Whether you are a business owner who creates your own online content, or you hire a digital marketing service provider to develop that all-important content, one question looms large: how effective is your content in providing the results you desire? Great content is the key to improved search visibility, and it also helps site visitors to make informed purchasing decisions. Not all content is equal, however, and even if it appears great on the surface, it may not be performing to expectations or desires. Here is a quick guide for assessing the effectiveness of your content, helping you to get the best return on investment possible.
The Importance of Measuring Content Marketing Initiatives
Even for those experienced in the complex world of digital marketing, there are several misconceptions that must be addressed. The primary misconception is the belief that content marketing cannot be measured; in other words, it is impossible to gauge how effective a given piece of content is in creating engagement, informing a reader, or being responsible for completing a call to action, as each of these factors seems intangible. The truth, however, is that the effectiveness of content marketing is entirely measureable, and by doing so, one can reveal powerful trends to leverage.
Goals for content performance vary, but often include:
- Lead generation
- Sales or conversion rate
- Brand awareness
- Building an audience
- Creating customer loyalty
A good digital marketing service provider will understand that each of these goals can be measured, provided there is a clear definition of “success” set in advance of rolling out any content marketing initiatives. Success here is defined as the answer to several questions – a mission statement of sorts – that shapes the direction of marketing efforts. Who do you want your audience to be? What action do you want your audience to take after viewing your content? Is there a transformational component in your content? And how will audience engagement or action influence your business objectives, including growth and profitability?
The Content Audit: Foundations of Determining Effectiveness
Companies around the world are continually publishing content to the Web. This content can be on new products or services, industry news, or anything related to a given company’s business operations. With all this new content, how can one organize it and keep track of its performance attributes? The answer is a content audit.
Typically performed by a third-party digital marketing service provider, a content audit is a comprehensive look at content by collecting and analyzing data on every aspect of a given website’s content. In simple terms, it is an inventory of existing content, which then provides detailed insights into what content is working, which content pieces could be modified or rewritten, and which content to discard altogether. There are five steps in a content audit:
- Establish goals – just like in the previous section, having a clear idea of the goals of a given organization is crucial. Do you want to increase organic traffic, or would you like to improve conversion rates? Do you want to make your content more visible in searches, or do you simply want to boost brand awareness? Each of these is a discrete goal moving forward.
- Collect the content to be analyzed – think of all the content pieces and platforms you use in your digital marketing efforts. This can be general website content, landing pages, blog posts, multimedia presentations, or online publications like white papers. Gather the URLs of all the content to be analyzed into a single spreadsheet.
- Categorize the content to be analyzed – grouping related content items helps the analysis to pinpoint specific content topics or areas. Pulling data from analytic tools like Google Analytics can also help categorize content by publication date, author, format, or publishing platform.
- Undertake an analysis – here, it is time to dig deep into performance metric data, including uncovering key areas like:
- Content pieces that have high user engagement (time on site, click-throughs, etc.
- Older/outdated content
- Content areas or topics that are missing, such as questions unanswered by existing content
- Content that simply isn’t performing to expectations or desires
Lastly, create a list of action items based on the analysis – you have identified what is working and what be improved, changed, or deleted. Now it is time to create a game plan for your digital marketing service provider.
Key Performance Metrics to Consider
There are many factors that can be revealed in a content audit, helping to establish a path forward for content revision or creation. The goal of any content should be to provide readers with engaging, informative, and relevant information, helping them to make purchasing decisions. In order to better gauge the effectiveness of this content, there are five key performance metrics to assess:
- Consumption metrics – page views, unique visitors per content page, time on page/time on site, and number of downloads if applicable.
- Retention metrics – how many people circle back to a given piece of content by gauging new vs. returning Other metrics include bounce rate and unsubscriber rate.
- Engagement metrics – engagement can be measured in several ways, including click-through rate (CTR), comments on blogs or posts, social media engagements (likes, shares, comments), and average pages per session, sometimes referred to as “page depth”.
- Sharing metrics – how often content is shared with others, including shares on social media and via email.
- Lead metrics – for downloadable content, Google Analytics can compile data on download count specific to each piece of content. One can also gauge leads by the number of new subscribers to a newsletter or similar sign-up function on a given site.
With these tools and strategies, digital marketing service providers can help to ensure that client content performs to or beyond expectations. It can be useful to remember that content is a fluid medium; it can always be modified, revamped, or replaced to keep engagement levels high. With careful analysis and a bit of hard work, understanding how and why your content performs can influence the creation of new content for years to come.