How web analytics informs online journalism

In the third of four videos, some of the BBC’s leading digital journalists explain to digital consultant Esra Dogramaci how web analytics aids their journalism. Analytics needs to be at the heart of the digital newsroom, says James Montgomery, director of digital at BBC World Service Group. Without it you may not be able to do your job.

Web analytics can help journalists understand how people find, consume and interact with online content.

Whether through tracking page views or user interaction, how content performs can be accurately measured. And when you know how you are being measured you can change what you write and how you write it.

Good analytics will tell you who is visiting the site, what pages they visit, what content they like the most, and the least, what content is shared the most, what people interact with the most, and what people talk about the most.

So, an increase in unique visitors will indicate growth. The number of visits per unique visitor will point to ‘loyalty’. And a rise in the number of page views per visit shows increased ‘engagement’.

In terms of search engine optimisation (SEO), a web page will generally rank higher in search results if you write using words that your audience commonly uses. It is important to use the best key words and key phrases in headlines, straplines and body text.

But try not to allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the data. Learn just enough to know the metrics you need; experiment; ask for performance data; monitor your impact; and always question what the metrics mean. 

In this video, BBC News website editor Steve Herrmann and mobile editor Nathalie Malinarich invite us into their morning editorial meeting to show how the numbers help their decision-making.

BBC Global News digital development editor Dima Sishkin meanwhile talks about the need to know how to write for mobile. 

Other BBC journalists in the video include Carolina Robino, senior editor at BBC Mundo, Mark Frankel, assistant editor for BBC Social News, and David Cuen, former social media editor at BBC World Service.

This is the third of four videos covering the basics of web analytics. Part one explains what web analytics is all about; while part two shows how BBC News uses analytics tools. Part four is a brief video on some of the key terms - along with a glossary.