What metrics should you use to measure the success of your content marketing? Zmags, Hilary Dionne explains how to evaluate marketing analytics. Learn more.

Quick! Your boss wants to know: what's the impact of your brand's recent content on the business?

Mon Jul 22, 2013

Today's guest blog post comes from Hilary Dionne, Senior Manager of Customer Insights and Analytics at Zmags. Zmags is a Percussion partner and digital publishing software makes it easy to create branded, commerce-ready digital catalogs, look-books, and other online publications. Hilary (@hildionne) has a passion for leveraging data to understand customer and consumer behavior, and applies this at Zmags to help clients make the most of their experience.

You've put a lot of effort into content marketing and need to prove that it's working. Now what?

Web and marketing analytics can be overwhelming today with all of the disjointed datasets and metrics available across multiple platforms.  It can be hard to know where to begin, frustrating when things don’t cooperate, and time-consuming to export data and combine across each of your marketing channels.

Two basic metrics to help evaluate overall content consumption and level of engagement with your website are average time spent and pages per visit.  Looking at these over time can help gauge whether content campaigns that begin in May, for instance, result in a noticeable increase in time spent and pageviews per visit over time.  Still, new content is likely not the only thing at play and this high-level view can be misleading.

Context is key when thinking about this: what is the primary objective of your brand’s website? If you had to pick just one or two tactical goals, to help you meet this objective, what would they be?  If you want to generate demand [objective] and simply want to get new leads into your CRM via the website [goal], having high time spent on the site might not matter as long as the visitor fills out a form.  However, for brands that want to drive revenue online through on-site advertising, it’s important to show a positive trend in these engagement metrics to prove the value to advertisers.

It's important to think specifically about your website’s overall goal conversion rate and conversion funnel as it relates to new content.  In general, most of you know already that a “conversion” represents a visit that completed a goal or desired call to action.  The most obvious conversion rate for B2C eCommerce websites, of course, is completed orders as a percent of total visits.  For non-eCommerce or B2B websites, conversion measurement can get a bit trickier.  B2B website actions that may be considered “conversions” include email signups, video views, whitepaper downloads, social shares, etc.  

So the question now becomes, how is content helping to achieve these goals?  It’s not as simple as just counting the number of transactions, registrations, content pageviews, downloads or interactions, but looking at where and how this content contributes along the conversion funnel.  This might not be the same for all customer segments, either.

Again starting first with a B2C example, say a specific video is being viewed significantly more relative to other content on a retail website.  Steps in the goal funnel for eCommerce brands may include new website visitors, creating a shopping cart, clicking on the checkout button, and moving through certain steps in the checkout process (adding credit card information, creating a customer profile, etc.). 

You can create an advanced segment to isolate just this group of visitors who viewed the video relative to other site traffic at the time.  Now, look at the conversion funnel and see if anything jumps out at you.  Is the video being viewed more among new (vs. repeat) visitors?  Are shoppers more likely to make a purchase after watching the video?  Any distinguishing variables can help you to replicate success in the future.  Even better:  isolate these variables in a series of A/B tests to validate the correlation.

B2B website goals can generally be evaluated using similar funnel logic as with a shopping cart.  However, what if a goal of your site is actually having visitors download content – where you harvest their name and contact information in the process?  For example, at Zmags, many of our campaign landing pages require a form submission to download a piece of content (like our Digital Catalog/Magazine Benchmark Report whitepaper).  I like to look at this conversion event as a (fairly long) series of steps in Google Analytics to really understand what’s going on:

  • Pageviews:  a simple count of the number of times this page was seen (includes new and repeat pageviews; I also look at “unique pageviews” for the pure count)
  • Entrances:  specifically, visits that arrived on our site via this page, helpful to look at since we’re using email campaigns that drive to this landing page, but it can be found in our standard website navigation
  • Entrances / pageviews:  entrances as a percent of pageviews can provide a sense of a whether more people are getting here as part of their website visit or coming directly from an email campaign
  • Goal starts:  in this example, the number of visits that start filling out the form to download the whitepaper
  • Goal completions:  visits that successfully convert, meaning filled out and submitted the form to download my whitepaper
  • Goal conversion rate:  percent of total pageviews that submitted the form, i.e. converted
  • Exits and % exits:  number and percent of total pageviews that exited the website from this page (before filling out the form)
  • Bounce rate:  similar to above, but be careful – this metric is only calculated among visits that entered the site via this page, so can be misleading!

Say I've found a high goal conversion rate and a high % entrances/pageviews.  This would prompt me to look at the same report and metrics by traffic source.  Now I can see that this content is being downloaded more via email than direct traffic.  Pageviews via social media, paid and organic search, and referrals are really low. 

What would I report back to my boss? 

"The whitepaper seems to be popular among our existing email database, but isn't bringing in new leads.  We need to explore ways to spread the word more if our objective is demand gen".  If I had just looked at the number of downloads (goal completions) in absolute, I would have come to the conclusion that "this was awesome content!" … and we would have just kept doing what we were doing.

Once you analyze each landing page form or piece of content to this level of detail, it's easier to see where visitors are getting “stuck” or dropping off in the goal conversion funnel; from there, you can determine where and how to better situate and optimize your content – or at least think about what to test.

Websites with a lot of content will inevitably pose more of a challenge.  To make analyses more manageable, well-known analytics guru Avinash Kaushik recommends grouping content by site section or category rather than looking individually at each whitepaper, blog post, etc.: http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/amazing-bar-charts-content-consumption-share-of-search/

Once you're able to pinpoint what’s working well and what's not, (and where, and for who!) ideally you'll see an increase in traffic, engagement levels and conversion rates as you make adjustments, test and optimize for your target audience.

What type of content is performing best on your website?  Where is it located?  How are you measuring and evaluating it?     

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