to know a thing or two about Google Analytics.

That’s why I wrote this article.

I want to give you three simple, straightforward, and actionable tips that will allow you to create better content.

Here’s the thing about analytics: all those numbers and metrics serve a purpose. They tell a story. They give you instructions.

They tell you how to become a better marketer.

The purpose of analytics is to show you what’s going on with your marketing and what needs to change.

Marketing isn’t a guessing game. You shouldn’t have to wonder: Is this working? You should know. And you should know because of data.

So, do you want to know what’s working and what’s not working with your content marketing?

The three numbers I’m about to show you do just that. They give you an accurate read of user behavior and tell you what you should do next.

1. Average time on page

It’s this simple: if you’ve got great content, people will read it.

And reading takes time.


Speed readers can buzz through an article like this in about two minutes.

That’s insanely fast.

For most—mere mortals—this article will take 10-15 minutes to read.

If you want to find out how fast you read, take a test at


Google Analytics gives you some insight into how your audience is reading. No, it’s not going to test their reading speed.

However, it is going to give you information regarding their time and behavior on the page.

This information comes from Average Time on Page in GA. It provides an insight into your audience’s interest level, reading speed, and overall engagement with a page.

As the name implies, it tells you how long the average user hangs around on a specific page.

If you’re producing content that’s 2,000 words in length and you find that people are leaving after just 30 seconds, then either you’ve got an audience consisting entirely of people who’ve participated in the Evelyn Woods Reading Dynamics course or they’re just not taking the time to read all your content.

Spoiler alert: it’s probably the latter.

It’s time to look at the Average Time on Page metric.

You can find it on the Behavior Overview report of GA.

  • Click on Behavior in the left-hand sidebar.
  • Select Overview from the menu that appears below.

You’ll see the metric among the stats that appear below the graph:


Unfortunately, though, that number gives you an across-the-board average of all your pages. You need a report that shows you how much time your visitors are spending on individual pages.

You can create a custom report to show you that information.

There’s an easier option, though. Just import Avinash Kaushik’s Content Efficiency Analysis Report.

It will show how much time your visitors are spending on each page.

You can use this report to determine which type of content is “sticky”—that is, which blog posts tend to keep people hanging around the longest.

Once you know that, you can produce more of that type of content.

Here is the big idea behind the Average Time on Page metric.

Knowing how long users spend on a given page tells you how interested they are in the page.

Remember, it’s just an average. A reader who spends 20 minutes on the page will be balanced out by the reader who spends only two seconds on the page.

Taken as an average, however, time on page shows you how interesting and engaging your content is.

If your average time on page is really low, it may suggest that your content isn’t all that great.

Find the pages or articles that have the longest average time on page, determine what’s different about those pages, and use these principles when you create more content.

2. Referrals

One of the best ways to tell whether your content is resonating with people is to see whether other webmasters are linking to it from their sites.

That’s why you need to pay attention to the Referrals metric.

To view referrals:

  • Click on Acquisition on the left-hand sidebar of Google Analytics.
  • Select All Traffic.
  • Click Channels.

In the table that appears on the main screen, you’ll see that the first column is labeled “Default Channel Grouping.” It lists the various channels that include Social, Direct, Organic Search, and Referral.


It’s that Referral metric that’s important here. Click on that link to view your referrals.

The table that appears shows you exactly where your inbound traffic is coming from. That’s great information to have, but it’s still not a complete story.

Why? Because it’s an aggregate number. In other words, it shows you how much all of your traffic comes from specific sites and doesn’t show which specific pages they’re linking to.

Fortunately, you can fix that by adding a new column to the table.

As I said, I love Google Analytics.

At the top of the table, you’ll see a dropdown menu labeled “Secondary Dimension.” Click on that:


On the menu that appears, click on “Behavior.” Then, select “Destination Page” from the list of options that appear:


Boom. Now you have a referral report that not only shows which sites are linking to your site but also which specific pages they’re linking to.


Even better: the default sorting is by the number of sessions in descending order. So you can immediately see which type of content gets the most backlinks.

