I maaaaaay have recorded this episode in the baggage claim area of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Sorry, everyone in the airport.
I’m on vacation for the week, but I couldn’t pass up on recording the next episode, in which I provide a quick review of the GrowthHackers conference and talk about how to not fall into traps when using content marketing metrics to analyze success.
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Episode 7: Which Content Marketing Metrics Are Best? – Show Notes
This week’s question comes from Jessica Sargo, the product marketing manager at TwentyEighty Strategy Execution. She asked:
- GrowthHackers conference
- The Value of All Link Types in Content Marketing [blog post]
Content Marketing Metrics for Off-Site Content
Links can be a huge part of how you measure the success of your off-site content and your outreach strategies, but solely assessing the number of links you’ve garnered means you’re depriving yourself of the full picture.
For example, you could have one or two medium-quality links from media coverage, and a series of low-quality or spammy networks republish it. The links from that low-quality syndication would show up in a link count metric, but it’s important to see exactly what types of links they are and how they’ll contribute to your portfolio.
Examples of what else you can consider to get more comprehensive metrics are the domain authority of the links, number of unique linking domains, number of social shares, and the context of the coverage.
Content Marketing Metrics for On-Site Content
It’s common to use site traffic as the most prominent metric for analyzing the success of on-site content, and it makes sense – if you’re producing content and there’s a lot of traffic to the page featuring that content, that indicates something’s working.
But traffic is a “symptom,” for lack of a better word. It shows something’s probably working, but it doesn’t explain why.
You have to ask yourself: What was the purpose of this content? And was it successful in achieving that specific purpose?
For example, you could be trying to rank for a particular keyword. Metrics like time on site and bounce rate can have an impact on how Google assesses the quality of that page, so it’s crucial you pay attention to these metrics. That way, if your ranking and traffic go up, you understand what you’re doing right and can continue improving.
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Welcome to ask Amanda About Marketing, a podcast in which I, Amanda, or occasionally a special guest answers your questions about inbound marketing straightforward, right? If you want to submit a question email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you. Let’s get right to it.
I am recording this episode at the Seattle airport because I actually just left LA where I was attending the GrowthHackers conference this past Wednesday. For those of you who haven’t been, I highly recommend it, especially to marketers even though it’s a conference directly aimed toward marketers. It’s anybody who considers themselves a “growth hacker,” which as we found out during the conference has some varying definitions if you talk to different people.
But there’s a lot of overlap. Anybody who is a growth hacker is obviously considered about growing various parts of a company and marketers have growth in mind, always, so even though a lot of the people were talking about marketing products and I work in an agency, I felt a lot of the theories, concepts, and even specific techniques were able to translate really well to what I do. So, highly recommended. The one thing I do want to call out one of my biggest takeaways from this experience, which was a reminder I think everybody needs every now and then. The sessions were organized by theme, which I really enjoyed. It was one day, so there was a lot of information jam-packed into a short period of time.
The first couple of sessions in the morning were all about mission-driven organizations and growth hackers. So there were companies like Duolingo and Ring that were super interesting to people who came to talk about their strategies, but a lot of people mentioned the fact that some of their marketing strategies like their most successful emails or most successful ad placements were ones where there weren’t a call to action. They were ones that were really mission-focused and talked about to their audiences about why they exist and what they’re trying to solve and really trying to build that emotional connection with people and it was interesting to see the proof that that can work.
Obviously, no one’s advocating just throwing out, you know data and just ignoring the normal go-to strategies, but I think it was an important reminder that you have to remember the foundation of what you’re doing and to make sure that that could be visible in everything that you produce.
Anyway, highly recommend it and apologies in advance. I am sitting near baggage claim in the corner away from as many people as possible. But there are still screaming children running around, people rolling their suitcases nearby, so there will be background sounds in this episode. Hopefully, it’s not too bad. Bear with me. I really appreciate it.
I’m really excited because the reason I’m in Seattle is that I’m starting my vacation over the next week going from Seattle to Portland to Crater Lake to Redwoods and San Francisco. So I think when this episode airs, I’ll actually be at Crater Lake so I will be very much enjoying myself. I hope that this episode proves really useful for you because we got a really great question this week from Jessica Sargo, who is the product marketing manager at 2080 Strategy Execution. Her question is:
When measuring content effectiveness, is there something that we should be looking out for so we don’t miss-measure or fall into a trap with false results?
First of all, I want to say that even having that mentality of wondering how you can improve your analysis of your work is a fantastic one. I think this is an amazing question because there are lots of things to consider and almost all of it comes down to context. So the way I’m going to break this down is dividing it into off-site content—so, content you’re creating to promote that you’ve pitched (that’s a lot of the work Fractl does) to different media sources and you get links from the outreach and so on. Then I’m going to talk about on-site content and how you should be analyzing that okay.
So first, off-site content. A lot of people will consider the link account, which makes total sense. A lot of these outreach initiatives are because you’re trying to build links. Always look at the number of links you get from a content campaign. However, that should not be everything you look at. Considering links only is very singular and you’re not going to get the whole picture without diving in a little further to see what kind of links are getting. So the quality of links.
It’s okay to have a primary metric like link number of that’s your specific goal. Or if your goal is to build organic traffic over time, like say six or eight months, obviously you’re going to be looking at those metrics to see if you’re being successful. Especially on a campaign level; to know if you’re really succeeding, you have to understand how it performed and why it performed the way it did. Otherwise, it may not be performing the way you want.
So here are some other things to consider. Just because something gets a high number of links, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all the links are quality links. You need to look and see which sites are linking to you. And what kind of links they are, right? So are they dofollow links? Nofollow links? Co-citation links? I’m going to put a link in the—ironically—put a link in the Show Notes for this where we explain the pros and cons of every link type. All link types have benefits but it’s important to break this down so that you’re getting a picture of how successful your outreach strategy was.
