Before the digital world took over, the only true way of measuring your traditional PR and/or marketing success was at the end of the financial year, when you looked over that final figure to discern how much your business had made. Since then, the wonderful, digital world of marketing has completely revolutionised the industry, and ensures measuring content success is easier than ever and possible to do in real time.
There are two kinds of content success – buzz and impact. Buzz is considered the reach and brand awareness pieces, while impact is the effect this has on your audience, what they do with this information and the all-important question of whether or not your content leaves your brand at the forefront of their mind.
It doesn’t take a genius to understand that as the content and digital marketing industry evolves, content success will be measured more and more on impact. The industry is learning that the customer journey after reading your content is more valuable to your brand, as opposed to general buzz. This is not to say, however, that buzz is not valuable to business – it is.
Let’s not move past the perhaps obvious statement that successful content may look very different for one brand/client, compared to another. Before reading this blog post, it is essential you have a clear understanding of what your content marketing objectives are, as well as the KPIs for the business as a whole, for the next 12 months.
It is difficult to measure the success and contribution of content alone, to revenue. For this, you would need to be measuring a broader strategy - one that includes SEO and technical, for example.
For more information on the KPIs you should be using to measure this bigger, strategic picture, take a look at our other blog with a list of digital marketing KPI's to use. But for now, let’s focus on how we can measure the success of individual pieces of content, starting with....
Although we noted in the introduction that buzz is not the ultimate measure for content success, it is important enough to merit its own paragraph in this post. Social shares really are the best way to measure this.
Clicks are another way, and it was from this that the clickbait marketing method was born; creating content with eye catching imagery and headlines that will get people to click on the link.
In terms of buzz and brand awareness, the more clicks and shares that a piece of content accumulates, the better.
Buzzsumo and AHrefs are two great tools for measuring the buzz around a piece of content. Search for the URL of your site, or wherever your content is hosted, and you will be presented with the number of shares the piece/pieces of content has achieved across different platforms. It will look a little like this:
Those at the top of the list, with the most shares, were the most successful at creating buzz. Simple! Okay, let’s move on to the impact stuff.
Is it ever clever to create content that is really controversial? To promote opinions that perhaps your brand doesn’t entirely support, but know will cause discussion online?
Well, it’s not always the best thing to do, no, but encouraging comments and discussion about your content online is a great way to get people to engage with your brand.
This is a pinnacle for relationship building with your audience, and although a qualitative measure it is a good indicator of content success. It serves to build that important bridge between your brand and target demographic. It is these relationships that matter and are valuable in the bigger picture for business.
In terms of social media, the management platforms themselves are the best tools for measuring the number of engagements.
Facebook allows you to select insights and export the post data from the time period during which your content was posted and promoted. An Excel document will be downloaded, with a number of different, useful metrics. The second tab ‘Lifetime talking about this post’ lists the amount of comments (and also likes and shares) each post achieved during your selected time period.
For Twitter, it is exactly the same. Replies and brand mentions are the key things to measure here.
To manage our social accounts here at Zazzle, for both ourselves and our clients, we also use Hootsuite. On the home page you are greeted with a number of columns, one of which is ‘Mentions.’
As I’m sure you have already worked out, this lists all of the comments on Twitter that include the brand’s Twitter handle – another great way of keeping track of the comments being made in reaction to your content activity, sharing included.
In terms of measuring the comments on content that has been placed on other sites, there is no tool. In this case, it is more about manually monitoring and keeping an eye on them.
It is important to note here, that not only are the number of comments important to be noted, but also their quality; as with many things in the industry (links for example) sometimes it really is quality, not quantity, that matters.
Have your readers picked up on the key messages and are they engaging with your content in the way you had intended? Or are they talking about their particular like/dislike to an adjective you used in the closing paragraph? One obviously suggests success more than the other.
Data capture is a great way of measuring content success – if there is something ‘in it’ for the reader then they are more likely to sign up and as a result, provide you with their email address.
Then, with this data, you can concentrate on your email marketing campaigns and strategy, and have a qualified contact list built from people that have committed to downloading your posts and tools.
