Recently, Google introduced web stories. For bloggers, these can be a great source of traffic to our sites. Read on to find out how to analyze your web stories data.
What is a Web Story?
According to Google, “web stories are a visually rich, full-screen content format for the web, which allow you to tap or swipe through stories.” They're like slideshows–visual stories–with videos and images similar to social media stories like the ones on Facebook and Instagram.
Google shows the stories to us through Google Discover.
The cool thing about web stories is that it has a call to action at the end where you can tell folks to click over to your blog post for more information.
How do you Make a Web Story?
You'll find lots of tools for creating web stories, but you might want to start by using Google's Web Stories WordPress plugin. It's a little quirky, but if you're used to using a graphics program like Canva, you'll pick it up quickly.
Mediavine has a great post on best practices for creating your web stories.
Analytics for Web Stories
Now that we know a bit about web stories and how to make them, let's talk about how to track your stories' results. There are many web analytics tools out there, but we're going to focus on the Google Analytics program.
I'll walk through each step you need to take and explain why. There are three things that need to be done one time, and one thing that should be done for each web story.
One Time Analytics Tasks
Web Stories Sitemap
First, submit a web stories sitemap to Google Search Console. If you're using an SEO plugin like Yoast, the sitemap will be created for you.
If you aren't using Yoast or you just want to double check to make sure that the sitemap has been submitted, just hop into Search Console.
Click on Sitemaps in the Index section on the left side of the screen. Then click on your sitemap index. You should see something like this: https://cubscoutideas.com/web-story-sitemap.xml
You'll need to submit one if it isn't there.
Create a Separate Google Analytics Property for Web Stories
According to Google, the “typical user-journey for a website is very different from stories.” For this reason, Google recommends that you create a separate Google Analytics property just for stories.
This is especially important if you're using an ad network on your site that tracks RPM. This stands for revenue per mille or revenue per thousand impressions. Including your web stories page views will artificially lower your RPMs because for the most part, they won't have any ads. Let me give you an example.
Let's say that you have 10,000 sessions and make $300. That means that your session RPM is $30 when you divide 300 by 10. Now, let's say that you got 2,500 sessions from web stories which makes your total 12,500 sessions. You still make the same $300, but now your RPM is $24 when you divide by 12.5.
So to keep our regular website data from being mingled with the web stories data, it's a good idea to create a separate property.
I promise, it isn't as hard as it sounds! These steps and the video below will walk you through setting it up. It takes less than five minutes.
Start by making sure you have the Google Web Stories plugin installed on your site.
Here are the steps to enable Google Analytics for your web stories:
- Open your Google Analytics account.
- Click on the admin gear on the bottom left side of the page.
- Click the blue Create Property button in the middle column.
- Enter the property name. Make sure you include some indicator so you'll know that is the web stories property.
- Click on Show Advanced Options.
- Click the slider to toggle on Create a Universal Analytics Property.
- Enter the URL for your web stories. For most people, it will be a new page–https://yourblogname.com/web-stories/.
- Click the Create a Universal Analytics Property Only button.
- Click Next.
- Click the business information that applies to you.
- Click Create.
- Copy the Tracking ID including the UA prefix.
- Open your WordPress dashboard.
- Click on Settings under Stories in the left sidebar.
- Enter the Google Analytics ID in the field at the top of the screen.
- Click Save.
And now you have a property just for your web stories' important metrics.
Note: If you are using the Google Site Kit plugin to add the Analytics tracking ID to your site, you won't be able to add a separate ID for web stories. My recommendation is to add your sitewide tracking ID to your site using another method. You can still see all of the important insights through Site Kit, but your code will be housed somewhere else.
Exclude URL Parameter
You may have read my post about the Facebook tracking parameter fbclid. Web stories have a similar parameter, _gl. It is related to cross-domain measurements and is part of GA4, the new Google Analytics property type.
Just like with the fbclid parameter, you'll see multiple versions of a page URL in the Behavior>>Site Content>>All Pages report.
The simple fix is to exclude that parameter following the instructions in this post.
