How to Measure and Track Content Performance: 8 Tips on How to Improve Your Digital Content’s Performance

It’s impossible to fix something if you don’t know it’s broken. And that certainly applies to your digital marketing content. With the time and effort you put into each piece of content, your business should be booming. But, on a good day, it barely makes a blip.

You’ve already upped your content game, tried adding more images, infographics, and videos, and even had your entire website revamped — twice. But you’re still falling short of your goals. What gives?

The thing is this:

Even if your content appears to be merrily humming along on the surface, it could be riddled with underlying issues that are deterring customers and blocking sales.

Like a glitch in a web browser that resulted in one e-commerce company losing more than $20 million in revenue. Ouch. 

You’ll never know unless you take a thorough look. And you can only do that if you measure and track your content’s performance.

Here’s where you’ll find out how.

Based on a WriterAccess Academy webinar, this article gives you the lowdown on assessing and improving your content marketing, even if you’ve never measured a KPI in your life.

The truth is, measuring and tracking content performance is a must for:

  • Identifying and fixing issues.
  • Strengthening weak content.
  • Capitalizing on strong content.
  • Effectively reaching your goals.
  • Keeping you on the path to success.

Check out these eight tips from content marketing experts Andy Crestodina, Jeff Coyle, and Alice Ko and you’ll see exactly what we mean.

1. Beware of Subjective Opinions 

If you want digital content that makes YOU happy, by all means, rely on your subjective opinion. But if you want digital content that makes your target audience happy — and generates conversions — you want to rely on cold, hard facts.

When it comes to making content marketing decisions, you need to go with what the data says — not what you say. Even “best practices” are really just opinion. They are techniques based on what experts hypothesize will work, a point Andy Crestodina likes to make when discussing data quality.

The higher the objectivity, the higher the quality of data.

  • Highest-quality data: A/B Testing — target audience, in context.
    • “Which works better now…”
  • High quality: Marketing Analytics — your own recent data.
    • “What has worked for us…”
  • Medium quality: Industry Best Practices — general industry advice.
    • “What experts say works…”
  • Lowest quality: Opinion or Preference — internal single point of view.
    • “I like it when…”

2. Pay Attention to KPIs

Guessing games might be fun for parties, but they’re not the best way to determine if your content marketing efforts are meeting your business objectives. That’s when it’s time to look at KPIs, or key performance indicators.

KPIs are measurable values that demonstrate the effectiveness of your efforts. The number and type of KPI metrics you use depend on the type of information you want to track. You have a huge selection of KPIs from which to choose.

When it comes to content marketing, 16 of the more common KPI metrics include:

  1. Content published: Amount and type of content published per day, per month, per year.
  2. Website Traffic: Number of visitors to your site per day, per month, per year.
  3. Revenue growth: Increase in sales from one period to the next.
  4. Keyword performance: Measure of success that results from use of chosen keywords.
  5. Email open rates:  Percentage of subscribers who open emails.
  6. Link popularity: The number of backlinks, or incoming links, that point back to your website.
  7. Pages indexed: Website pages that Google (or another search engine) has visited, analyzed, and added to its database.
  8. Time on page: How much time visitors are spending on specific web pages.
  9. User acquisition cost: How much you spend to acquire a new user for your platform or another service.
  10. Churn rates: Percentage of customers who stop doing business with your company; also called customer churn or rate of attrition.
  11. Conversion rates: Percentage of website visitors who take the desired action you want them to take; calculated by the number of conversions divided by overall number of visitors.
  12. Customer engagement: Amount of interaction between a visitor and your company through your website, social media platforms, or other channels.
  13. Content attribution by customer: Determination of which content had the biggest impact on a customer’s decision to convert.
  14. Net Promoter Score (NPS): Measurement of customer loyalty; the likelihood of customers recommending you based on their experience with your company.
  15. Sales Funnel, number of days in a stage: Length of time visitors remain in each stage of the sales funnel.
  16. Customer lifetime value: Net profit expected based on the ongoing relationship with a customer.

