What the Numbers Can’t Tell You

numbersAnalytics software is one of the most valuable tools available when it comes to tracking content performance. Unfortunately, it only tracks the aspects of performance to which you can attach a number. Here’s what the numbers can’t tell you:

How much trust have you earned?

We share articles if they make us laugh or if they support our point of view. Sometimes we don’t even read a blog post, we share it because the headline seems to agree with our personal politics. You can count shares, but you can’t measure the degree of trust that you’ve earned with your reader. You can’t count how many people actually read an article and take its message to heart.

How many minds have you changed?

Whether you want to convince someone to invest in an eco-friendly carpet cleaner, vote for your favorite presidential candidate, or watch your favorite TV show, analytics don’t do a great job of telling you how many minds you’ve changed. They can tell you how many people have clicked through, how many people have helped spread your message, but there’s no telling if you’ve really persuaded them, or if they were already committed to the cause when they first came to your blog.

How big could your market be?

Your market may be niche. It may be a rule of thumb in your industry that you’re playing to a crowd of maybe ten thousand potential customers. Does it have to be that way, though? Analytics will tell you how many people you’re reaching, but they won’t tell you how many people you could be reaching.

The challenge when it comes to content performance is taking the continual improvement made possible by marketing data, and combining it with vision, insight, and ambition. If your goals are humble, then you can simply hire freelance writers and instruct them to do exactly what has worked before. There’s nothing wrong with playing it safe. Analytics are a great road map if you just want to develop a reliable business model. What analytics cannot do is guide you through the process of innovation.

But then, what can? The reason they call it innovation is because you’re traveling through uncharted territories, and there won’t be any maps for these undiscovered countries until you’re done charting them.

Gilbert S. is a writer and artist who lives in Bluewater, New Mexico with his wife, and his dog, Sir Kay.


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