How to measure content performance (& other site metrics)
What figures to look at when measuring the performance of you blog posts, newsroom & other content.
For those of us who create content for a living, someone will inevitably come knocking at our door, wanting to see some numbers related to that content. Maybe that person is a boss, a CEO, or just a really nosey neighbor.
Either way, you'll want to be able to account for the work you're doing beyond shouting, "The vibes are immaculate! End of discussion!" But content is a tricky thing. Often it can be difficult to quantify how effective a piece of content is on its surface. That's where the value of site analytics and performance comes into play.
Unfortunately, these can seem like daunting and scary words to the more creative types.
So, it's time we left-brainers put on our right-brain thinking caps and prove the value of our content. With numbers.
Before we get into the weeds of what we're tracking, first, let's talk about why. There are a ton of reasons:
- To impress your boss (or your boss' boss) - Presumably, the people who are paying you want proof that continuing to pay you is a good idea. People are weird in that they want something for their money almost 100% of the time. Analytics is a great way to prove your worth to the haters.
- To determine what is (and isn't) working - Your content may be amazing, but if it isn't reaching your audience's wet eyeballs, you might as well just print your content on a bunch of parchment paper and launch it into space. Analytics tell you if your content is being viewed, if it engages, and if people stick around.
- To inform strategy - Your analytics are an opportunity to course-correct and refine your content strategy in real time. If your content isn't hitting the algorithm, isn't being read, or doesn't engage the people who do read it, then it's obvious some adjustments need to be made. And as we all know, content without a brand strategy is like screaming into a water well: a lot of fun, but not really that useful.
JK! There's no secret sauce, so don't waste your time looking for one. Instead, do these three things (you won't believe #2!)
Backlinks are powerful for a few reasons. First, they help with SEO. And SEO matters because the internet controls our every waking minute. The more backlinks you get, the more powerful your website becomes until it is able to gain sentience and eat all the other websites.
Backlinks help establish domain authority by showing the search engines that your content is so good and so fun and funky and fresh that all the other websites trust it enough to give it links. Also, the more people that link to you, the more people will naturally click the link. It's just math.
Social presence is an important part of any business. Unfortunately, it's no longer enough to just sell things or provide a service or do stuff. There is power in numbers, and people want to see that your business is established, running, and fully engaged online.
That being said, social media is a tricky beast. Social media is complicated, ever-changing, algorithmically based, and often known to throttle businesses (until they pay up). Of course, we all have to play by their rules since how users view our content on their platforms is ultimately up to their discretion. This can make social engagement as a reliable metric pretty.… unreliable. But this lack of consistency doesn't make it any less important to the majority of businesses, leading social media to be both important and unreliable. A fun and infuriating combination for the whole family!
Thankfully, tracking social engagement isn't that difficult as the socials each have their own set of analytics that you can either compile manually (like our ancestors did) or you can use a social media management tool like Buffer, HootSuite, or Sprout Social to do the work for you. If you're part of a PR agency and manage multiple clients, a great tool can be a fantastic way to control the chaos.
Obviously, for most businesses, conversion is the goal. Getting people to buy what you're selling through the power of content is the ideal scenario. Sure, content can help with SEO, brand awareness, community engagement, and those other fun buzzwords, but if your content can actually sell? Well, that's fantastic, and you should keep doing more of that.
Conversion rates can be tracked through whatever analytics system your business has set up, including Google Analytics, Mixpanel, or manually using an Abacas like the ancient Romans.
Pageviews and website visitors are key indicators that your website is on the map, and your brand is out there, getting exposure. Knowing where your views are coming from and which content is getting the most views is extremely useful in deciding what content to continue developing, and what is basically dead in the water.
You can track your pageviews straight through Google Search Console, which is a free service provided by Google. It'll tell you which links are performing best, peak and slow hours, and whether or not your precious content is being crawled on Google. The obvious limitation of this, of course, is the fact that it only tracks Google search results. GSC is not super reliable nor helpful for traffic from other sources, like direct links, social links, etc.
Many CMS (Content Management Systems) will have their own integrated analytics. Prezly uses an integration with Plausible Analytics for our users' analytics because of its commitment to privacy. Not bragging or anything, just sharing a fun fact that also happens to be brag-worthy.
Let's be honest, does your content suck? And by that I mean, does it not have enough animated gifs?
Content is in a bit of a free-fall these days. Between AI-generated content sucking the lifeforce out of every single syllable on the internet, insanely generic regurgitated churned content, and rapidly shortening attention spans, the art of good content is dying. But thankfully we have a handy-dandy metric to track how much your content sucks: bounce rate!
Bounce rate, in laymen's terms, is the rate at which visitors "bounce" from your website without ever interacting with anything but the initially-clicked page. If your bounce rate is high, it means people just aren't sticking around that long is a great indicator that something about your content isn't quite hitting right. It could be that the content doesn't navigate easily, it's too text-heavy, too dry, or too Already Exists on ChatGPT. No matter what isn't quite working, bounce rate can give you some insightful metrics about how long people are staying engaged.
Google Analytics can help you track your bounce rate if that's what you're using to track your overall site analytics. Other analytics tools will typically tell you a roughly estimated bounce rate as well.
If SEO is part of your content strategy, ranking highly for the identified keyword is an important indicator that your content is:
- Appeasing the Robot Overlords of SEO
Basically, in very reductionist terms, keyword position is how high your content ranks on the search engines relative to all the other people who are writing about that keyword. The higher the content ranks, the more people see it. The more people see it, the more people click it.
The only real way to control your keyword positioning is to create really, really good content. Gone are the days of aggressive keyword stuffing where some marketing bro named Cliff could create a crappy article and just infuse the keyword 4,000 times. No, you actually have to create good, non-spammy content.
Having a robust email list is a great way to build community, communicate with possible (or current) customers, share more content and inspiration, and eventually convert and create fans out of strangers. A growing subscriber base can be a great indicator that people like your content and want more of it (because they're specifically asking for more of it).
Since we're fans of practicing what we preach, we'd be remiss not to mention our own newsletter! Feel free to subscribe if you'd like more content inspo and marketing goodness.
While there is no limit to the content metrics you could track, picking a few to focus on is typically suggested over tracking everything and learning nothing. Ultimately, what you choose to track should depend on your end goals. Are you trying to convert? Gain exposure? Increase traffic through SEO? Just have a few shiny new high scores to save on the refrigerator?
Regardless of your end goal, content should always be strategic. If you'd like to read some more about the power of quality content, check out these articles:
- Storytelling marketing: how to use it to crush your competition
- Spice up your earned media strategy (guide & real-life examples)
- 6 digital storytelling examples to get inspiration for your brand
Updated March 2023