Obtaining a reader’s email address from a piece of content is not only a sign of engagement, but also commitment to what you are creating too; great content will encourage both of these things.
Hubspot is one platform that can be used for monitoring your data capture success from a particular piece of content/campaign. In partnership with CRM, Hubspot can build profiles on the information that is captured using certain tracking codes.
For example, if the same person (email address) downloads one piece of content every month for 12 months, they would be ranked as a ‘hotter prospect’ to someone that downloaded a template once and hasn’t done so since.
This means you can prioritise your leads, and separate your truly qualified audience members from your one hit wonders!
Not only that, but this useful software will also inform you of changes in both your organic and your paid traffic too.
So, the more ‘hot prospect’ audience members you have visiting your content, and the more unique users that then go on to become ‘hot prospects’ themselves, the more successful your content/campaign has been.
Content success in terms of downloads can also be measured using - you’ll never guess -Google Analytics. This is for the downloads that don’t require any data capture beforehand. But why might a brand give away something for nothing? Well, to build trust and confidence in the B2C relationship, of course.
To measure this, you must set up ‘event tracking’ in Google Analytics in order to track the actions of your content that is being downloaded. You will need to create an event goal, to track the downloaded content conversion rate which has conditions as well as category, action, label and value specification.
Once your goal is completed, GA will start to measure the number of people who are completing that action, under the conditions you set out to measure, without needing you to acquire any information from the user.
The higher this conversion/download rate, the more successful your content is at achieving exactly what you intended it to achieve.
If you create great content, then earned distribution will be a doddle (you can download the Zazzle Content Distribution Process Chart to help via this link) securing placements for your content with good domain authority is a win win for you.
It is proof that your content is a success - it has a strong ‘hook’ and journalists/editors of sites believe in it, BUT also, all links made from authoritative and trust-worthy sites are valuable for your site in terms of rankings and visibility.
Boom! - you have created a great piece of content and helped the authority and performance of your site for Google. Top marks!
AHrefs again, is one of the best ways to keep on top of the number of backlinks into your site. Selecting site explorer, then inserting your domain will leave you with an entire hub of data. For links, select inbound links, then new, and your chosen time period.
This will lead you to a list of all the new links built in to the page during this time, along with the referring URL and the date that the link was built. It will look like this:
This tool is great for an overview of the bigger picture, but if you are looking for a quick figure, then Chrome plug-in, Majestic Backlink Analyser, is a useful one to use.
When on the hosting domain, click the plug-in and it will tell you the trust and citation flow (of course, we always aim for the trust flow to be higher than the citation flow) and the number of referring domains for the hosting page. Simple!
Referral traffic is a great way to follow on from talking about placements and backlinks; it is the measurement of traffic to your site that has come from an outside source (the sources where you have had your content placed, for example.)
If your content is a success, when it is placed on an exterior link/source, it will then be shared and talked about over and over again by readers that are engaged and interested. This sharing, the ‘digital word of mouth’ I like to call it, should result in referral traffic to your site.
Tracking this can shed light on which audiences react best to your content – perfect for informing your future content strategy.
There are two ways that you can measure referral traffic using Google Analytics. The first is via the referral traffic report, which can be found under ‘acquisition’ or by selecting ‘referral path’ or ‘full referrer’ from the the secondary dimension’s list, to measure a page to page basis. The higher the referral traffic, the more successful the piece of content can be labelled.
Hitwise means eyeballs. Here at Zazzle, we have access to a fantastic tool from Experian, which provides us with the number of potential readers on a website. We have starusing a tool called Hitwise, to measure our content success for clients, opposed to promising a number of links.
A great site placement, like the Guardian for example, will have a higher Hitwise score than a less established and technically elite site – this means that you could achieve the same in terms of exposure for your content with one link (from the Guardian) than you could with 4/5 average links from smaller sites.
If your content is placed on sites with a high Hitwise score it is a huge sign of success. If your Digital PR /Creative communications team are struggling to meet what should be an achievable Hitwise target, then it is a sign that your content isn’t quite hitting the mark.
Our internal PR contacts tool WebCRM captures Hitwise data, as you can see from the interface snapshot below as one of the first metrics we check, such is its importance.