Customer lifetime value is definitely at the top of the list of KPIs you want to gauge. It costs five times as much to acquire new customers as it does to retain existing ones. Yet marketing efforts focused on customer retention still get less attention than those focused on lead generation or new customer acquisition.

Being aware of the customer lifetime value underscores the importance of creating loyal fans who stick around.

KPIs can be measured with performance dashboards that range from the very basic to the highly advanced. Again, it all depends on the type of info you want to track and the depths to which you want to go.

Also, keep in mind that some KPIs are easier to improve than others.

Easier KPIs:

  • Website traffic.
  • Conversion enhancement.
  • Long-tail keyword listing positions.
  • Number of leads.
  • Time on site.
  • Internal links.

More difficult KPIs:

  • Short-tail keyword listing positions.
  • Engagement: Likes, comments, shares.
  • Inbound links.
  • Quality, qualified leads.
  • Referrals, word-of-mouth.
  • Email open rates.

Very difficult KPIs:

  • Churn rate.
  • Customer acquisition cost.
  • Customer lifetime value.
  • Content asset attribution.
  • Channel attribution.

Ultimate performance goals

  • Brand value, brand awareness.
  • Revenue growth.

3. Audit Your Website Content

Yeah, we know. Audits immediately bring to mind words like “tedious” and “painful.” But it can be even more painful to lose out on performance and profits due to easily fixable issues on your site. So roll up your sleeves and get that audit done.

Google Analytics is a fantastic tool for site audits. You can research a range of different marketing metrics to determine how different aspects are performing. If things are performing poorly, fix them. If they’re doing well, make them even better and do more of the same.

Your starting point is to get to know your site. Google Analytics lets you look at:

  • Number of web pages: Enter “site:yoursite.com” in the search bar; an estimated number of pages will pop up near the top left of the screen.
  • Number of PDF files: Enter “site:yoursite.com filetype:PDF” in the search bar; the number of PDFs will pop up near the top left of the screen.
    • Fix: Make sure all pieces of content you have in PDF form also appear as web pages in HTML. You have no way to track the performance of PDFs; they have no analytics. Creating a web page ensures you’ll know how the content is faring (and when it goes viral!).
  • Subdomains: Enter “site:yoursite.com -inurl:www.” in the search bar; you’ll be shown all the subdomains of your site. Use Siteliner to check for content on subdomains.
    • Fix: You need to track website traffic as it goes across your subdomains or it will skew your analytics. Depending on how frequently someone goes back and forth between content on your main website and content on your subdomain, a single website visitor can register as two or three. 
      • Adjust your page view report in Google Analytics to show the full URL instead of the relative URL in the list of pages.

Other tools can be handy for checking into other areas of your site:

  • Tags: Tags are used to gather data on your site, and your site may have long lost tags you don’t even remember installing
    • Ghostery Chrome Extensions shows all tags and trackers on a site.
    • BuiltWith shows tags and technology behind a site.
    • Tag Manager in Google Analytics manages all the tracking codes on a site.
      • Fix: Make sure everything that shows up in Ghostery Chrome Extension and BuiltWith is also in your Tag Manager. Remove any tags you’re no longer using to prevent code bloat and keep loading speeds minimal.
  • Page Authority: Tools like Moz let you see which pages have the highest authority, which is based on the number and quality of backlinks to that page.
    • Do’s and Don’ts for High-Authority Pages:
      • Do improve keywords on pages to boost ranking.
      • Do rewrite poorly performing articles on pages to boost ranking.
      • Do internally link lower-ranking pages to high-authority pages to enhance lower-ranking page rank.
      • Don’t move high-authority pages; if moving is absolutely necessary, create a 301 redirect for each page.

“Moving URLs is like surgery. You have to be very careful [not to break the links].”

