Data and analytics

Last updated January 11, 2021

How to use data to make content decisions, and ways to determine whether your content is working.

How to optimize your content for search

Search engines are where most users start their search for information. If they cannot find your page, they will not get to your content. Search engines work by crawling your website, then trying to match content from the sites they crawled with the words a user submits when they search.

It then makes sense that if you use the user’s search terms, starting with your page title, summary and first paragraph, users will be more likely to find it.

Once you know the search terms, you can prioritize them in your:

  • Page titles
  • Introductory sentence/summary
  • Page headings

How to find your search terms (aka keywords)

Google Search Console can help you determine what keywords are being used to find your web content.

Integrating a Google Custom Search to your site can also help determine the keywords that people use on your site.

You can double check these terms with Google Trends, which allows you to compare alternative keywords, and shows seasonal trends.

Setting goals and measuring

Instead of trying to track everything with analytics, it’s best to measure what matters for action.  That means, track the things that are important to your work, so can make improvements that will meet your mission.

Set goals first

Analytics can be massive amounts of data to review, so instead of reviewing everything, think about what content of yours is most important.  Form a trackable goal around that content. Then determine a baseline, and measure improvements from it.

These tools might help make the goal setting process easier: Google’s HEART Framework or How to start thinking like a data scientist

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Examples of goals seen at UW–‍Madison

  • Get users to apply to your program or school
  • Logging into a service
  • Getting eyes on important content
  • Download a helpful guide/brochure
  • Contact you for help
  • Find info about your staff
  • Self-solving problems with web content
  • Finding an advisor
  • Visit your facility
  • Increase donations from alumni
  • Easier to find information
  • Reduce phone calls

Consider SMART goals

When you craft goals, they should be:

  • Specific (simple, sensible)
  • Measurable (can you actually measure the thing you’re looking for?)
  • Achievable (not worldwide domination)
  • Realistic (reasonable to get, results-based)
  • Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive)


  • Not SMART — We want to be #1 when people search for our college.
  • SMART — We want to increase visitors to coming from organic search by 25% over the next two semesters.

What analytics should I track?

Start with the goals that you want to achieve.  Then use analytics to look deeper into what content is working and what needs improvement. The marketing agency Moz has developed guidance on what metrics might help.

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Once you have data, ask yourself:

  • Was the behavior expected?
  • What was the unexpected behavior?
  • What does this say about our user?
  • How can you adjust to better serve the user?

The data might also lead to more questions:

What more information do you need to know here?

Is it time to talk to users or conduct some research?

Why collect analytics data at all?

  • Your own data (also called first-party data) is probably the best data you can collect on your site and information.
  • It can settle debates on what content is the most important.
  • It can help tell you what content is important to your users.
  • It can help inform content choices, and give you evidence to support the change.
  • It can help find what content works, and what doesn’t work.

Get help

Need help in determining how to approach data and analytics?  The Center for User Experience can help with your design strategy.