Traffic on its own, isn’t a great measurer of content success. Your home page is more than likely one of the most, if not the most, visited page on your website.
This isn’t necessarily due to the content that you have there, but more likely due to the detailed SEO strategy you have functioning and the ads/promotion linking there too.
Regardless of the content you have placed there, your home page is likely to always be one of the most visited pages on your site.
Measuring traffic alongside average time on page, unique page views and bounce rate, for example, creates a more rounded metric set for measuring content success.
Your blog content may have a better average time on page compared to others, but that could just be your mum, dad, auntie, uncle and granny having a nose at what you get up to at work – it is about having a look at these metrics in conjunction with one another!
If you then look at unique visits and compare this to other pages, you should get a clearer picture as to whether your content is successful at engaging a qualified reader, or not.
Google Analytics is the go to for these metrics. When the page loads after the log in process, you are met with an overview. You can select the date range for the data and filter this so that only organic data is displayed (that is unless you have done any paid promotion of your content, in which case you wouldn’t select this option.)
If you have specific KPIs on these metrics then you can measure against those, if not then just monitoring improvements/changes will allow you to measure the success of your content marketing effort.
For example, when both traffic and time spent on page is high on a particular URL - and is significantly higher than these metrics on other, similar content pages - you can use that data as a tool for measuring success.
These two metrics are also a great measure of the evergreen quality of content - do they consistently generate traffic over time?
If you are creating content that targets specific and desired keywords, which of course you always should be, then you can measure the success of your content through monitoring its ranking for the relevant search term.
If the ranking improves, then fantastic, your content is achieving what you intended it to achieve, in line with your wider content marketing strategy.
SEMRush is a great place to start. By entering the domain, where the content is hosted, selecting organic research and then filtering via the exact URL of the piece of content, you are provided with a list of all the of keywords that the particular piece of content in question is ranking for, within the top 100 of Google.
You can include those keywords for which you most desire to rank/improve rankings for, and add them into SERPS in order to be regularly monitored and position updated.
If you are looking for a quick update on one particular keyword, then Fat Rank, another Chrome plug in, is the best way to do this. You simply click the icon on your chrome toolbar whilst on the content page, search the relevant keyword and Fat Rank will tell you the ranking position in the top 100 of Google.
Using Google Analytics, you can monitor what your readers do at that all important moment when they have finished reading your content.
What we want them to do is to go through to your site, whether it be the home page or a more specific page relevant to the content topic. What we don’t want them to do is read the content, exit the page and then carry on with their daily business without giving it another thought.
Successful content is that which will subtly and naturally guide a reader to exactly where you want them to go – and if this is happening, you’ve aced it!
A conversion is the completion of a desired action – your customer doing exactly what you want them to do when on your site. Conversion rate is the ratio of people that visit the site to the number of visitors that complete the desired transaction.
E-commerce brands would consider a sale their conversion, whereas a brand like Zazzle Media considers visitors completing the ‘contact us’ form or downloading one of our resources to be the all important, desired action.
Measuring conversions is a clear cut way of measuring content success, as it tells you how many people your content is effecting in the way you intended. With this data, you can then go on to do the math for how much each transaction is worth to you as a business, which can help guide budget and strategical decisions moving forward.
Creating a ‘goal’ in GA is the best way to measure conversions. There are four different types:
The goals you set will vary depending on the desired customer journey and on the KPIs that you are measuring your content marketing efforts against.
For example, if your KPI was to increase leads, for which data capture is necessary, you may track a destination goal to the ‘thank you’ page, which only loads after data capture has been completed.
This way, by setting a destination goal for this page you know that the user must have completed their information, and therefore a conversion has been made.
So there you have it, a simple guide to measuring content success. Once you have got your head around this and have started assessing your content against these aspects, you will start to see how successful (or not) your content is.
It is a great tool for analysis – your content may be successful in some of these metrics but not others – what clearer guide could you need for how to improve you content and your content and marketing strategy?
Build the capacity to measure your content in all of these ways – if you have the wherewithal, you can later tailor what you measure according to content objectives. The final thing to remember? Google Analytics is your bible.
We expect to see brilliant things!
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