Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why are you creating content? Is it because you’ve heard it’s important for your business, but you’re not really sure why?
If so, you’re not alone – many companies have fallen into the trap of producing throwaway blogs just for the sake of it. Unfortunately, if you’re in the same boat, you’re probably not getting the most out of the effort you’re putting in.
As a business, you only have so much time and resources to devote to marketing, and you can’t afford to waste them on channels which aren’t providing the return on investment you need..
The trouble is, it’s not always easy to figure out if the strategy you’re following is actually working, especially if you’re using several different marketing channels (eg SEO, PPC and social media), each with their own independent strategies.
In order to measure your progress, you first have to define the results you want to get from your marketing. When it comes to content marketing, there’s quite a few different returns on investment to choose to focus on, but the ultimate goal is to make more revenue in the long term.
Once you have objectives in place, you need to work out how well your content is performing and helping you progress towards your goals.
Integrate analytics tracking into your site, and you’ll have access to a wealth of user behaviour statistics. These will help you determine what is and isn’t working, but it’ll also help you formulate plans for further optimising and improving your site pages.
But with so much information to digest, which metrics are the best ones to keep an eye on? Here are a few valuable performance indicators to watch out for.
Search engine optimisation
Having content which is optimised for search engines – or rather the people who use search engines – is integral to success in today’s SEO landscape. Here’s how to know if you’re on the right track.
You should be building new blogs, articles and landing pages around the kinds of search terms your potential customers are using; but how do you know if they’re making the cut?
Taking a look at your incoming traffic from search will tell you if you’re getting good rankings and visibility; unfortunately these days Google Analytics encrypts most user searches, so you won’t be able to see the keywords that brought them in. Try using third-party SEO software to track your rankings for each of your target phrases.
Of course, these stats won’t tell you if you’re optimising for the right keywords – but there are others that will. For example, are you getting poor click-through rates for organic search? Are your page visit durations abnormally low, or your bounce rates abnormally high?
(Keep in mind, SEO is not all about content, and there may be other causes behind low search rankings; especially if your whole site is struggling. Don’t waste time rewriting pages over and over until you’ve assessed and exhausted all the other elements of your search optimisation.)
If you’re getting quality links from authoritative sources, chances are that the stuff you’re producing is providing value to them and their own site users – which means Google will see your pages as valuable search results for their users.
Look into how many inbound links your pages are getting, and where they’re coming from. Who are their audiences? This can shed some light on the kinds of users your content resonates with, so you can target future updates more closely to them.
Don’t forget to check for spammy or excessive backlinks too. These may be harming your search rankings, so it’s wise to get them removed or disavowed.
Before you can get high sales volumes from your site, you need a high number of visitors coming into your site – and providing great content can be your foot in the door.
Put simply, if more and more people are consuming your content, you must be doing something right – but if you’re interpreting them as nothing more than ‘hits’, you’re missing out on a lot of handy contextual data.
Look into the people behind the numbers. The sources and demographics of your users are really useful for serving them more targeted articles, videos and guides in the future, as well as finding audience segments which you aren’t catering for fully.
Comparing your unique visitors numbers across different pages can also help you uncover which topics and formats are more popular (and might be worth covering in more detail in subsequent posts).
Remember, an increase in traffic doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get an increase in conversions too. A sudden and large rise in visits could just indicate you’ve been linked to by another more popular site, and those users are not necessarily going to stick around to buy products or consume future updates from you.
Shares and likes on social media are not the metrics to prioritise when evaluating your performance, but if you’re getting plenty of shares, it’s a good general indicator that you’re providing value to users and reaching a wide audience. (Of course, you’ll need to look into your actual site analytics to see if your likes translate into engaged and converting traffic, but we’ll talk more about those later.)
Again, it’s not just about the numbers, but the context behind them and how it can help shape your content strategy going ahead. Be sure to check out who’s sharing you on social platforms and which posts have more likes than others.
Make sure you don’t focus solely on appeasing your Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin audiences, though – otherwise you risk sinking time into creating ‘buzzworthy’ articles which don’t actually result in any sales for your business.
Up to now we’ve mostly talked about whether or not your content is getting noticed – but is it engaging your readers? Is it holding their attention and getting them excited about you and your business, or does it leave them yawning?
Unique visitors vs pageviews
Going back to unique visitors (aka the number of unique IP addresses visiting a certain page), you can compare them against pageviews (how many times the page has been clicked on) to see how often the same visitors are coming back to your site for more.
A higher proportion of pageviews to unique visitors is a good omen if you’re posting regular updates (such as a weekly blog) or spreading long-form articles across several instalments.
Visit durations and bounce rate
We touched on these earlier, but finding out how long (on average) your users are staying on your pages will tell you if they’re consuming everything on the page or leaving before they’ve finished.
There are several potential explanations behind very short visit durations. Perhaps your users didn’t find your content relevant to them or expected something else when they clicked the link, in which case your bounce rate (the percentage of users viewing just a single page before leaving) will likely be quite high.
If your visit durations are very low but your conversion rates – more on these in a second – are relatively healthy, it might indicate that your users are more goal-oriented and are just seeking out the call-to-action on the page. In this case, it might be more valuable and efficient to offer snappier, short-form page copy; see if you can condense future pages right down to the salient points.
Compare your bounce rates and visit durations across your different traffic sources. Perhaps your users are staying on desktop but leaving on mobile, which can reveal that your content is too long and awkward to read or takes too long to load for smartphone users. This is particularly important if a high percentage of your users are visiting your site on their phones – it’s time to shake up your site copy and provide a better experience for mobile users.
Now, let’s move onto the most important evaluation metric for your content – is it bringing in more revenue for your business?
This is the big one. Looking into your conversion rates for each page will show you which pages are actually driving sales for your business. Again, this metric can be combined with various other demographic metrics and compared across different pages, helping you see what works and what doesn’t.
If you’re looking for sales leads rather than actual digital sales, consider setting up phone call tracking – this will display a unique version of your phone number to each user, so you can match their call to their site session and see which pages drove them to call you up.
Keep in mind that not all content is necessarily there to directly drive conversions. For example, product/service landing pages exist almost solely to convince users to buy, whereas a blog article is not (but is there to increase your site’s reach via SEO and social media, and create positive brand awareness which may lead to more sales in the future).
How do you improve the converting power of your sales copy? If it’s doing everything but converting, perhaps it doesn’t provide all the information the user needs to commit to purchasing, or the language isn’t persuasive enough to convince them. Take a look at our guide to creating content that converts for more hints and tips.