Measuring Content Effectiveness: Lessons From Our Own Blog Audit
I’ve been the editor of the Simply Measured blog for almost three years now. Like many marketers, the blog hasn’t been my singular focus.
Especially in the digital marketing world, roles can be fluid and areas of responsibility can shift as needs change. This can be distracting, and you may not be surprised to hear this on an analytics blog, but this frequent change is exactly why measurement is important.
Measuring Content Effectiveness: Lessons From Our Own Blog Audit
Our blog is an industry leader for social marketing and analytics insight, but it’s still a work-in-progress, and we constantly want to improve the content we deliver to our audience. If constantly delivering better content wasn’t our focus, we’d be wasting your time. More importantly, we preach measurement and optimization all day. If we weren’t doing that ourselves, it would be wildly hypocritical.
Conducting a Blog Analysis
Recently, I sat down with a massive cup of coffee, our Google Analytics account, and our old friend Excel, and I started pouring through Simply Measured blog content.
In this post, I want to walk through the process, sharing some tips and using some of my own findings as examples, but before you conduct an analysis (of anything) it’s important to know why you’re doing it. In our case, I had several goals and questions in mind:
1. Challenge assumptions: I’ve been here for a long time (in start-up years). I have a lot of “native knowledge” that, as far as I know, isn’t even true anymore. What if my assumptions that were formed years ago are preventing success?
2. Identify key topics and terms that drive long-term value (or don’t): Social marketing changes rapidly, and our topics cover a broad spectrum. We discuss a dozen different networks, various types of analysis, and different types of marketing strategies. It’s important to understand what works in what ways.
3. Gather enough data to share findings across my team: While I dig through blog content on a weekly basis and think I have a pretty solid understanding of how to move the needle, I wanted to put this all together to share areas we can win (and areas we don’t) with my team, who can then use that information to tweak their style.
Start with Google Analytics
If you run a blog, you should live and breathe Google Analytics. The first step in your audit is to create a custom report that highlights the information you want to analyze.
In our case, I was focused on several key signals. Many are standard, but it’s important to zero in on the metrics that will provide insight and context for your specific brand:
Users: People that have had at least one session within the selected date range. Includes both new and returning users.
Pageviews: The total number of pages viewed during the selected timeframe.
Unique Pageviews: The number of visits in which the specified page was viewed at least once.
New Sessions: The estimated percentage of users who are first-time visitors.
Bounce Rate: the percentage of single-page visits (i.e. visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page).
Pages Per Session: The average number of pages users interacted with after visiting the selected page.
Content Downloads: We’ve built out goals in Google Analytics based on interactions with our marketing automation software, Marketo. One of these goals is the number of content downloads attributable to a specific landing page.
Once your custom report is created, export the report to Excel (make sure you’ve selected to display all rows before exporting, otherwise you’ll only get data on the first ten pages).
Click here to add my blog dashboard template to your Google Analytics account and customize the metrics for your specific needs.
Analyzing in Excel
Once you open your export in Excel, click over to the “DataSet1 ” tab. This will give you each post and the metrics you’ve selected to analyze.
The first step is to simplify what’s in front of you. Google Analytics will have given you a list of page URLs instead of post titles. By using the “Find and Replace” function, you can remove the URL characteristics (date format, forward slashes, and hyphens) so you’re left with either the post title, or something close to it if you’ve chosen a unique URL format.
After simplifying the landing page content, create a sortable table that encompasses the entire sheet.
This will allow you to conduct your analysis quickly and efficiently. There are several ways to slide the data that can be sliced. Below are some examples from my own analysis, but (again) I can’t stress enough how important it is to analyze based on what’s important to your specific brand and industry.
Tagging your content is an important step. In our case, I went through my list of content and bucketed by the type of post. This allowed me to look at where our time-spent was most valuable, and where we were doing things wrong. I found that blog posts that presented research weren’t up to par, so we’ve made several adjustments to how we write these posts and what we include in them. This also showed me which of our posts drove the highest number of conversions (marked by content downloads) which allows me to tie blog activity directly to our sales pipeline.
By focusing on the terms you use the most, and that you believe are the most interesting to your audience, you can develop a better understanding of the most valuable content types, which can inform your upcoming blog content. For example, posts with “content” in the title have driven the highest pageviews recently, and posts about blogging drive the highest average pages per session. These two numbers are why I’m writing another one now [insert winky face emoji].
This one was fun. I strongly disagree with every blogger who’s told you that you should be spending 75% of your time on the headline. If that’s the case, you’re either spending too long on each post, or the actual content is terrible. That said, we spend a lot of time talking about headline attributes that work so we don’t have to spend hours on each one.
The educational keywords like “Lessons” or “Tips” drive a lot of traffic for us.
Also, posts that start with a number (i.e. 10 Reasons Kevin Should Have Started This Post with a Number) see higher traffic than average.
Top and Bottom Performers
In this instance, I compared the top performing posts and bottom performing posts for several key categories.
We also pulled estimated post length through WordPress to determine whether longer or shorter posts prove more successful. In every case, our longer content is more successful.
This analysis is good to set context and have a baseline, but it’s important to measure and analyze as you go. At Simply Measured, we keep a dashboard of both week-over-week and month-over-month metrics that I update and share regularly. This helps us stay agile with our content and make tactical changes based on current trends. In addition to the information above, we also analyze social shares for all of our blog content by using Simply Measured‘s social blog performance reports (had to get at least one plug in).
What Will You Find?
Hopefully these examples were helpful and sparked some ideas for your own analysis. It’s not difficult to do, but in many cases, we push this type of audit to the background because the immediate value isn’t there. The problem with that mindset is that we never learn the things that could take us to the next level. That’s our goal with the Simply Measured blog, just as it is with the rest of our marketing programs.
What types of things do you focus on when analyzing your own blog content? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, and I’m sure the rest of our community would benefit from your shared insight as well.
As the Head of Marketing Communications at Simply Measured and generally delightful person, my job is to use data to tell stories to the internet that help the internet get better at telling stories...You're welcome internet.