Note: This article deals with Universal Analytics. You can read about content grouping in Google Analytics 4 here.
Want to be able to quickly analyze your website based on your page topics or product categories?
Why not use the content grouping feature in Google Analytics!
Content grouping can be a valuable analysis tool for e-commerce stores with lots of product listings and blogs that frequently post new content. You can use content groups to evaluate traffic, conversions, and page value based on the custom categories you define in Google Analytics.
But creating content groups isn't exactly straightforward. There are several different ways to build content groups in Google Analytics. And figuring out if your website can make use of this feature can be very confusing.
This guide and checklist will walk you through how to:
- Figure out if adding content groupings will be beneficial to the analysis of your website.
- Determine if your website has the right structure in place to use content groupings.
- Organize your content groups.
- Build your content groups inside of Google Analytics
- Audit and evaluate the performance of your content groups
Content grouping in Google Analytics
Google Analytics allows you to create up to five content groupings. These groupings are accessible in the view setting of your Google Analytics property.
Within each content grouping, you can define as many categories (groups) of content as you want.
For example, if you run an e-commerce site that retails outdoor gear, you could create a content grouping for hiking shoes. Within that content grouping, you can categorize every shoe by brand, style or size.
Or if you have a website that publishes lots of content (like Jeffalytics), you could create a content grouping to categorize the subject matter on your site by topic, word count, or publishing date.
But building content groupings isn't ideal for every site. After all, there is some front-end work involved in categorizing, organizing and evaluating your content groups.
So, let's start by figuring out if you can benefit from using content groups to analyze your website performance.
Step 1: Determine if you can benefit from using content groupings
Before you start building your content groups, take a minute to review your website's size and structure. The size and structure of your site will factor heavily into whether or not content groups will add value to your website analysis.
Is the site you’re analyzing large enough to benefit from content grouping?
☐ Yes, my site has 100s to 1000s of pages
☐ No, my site is very small and doesn’t publish much content
If you have a small website that doesn't have a lot of pages, then creating content groups is probably not necessary. You should be able to do your analysis using the site content and landing page reports.
But big sites with lots of blog posts and product listings may be much easier to analyze when you group and categorize the content.
How will you create your content groupings?
Next, you want to evaluate how much effort it will take to build your content groups. To create content groups, you have to tell Google Analytics how to organize your content. Defining the rules Google Analytics uses to categorize your web pages can be very easy or very hard to do, depending on your site structure.
There are three different processes you can use in Google Analytics to define your content categories.
1. Rule definitions (based on your URL structure)
If your URL structure is clear, for example, maindomain.com/google-analytics-content-groupings, building URL based content groups will be a breeze.
☐ I can use rule definitions to create content groups because my site has a clearly defined URL structure (for example mydomain.com/this-is-clear).
But if your URLs include a bunch of gibberish, like page.aspx?guid=a0dfw0dj3j39er, then you won't be able to use this method to create meaningful content groups.
2. Extractions (based on page titles)
If your page titles are tagged and clearly defined, for example, “How to Create Content Grouping in Google Analytics,” then you can use page titles to create content groups.
☐ I can use extraction to create content groups because my site has clear title tags that indicate the purpose of the page.
But if your page titles are not clear, or they don't describe the purpose of the page, you can't use page titles to create useful content groups.
3. Tracking code
You can tag all your web pages with a tracking code that tells Google Analytics which content category to assign to that page. Tagging your pages to create content groups can be a costly web development project.
☐ I will have to use tracking code to create content groups because my site does not have clear URLs or page titles.
Based on the method you'll need to use (option 1, 2, or 3) to create content groups, ask yourself if this solution will be worth the investment?
If you can use rule definition or extraction to create custom content groups, generally speaking, creating content groups should not be difficult, and this solution will be worth the one-time process investment.
Evaluate both your website size and structure together to see if it would be in your best interest to set up content groups.
Are content groupings going to be beneficial to your analysis?
☐ Yes – Because while the site I’m analyzing is not huge, organizing my content will provide useful marketing insights. Also, I can use rule definitions or extraction to create content groups.
