Our 3 Top Tips for Increasing the Reach of your Digital Archive


At TownsWeb Archiving we have had the pleasure of working with all manner of heritage institutions, helping to publish their collections online and significantly increase their discoverability. Many institutions have made the leap to digitising their archives and presenting their collections via a website. Not so many understand the value of the marketing efforts which must follow, to continue growing their collections reach and impact.

A website can become a portal for providing access to your collections across the globe, but without the knowledge of effective marketing and optimisation, you are probably not meeting this potential.

Using Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a fantastic tool, highly recommended to enable you to understand the performance of your digital archive. Also aiding you in developing a marketing plan to grow the outreach of your collection online and help meet your goals of improving discoverability. Google Analytics records all manner of metrics, some of these are key to understanding your site’s performance, however, these can be lost in the overwhelming mass of metrics and reports available to you.

Today I want to address this, providing my top 3 tips for using Google Analytics within your institution, without requiring huge investments in time or expertise to become effective.

“I don’t understand how to use Google Analytics”

Tip 1: Get to know the basics

There are a huge number of resources online to help you to grow your understanding of Google Analytics, one of my favourites can be found here. It is not essential to be an expert to use it effectively, but having a basic understanding will go a long way in helping you to improve your marketing efforts and truly show the outreach and impact of your digital collection.

I recommend finding time to review some of the key features of Google Analytics and to get you started, I have highlighted a few of these features below:

Defining a suitable date range:

Comparing the performance of your website month-on-month helps to provide an insight into what is normal for your digital archives reach. If you are investing time in developing the discoverability of your digitised collections, it is important to find the time to regularly review whether your website metrics, such as sessions and photograph downloads are increasing. This is a great indication that your efforts to increase the reach of your collection are proving to be successful.

Google Analytics - Date Selector

Understanding where your website traffic is coming from:

Your website traffic can be split into to 5 or 6 key channels, including Organic Search (users finding your site using a search engine), Email (from a link in an email marketing campaign) and Social (finding a link to your website on your Facebook page or Twitter profile for example).

Google Analytics - Acquisition Report

[Google Analytics: Acquisition → All Traffic → Channels]

It’s likely that one of your primary goals for your digital archive is to increase the reach of your valuable collection. Understanding which channel is most successful will help you to prioritise your marketing efforts on activities which have the most impact. For example, investing more of your time in managing your Twitter page can easily be justified if it is helping to generate 75% of your website’s traffic each month.

“I don’t have the time to pore over website metrics”

Tip 2: Focus on metrics specifically to suit your archiving goals

The issue, “I don’t have the time”, is likely never going to go away, so focus on the metrics which matter most to you. In my experience, focussing on your overall digital archive goals is a good place to start, for helping to define your website goals. Deciding on a small number of metrics which can be quickly reviewed in Analytics, allows you to gain an understanding of your site’s performance, without wasting time getting bogged down in meaningless numbers.

When first digitising your collection, understanding the end goals of the digitisation project was an essential part of the planning process. These same goals, such as increasing the reach or monetisation of your collection, should remain your primary focus for your marketing efforts. You shouldn’t lose sight of this when defining your digital archives Key Performance Indicators.

Below are a number of examples of your archive digitisation goals and the corresponding Google Analytic reporting metrics, you may decide to monitor:

Increasing your collections reach - Measuring overall website traffic and understanding the most successful channels for generating engagement with your collection, will give you the best indication of how your digital archive is performing. For example, we can see in the report below that Organic Search is the primary source of traffic. This strongly suggests that our time would be best spent working to develop this channel further, to increase our overall reach.

Google Analytics - Acquisition Report

[Google Analytics: Acquisition → All Traffic → Channels]

Monetisation - Reviewing and gaining an understanding of the top performing items in your collection is invaluable. This information can be found in a number of ways within Google Analytics. A small amount of setting up is required to view your sites e-commerce information, this is a useful link to guide you when setting this up:

Armed with the information about your best-performing items, you can make decisions for prioritising your future plans for digitisation. For example, if a particularly interesting collection is consistently generating a large percentage of your online revenue, this would strongly suggest that you should digitise further items which can add value to this collections, as a priority.

Google Analytics - Product Performance Report

[Google Analytics: Conversions → Ecommerce → Product Performance]

Accessibility - Google Analytics enables you to understand the most popular pages of your website, including which items in your collection or pages on your site, are receiving the most engagement from your audience.

Set a suitable time frame and review the most viewed pages on your site to understand which pages are receiving the most interest from your audience. It is also important to review metrics such as bounce rate and goal completions (e.g. photograph downloads), to highlight how users are engaging with your content whilst on the page

Google Analytics - Landing Page Report

[Google Analytics: Behaviour → Site Content → Landing Pages]

This information is useful for helping you to review the user experience of your website. If you are finding that certain pages are receiving large volumes of traffic but very low photograph downloads, perhaps a restructure of the page or additional information about the item would be beneficial to help improve user engagement and the accessibility of the content.

“Our digitised archive has a small target audience, so we are limited in our marketing efforts”

Tip 3: Understand your target market

You may feel that you have a very good understanding of your target market for your digitised media. However, you may be surprised to see that Google Analytics indicates that the audience you are attracting to your website may not reflect this.

Google Analytics is able to provide a huge amount of information about the demographics of your digital archives visitors, including; age, gender, location, interests and much more.

Google Analytics Demographics Report

[Google Analytics: Audience → Demographics → Overview]

Although is it is very interesting to view the great reach of your digital archive within Google Analytics, this information does also have a practical application when developing your marketing plan to further increase your collections reach. Understanding which website visitors are engaging with your website content most frequently, will help you to validate which target market is most important to you and may potentially make you reconsider the ideal person to attract to your website.

If you expect your archive collection to have a small target market, it is particularly important to understand whether your website is also receiving interest from the same audience. Whether you are advertising via Social Media, Email Marketing or any other medium, it is essential that you focus your efforts tightly on reaching those you expect to successfully engage with your media. The time and resource spent on increasing the outreach of your website may be wasted if, for example, your marketing activities are not discovered by this desired audience effectively.

Google Analytics - Geo Location Report

[Google Analytics: Audience → Geo → Location]

Final Thoughts:

Clearly define your marketing goals for your digital archive and develop a realistic plan for how you expect to increase the outreach of your collection, focussing on growing your most important metrics. With the limited time you have available for marketing your website, it is essential that you review Google Analytics to ensure your efforts are attracting the right people, who are most engaged with your digital archive. The mantra, “Plan, Do Review”, is particularly important for those spending time and resource on marketing efforts. Google Analytics is the perfect tool to makes this process easier to manage.


Do you need guidance with marketing your digital archive?

TownsWeb Archiving offers a digital marketing consultation service, providing an insight into:

  • Search engine optimisation (SEO): raise your profile with online search engines
  • Blogging & online copywriting: keep visitors engaged with your online collections
  • Email marketing: keep interested visitors returning to your website
  • Social media: help new followers discover your collections

If you would like to book a time for marketing consultancy contact us and let us know some provisional dates that you will be available.

Explore recent articles