What do you do with that information?

Easy: create more content like the articles that have the most referrals. If your content is good, people link to it. It’s that simple.

Ultra-linkable content is good content. The more links you’re earning, the better you’re doing.

3. Interests

Marketing is all about reaching people.

This is especially true with content marketing.

If you want to connect effectively with your visitors, you have to communicate with them on their level. That’s why it’s a great idea to find out what their interests are.

Fortunately, Google Analytics has a report for that.

  • Click on “Audience” on the left-hand sidebar of GA.
  • Select “Interests” from the dropdown menu that appears below.
  • Click on “Overview.”

Now, you’re looking at a few bar graphs that show you the interests of your audience. The graph below is from a tech website.


The first graph shows the “Affinity Category.” That tells you about the general hobbies and interests of people who’ve been visiting your site. Here’s how Google defines Affinity Categories:

Affinity Categories identifies users in terms of lifestyle; for example, Technophiles, Sports Fans, and Cooking Enthusiasts. These categories are defined to be similar to TV audiences.

The “In-Market Segment” graph shows you what your visitors are interested in purchasing. Here’s a definition of an in-market audience from Search Engine Watch:

An In-Market Audience is composed of folks who are actively searching and comparing your product/service. Individuals in this audience have indicated that they are actively in-market for a specific category such as “Autos & Vehicles” or “Real Estate” or “Travel” or any of the other audiences currently available from Google.

The “Other” graph gives you broad categories of your visitors’ interests. Google explains it this way:

Other Categories provides the most specific, focused view of your users. For example, while Affinity Categories includes the category Foodies, Other Categories includes the category Recipes/Cuisines/East Asian.

How does any of that help you produce better content? It gives you the ability to tailor-fit your blog posts to your readers’ interests while simultaneously boosting your brand.

For example, let’s say you run a men’s fashion e-commerce site. This week, you’re at a loss about what type of article you should write for your blog.

So, you fire up Google Analytics and view the interests of your visitors.

And then you have an “Aha!” moment.

You see on the “In-Market Segment” graph that 10% of your visitors are interested in “Employment.” They’re looking for a job.

You close GA, log in to your WordPress CMS, and type up an article titled “Here’s How to Dress for Success at Your Next Job Interview.”

Boom. The article gets shared more than most others on your site; it gets backlinks from various “life hacker” sites; and you even receive an honorable mention in GQ.

That wouldn’t have happened had you not checked the interests of your visitors.

You can dive deeper into each of these interest categories. For example, click “In-Market Segments” in the sidebar menu underneath “Interests.”


This will display a breakdown of the traffic trends associated with the in-market segment.

You can see how each category of visitor is interacting with the site—their sessions, bounce rate, session duration, and goal completion (if you have Goals activated).

What’s next?

The impact of your content marketing efforts shouldn’t be a mystery.

Check Google Analytics regularly to see which types of articles your visitors appreciate the most. Then, produce that type of content on a regular basis.

You can replicate this model for any and every number in Google Analytics.

Simply ask yourself these questions:

  • What does this number/metric say about my audience?
  • How should my content change as a result?

Bounce rate, session duration, percentage of new sessions, number of returning visitors, service providers, operating system, screen resolution, browser, language settings, mobile traffic, acquisition date, user retention, pages per session—all of this information has to do with your users, your readers, your audience.

All you have to do is understand what the numbers mean and then make relevant changes to your website.


Now, hold on a second.

I just told you to “make relevant changes to your website,” but I need to offer a final disclaimer. That’s what this conclusion is for.

It’s tempting to go crazy and start changing your website left and right. “Ooh! A number! Change the strategy! Revamp the content! Switch up the headline!”

Let me caution you against doing that. Why? Because if you start changing everything, you’ll defeat the entire purpose of analytics, which is to understand exactly what’s working and what’s not.

To truly understand what’s effective, what’s not so effective, and how to make the right kind of changes, you need to do one more thing.

Split testing.

This article isn’t the place to explain split testing—I’ve explained some of those principles elsewhere.

