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Analytics for Newsletters 101: Google Analytics and Your Web Archive

How to Leverage Google Analytics and Web Archives for Newsletter Analytics

How can you grow your newsletter more quickly and scale publications more efficiently?

It’s the number one question we get asked at beehiiv. The answer?

Create great content — and enough of it to grow and engage your audience.

It really is as simple as that, but simple doesn’t mean easy. For one thing, the definition of “great content” depends on your audience–and so does the perfect email frequency. Fortunately, leveraging analytics for newsletters can help you understand your audience and refine your approach.

Not all email service providers are created equal. Some lack insights that allow you to actually gather the data you need. Make sure your ESP has deep analytics, or you may miss out on key insights. At beehiiv, analytics is a foundational element of growth, which is why we have this functionality built-in for our subscribers.

While the topic of newsletter analytics can seem dry and impersonal, it isn’t. One of the great advantages of digital distribution is that your subscribers constantly tell you who they are and what they want.

Think of every click as a decision with context. The more you understand, the more you learn. Audience members arrive at content through certain channels and then choose whether or not to engage.

Analytics is the process of collecting data and restoring meaning to it. You use it to answer important questions about your audience. These include:

  • How many visitors are you receiving?

  • How do subscribers find you?

  • How many are subscribing?

  • With which content are subscribers engaging?

  • What is your conversion rate of visitors to subscribers?

Don’t think of the answers as a report card. Think of them as a dialogue for which you just need the language.

That’s what this guide is: an introduction to website analytics for newsletters. When you understand what your readers are saying, you can respond. That interaction is the key to sustainable, scalable growth.

Who Is Your Target Audience?

We wrote this guide with the following categories of customers in mind:

  • launching a brand-new newsletter

  • Creators who want to know and grow an existing newsletter audience

  • Organizations who want to take their newsletter to the next level

But ultimately, we wrote it for anyone who wants to understand the impact, reach, and data behind the content they create.

Getting Started with Newsletter Analytics

Analytics for Newsletters 101: Google Analytics and Your Web Archive

Analytics for newsletters can seem intimidating due to the sheer amount of information out there. It can start to feel as though you know too much about your web archive to know anything at all. (Let that wrinkle your brain.)

There are many tools for web analytics, but this crash course in Analytics for Newsletters 101 focuses on Google Analytics. It’s one of the best, totally free, and other tools — such as beehiiv — often integrate with it, or are modeled on it.

We’ll use Google Analytics to find the answers to some key questions. Note that for each of these questions, you can adjust the window of time to see any period that interests you.

How Many Visitors Are You Receiving?

Analytics for Newsletters 101: Google Analytics and Your Web Archive

One of the most important data points to track is your number of subscribers. You need to understand how many people visit your publication as you launch, grow, and scale a newsletter.

Start by examining your Google Analytics Audience Overview report. It lays out:

  • subscribers

  • New subscribers

  • Sessions

  • Number of Sessions per User

  • Pageviews

  • Pages / Session

  • Avg. Session Duration

  • Bounce Rate

What does each of these terms mean?

Subscribers, New subscribers, Sessions, and Number of Sessions per User

The numbers in these columns all measure traffic. They let you know how many people visit your newsletters’ web archive. You want all of these metrics to increase over time, but there are important nuances to note.

The number of your total subscribers is the number of individual people who visited your website during a given window of time. New subscribers are the subset of subscribers who visited the site for the very first time.

Sessions refers to the total number of visits to your website, and the number of sessions per user is the average number of times a user visited. How often do members of your audience return to your site?

For example, let’s say that someone who has never been to your archive before visits your site on Monday and then returns on Thursday. Google Analytics would track one user, one new user, and two sessions. It would also adjust the average number of sessions per user accordingly.

Pageviews, Pages / Session, and Avg. Session Duration

These are the titles of columns that track user engagement once they visit your website. You’ve brought them in. Now what do they do?