The distribution of these types of links is important, you know, obviously getting a million do follow links is great, but Google looks for natural linking. So, co-citation links, nofollow links are important as well because that means that there was natural syndication occurring. That means that people are picking up the coverage because it’s valuable content not even because you pitch them. This speaks to the value of your content and the worth of your outreach efforts.
So say you had a campaign that did extremely well when you’re looking at the number of links that you got from it. Then you look closely and you realize that one or two were dofollow links—really high-quality publications—and then look at the rest of the links you got and they were all a series of weird co-citation or text we call a text attribution—which is means that your content was mentioned but they didn’t actually link to you. Then you look at the URLs for those sites and they’re just kind of bots or they’re really low quality. That will mean that the top two sites that you used might not have the best actual syndication networks. I mean, usually, they’re not going to be super top-tier. If they’re really, really quality, they’re going to have good syndication networks.
But you know, sometimes it’s deceiving. Sometimes you’re going to get a million bot related links. Just because you have a high number, it doesn’t mean that you really were that successful, like you shouldn’t even really be looking at those. What it does tell you—every time you analyze this when a campaign’s done, you can see which publications have the best natural syndication networks. This is huge if you’re trying to link build and taking that step to analyze all of the links you get.
Here’s the other thing: not just, you know, over the course of a month when you’re doing the average of the content, natural links continue happening, especially if you get really great media placements up front—they keep happening for months. We’re actually working on content in the marketing department about campaigns we made for our clients that are continuing to get links months and months after we consider the campaign done or closed. So that’s another thing to consider. You’re not going to get the whole picture unless you’re really analyzing what that did, what your outreach efforts did over a long period of time and the types of links you’re getting from coverage on certain sites.
So the summary here is, make sure you’re getting the whole picture when you’re creating a link report. Maybe you’re sitting here like, “Amanda, I don’t even have time to be dealing with that kind of off-site outreach production and I’m focused on on-site. That’s a different story. I’m going to dive into that right now.
So, on-site content. Most of the time, I would say people are concerned about traffic. Is the content of posting getting traffic? Makes sense. You want to make sure that the content you’re producing is being seen, right? A lot of the time, that might be one of your primary goals, increasing organic traffic to your site. So obviously, I’m not telling you not to look at traffic, but the key here is to not look at traffic only.
First of all, even if you’re being really successful in getting traffic to your site, where is the traffic coming from and why? Okay, so you posted content on your site. Is it because the content has a lot of inbound links? Did those links come naturally or did you do outreach and which outreach was the most successful and gave you the most referral? Did it come from organic search improvements? Or maybe it has something to do with changes you made on the site in terms of navigation and people are now staying on there longer and are able to find your other content easier. The point is there’s a lot of different ways you can assess whether this content is performing, well, in the way you want it to. Ultimately traffic is, for lack of a better word, a symptom that something is going right but you need to find out what’s actually causing things to go right. So ask yourself: what is the purpose of this content?
Personally, one of the things I’m striving to do at the internal marketing department at Fractl is to increase engagement with our content. So, I’m going to switch my priority to things like time on site and increasing the number of comments we’re getting on blog posts. Obviously, organic traffic is still crucial. It’s always been one of my major goals—not only just organic, but targeted traffic—but, these other things are going to be increasingly more important and it’s how I’m gonna try defining the success of the content we’re making from now on.
So this is what I’m talking about. You need to think about what the actual objective is of the content that you’re analyzing and use the metrics that correspond the most with how people are interacting with that content. So in addition to the one I just mentioned, time on site and comments, other things to potentially look at is keyword movement. Is your content helping you increase your performance for certain keywords? That could be your target because that’s really going to help increase your organic traffic in effective ways. Just because organic traffic is going up, does it mean that it’s irrelevant organic traffic?
Then another example is bounce rate. If people are landing on your content and they’re immediately leaving, that means that’s something about that content isn’t matching up with the search intent. So if they did find it inorganic—they find it—they type something into Google and they click it and they immediately leave—that means that it’s not what they’re looking for and you need to assess what you need to change in that content. Just because the traffic is there, it doesn’t mean anything actually happened as a result. So bounce rate is also a really important thing to consider.
Then the final thing I want to mention is on-site gated content. So there’s a slight difference here and how you should approach this and, you know, a lot of its the same—still on site content—but what you have to think about is not just the conversion rate. That’s obviously going to be a big part of it. Is this working? Are people giving us their emails, for example, and becoming part of our email list in order to download this ebook. But what you have to continue to look at as time goes on is: are they opting out? Are they staying in?
Making the connection like, if they got into this information flow through downloading this ebook, if they remain in the flow, that means that that ebook probably gave them the value they were hoping to receive for giving them your their email address. If they opt in and maybe after an email or two drop out, that might not be the case. Now, it might be the emails we were sending them also, but that would require further analysis. It might just be that whenever they gave their personal information for wasn’t worth remaining on your email list. So you have to make sure that just because they give you their emails, you have to later connect that to how many are unsubscribing.
So all in all, the big summary of this episode is—context is everything and making sure you’re remembering your objectives and incorporating any metrics that are associated with those objectives. So like I said for off-site content, that’s not just links. Maybe it’s social engagement. Maybe you want to increase the number of people who see the name of your brand. Social engagement would be huge for that too. How many social shares did all those media stories get
For on-site content, that can be things like bounce rate, comments to signify engagement, and social shares as well. There are so many different ways to look at it and you have to base it on the success you’ve had in the past and what you’re trying to accomplish and what metrics are going to best reflect that.
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