Instead, this is the place to encourage you not to change things willy-nilly but to make strategic changes in a split-testing environment.

The advantage of A/B-testing individual changes is this: Your analytics—all those numbers I talked about up there—will become far more reliable, effective, and actionable.

Google Analytics paired with accurate split testing is a surefire way to make better content.

The better you get at reading and acting upon your analytics, the better content you’ll create.


  1. Scott Pittman :

    Just a note with time on page – Google Analytics needs people to visit another page to be able to log this. What that means is that if someone spends 20mins reading your entire article then leaves your site (maybe they even opted in to your pop up!), it will record as a bounce and 0 time on site when actually the visitor was highly engaged.

    There are other tools and hacks that will allow you to measure scroll depth and dwell time which are more accurate metrics for looking at how engaging your content is.

    • Sometimes GA metrics can be a bit skewed. What are the other tools you use for accurate reporting?

  2. Laura Swords :

    These are great. Can’t the time on page metric be skewed by people leaving their browser open and walking? (I do it all the time.) 🙂

    I like to check out Acquisition > Search Console > Queries, as well as Landing Pages. Gives me a solid idea of what people are searching for without doing too much digging.

  3. Bhuboy Villanueva :

    Will definitely bookmark this, and read again once my site have more posts and traffic, so I can analyze it properly using your tips. Thanks for this Neil

  4. jamesfaulkner :

    Thanks for sharing this with us,keep posting.

    User engagement metrics like Bounce Rate and Time-On-Site can help you analyze the effectiveness of website content. Since content is marketed via a number of channels, gaining insights on how each digital channel performs is essential to analyze where content marketing is suffering and where strategies need to be revisited and improved.

    There a couple of ways to look at user engagement by traffic source.

    Within your Google Analytics account, navigate to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels. You will see a table with data for each marketing channel, such as Organic traffic, Paid traffic, Social media, Referral and so on. Marketers should analyze and compare engagement metrics for each channel, including: Bounce rate, Pages/Session and Time on Site.

    • Thanks for the tips James! Yup there are a lot of different metrics you need to look at and analyze before making decisions about how you’re planning to move forward.

      As you do this, you’ll notice patterns and trends which will help give you an idea of how people respond

  5. Tauseef Alam :

    Hi Neil,

    The article is quite interesting but I’m hesitant to change things on my website just after reading this post. Will it also affect my ranking in SERP if I start doing the changes.

    • Yeah, I would be careful about making any drastic changes, start with small iterations at a time

  6. Thanks for sharing which is interesting. Kindly visit us @Industrial land for sale in Tirunelveli

  7. Enstine Muki :

    I have never been paying attention to interest Neil. You just pointed to that area so I’m to take a closer look at that right this moment

    • This is a whole other dimension you can start thinking about and implementing into your strategy

  8. In google analytics, i could not find or understand the unknown traffic source.

  9. :

    Hey, great post as usual.

    Do you have any guide on how to show, find, uncover “not provided” keywords in Google Analytics.

    • Unfortunately I don’t, but I would check out your google search console as that reveals a ton of great data too

  10. Paulo Amosse :

    Great post Neil.
    Many things i learn here and for free from the best marketeer ever…

    Sorry for the English I am speaker of portuguese

    • All good 🙂

      Happy I could help Paulo, let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with

  11. These metrics are quite useful but often have to be coupled with metrics from Google Console (aka webmaster tools). And remember, every measuring technique gives different results. Very different!

    Unfortunately, Google Analytics is very far from perfect service:
    1) It obviously severely lies about traffic. A ton of referral traffic is marked as “direct”. There is a truckload of referral spam, which needs to be constantly removed and managed – Google is not responding to this issue for years. Comparison eg with server stats often gives very different numbers.

    2) Other problem is that some things like organic keyword searches are obviously seriously crippled somewhere. Console, Adsense and Analytics provide very different results. Like 5 clicks in Console and 50 in Analytics – now what is wrong? The same applies to social metrics – Analytics, Social Networks and managing tools like Buffer or Hootsuite provide very different numbers. What is correct?

    So make sure you understand your numbers and measure trends. Be very careful when comparing data from various websites and accounts.

    • I agree, it’s far from perfect, but they’ve definitely made a TON of progress from where it use to be. They’re managing more visitors than any other site on the planet, so naturally there’s a lot of work to be done.

    • Like Neil said, work needs to be done across the web everywhere. This is why the internet virtually changes overnight.

  12. Himmat Chahal :

    Really liked this article, I *love* Google Analytics. It totally gamified all aspects of maintaining a website for me 🙂

    Learned some valuable tactics for acting on data. Really liked looking at the data from Avinish’s article.

    Now I just need to see if I can pass the “thresholds” for getting the demographic data (Google hides it if you don’t have enough traffic of X demographic, to prevent identifying attributes about individual users, according to their docs).

    • Himmat,

      Stop worrying about passing the threshholds for acquiring specific data from Google.You know what? Time waits for no man and as long as you concentrate solely on that, the more you’ll be distracted from creating content for your site and bettering your SEO.

  13. Nuno Barreto :

    Hi, Neil.

    Great post as always.

    Regarding the first point, i just want to mention that if a user enter your post, read it for 10 minutes and leave, the time on page will be 0 seconds for that specific user.

    With that said, we should expect that readers that came from organic search have a higher time on average (they don’t know your content and are going to explore) than readers that came from a newsletter, for instance. A reader that arrives from a newsletter already knows your content (theoretically), reads the post and leave.

    You can try to trigger Events in Analytics to try to get around this issue (event after 10 seconds, 20, 60, …).

  14. Great post again Neil!

  15. Just found out that to view those Interest graphs, I have to enable Advertising Features which as I can see have some conditions like making certain changes in Privacy. My problem is I don’t understand fully those conditions and which of them I should look out for.


  16. uthman saheed :

    These three things are what I don’t considered to be serious in my GA. I hardly take note of them, may be because I don’t know how important they are until now. Thanks for this post. and I hope you are fine?

    • Glad these 3 things were helpful Uthman, let me know if you have any other questions

  17. Michael Brown :

    Funny! I was just going over this with a site that has a high conversion rate organically but lacks data in the organic referral reports. Due to the privacy of most organic users we are mostly subject to the (not set) or (not provided) keyword areas of searches. What tool or location of Google Analytics would you use in determining organic search metrics in regards to content?

    I currently use a combination. Search console for keyword reporting and Google Analytics for conversion metrics.

  18. Khophi's Dev :

    Thanks for the article. Kinda go through my analytics looking for the mentioned tips, but just thought of refreshing my mind.

    A great resource is the search console which gives what keywordsbring users to your site. They’re previous insights and I love them.

    Ooh and by the way, lovely blog, but it is about time you switch to better commenting system,like disqus or something else.

  19. Google Analytics is sorta confusing to use. Do you have a step-by-step video explaining how to setup a blog or website URL in the Google Analytics dashboard to execute successful tracking of traffic and where the most web traffic is coming from?

    • Start here DNN

  20. bemoneyaware :

    Good insights..
    The link for Avinash Kaushik’s Content Efficiency Analysis Report. was good.
    On using Found two links which left be confused
    Not found..
    What does it mean?

  21. Luzimar Carpinter :

    Very good tips! Thanks Neil!

  22. Great post, I’d just like to make a point that many Google Analytics accounts I see aren’t set up correctly, i.e don’t have goals, or they haven’t filtered internal traffic etc… Clearing out the noise can change some of these numbers significantly!

    • Jamie,

      It would be good to start over again in your Google Analytics dashboard. I’m about to do the same thing as well. I’m learning slowly but surely by watching YouTube videos here & there. Hope this helps.

    • It will help you get a much better understanding and a lot more clarity of the situation

  23. Thank you for all detail guides. I learn more tips about GA throughout this post.

  24. Lalit Kumar :

    Phew! Just when you begin to think that you know enough about it, Google Analytics throws a few more pleasant surprises! Thanks for these great tips, Neil!

  25. Vinodh Reddy :

    Thanks for these great tips. I really like your blog.

