How to use Google Analytics for long tail analysis

Google Analytics is a terrific web analytics tool and does a few things very well including collecting data about people that interact on your site.  But what do you do with and how can you use that data to help you grow your site?  This is where the topic of long tail analysis comes in to help paint the complete picture.

What is long tail analysis anyways?

long tail graph

Long tail analysis is also known as “Frequency Distribution” or “Probability Distribution” “is the large number of occurrences far from the “head” or central part of a distribution of popularities, probabilities or such.” Source: WikiPedia

Where that applies to Google Analytics and you site is understanding that you can pull reports on your content to understand where the popularity is in those key articles and also understanding the “tail” or those rare occurrences where people express interest by reading your content.  For example, if you run a blog like I do then you are always looking for ideas for new articles and content.  One way to do this is to look at what people are interested in (those popular articles) and look at the stats associated to (less popular articles).  According to this theory, long tail analysis can help reveal additional opportunities when it comes to outliers.

Now that we know what long tail analysis is let’s apply that to Google Analytics by looking at website content stats.

Google Analytics, content and your data

Google Analytics - Content Drilldown ReportNow its time to Google Analytics and your content keeping in mind that we are going to look at it in respect to long tail analysis.  The first thing that we need to do is generate a report in Google Analytics for the data we want to analyze.  I would suggest choosing a larger date range of data to get a better picture like a month, 6 month period or a year to get the real picture.  What we are looking at today are the standard content reports that Google Analytics provides.  Select the content drill down report under site content reports in Google Analytics.

Once you’ve done this you will notice that you’ve got a report on all your site’s content in terms of the page views, bounce rates and more stats about your content.  What you need to do next is to export the report into something like a CSV file or another file type like a PDF to view all the data on one page.

Now that we’ve got our report and data associated to the content on our site the only thing left to do is to analyze tail.  Because we are looking at data where people actually clicked on our site’s content we know that these are pieces of content that people are interested in and from there we can begin to make informed decisions about the type of content that people seem to be interested.

Google Analytics - Content Drilldown Report Export

A couple of things that I like about this are that by default it will rank content from the most amount of pageviews to the least amount of pageviews.  Another thing that you can apply the concept of long tail analysis to is looking at keywords, products you are selling on your site and other areas where you feel you can improve on and all of it can be done in Google Analytics.


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