Real-time web analytics tools have made content strategists' dreams come true -- we can now understand precisely what our audience likes, dislikes and is responding to, as it happens.

All content strategists dream about fully understanding what their audience wants in terms of content. Delivering content that is valuable, shareable and findable is the goal of every content strategy. Watching how your users interact with your content is now a dream that has come true with real-time analytics packages.

How Real Time Analytics Can Help

There are four stages to content strategy:

  1. Planning
  2. Creating
  3. Executing
  4. Governing

The challenge for content strategists is to understand their audiences, so they can know what they want -- like a new mom and her newborn baby. Learning the baby’s cries, when they are hungry, wet or bored is an experienced that requires time together and careful attention and listening.

Typically, for content strategists, this “getting to know each other” is accomplished through surveys, analysis of analytics, company knowledge and development of personas. However, the analysis of analytics can be frustrating for many Web professionals.

First, the technology is not that superior. While many analytics packages are very powerful, there are limitations on how much you can see about what users are actually doing on the site. For example, is there a package out there that allows you to tag a user and then watch his or her behavior as they click through the site?

Enter Real Time Analytics

If you’re a content strategist, information architecture or UX professional you will love real-time analytics. You can now watch what your users are doing in real time with programs like Clicky, Chartbeat and Optify. Apparently, Omniture has this powerful option as well, although I can’t really figure it out because their home page is filled with marketing nonsense.

The program I am most familiar with is Chartbeat, and for a content strategy nerd like me, this has become my new, most fun toy, like ever. I’m seriously on this thing all day, just watching all the changes, trying to make sense of the patterns that are emerging over time.


Chartbeat looks like a dashboard when you open it up. It shows you, using a needle, how many active visitors are on the site right now, as well as how many are new and returning. It shows you which pieces of content your users are interacting with -- both reading and writing (commenting). [Are you freaking out yet?]

It also shows you traffic sources, which is huge in terms of an integrated content marketing strategy. For example, if you see most of your referring traffic is hitting your site because of Facebook or Twitter, you know you need to target those sites.

Other features include:

  • Page load times
  • Worldwide locations of users
  • Search
  • Referring traffic sources

You can also do this really cool thing, where you can replay the history and see what happened when you were sleeping, or eating or having some other type of life. This is so helpful for Web teams that watch spikes in traffic, and aren’t sure why they are happening.

Content Strategy Comes from Knowledge

If you watch Chartbeat over the course of several days, patterns emerge about where your users are coming from, which pieces of content they respond to and content they interact with. When this happens, you can base decisions about what kinds of content to create and execute with a plan. I think they call that strategy.

Do you use real-time analytics packages in your analytics analysis? Tell me about them -- I’m so curious to hear how others are using these tools.

[Related Reading: WEM -- We Manage What We Can EASILY Measure]