How To Measure Content Interest Using Google Analytics and AddThis
How To Measure Content Interest Using Google Analytics and AddThis
How To Measure Content Interest Using Google Analytics and AddThis

A while back I showed you how to visualize user interest in your content. It was the last of a trilogy of posts on Content Interest Index (CII). Now here’s a real-world way that you can measure CII on your site. It uses Google Analytics and the social sharing application AddThis. Both are free.

What are the benefits of measuring CII? You’ll be able to see, right in Google Analytics, how many people are emailing, “Liking,” Tweeting and in other ways loving your content. This is particularly important for content that moves people to buy something. The more people who are interested, the more eventually purchase!

As I’ve mentioned in another of my “CII Trilogy,” this metric isn’t for every site. For instance, there are other, better ways to measure interest in a blog. Requirements I had listed there are as follows:

  1. Your site needs to receive tons of traffic — enough to calculate CII with statistically high reliability. I’m talking hundreds of views to a page every week.
  2. The site needs to be measured by a cookie-based system such as Google Analytics, Omniture or Clicktracks.
  3. It’s best if you have a content management system that retains archived copies of older versions of a page. This allows for comparisons. If a page’s CII plummets, you will want to know why, and revert back to a prior version!

If your site meets these criteria, let’s get started!

I use as this example AddThis sharing. To the right is an example of what shows when you “mouse over” the AddThis icon. This is generated by Javascript. You simply register with AddThis and they give you the code. But in my recommendations below, you would do a little altering.

The Magic of Open Source

Don’t worry about violating any Terms of Service. I chose AddThis because they are extremely open about their API, and encourage this type of “code hacking.” Similar to CII, it’s something we are all free to build upon!

Once you’ve grabbed the AddThis code, you’ll need to make many changes. Here is the code block I used recently:

In the code above, you’ll need to make some changes:

  • Change the “xx-xxxxxxxxxxx” with your own AddThis code
  • Change with your own site’s domain name
  • Replace the list of share applications, such as “facebook, twitter, google, etc.” with your own list

For instance, if you want people to use AddThis to provide “Email A Friend” capabilities, just replace one of the above with “email.”

Needless to say, you will also need to have placed the Google Analytics Tracking Code (GATC) on your page. I use the “async” flavor of GATC, which is called in the line beginning _gaq.push(.

What You’ll See

When you’re done, you’ll see that for every “share” event triggered by the AddThis API, a virtual page view is created. Each page view is nested in the “virtual/IAG/” folder. IAG stands for Interest Action Gallery, which is what I call this AddThis application. (An IAG — short for Interest Action Gallery — can be any set of sharing functions. I described the concept in this post).

For each page where an interest action is taken, this system creates a record of that action. Here are examples of actions that might be attributed to a page called “/products/child-seats/xyz-series/”:

  • /virtual/IAG/products/child-seats/xyz-series/facebook/
  • /virtual/IAG/products/child-seats/xyz-series/twitter/
  • /virtual/IAG/products/child-seats/xyz-series/facebook/
  • /virtual/IAG/products/child-seats/xyz-series/twitter/
  • /virtual/IAG/products/child-seats/xyz-series/stumbleupon/

This sample tells us that for this page (/products/child-seats/xyz-series/) there were two each of Facebook “Likes” and tweets, and one addition to StumbleUpon. This is a tiny sample. You’d ordinarily be handling dozens, or even hundreds, of similar scoring actions.

At the end of a reporting session, apply a scoring model to each of these categories of actions and calculate the final CII score for that page. I blogged about that scoring model in this post. The resulting score for the page is then divided by the total number of page views for the page  — excluding these virtual page views,  of course. The final score is used for that page, for that period. It is used for comparison with other pages’ scores, but especially for comparison with prior time periods for the same page.

Any sudden rise or drop in interest can be a clue to how your target audience is taking to your content. As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to look at what has changed within the content of a page recently in order to understand what could have moved the score so much.

Have fun with this new metric and be sure to let me know how it works for your site.

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About the Author

Jeff Larche
Jeff Larche has a deep background in database marketing and direct response. His is a consultant specializing in CRM and interactive marketing with Accenture. His own blog, which is also the name of his original consulting business, is Digital Solid. When he's not working at his day job, he's provided digital strategy support for a worthy not-for-profit, Rock the Green: mixing education about our environment with a day of great live music on Milwaukee's beautiful lakefront!

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