Why Google Real Time is super useful for hyperlocal sites

Posted: January 14th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Journalism, tools, web | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

In my day job with Trinity Mirror I am lucky to have access to real-time analytics software Chartbeat. It allows us to see who is reading what on our regional sites, where they have come from and how long they spend on it. And also if they then read something else. It’s a great way of focusing the newsrooms on popular content and putting it on a massive screen in the newsroom is always cool.

But, if you’re a one-man band hyperlocal publisher or a smaller site – and can’t shell out for Chartbeat, what options do you have?

Recently for Blog Preston, the hyperlocal site I run for Preston in Lancashire, we turned on Google Analytics Real Time.

It isn’t a patch on Chartbeat but it is super useful. Here’s five reasons why:

How Google Real Time looks, this was about two minutes after we posted the story about the fire on New Hall Lane

How Google Real Time looks, this was about two minutes after we posted the story about the fire on New Hall Lane

See how many people are on your site, RIGHT NOW!

It’s great for an immediate reassurance of why you should keep your site going. Blog Preston celebrated its fifth birthday on Saturday, and just before 10pm a takeaway on New Hall Lane caught fire.

We started pulling together a story, and pictures (sent in by a reader). At one point we had 120 active visitors on the site.

It reminds you: a) these people are reading this content right now, so the washing up can wait (note: my wife does not agree with this point) b) what more can I get on this story c) Am I linking off to other content to persuade them to keep reading more content

See your social media impact

The Real Time stats allow you to see what number of readers are coming from Facebook, Twitter etc.

With the fire story mentioned above, we were receiving three times as much traffic from Facebook as Twitter. So we posted more updates on Facebook than perhaps we would have normally – each new picture was added as a comment on the existing post. Everytime we did this, it bumped an extra 10-20 people to visit the story.

New versus returning

This is really useful. One thing we have focused on recently on Blog Preston is trying to get readers to come back to the site more often. The Real Time gives a good insight into whether content you’ve just posted is pulling back people who have visited the site before or not.

If I see content spiking with lots of returning visitors, I know this is a subject we should keep on with and find more about.

Where in the world…

There’s a map, the bigger the circle the more people are visiting from that area – right now.

We’re bothered about the circle on and around Preston – we’re about providing content for those people. Everyone else, it’s nice of you to visit, but you’re not crucial for us. So we focus on what content the people in the Preston circle are reading.

Search impact

Although Google is hiding a lot of search terms people are using to find content on our site (not provided, you bastard!) you can see live what search terms readers are using to find your content. This should help shape headlines and topics readers are interested in.

On the fire story from above, I noticed a lot of people were searching for the name of the road + fire, rather than the name of the takeaway the fire was in. So we focused our Twitter updates and headlines around “New Hall Lane”.

Have you used Google Real Time? Any other hints and tips? Let me know in the comments…

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2 Comments on “Why Google Real Time is super useful for hyperlocal sites”

  1. 1 Jack Davies said at 6:51 pm on January 20th, 2014:

    Really interesting Ed. I’ve only just turned on Google analytics and real time. These are ideas I’m going to investigate. Jack

  2. 2 edwalker.net » Blog Archive » Nine things learned from five years running a hyperlocal site said at 7:20 pm on April 16th, 2014:

    […] of the most popular posts. We also compare our performance against last year. We have started using Google Real Time to see which content is performing well and using this to guide what we do more of. Each of us only […]

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