Andy Crestodina | Orbit Media

  • Navigation: Most marketers rarely audit their site navigation, but it can reveal important insights. The Navigation Summary in Google Analytics shows how people are using your navigation, or if they’re using it at all.
    • Fix: You have several fixes for low-performing navigation items:
      • Rename them.
      • Remove them.
      • Leave them alone if they’re important and descriptive; they might be perfectly fine.

Navigation is integral for getting visitors to go where you want them to go.

“Web design is mind control. Your job is to guide visitors through a series of pages that make them more trusting and educated about what you do until they convert.”

Andy Crestodina | Orbit Media

Search terms report: If your site has a search box, Google Analytics lets you review everything that people search for when they use it.

  • Fix: Conduct your own search on your site, using the phrases people search for most often. If you find adequate information with the search term, you’re good. If not:
    • Create a page or pages to add the information.
    • Optimize your page if it’s not ranking.
    • Adjust your navigation to help visitors find things faster.

Browser compatibility: Another Google Analytics report lets you look at how your site is performing in different browsers.

  • Fix: You’ll know people are having issues with a certain browser if some browsers have:
    • Higher bounce rates than others.
    • Lower conversion rates than others.

FAQ review: Filtering your page performance report to review the activity surrounding your FAQ page can be eye-opening. It allows you to see the pages that are prompting people to visit your FAQs, an indication that the pages aren’t providing adequate information.

  • Fix: Add more information to the inadequate pages, including answers to the frequently asked question and any other questions visitors may be asking.

4. Audit Your Content Marketing Plan

Now that you’re into an audit groove, go ahead and audit your content marketing plan while you’re at it. You can again use Google Analytics to produce detailed reports you can use to adjust your marketing strategy. 

  • Top content: Use the All Pages report to pinpoint your top content. The Page Value column tells you which pages are most important for conversions. Filter the report for “blog” and you’ll see your top-performing blog posts. Also check out landing pages, as they’re essential for conversions.  
    • Fix: To make your top-performing pages, blogs, and landing pages even more powerful:
      • Make sure everything on the page is up to date.
      • Determine if you could enhance any of the pages with video.
      • Double-check for good internal links, CTAs, and other optimization.

Video performance: Since Google Analytics tracks page views, you need to tweak the report to check in on your videos. Create an event, add the video variables, then set up a trigger.

  • Fix: When reviewing your video play event report, answer the following:   
    • Where do videos perform best, on-site or YouTube?
    • Could other pages with high bounce rates and low time-on-page use videos?
    • Could the play-rate be improved with better thumbnails? One recipe for improving thumbnails is to feature a headshot of a person in the video, along with the video title.

The big four: Here we’re referring to four types of pages Crestodina says can be significantly improved with a few small tweaks.

  • Traffic Champs: Pages with high search traffic can be improved by:
    • Adding CTAs that link to:
      • Product and service pages.
      • Related articles with high click-through rate (CTR) headlines.
      • Related articles with high conversion rates.
    • Adding video.
    • Writing the adjacent article.
  • Potential Champs: Pages with low search traffic but high Page Authority can be improved by:
    • Rewriting and relaunching, with a focus on:
      • SEO and other optimization.
      • Adding details, answers, video, and length.
    • Building a link to the page from a related guest post.
  • Falling Stars: Pages with declining search traffic can be improved with the same tactics used on Potential Champs.
  •  
  • Better Mousetraps: Pages with high conversion rates are superstars and need to be promoted everywhere. This includes:
    • Linking to them from Traffic Champs.
    • Promoting heavily on social media platforms. 
    • Sending again as an email newsletter.
    • Writing a guest post that links back to it.
    • Adding a link to the homepage, top of blog, email signature.

5. Skip the SEO Shortcut

Whether you’ve been in the content marketing game for five years or five minutes, you’re likely to be familiar with a common SEO shortcut. This shortcut says the ideal keywords to target have a high volume and low competition.