  26. Tushar Suryawanshi :

    Thanks for the information Neil, I do generate referral reports on weekly basis, but i am little bit confused on the difference between landing page and destination page?


    • This article does a great job at clarifying that

  27. Nandita @Digital Marketing :

    Wow Great Idea Thanks a lot. Very interesting Article.

  28. Thanks Neil!!!
    Very useful for beginners such as me!!!

  29. Hey Neil, Thanks for your great article. I learned some new techniques after reading this. Keep posting. I like your article.

  30. sumit vasudeva :

    A great piece of learning, very helpful to use analytic in a better manner for content strategy.

    Thanks for sharing.

  31. I find Google Analytics very confusing so any articles like this are a great help. I still need to source decent backlinks to my site though, so an article on this would be useful…

    • Steve,

      Sourcing decent backlinks naturally to your site to boost SEO only requires writing lots and lots of quality content. And longform content at that. Are you writing everyday and posting to your blog or website?

    • Thanks, I’ll consider that Steve

  32. Thank you Neil for this useful article. Waiting for your next post, i know it will be more exciting, you’re awesome

  33. Great article. Thanks!

    I haven’t spent enough time working with Google Analytics to take advantage of what it has to offer (or even how to set it up correctly).

    I did try importing Avinash Kaushik’s Content Efficiency Analysis Report. That’s a great report. The first column (Page Title) is confusing. The report says that it comes from the site. Most of the titles are directly from the site. However, there are at least 3 titles that don’t make sense: “Home page”, “Home Page”, and “(not set)”. These are appearing on every view where I’ve added the report. On some of my views, there’s also one strange one called “”. What are these pages?

    • I am not 100% sure… I don’t have any strange ones appearing on my end. Will look into it…

  34. Prakash Swami :

    Nice Ideas! Another great content efficiency analysis report tool.

    • Prakash,

      And was hoping you write more in your blog comment. What happened to the meat and potatoes “meaning the rest of what you’re saying” in your blog comment here? Did you run out of “blog commenting gas” that fast ? L 😛 L

    • Let me know if you have any questions about this

  35. Nice post, the one thing I’ve found digital marketers struggle with Google Analytics is it’s complexity, I know for capable marketers like Neil and others it doesn’t seem that way, however for most people it’s quite overwhelming with all the data, filters and options going on that most don’t even use 10% of it’s capability, they simply use it to check traffic stats.

    I think that’s why other website analytic software tools will always have a market, because they make things simple and easy to understand for the layman. Also I’m surprised Google Analytics hasn’t incorporated heatmaps/recordings into their app as that seems like a huge part of analyzing traffic and what it’s actually doing on your site. I think that’s why apps like HotJar have taken off.

    • They never had heatmaps, but they have had click maps going for a while, they just don’t seem to work that well imo, yet

  36. What are the other tools you use to track your data and analyze it? I love this article and I am trying to setup my account. Thank you!

    • Start here Jordan

  37. Heide Padilla :

    There was a time when I got obsessed with my analytics and I’ve been watching it not just once a day but several times in a day. But then I just got depressed when it is just too slow for me and I stopped watching it. In fact, it probably has been a month since I looked at it. I told myself that I would just continue to write and publish because it is the one thing that I’m passionate about blogging, not the analytics and see how it goes. I might check out my analytics if that changed.

    I guess for the little guys like myself, it’s still too early to be analyzing blog traffic. I have to grow it first. But these are really great things to note because that it exactly where I want my blog to be heading towards.

    • It’s easy to get hooked on it and letting your imagination kind of run wild which can raise your expectations a little too high. Remember to leave your emotions out of it

  38. Anu Sindwani :

    Hi Neil

    Thanks for the post.Its very useful.I would like to request you please write something about “how can we do proper tracking of paid conversions from GA” Like from fb paid conversions or adwords.


  39. Nice piece of information as always, i will definitely make some slight changes in my analytics according to your tips.

    Thanks for sharing.