Web Story Analytics Metrics Available
If you're using the Google Web Stories plugin, you can see several key performance indicators such as the progress that people make through your story.
For example, how many views did your story get? This is almost like impressions.
How many slides did they watch? Did they watch the first three and leave after that? If so, what should you change on that third slide to make them stay to watch the rest?
How many people watched your entire story?
Note: If you are using version 1.13.0 of Google's Web Stories for WordPress plugin and you didn't migrate to the new default analytics configuration, you'll see more metrics.
Traffic Source Tracking is Lacking
Now, all of this is great information, but what I really want to know is how many pageviews to my blog posts am I getting from web stories. What are the top pages that are being visited from web story readers?
The source for Google's web stories is direct, so if you have a lot of direct traffic and a lot of views of your stories, you could assume that the traffic is coming from the stories.
You can even make some assumptions about exactly which post is getting website traffic. For example, Easy Blog School has a web story about interlinking blog posts. If a lot of people are watching that web story and my page views to that post are higher than usual, we can assume that people are clicking over.
What we don't know is if the people clicking over from the web story are visiting other blog posts and if they are, what posts they're going to.
To solve this problem, we need to use a campaign URL for our links.
Let me give you an example. I use MailerLite. Whenever I send an email to my list, MailerLite is set up to add a campaign name to all the links. Recently, I sent an email about some free word search puzzles that I have on my site. The email had a couple of links to the puzzles and a couple of links to my home page.
I looked at Behavior>>Site Content>>All Pages, added a secondary dimension of campaign, then sorted by campaign. Here are the results.
You can see that there are many pages other than the puzzle post and the home page that are being visited because someone clicked over from that email. While we would still know that the traffic came from email, we wouldn't know the exact traffic sources if we didn't have the campaign indicator.
By creating a campaign URL for your stories, you'll be able to tell exactly which story sent traffic to your posts. Read on to learn how to create one.
Why You Need Better Data Collection
How does knowing this help us? What can we do with this important information?
First, we can work to lower our bounce rate which is when someone comes to your site and “bounces” from the landing page back to the Google search results. If traffic from one of your web stories seems to have a high bounce rate, you can review the post and add more links to other relevant posts on your blog. This will ensure that the next page they visit will be the best place for them.
Second, we can make more money. Add more affiliate links to the posts that are getting traffic. Make sure sure the products you're promoting will solve a problem for your readers.
If you use an ad network and know your RPM for specific posts, you can make sure that you include links to your highest paying posts in the posts that are being visited.
Third, the information will help us make better stories in the future. If you know that website visitors coming from a specific story tend to view a lot of other pages, you can figure out what makes that story interesting. Make future stories that have the same qualities.
Fourth, by knowing exactly how much traffic your web stories are bringing in, you can decide whether making them should continue to be a part of your content strategy.
To have this kind of data, you need to create a UTM tracking code to use in your web stories.
How to Create and Use a UTM Tracking Code (Campaign URL)
Don't let that headline fool you! This is actually super simple to do by using Google's Campaign URL Builder.
Here's what you do.
- Click over to the URL builder.
- Enter the URL of the post that you want to send traffic to. (NOT the URL of your web story).
- Enter “discover” in the campaign source field (use all lower case).
- Enter “organic” in the campaign medium field (all lower case).
- Enter whatever you want to use as the campaign name in the campaign name field. Be consistent with this. For example, I'm going to start all of mine with “ws-” for web story. Then I'll use words that tell me which post this is. I could use the entire page title, but instead, I'll just use 2 or 3 words.
- At the bottom of the page, you'll see the campaign URL to put in your web story.
Use the campaign URL in the page attachment field and anywhere else in the story that you're adding a link to a blog post.
Where to Find Campaign in Google Analytics
Go to Acquisition>>Campaigns>>All Campaigns. There, you can see information about each campaign such as user, new users, sessions, and bounce rate.
As I mentioned earlier, you can see the exact blog posts that folks are visiting by going to Behavior>>Site Content>>All Pages, adding a secondary dimension of campaign, then sorting by campaign.
If you don't have web story analytics set up, go ahead and do it now. Let me know what you find out about your stories' performance.