Pageviews (also spelled page views) are the total number of individual pages viewed. Pages per session describe the average number of pages each user views during a session. Average session duration tells you how long subscribers spend on your site when they visit.

If a user lands on your site’s archive index, locates an article that interests them, and clicks on that article, Google will record two pageviews. The amount of time spent perusing the archive plus the amount of time spent reading the article is the duration of that user’s session. Your averages would be adjusted respectively.

When these metrics go up, they indicate that your audience is becoming more engaged with your material. They’re more likely to be loyal subscribers and to share your content with others.

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is also a metric concerning user engagement, but it comes with one important caveat.

Your bounce rate is the percentage of subscribers who arrive on your site and leave without interacting with the page, which is called bouncing.

Here’s the asterisk: scrolling does not count as engagement.

If a user lands on a post and reads the whole thing but doesn’t click on anything, they would be considered to have bounced. You should pay attention to bounce rate, but make sure you balance it with other factors such as average session duration and pages per session.

How Do Subscribers Find You?

Analytics for Newsletters 101: Google Analytics and Your Web Archive

Do people land on your website through an organic search? Type in your URL. Come to you via social media? Or through a different channel?

These answers help you determine where to spend your time and (potentially) money. You want to go with what works.

In your Google Analytics platform, there’s also a section called Acquisition that can help you understand how your subscribers find you. Let’s look at a couple of features found in its All Traffic subsection.


Divide your visitors — and their behavior — according to the channels by which they reach you.

Under Channels, you can see a chart that lists a number of Default Channel Groupings.

  • Direct. The user goes directly to your site.

  • Organic Search. The user searches for some phrase and then clicks on your website in the search engine results page (SERP).

  • Social. The user clicks on a link in some social media platform, which takes them to your site.

  • Email. The user clicks on a link in a newsletter or other email.

  • Affiliates. A business affiliate sends the user to your website through a promotional link.

  • Referral. The user clicks on a link found on a third-party website, which takes them to your site.

  • Paid Search. The user clicks on your Google Search Ad.

  • Display. The user clicks on your Display Ad.

  • Other Advertising. The user reaches your site through non-Google advertising.

There is also a category for Other.

For each of these channels, Google shows you most of the metrics covered above. For example, you might check how many new subscribers you gained specifically through organic search or referrals.


Analytics for Newsletters 101: Google Analytics and Your Web Archive

Analytics for Newsletters 101: Google Analytics and Your Web Archive

(Ever feel like words mean too many things? Here we’re talking about website referrals and not the referral program for your newsletter that you can establish through beehiiv.)

Dig into Referrals to see which websites send traffic your way. While you can do more with referral metrics, start by using them to evaluate your social and backlink strategies. Does your digital network help you meet your objectives for your publication?

Social media referrals

Which social media platforms generate a lot of traffic for you? Those will be the social media websites listed near the top of your referrals.

Make sure to look at the question from all sides. Many social platforms have their own advanced analytics for you to examine, and you should use these to nuance your understanding of your publication’s audience. For example, how many new subscribers find you through Twitter?

At the end of the day, you want to prioritize the platforms where your target audience is most active. Consider social media demographics, industry trends, and — above all — your own data.

Third-party referrals

Backlinks (links on other sites that connect to your site) also matter.

As you grow your newsletter, you may want to publish additional material on third-party sites such as Buzzfeed or industry news outlets. It’s a great way to tap into new audiences. But you want to receive value for the content you produce — particularly if you’re doing the work for free. Work with websites that are good fits for your brand, help you establish domain authority, and (ideally) send visitors your way.

In addition, part of being a content creator is interacting with other creators. You cite them, network with them, and possibly even swap material in guest posts. Check your referrals to evaluate past collaborations and inspire new ones.

Which Content Are Subscribers Engaging With?

Analytics for Newsletters 101: Google Analytics and Your Web Archive

So far we’ve covered web traffic and channels. You know how many subscribers pass through your web archive and how they get there.