☐ Yes – Because the site I’m analyzing is enormous, and the ability to quickly see how our content categories are performing will result in valuable marketing insights.
☐ Yes – Because this strategy will be easy to implement, and seeing the KPIs related to our content categories is critical to our growth.
☐ No – Because I can not use extraction or rule definition to create content groups, so I will have to use tracking code. This strategy will be costly and time-consuming.
☐ No – Because I only need to see how one or two categories of content are performing on my site. Instead, I can analyze these categories of content using advanced segments.
Now that we know why we are creating content groupings, we can start organizing our content.
Step 2: Organize your content groups
You can create as many categories as you want within each of the five content groupings Google allows you to build. Keep in mind, the goal of your custom solution is to simplify your analysis. So try not to go overboard with categorizing your pages.
☐ Define your content categories and write them down.
Writing down your content categories will help you look at them to see if they make sense. When you look at your content categories, ask yourself: Are these categories meaningful to your business? And will seeing KPIs related to these categories provide insights you can use?”
If the answer is yes, proceed to the next step. If the answer is no, rework your content groups before moving to the next step.
Step 3: Test your content groups before you build them
Review your content categories using an advanced segment
If you have chosen rule definition or extraction as your preferred way to build your content groups, you want to evaluate your groups in an advanced segment before you build them.
☐ Create an advanced segment to review each content category you’ve identified
☐ Use your advanced segments to evaluate the results your content grouping will generate
☐ Your advanced segments should be equally proportionate and/or they should be reporting useful data.
☐ Save your segments. (You’ll use these segments to check the data reported in your content groups later on.)
If you're satisfied with how your content categories look in your advanced segments, save the segments you created. You can use these advanced segments to periodically double-check the accuracy of the data you see in your content groups.
Step 4: Build your content groups
If you’re using rule definition or extraction to create content groups:
☐ Define your content categories using regular expressions.
Pages -Matches Regrex – google-analytics|google-marketing-platform|track
Page Titles – (.*Google Analytics).*
Your regular expression will define which URLs or page titles are recorded in each content category.
If you’re using tracking code to create content groups:
☐ Share the code needed to create content groups with your development team.
☐ Define your content grouping needs and provide them to your development team.
☐ Work with your development team to identify values that will be used to tag your content categories.
☐ Or, work with your development team to identify values that exist in your CMS that can be accessed using variables in Google Tag Manager (i.e., content categories, site navigation structure, etc.)
Order your content categories
☐ Build your content groups in a hierarchical order, starting with your most specific categories at the top, and saving your most broad categories for last.
Content categories are like buckets under a waterfall. Anything that doesn't get caught in the first bucket flows into the next one.
Step 5: Audit and evaluate your content grouping
After you've built and enabled your content grouping, you want to make sure it works. Because content groups are generated based on your website structure (URLs and page titles) or tracking code, they can be prone to breaking. Also, it's likely your groups won't catch every page you intended to categorize on your first attempt. So, you'll want to adjust your regular expressions in your groups after you see your initial data.
☐ Check your content grouping after 24 hours to make sure data is being received in your content categories.
Content groups do not work retroactively. You'll have to wait approximately 24 hours to see the initial data they report.
☐ Compare your content grouping to your advanced segments to make sure the numbers match.
☐ Train your marketing team on how to use content grouping and how to apply them to Google Analytics reports.
You can use your content groupings in many of your behavior reports, including your all pages, landing pages, behavior flow and navigation summary report.
You can also use content grouping with your event pages report.
And you can apply your content grouping to your custom reports and advanced segments.
☐ Periodically check your content groups every 30 days to make sure all your content data is being received correctly.
As I mentioned, you can create up to five content groupings in Google Analytics. You can use our checklist to help you repeat and reproduce this process for every grouping your want to build
Leave a comment with your questions
If you have a question about content groupings, leave a comment below. I’ll answer your questions in the comments. And I might even pick a handful of questions to answer in an upcoming Google Analytics content grouping video.