One of the top questions in social media marketing (and content marketing in general) is, how do you know what content is worth promoting? Will a blog post go viral? Is a tweet less or more likely to work? Predicting the future is difficult, expensive work. It’s certainly possible, using predictive analytics, to get a rough sense of what might work and what might not work, but few companies have access to that much technology and expertise.
Instead, most marketers look back at their analytics at the end of the week, month, or quarter. This makes taking advantage of trending content difficult. What if there were a way, if not to predict the future, to at least have an early warning system about what content you should promote? You can have that, and you only need Google Analytics(tm) and an alarm clock to do it.
We want to know when something is going to take off. To get a better sense of that, we have to understand when some content is ahead of the curve, when something is performing better than expected. In turn, to understand that, we must know what the baseline is, early enough that we can do something about it.
To start, we want to understand what the hourly traffic on average looks like for your website. We’ll do that by creating the aforementioned baseline. Open up Google Analytics. There is no default hour of day report, so we’ll need to construct one under the Customization menu:
Create a new report that looks at Sessions by Hour:
In the report that’s created, you’ll want to find how much traffic your site has gotten by hour, by percentage. Sort the table by Hour, and then turn it into a bar chart:
Next, do some quick math and start adding. Keep adding percentages until you get to 25%. (this is what’s called the lower quartile in statistics, and means that 25% of your progress has been made) Make note of what time by hour that is – for me, that’s about 7 AM. Remember this!
Go to your general audience overview in the regular Google Analytics reporting.
Take an average of your traffic. In the example below, my site gets an average of 414 sessions per day:
Based on our earlier exploration of when I get the first 25% of my site’s traffic, 25% of 414 sessions is 103 sessions.
This number is your “alert” number. By 7 AM each day (when I should have gotten 25% of my site’s traffic), if my site has gotten more than 103 sessions, then something’s up. If it’s significantly more than 103 sessions, I might want to do some paid promotion of the content that’s taking off.
Set that in your smartphone as an alarm, and be specific so you know what to look for when the alarm goes off:
What’s Taking Off
The last thing you’ll want to know is what content to promote. Set the time frame in Google Analytics to today, then go to Acquisition > Source/Medium. Set the Secondary Dimension to Page and you can see what’s hot:
Once you know what’s hot and where, you can take concrete action. In the example above, there’s a blog post that’s doing reasonably well on Twitter. The logical next step would be to do some promotion of that tweet, maybe pay $10 to promote it.
Is this system better than a million dollar predictive analytics system? Of course not. But it’s not a bad start, doesn’t cost a million dollars, and it’s easily implementable with only Google Analytics and an alarm clock. Everyone from a Fortune 10 to a lemonade stand can implement this. Try it out and see if it helps you identify what content to promote!
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology