So you’ve created some good, interesting branded content in the form of white papers, infographics, ebooks, etc… and you’ve even broken them down into micro-content that’s easy to share across channels.
Once you’ve done that the only thing left is to measure how each piece of content is doing – unfortunately, that’s where it gets complicated.
The truth is that while Big Data is the current buzzword, most marketers producing branded content are overwhelmed with medium sized data that comes from their internal ecosystem – pageviews, referrals from social media and search engines, bounce rates, A/B testing of copy and CTAs, conversion rates, and more.
Even in a “medium data” environment it can be difficult to separate signal from noise…
Which of these are vanity metrics? What if they’re all vanity metrics?
So, how can you accurately measure whether your content is working or not?
The first step is to always start with a simple growth metric that you can validate, and that drives behaviors – your own and that of your audience.
If you’re not familiar with lean metrics / lean analytics (a framework for getting startups off the ground) you may want to quickly get up to speed via this deck from GrowthHackers.com.
In a nutshell this basically just means deciding on single metric that aligns with your business goals, and then optimizing all of your efforts around that.
Remember that this is dependent on the type of business you’re in, for example if you’re Amazon you may want to focus on average order value as a metric, or how quickly and how often users come back and make a purchase in their first 6 months (stickiness). The GrowthHackers presentation mentioned above has some good examples of metrics that are business dependent.
This often requires some time and thought on the front end while you look through all of your internal data – but it will save you serious time and money later, and is worth the investment.
Once you’ve decided what your one growth metric is, here are 3 things you can do to optimize your measurement, and increase signal while decreasing noise.
1. Simplify what someone can do after viewing a piece of content
This isn’t rocket science, but many marketers still miss it.
Pages managed by marketing teams often include email newsletter sign-ups, special offers, a lead form, content downloads, follow us on the social channel of your choice, widgets for most popular content, and other, various calls to action.
The instinct there isn’t wrong – as much as possible, you’re going to want to let people self-select. But giving your visitors a dozen options and then seeing what sticks is a lot like being in a hot car on a long road trip and asking “are we there yet” over and over. It’s also bad UX.
One example of simplifying things is using a discovery and/or tags approach to categorize what action someone can take next.
In the example above, you could also choose to tag all of the ebooks, or whitepapers, and let someone click into that collection to learn more. Either way, the viewer has a simple choice, and the data you get about their actions afterward are more than just noise.
2. Understand intent before, measure behavior afterward
Intent is what brings someone to a page, behavior is whether they found what they were looking for, or something else that was interesting or useful to them.
The truth about intent is that it is very, very hard to measure, and often falls into the category of “that’s interesting” vs. “that’s comparative, and actionable.”
For example – let’s say you’re Visa. Someone searches “making a financial plan for credit card use” and ends up on one of your branded pieces of content about how to use credit cards more effectively.
There are some inferences you can make, particularly about building audience, but you really don’t know much about whether that person has any interest in what YOU do.
On the flipside – if people are taking an action after viewing content that aligns with your growth metric (trial activation, subscribe to your weekly financial tips newsletter, etc…) that is a signal worth paying attention to.
3. Measure collections of content that map to overall storylines / insights
While measuring pieces of individual content is important, you may also want to think about how you can best make your content discoverable, and measurable, in groups.
Optimizely, for example, has a simple and clear tagging system on their blog:
You may find with some research that people aren’t particularly interested in your collection of content on product features as opposed to best practices, but with a unique URL for each tag (in this case, http://blog.optimizely.com/category/best-practices) you can easily measure activity and engagement that maps to your one growth metric.
Joe Cardillo is a former product/ops guy now doing journalism, content, growth, and analytics.