Jonathon Colman, principal of experience at REI, tackled the big, hairy challenge of using cold, hard data to measure the value of content strategy in his Confab 2013 presentation “Data Sets You Free: Building the Content-Driven Organization.”
For content strategists to be most effective, Jonathon argued it’s critical to tell the story of the value of content strategy work. Why? The people interested in the value of the work are typically the people with the purses and focused on ROI.
That’s why content strategists must also care about data and Web analytics and learn what really counts versus what’s just noise. The challenge for content strategists is to take something very subjective (content) and translate it into objective language.
Metrics: the good, the bad and the ugly
When deciding which metrics to use to measure value, Jonathon proposed this rule of thumb: if a metric won’t change the way you behave, it’s a bad metric. The point is not to have as many metrics as you can, but to show what matters. He offered a few guidelines to use when determining what and how to measure the value of content strategy work.
6 ways to destroy your content with bad data (or, what not to do)
- Silo the data analyst onto a single team (this essentially builds another silo!). The analyst should work as part of a multi-functional group.
- Measure without asking questions. Question everything. Each measurement should reflect a question an organization is asking.
- Focus on hits at all costs. Or any one metric. It blinds you to the real interactions your users are having.
- Focus on followers at all costs. Likes, retweets and plusses alone aren’t good enough.
- Focus on conversion at all costs. Yes, this tells us about the quality of traffic we drive and the quality of the user experience. But it’s not the only thing to measure.
- Focus on “engagement” without defining it. If you don’t define it, you can’t determine what is most engaging so that you can measure consistently.
8 means of building an analytics-driven content strategy (or, what and how to measure)
- Build a customized, intelligent dashboard and structure it on an acquisition, behavior, outcomes model, as outlined by Avinash Kaushik. Integrate new dashboards from the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery – you can download dashboards that others have created already and then integrate them.
- Align the metrics with core values and the company’s vision. What are they? What do you care about more than anything else? If you had to cut down to the quick, what would you keep? It’s usually only about three to six things. You need to know these so that you measure the right stuff.
- Create and measure custom segments. Not all are equal. Track segments of your audience and create content for those segments and see how that content performs.
- Focus on loyalty instead of just visits. Traffic and traffic that converts is awesome, but it’s not everything. Drive repeat visits, which indicates loyalty. Go into Google Analytics for frequency/recency of visits and look at how people come to your site and how many times they come to visit. There’s usually a sweet spot after some amount of visits when they begin to know you and may engage you on social media, etc.
- Re-think the context of bounce-rate. Bounce-rate tells you what the user is not doing, versus what he is doing. For example, if a user bookmarked your site or didn’t click through to another page, it’s still recorded as a bounce. It’s not necessarily a bounce. Why? The actual time of the visit could be longer, but it’s not recorded because there are no other interactions.
- Consider the depth of engagement. Advanced tracking in Google Analytics can show you if someone is still on the page but not clicking links as well as help you analyze conversion paths. How many pages do people need to see before they convert in a single session? How many days does it take? What do customers need from us to convert?
- Measure micro-conversions versus just macro-conversions. Yes, track when someone buys a product, but also measure micro-conversions such as watched a video, downloaded a product sheet, told a friend or went to the store to look at a product. Micro-conversions indicate all the ways someone is interacting with your brand or product.
- Determine your multichannel mix. Google Analytics has a set of multichannel tools to help you understand all the touches a customer may have before converting, from organic search to paid ads to email. The channel stack report will show the user’s path versus just record the last touch.