Tracking Dead Content on my Website

A broken link is a signal of poor quality for both your site and your brand. Finding yourself on an error page tarnishes your site experience and sends you looking for another site option. But while a broken link is a well known indicator of a poorly constructed site, a similar, yet lesser-known indicator is what we refer to as “dead content.” Dead content are site assets that are not linked to any additional content. For example, images and headers that may be perceived by the users as potential links to further information and site content, but when clicked, yield no further information.

If traffic is the lifeblood of a website, and a site gets healthy circulation to its deeper, lower level pages through its link structure, dead content clicks are an indicator of poor circulation.

Bad Traffic Circulation

Unfortunately, many sites have dead content on pages that are vital to user navigation. In general, the higher-level the page, the more the page is responsible for getting users to content that is specific to their need or interest. The homepage, the highest-level page on any site, and in many cases, the landing page, is an extremely important page in the user’s navigation process. And yet I’ve seen many examples of homepages with dead content. Users expect every element on the homepage to link to further information. Whether it is text, images, or rotating banners that promote your products or services, users expect those assets to link to more information on the products/services they promote.

Users often click on dead assets more than once expecting to be linked to another page. So how do we collect information on those clicks in order to improve linking on our site? Typically this is an action overlooked by webmasters. Broken links that yield errors are a more visible problem, but a site with dead content can also hurt a user’s perception of the site and brand. It can lead to frustration and bounce. Further, it’s a difficult problem to track properly. Whereas you can easily mark errors as pageviews in your analytics program, recording a click on dead content is more challenging. Depending on the size of your site, it can take hundreds of hours for a developer to manually tag every possible asset throughout the site, whether it’s linked or not, simply to see if users attempt to click on it.

Some websites work around analytics and use click mapping programs in order to see where users are clicking on the page. Programs like this provide what looks like a heat map of clicks and gives you only a rough idea of what assets are being clicked most on the page. In order to get accurate information on what “dead content” is being clicked, webmasters need a better web analytics solution.

As an answer to this problem, Search Discovery has incorporated dead content tracking into Satellite, our Google Analytics implementation tool. By placing a short code script in the header of each page on your site, Satellite automatically crawls the HTML and creates on-click events. Once a user clicks on dead content, the tool reports the file name of the clicked asset in Google Analytics (within an Events report under the section Dead Content Clicks). Satellite reduces the amount of time developers spend on tagging pages by hundreds or potentially thousands of hours. Through Satellite, you get accurate information about the dead content that users are interacting with on your site.

Current Satellite clients are able to determine areas of potential frustration for users and what content sections users need expanded.  Once you are able to see what dead content gets clicks, you can ensure that content links to related assets.  For Satellite clients seeing users clicking on dead content 3 or more times, we recommend developing more content on topics related to the dead content. Clicking on dead content is an indicator that users want expanded information on a subject or want that information in a different format.

Consider how tracking dead content could improve the usability of your site and the perception of your brand. And check out Satellite, which on top of tracking dead content, also automatically tracks all downloads, outbound links, email links, and mobile phone and map use.

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