Know Your Readers: How to Set Up Online Magazines With Groupings in Google Analytics

Know Your Readers: How to Set Up Online Magazines With Groupings in Google Analytics


online digital magazines readership

According to a recent survey, 78% of search marketers say grouping pages in analytics suites by content type, rather than just by keyword or general site performance, is more important this year than it was last year[1].

What’s behind this overwhelming belief? Have keywords become less important? Or have pages/content types become more important?

The answer is… yes and yes. Over the past few years the major search engines have made a series of changes to limit access to keyword data and encourage marketers to focus on overall user intent[2]. At the same time, publishers’ own tactics have evolved in ways that sometimes make keyword data too granular and top-level site performance too broad.

This is particularly true for marketers who publish online magazines. After all, knowing the overall metrics for your offering is nice, but that knowledge doesn’t help much in understanding exactly what’s working with your magazine and what isn’t. Similarly, keyword data can be useful for examining organic and paid search trends, but it often doesn’t provide the necessary intelligence about user behavior.

Content groupings, on the other hand, can give you exactly these insights. By taking a bit of time to map your analytics to the structure of your magazine, you’ll be able to see how users are interacting with your content types, where they are converting, and what needs to be tweaked.

So how exactly can you do this? How do you set-up these content groupings for your online magazine?

Below are three (fairly) simple steps to help you get started. Some of the elements are specific to Google Analytics—since that’s the most commonly-used tool—but the general principles apply to most analytics suites.

Step 1. Figure Out Which Metrics Matter to You

Before adding grouping elements to your Google Analytics, it’s important to first step back and determine what metrics matter most to you. Or, put another way, how do you measure success?

We’ve covered some important metrics for online (digital) magazine publishers in an earlier post—including device usage, audience size, visitor flow, conversions, and time spent. However, depending on your particular goals, there may also be other elements that are crucial.

Why is determining key metrics important? Because knowing them will provide clarity as you try to establish which content groupings to create. For example, if conversions are important then you may want to create a group that includes all your pages with CTA elements.

Step 2. Determine Your Content Groupings

Once you’ve decided on your key performance indicators, it’s time to determine your content groupings. A key thing to note here is that there is a difference between “groupings” and “groups” within Google Analytics.

Basically, the two are part of a hierarchy, and groups live within groupings. Right now you can only have five groupings in Google Analytics, but as many groups as you want within those (i.e., one “Authors” grouping and infinite individual authors grouped within it).

Five content groupings may sound limited, but you probably don’t want more than that since tracking too many can become unwieldy.

As for which groupings to create, there are many options. For online (digital) magazine publishers, here are some of the most common ones:

- The content sections in your magazine.

- Your individual authors and contributors.

- Pages targeted at specific audience types.

- Various types of content (i.e., editorial, news, in-depth, slideshows, etc.).

- Advertising pages or conversion pages.

Step 3. Create Your Groupings

OK, now that you know how you want to segment your magazine, it’s time to create the actual groupings in Google Analytics.

Begin by going to your Admin panel in Google Analytics, then to View -> Content Grouping.

Onine Magazines

Next, select the “+New Content Grouping” box.


Once the page loads, assign the new group a name (such as “Authors” or “Magazine Sections”).

Now things get a little bit complicated. Google provides three methods for establishing groupings: 1) Use an altered version of your Analytics tracking code for each group; 2) Use “extraction,” meaning that groupings are created based on data dimensions such as your URL structure; or 3) Use “rule definitions,” which is essentially extraction with a bit more control.

Each of these approaches has its pluses and minuses, and the best option depends on your particular goals and situation. The pros and cons of all three are clearly outlined on the Google Analytics new groupings information page, so I’d suggest reading through the explanation of all three options before picking one[3].


Depending on which approach you take, Google Analytics with either automatically create groups within the new grouping, or you will have to manually establish them with rules (i.e. tell Analytics how to determine the various authors within the “Authors” grouping).

Once that’s done, you can finally access the new grouping in Google Analytics. One thing to note is that you won’t see it broken out into its own section. Rather, each content grouping will appear as a primary dimension within the normal analytics pages.


At first, this may not seem all that exciting (who needs yet another dimension, right?). However, it really does pay-off hugely over time. Good groupings allow you to view key metrics at exactly the level you want, and with the added dimensions you can create custom reports and dashboards to get the perspectives you most desire.

In many ways, groupings are the link between content creation and success. If set up correctly they allow you to see how the various aspects of your digital magazine are performing, and ultimately enable you to make the right adjustments to reach your goals.

You have seconds to grab and hold the attention of your prospects. Learn more about how to stand out, improve customer communications and make the best of your online custom magazines!

Tweet this:  Have keywords become less important? Or have pages/content types become more important?

Tweet this: In many ways, groupings are the link between content creation and success.


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