But MarketMuse’s Jeff Coyle notes there are a few ways this shortcut could backfire:

  • You’re stuck with the keyword-based content. The high-volume, low-competition keywords may not be all that exciting or even aligned all that well with what you do. Write an article around it anyway and you could be stuck with a mediocre blog post — that’s going to stay with you the rest of your life.
  • You’re not alone in your thinking if you’re taking this common SEO shortcut. Other people are doing it, too. That means the high-volume, low-competition keyword you selected will eventually become high-volume, high-competition. You’ll be fighting to rank for a keyword that’s not all that great to begin with.
  • You’re not personalizing the data. The competition rank is built for PPC, not optimization. It’s also based on a brand new website, not your specific site.

“Relying on generic data won’t help you stand out. Don’t do what you THINK you should do; that strategy doesn’t really work. It doesn’t add any value. It’s not showcasing your best. Write something truly special that stands out.”

Jeff Coyle | MarketMuse

Remember, any digital content you publish is going to be with you forever. It’s worth your while to plan for long-term impact, to create something exceptional.

6. Use Content Clusters to Get More Traction 

Creating something exceptional means showcasing your expertise. And it typically takes more than a single blog post or two to achieve this. That’s where content clusters come in.

Content clusters involve logically linking pages together to create a grouping that supports your overall expertise. Topic clusters prove topical expertise. And they may include existing pages you already have on your site.

Keep this in mind during your next content audit. Don’t just delete pages that aren’t performing. Be discerning. Even if a page doesn’t get direct traffic on its own, it can be useful for supporting other pages within a cluster.

  • You don’t want to stop at a single blog post or article on a topic. 
  • You want an entire pool of articles that all support each other. 
  • Update the pages regularly so they remain evergreen. 
  • Use your expertise to determine the best articles to include in the cluster.

7. Make Decisions Based on Personalized Data

You have deep knowledge, momentum, and expertise on a topic. You also have a slew of data you can gather showcasing a variety of KPIs. Use your personal data, not generic data, to craft your content marketing strategy.

  • A quick win using generic data could be pinpointing a keyword for which you rank in the top 50, and then using the keyword in additional articles to boost your rank into the top 20 or 10.
  • A quick win using personalized data would be finding a page on your site that already gets more traffic than it deserves and then optimizing the page for keywords.

Look at the keywords for which your homepage ranks, and make sure you have the content to support those keywords. If not, write it up. Aim to create the best article on that topic, drawing from your existing authority and existing momentum.

Also, track your historical momentum with Google. Look at the history you have with Google, and then build on it to boost performance even higher. 

8. Pay Attention to Your Remote Content Team

Although you’ll be busy paying attention to KPIs and other marketing metrics to boost the performance of your content, you don’t want to forget another crucial element. The people who create the content, or your remote content team.

Working remotely has become the norm for many, and it’s a lot different than working face-to-face in an office. Just like your website, your SEO, and your CRM, you need to keep your remote content team in optimum working order if you expect members to succeed.

Content Goal Setting

Setting content goals ensures your team members are all on the same page from the get-go. It also gives you a way to measure performance and success.

Your first priority for setting content goals is to make sure they’re aligned with your marketing goals and your business goals. All three need to work together and support each other.

Your next step is to create OKRs, or objectives and key results. Establish:

  • Three to four objectives per person.
  • Three to five key results per objective.
  • A quarterly timeframe for each goal to be complete.

An example from content marketer Alice Ko looks like this:

Objective: Launch a Podcast

  • KR1: Launch 10 episodes.
  • KR2: Reach 1,000 downloads per episode.
  • KR3: Obtain 30%+ open rate on launch email.
  • KR4: Achieve consumption rate of 75%.

Measuring the success of your goals can (and should) be done several ways:

  • Daily or weekly key metrics dashboard.
  • Weekly OKR status review.
  • Mid-quarter video check-ins.
  • Quarterly retrospectives.