But what do they do then? What interests them?

These are the answers hidden in site behavior metrics. Under the heading Behavior, go to Site Content and then the subsection All Pages. You’ll find a ranked list of the pages with which subscribers interacted.

At the top will be your most popular pages. These likely include new posts and effective forms of evergreen content such as how-to pieces that continue to draw attention.

Identify over-performing articles and general trends. Then give the people what they want.

Pageviews, Unique Pageviews, and Avg. Time on Page

The category Pageviews indicates the total number of times a certain page was viewed. Unique Pageviews tallies the number of sessions during which a page was viewed.

Sometimes a user returns to a page during a session, or the site reloads. To determine unique pageviews, Google filters these out, giving you a clear picture of each page’s popularity.

Which is more important? Debatable. For one thing, it depends on your goals and how (if) you monetize your site. Advertisers often pay close attention to total pageviews. They’re interested in the number of impressions they can expect on a given page and don’t mind making second and third impressions. On the other hand, if you’re looking to grow a subscriber base, you may care more about the number of individuals reached.

The average time on the page can also help you evaluate the content’s success. What content retains its audience?

As you identify past successes, search out strong topics, types of media, and article structures. Let’s say that an article on how to plan for retirement that includes a video tutorial is your top page. Its popularity may indicate your audience’s interest in the subject, video content, and/or how-to material. Look for trends across each category.

Entrances, % Exit, and Bounce Rate

The column Entrances shows the number of times visitors entered your website through that page — as opposed to finding it while they explore your web archive. What content brings people in?

Your exit rate and bounce rate are similar. Both measure the percentage of pageviews that end with the user leaving your website. The bounce rate only counts single-page sessions. In other words, a visitor came directly to the page and then bounced. Exit rate includes these “bouncers” as well as sessions in which the visitor arrives from a different page on your site.

Again, balance exit and bounce rates with other metrics.

What Is Your Conversion Rate of Visitors to Subscribers?

Analytics for Newsletters 101: Google Analytics and Your Web Archive

Whether you want to make money from content creation, track your impact on an issue/audience, or develop an email list of highly qualified leads, your web archive is only one part of your newsletter’s success. Your goal is to grow your base of subscribers.

How well does your web archive convert visitors, convincing them to sign up?

In order to track this, you first must set up an event goal for subscription in Google Analytics. Don’t know how? Check out the beehiiv video tutorial on Subscriber sign-up tracking with Google Analytics.

Once that’s in place, go to Goals under Conversion. The Overview subsection will tell you how many sign-ups you’ve acquired as well as the rate of conversion. You can also assign a monetary value to each conversion if you wish.

Those with multiple membership tiers or newsletters should create goals for each. If you sell swag, books, or other products, you also might track these conversions.

Conversion rate by channel

Let’s return to your Acquisition Overview for a moment. These are the metrics that answer the question: how do subscribers find you?

That chart gives you information on traffic and behavior by channel, but there’s also a section with the heading Conversions.

Discover which channels are most likely to earn you new subscribers. There’s a drop-down menu with all of your goals. Which works best for what?

What Analytics Can You Access Through Beehiiv?

Oh, the possibilities. beehiiv is a comprehensive platform for newsletters. In addition to Google Analytics information, we also give you access to other newsletter metrics designed to help you perfect your emailed publication.

That means that you can investigate web archive visitors, learning about new and returning subscribers and the time they spend on your site. Discover how they discover you. What channels provide you with steady streams of traffic, and what third-party sites should you consider for future publication and collaboration opportunities?

Plus, you’ll identify the content most likely to interest and grow your audience and understand the funnel through which visitors become subscribers.

But with beehiiv, you also get sophisticated analytics that teach you how your audience responds to direct newsletter communication. Approach audience engagement from all sides, and craft an ultimately successful email and website strategy.

Learn more about the analytics we provide. We want you to have all the information you need to generate some buzz.

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