  40. And get a heat map for even better understanding

  41. Robin Khokhar :

    Hi Neil,
    I have always learned something different and unique from you. This time also it’s good.
    Thanks for sharing.

  42. Ataib Ur Rehman :

    Nice Post Neil. Thanks

  43. Hamza Sheikh :

    First of all, thanks for sharing the reading speed website. It was cool and let me enjoy a little bit social media attention.

    GA is one of the best tool for a marketer, developer, and everyone who has anything to do with web. It allows so much to learn about the readers. I have set my own goals and metrics to record the behavior of my visitors. I usually use acquisitions to see how visitors are behaving. Also implemented heat maps to see what is really happening around on the pages.

    • That’s great Hamza, I bet you’re learning a lot from how your users interact on your site.

      What have you learned from your heat maps so far?

  44. Hello Neil,
    Indeed you explain on google analytics is very deep. I think in G.A people see that the traffic is come for social media or others. And the time is also important. Although thanx for sharing best information.

    • The more clear you are about things like this, the more effective your decision making will be

  45. Nice: To the best of our knowledge GWT notices should be active

  46. Hi Neil,

    Thanks for the information. I’ve already implemented GA on my site and most of the times I use it just to see how many visitors are coming. I was not much aware about these detailed information. I think I should spend some more time to check this.

    • Glad this was helpful! Yeah, definitely stay on top of what’s happening with these numbers and you’ll become much more effective

  47. Vijayalakshmi :

    Thanks for your Sharing ! keep posting Neil

  48. Jenny Stewart :

    When I have no ideas for the next post. I always access GA to find some keywords that have much click to write about it. Thanks for the infomation.

  49. Interesting guide! I guess exploring visitors interests via GA can help to increase conversion, the thing I didn’t consider before 😀

  50. Diljeet singh ranaut :

    Hello Niel ,this is Diljeet ,i need your help

  51. Thanks Neil for the post! I never miss a single peice of content from your side. i love to read your blog. Somehow you always motivate me to work hard. I just want to ask a question from you if you don’t mind that “Is Adding analytics is also one of the important factor to rank a website on google? “

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  53. Salman Abideen :

    Great article Neil. I agree that given the qualities of GA it’s certainly worth the time and effort to make utilize it for various analytical purposes. I thing the metrics you mentioned are key in gauging content quality and I’m certainly using to review the pieces of content that I’ve created. BTW – thanks for the speed reading test site….this is something I’m trying to improve on as well….in addition to all the SEO / Business skills so it will be a huge help to baseline my speed and manage the process to improve.

  54. Daniel Hochuli :

    A caveat that you should really make about Interest reports is that they are notoriously unreliable and you need to that data with a heavy pinch of salt.

    Interest reports usually only show you a snapshot of the trackable traffic from GSN and GDN as well as other Google assets (such as G+). I’ve seen this traffic snapshot be as low as 6% of all user data. I would cautiously warn people about making changes to your content, website or goals based on unreliable reports.

    Use Insights as a ‘guide’ at best but don’t let it be your argument for change.

    • Right, that’s why I mentioned that split testing is so important. i.e. to make strategic changes in a split-testing environment. Eventually the analytics will become more reliable and actionable. Thanks, Daniel!

  55. Hi Neil, I am fond of reading each and every post of yours.
    I am new in blogging and will check once my site will start getting traffic, it will help me to become practical with what you have mentioned. It sounds really interesting. 🙂

  56. Pushpkant Mahawar :

    hello neil Patel Sir thanks for that article. I was just sending an email when I started reading it, so I think I need to change the way I work. But it was really helpful. I’ll try it!

  57. For years have been using Google webmaster tool only . As it shows some analysis also but reading your article will surely get Google analytic installed on all my websites .Thanks for sharing .

  58. These are some easy and simple things that are critical to success. However, keyword query search filters, and custom URL tagging are very important steps I would include over auto-tagging alone. Thanks for the post!

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  60. Thank you for advices, I decided to get second degree and your site became very helpful in my situation.

  61. Will definitely bookmark this, and read again once my site have more posts and traffic, so I can analyze it properly using your tips. Thanks for this Neil