New Enhancements in Station Analytics: Track Author and Tag Performance; Compare Local vs National

May 22, 2013

There's a lot of good stuff coming from the Station Analytics System these days, so if you haven't yet signed up you can read more about it, but I know you're going to like this new batch of enhancements that are rolling out this week.  In addition to launching dashboards, we are supercharging the data that is in your Premium Google Analytics account by taking advantage of Custom Variables.  Starting this week we are sending the following new pieces of data for Core Publisher post pages: Author, Tags, and Org_Id.  This means that as a station you'll be able to see which authors are getting the most traffic on their stories, which tags are most popular and if local or national content is driving engagement.

Not excited yet? Here's why you should be: This is only for Core Publisher stations today, but other SAS stations can easily add this data to their pages.  We've used the guidelines from so that we can have a clear and consistent method for identifying trackable elements using metadata.  For example the SAS tag looks for meta data on the page that matches the tag "author" when it finds the meta data it sends that value to Google Analytics.  All you have to do is make sure the data is added to the pages that you want to track.

Here's the format for each of those meta data elements:

  • <meta name="author" content="Courtney Collins">
  • <meta name="org_id" content="0">
  • <meta name="keywords" content="The High Five"> 

The next thing you need to know is how to find this data and create reports that you can use.  Most Custom Variables are available in the standard reporting interface so to use these you'll have to build a report the "Customization" tab by clicking on "+New Custom Report".

Use the Customization tab and click " New Custom Report"

Now you can create a report from scratch! Start by giving you report a title in the "General Information" section.   Then you can move to the "Report Content" and give the tab a helpful name like "Author by Page".  If you like drillable reports you can keep the default type of "explorer" but for this report I want to select "flat" so that I can see multiple dimensions at once (warning: you can only pick 2 dimensions in a flat report. If you need more than that you'll have to go to the API).  To add a dimension I click on "+add dimension" then I select "Custom Variable (Value 11)" by typing 11 into the search box and clicking on the item I want.  Be sure to select the value here - we'll deal with the Key later.  when I am done selecting dimensions and metrics my report looks like this:

Custom Report design in Google Analytics

Now the next important step is to add a filter.  Custom Variable slots can be reused for many purposes, this is why each custom variable slot has a key which identifies the data and a value which is the data.  In this report I only want to see values that are authors so I create a filter on "Custom Variable (Key 11)".  This is where I tell Google Analytics that I only want this report to include values that are names of Authors.  When I am done my filter looks like this:

Create a filter for a custom report in Google Analytics

Before I click "save" I want to create a new tab  that will give me a slightly different view of this data, but rather than starting from scratch I want reuse what I have already built so I will click on "duplicate this tab" and then remove the dimension "page".  Now this report shows me the total pageviews for each author, instead of including detail for the individual stories.  I'll name this tab "Author total pageviews" and then save.  

How to duplicate a report tab in Google Analytics custom reports

Once this report is saved I can manipulated it in the usual ways by selecting date ranges or changing the sorts.  To see the most popular content or Author I can click on the "pageviews" heading to sort by this column or I can click on the "Custom Variable..." heading to sort by author name.  If I want I can even use the email link to schedule this report to run weekly and send it to my newsroom staff.  If you schedule a report be sure to change the default amount of data from 10 rows to a more appropriate level by using the "show rows" selection at the bottom of the report.

Changing the amount of data in your Google Analytics report using "show rows"

If you want to keep tabs on who the top performers are in your newsroom you can even create a widget for your dashboard that will show you the top 10 Authors by pageviews by clicking on "add to dashboard". Now I can get quick updates that look like this right in my Google Analytics Dashboard.

Google Analytics Dashboard Widget for Custom Report

Follow the same directions to work with data for tags (in custom variable 12), org_id (in custom variable 13) or Page Category (in custom variable 7).  Org id for Core Publisher stations will have a value of '0' for content that was local and produced by the station, or a value of '1' for NPR content.  If another station's content was retrieved from the API then the value will be that station's API key.  This gives us the ability in the roll up reporting to see how your content is performing on your website and also on other station sites.  For non-Core Publisher stations any value that you set in meta data for "org_id" can be captured in this custom variable.  Tags are the tags or keywords associated with the story.  Page categories are built using the examples provided when you set up your domains in SAS.

You can also use a shared definition of the Authors report by clicking on this link.