Virtual Communication

Virtual communication can be tricky. You lose a lot of the nuances you’d normally get with face-to-face encounters. After all, there’s no way to read body language or facial expressions with online communication apps like Slack.

Online communication apps are great for speed, but not so great for accuracy if team members are not good online communicators. And a lot of people think they are when they’re really not.

When communicating online:

  • Most people think others understand them about 90% of the time.
  • The truth is, people only understand them about 50% of the time.

“Bad communication creates more work. Clarity creates calm.”

Alice Ko

Improve Your Online Communication

To improve your online communication, Ko suggests using techniques that create the acronym CATTE.

  • Context: Give context to your messages.
    • Instead of asking for something “today,” give an exact time you need something, and why.
  • Answers: Present questions in an organized way that produces organized answers.
    • Instead of throwing three or four questions into a paragraph, number the questions in a list.
  • Timeline: Explain when you need something.
    • Instead of simply asking for something to be done, give an exact time by which you need it done.
  • Transparency: Provide details on why you can or cannot do something.
    • Instead of abruptly saying no to taking on a task for today, explain how you’re working on three other things at the moment and can tackle the task tomorrow.
  • Emojis: Show emotion.
    • Instead of sending off a quick message that could be interpreted 10 different ways, include an emoji to show that you’re happy, not mad, about the development.

Communication Shortcuts

Coming up with shortcuts or codes you can use with your team can make online communication even faster and more accurate. Examples include:

  • TS: Time-sensitive.
  • NTS: Not time-sensitive.
  • FYI: For your information only, or don’t share with others.

Create other codes as needed and desired. As long as your team knows what they mean and they don’t get more confusing than helpful, feel free to create as many as you wish. 

Good communication is integral to a happy, healthy, and productive content marketing team.

Poor communication creates more work and:

  • Results in more meetings.
  • Results in burnout.
  • Results in poor performance.
  • Results in not meeting goals.

Mental Health of Remote Workers

Zoom fatigue is real, and 45% of people suffer from it. Meetings, meetings, and more meetings can easily tire out the entire workforce. Meetings have become wasteful enough to even have a trademarked term associated with their wastefulness:

  • MeetingCapital: Value of time restored to individuals that would have otherwise been spent in wasteful meetings.

Keeping meetings brief, to the point, and at a minimum is always a good idea for the sanity and productivity of all.

Isolation and burnout are two more risks for remote teams.

Remote workers:

  • Are two times more likely to suffer from isolation than in-office workers.
  • Have burnout rates of more than 69%.

You can minimize isolation with:

  • Virtual social events, such as:
    • Virtual art night.
    • Virtual games night.
    • Speed friendships.
    • Podcast or book clubs.

Keep burnout low by:

  • Engaging in stronger virtual communication to avoid unnecessary meetings.
  • Holding weekly 1:1s if needed, with meetings as a priority over 1:1s.
  • Understanding everybody’s blind spot.

Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of individual team members can go a long way toward ensuring they’re getting what they need to succeed. This lets you tailor your approach to best suit each member.

  • Some may be prone to isolation, in which case they may desire more 1:1s.
  • Others may be happy to work solo without distractions, in which case 1:1s may be a burden rather than a joy.

The Bottom Line

Unless you have an accurate way to measure and track content performance, you’ll never know if your efforts are producing the return on investment and stellar results you need. What fun is that? 

Sticking with objective data, keeping an eye on KPIs, and regularly auditing both your website content and content marketing plan make for a great starting point. Continue your efforts by creating content clusters, using personalized data, and ensuring your remote content team gets what it needs to succeed.

Once you have all the bases covered, you’ll be able to fix what’s broken, enhance what’s working, and enjoy the greatest overall results. Boost those results to even greater heights by earning Content Strategy Certification from WriterAccess Academy. Enroll for free today.  

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