How to Achieve Better Content Analysis By Categorizing Content

Published February 14, 2014

If you manage or produce content for a website which you are monitoring in Google Analytics or a similar service (and wow should you ever be), then you are likely to already know the importance of analyzing your content’s performance. Being able specifically pick out what content is working and what isn’t will lead to much more informed decisions about the type of content to produce in the future.

But, let's envision a scenario where content analysis and management isn’t so straightforward. Perhaps your website isn’t focused on one topic, or your site produces a vast amount of content under several different sections and within these different sections are also a wide variety of topics. How do we separate and analyze each of these sections in an efficient and accurate manner?

This is where proper content categorization comes in. Categorization is a way of taxonomizing the content we produce by using unique labels that group related pieces of content together. By properly categorizing your site's content by its section and topic, we can analyze each of these sections/topics independent of one another. If we are able to break down data like this, we can be much more effective with our analyzation of our content’s performance.

The two methods we use for categorizing content are as follows:

1) Place the section and topic in the URL of the page. If we run a blog that has a TV section and we are posting an article in that section about The Simpsons, our URL for that article would be:

Not only does this help with content categorization but is also better for SEO.

2) Use custom variables in Google Analytics. By using custom variables you are placing an invisible tag on a page that Google Analytics can read and use to sort different pages. Going back to our TV article example you could place two custom variables (Google allows up to five per page for extremely granular categorization) one for the section, TV and one for the topic, The Simpsons.

Once we have finished categorizing our content we could have a hierarchy that looks like this:

Categorized Content Hierarchy and Taxonomy Outline
Time spent researching and outlining the categories that your company will be or may already be producing content for will help you focus your content creation process and set up your website in a manner that's easier to derive meaningful analytics from.

The next question is: How do we work with our new categories?

Using a simple page views metric, starting at the most granular level for our set up and working our way back towards a more general level, we will walk through some of the benefits of proper content categorization.

First, we want to see how our Simpsons articles and only The Simpsons articles are stacking up against each other in terms of page views in Google Analytics.

Before categorization, this meant bringing up a large Google Analytics page views table and painstakingly searching out each Simpsons article by hand or or by manually filtering out every article not related to The Simpsons for that same table. This makes me sad just writing about it in the hypothetical.

Before categorization, this meant bringing up a large Google Analytics page views table and painstakingly searching out each…article… This makes me sad just writing about it in the hypothetical.

Instead, with proper categorization, we can now easily tell our page views table in Google Analytics to include our content that has The Simpsons URL or Custom Variable. Now, the table consists of nothing but our Simpsons articles - making it easy to compare them against one another.

Now we want to see how all our articles written for the TV section are performing. This time we tell our table to only include results that contain TV in the URL or Custom Variable. Now we see all the articles written about TV and can see which of them are garnering the most page views. We can also find trends and points of interest that are exclusive to this section. For instance, we may find that this past month an article we wrote about The Simpsons was extremely popular, receiving almost double that page views of our next most popular article within the TV category, a piece written about The Big Bang Theory. This would be much more difficult to figure out if all our articles from different sections were not conveniently separated out for us by category.

Another way to examine our TV section is to compare our topics against one another. Instead of all our articles, we have our table show all the topics under the TV. This way we could easily compare total page views for The Simpsons, The Big Bang Theory, and any other topics we write about for TV. We can see which topics get more views than others, for instance we could see that our Simpsons and Big Bang Theory topics are riding high for this month while our Hannibal and Game of Thrones topics have dipped in popularity.

So we have our TV section nicely broken down, we can analyze all our articles per topic, all of articles exclusive to that section, and compare all TV topics against each other. But in addition to TV, we also have a movie section, a music section, and an internet video section. We want to see how all of these sections stack against each other.

Black and white etching of an abacus.
The Abacus: a most inefficient tool for web analytics.

To do this, we now have our table show all our section’s URLs or Custom Variables. Now we can see how TV, Movies, Music and Internet Video compare. Maybe, TV is getting a lot of page views, Movies is in second, but the Internet Video section is in the sewer. Once again, figuring this out without proper categorization would mean totaling up page views of individual articles by hand and intuitively knowing which section they belong to. At that point you may as well being doing your web analytics with this:

Finally, our site is spread too thin. We have too many topics for the amount of people writing for our website, and that is causing a drop in our content’s quality. We don’t have the resources to add any additional content producers so we need to cut some topics and make things easier on our writers. To figure out which topics to cut we are going to compare all of them across all of our sections.

This is the same process we discussed above for comparing all our topics in TV, except now we have our table include our three other sections. With this view we can see our website’s underperforming topics. Turns out, nobody cares about our Indie Movies topic in Movies, nor our articles on Acid Jazz in Music and absolutely no one is reading or converting through the articles in the TV category about Ice Road Truckers. Now we know which topics to cut and our content will not be spread so thin.

This is only scratching the surface of the powerful analytics available when content is properly categorized. But even with this simple categorization you are already able to perform much more effective content analysis and make better informed, more actionable decisions about your content.