In the print world, reader surveys reveal to editors what subscribers want from their magazine content. Now, Web analytics offer real-time feedback on user Web site behavior and content preferences. These metrics help guide editors in producing digital content that keeps visitors on the site longer and coming back for more. The analytics can also be integrated into a Web CMS to more closely fuse data to production.

At b-to-b publisher Questex, a Drupal CMS is supporting and feeding the company’s network of Web sites. Due to the economic pinch all publishers are feeling, Questex has migrated from a WebTrends site analytics package to Omniture and, finally, to the free but robust Google Analytics service.

Google Analytics, says Alison Mc Partland, Questex’s manager of search and discovery strategies, has a module that integrates directly into Drupal. Economics aside, Mc Partland said the back-end integration has freed up her staff to make changes on the fly. "The challenge before was we were constantly tied to our Web producer to handle these things. But with Google Analytics, someone can make changes right through the module. We can make sure things are being tracked, or if there are pages we don’t want tracked we can make that happen."

From there, the Web analytics inform Mc Partland’s team on its SEO efforts, visitor behavior, direct traffic and referral patterns and visitor engagement levels.

Of particular interest are keywords that are pulling and/or driving visitors to the site. A key component to any Web CMS, keywords inform the site’s taxonomy as well as article-level tags that help attract searchers and boost search relevancy. Since analytics packages help reveal what keywords are being used by searchers, publishers can craft and weight their content accordingly.

Mc Partland also studies keywords for clues into how well visitors are finding content on the site. "For design decisions we’ll study keywords and onsite search reports to see if visitors are having to search a lot for particular content. If so, then it’s probably too hard to find."

The development team then examines the navigation, site layout and static links to see if improvements can be made to allow for easier access to content.

Keywords also reveal topics of interest, which lead to opportunities to uncover older content that matches current interest. "It’s all about linking, so we’ll do an onsite search from the back end to find other articles and connect them through related links or work them into the story," said Mc Partland.

Soon, said Mc Partland, Questex will install a Context Ad Serving and Analytics (CASAA) plug-in into Drupal that ties the site’s taxonomy to ad serving and analytics offered through Google Analytics, Omniture and other systems. The plug-in will allow ads to be served according to a site’s taxonomy, providing greater contextual placement.