Content Marketing: How To Measure Content Performance Holistically
2013 was one hell of a ride — we lost the keyword tool, search went secure and content marketing became the shiny new toy on the block! So what will this year bring? Even more content!
But will yours be a big hit or a big waste of money? This guide should help you start thinking about how to measure the performance of your content.
2014′s Focus: Get Ready For More Content!
Last year, I spent a lot of time on content strategy and planning — basically maximizing content efforts by figuring out how to get the right content in front of the right consumers at the right moment.
But I expect to be doing a lot more of it this year — and so should you. In fact, as you can see in the below graph, the vast majority of marketers will be increasing their investment in content.
Considering that, I believe content marketing will really explode in 2014. I think it will be the year where the number of web pages will double and brands and publishers will produce more content than ever.
But this content explosion will be about a lot more than an increase in volume. You can also expect to see more types of content and in more categories. This year’s content marketing efforts will include everything from a simple piece of textual material on a brand or publisher site, to video content in different channels, all the way to vanishing content on platforms like Snapchat and even more.
In short, content marketing will likely be key to your digital marketing efforts in 2014. But, how will ensure your material is a big hit and not a big waste of time and money?
If you are like most marketers, you could be missing out on the one key element that can help make your content efforts more successful.
The Missing Element: Holistic Content Performance Assessment
Do you know which of your content efforts was the most successful last year? Was it your white paper? Your ebook? Your YouTube assets? Do you know why one was more successful than the other? Do you have the information you need to create a success again?
If you can’t answer these questions, don’t feel bad — you’re hardly alone.
The truth is few digital marketers are taking the time to assess their content’s performance holistically. While they are accustomed to measuring the success of campaigns, optimizations, keywords, etc., they fail to compare the performance of their content across multiple platforms on an “apples to apples” basis.
But if you don’t assess the performance of your content holistically, how can you determine which of your content efforts was most successful and why? And how can you determine which type of content to invest in going forward?
Do you plan to guess? Maybe go with a hunch? Or perhaps just wing it?
In order to connect with consumers in a meaningful and contagious way, you need to take a closer look at the comparable performance of your content assets and determine what works, what doesn’t, what has potential and what should be removed.
You can’t afford guess work. Your content investment decisions need to be based on objective performance data.
You also can’t afford to operate in silos by only measuring the success of a content asset without comparing it to another. For instance, sure, your ebook might have seemed successful, but how did it fare compared to your video effort?
Think about it — you might be missing out on important insights by failing to compare performance between your content assets. This could be causing you to throw good money after bad!
But if evaluating the performance of your content holistically is so important, why aren’t more marketers doing it?
Why It Is So Hard To Measure Content Performance Holistically
Gaining clarity on your content’s performance across all your platforms is hardly easy. In fact, it can be downright challenging.
That’s because each asset and platform measures success and engagement in a different way, which means it’s hard to fairly compare different asset types.
For example, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are all social channels, but they each use a different metric to measure success. Facebook uses Likes, Twitter uses retweets, and YouTube uses views or channel subscriptions.
So with thousands of content assets of many different types across several different channels, how can you truly assess their performance? How can you achieve a true “apples to apples” comparison between your efforts?
The Key To Measuring Content Performance
In order to compare the performance of one content asset over another, you first need to establish a normalized value system for your KPIs.
But you’ll need to build this yourself. As far as I know, there is no true, normalized solution in the market to evaluate the performance of content. Typically people use single-channel measurement (web analytics, etc.) to evaluate content against one dataset, but are short of evaluating content against multiple data sets.
Fortunately, if you have a sufficient amount of data, you can establish a baseline and normalize your KPIs. Then you’ll be able to make a direct comparison between your content assets.
Depending on your KPIs, you can easily find some linkages between the different metrics in different channels. For instance, take a look at the below comparison of metrics for a website and a YouTube video. In this example, it is easy to see their commonalities and how they could be used to create normalized KPIs:
|AVG TIME ON PAGE||AVG VIEW DURATION|
Let’s take a look at an example of normalized KPIs in action. Below is a dashboard we use to evaluate social scores across different channels. (Note that it is based on real data, but the labels have been changed).
This assessment tool looks at the respective number of shares, likes, comments, votes, etc., for each channel and then creates a share and engagement rate based on the volume metrics (views, visits, etc.). Then, the different assets are plotted along two axis (share rate and engagement rate).
This approach allows us to clearly see which asset types, in what channels, have the greatest effect. As you can see in the graph, a coupon on a website with share buttons is being shared much more often than a coupon inside Facebook. However, a Facebook coupon has achieved more reach and engagement than a coupon on the brand site. In addition, a YouTube video is being shared more often than any other asset of that brand.
6 Tips To Measure Content Performance
As you work to develop a system that will allow you to evaluate the performance of your content assets, keep the tips below in mind.
1. Tag Everything
One of the least used sources of intelligence is your own content. I always recommend that my clients tag everything. The more information you collect, the more you know.
As an example, on a YouTube video, you should tag each outgoing link (either in the description or messages in the video itself) in order to measure which content piece (video) is driving how much volume, at what quality. For the content on a website, you should measure all interactions with calls to action, images, buttons and outgoing links.
2. Collect Everything
Most platforms today allow you to export your data either via spreadsheets or in an automated fashion. Make sure you leverage all of your data sources. For example, you should collect asset-level social shares/signals for each of your pages, video, etc. Doing so will allow you to determine exactly what day/hour you had an increase in social shares of a video/asset, etc. This data will enable you to backtrack and determine how it happened so you can recreate it, again and again.
3. Combine Everything
Mashing-up the data is very important to me. I truly believe that if you want to be best-in-class, you need to access deeper insights than what simple on-page analytics provides.
For example, if you take page-level performance and mash it up with social signals, and then add external factors to it like Webmaster Tools, you will start to uncover additional insights that will help you understand the whole story.
4. Compare Everything
Looking at a single data set can be meaningless as it won’t tell you much. In order to get the most from your data, be sure to compare it to something else – the same data set from a different time period, or a related data set, etc.
For instance, looking just at today’s data doesn’t tell you anything. However, when you compare it to last week’s data, suddenly it has a story to tell. Comparing your data will also help you predict where things are headed.
5. Watch Everything
This is crucial! No data in the world is going to tell you anything if you don’t evaluate the results. Always be on the lookout for trends and outliers. Identify outliers and adjust the content, then measure again. See if your changes worked. Mark what you expect to achieve, and then compare against it. Any time you implement a change — by either modifying content or adding new content — watch out for the effects. Make sure you are not just cannibalizing your own audience.
6. Build Real-Time Listening/Alerting Tools
If you want to create a scalable content marketing platform, this is a must-do! Whether you are a marketer for an agency, or on the brand side, you need to constantly monitor the performance and health of your content. Doing so will help you catch problems before they occur. It can also help you react in real-time if something is becoming viral.
Take the time to set-up some alerts so you can get notified when certain metrics experience a swing in one direction or the other. For instance, you might want to get an email alert when your YouTube views grow by x%, or a page is receiving a large amount of social shares, or when your level of comments is far outside your normal range.
Yes, 2014 is off and running. And this year, you will spend a lot more time on content marketing than ever before. But you can either guess at what might work, or you can make strategic decisions based upon holistic performance data. Be smart; establish a normalized KPI value system to assess your content efforts. Then use the data to develop material that will crush your competition!
How do you measure the success of your content efforts? Do you look at content performance in silos, or do you compare your different content assets?
Stock images from Bing dreamstime
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.
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