Why content is still king (but data is eyeing up the crown)
Is your content clever or cocky? Lauren Pow explains how you can tell if your content is cutting through.
Content has held the coveted top-spot in digital marketing for several years, with businesses harnessing the power of credible, on-target articles, videos and posts to reach buyers where spend most of their time: online.
Whether it be in the form of blog posts, videos, infographics or social media visuals, content was utilised by around 90 per cent of businesses last year with the goal of encouraging engagement, improving SEO, generating new leads and raising awareness of products and services.
But as businesses invest more in content marketing strategies, there’s also evidence of content saturation taking its toll. There are fewer clicks or shares per piece, and it can be harder to carve out a niche or hit the right audience.
This is where data joins the contest.
Rather than lots of effort for limited effect, data lets you concentrate your efforts in the right areas — and get immediate feedback on what works and what doesn’t.
There are a number of ways businesses can analyse the performance of their content, and most content management systems (CMS) can provide detailed back-end reports on various metrics.
But not all data is created equal.
Below is a list of common content performance terms, some of which can provide an indication of ROI, and others which are just vanity metrics.
If you, like 62% of people, get your news from social media then you would have undoubtedly heard of the phrase clickbait. This is the practice of sensationalising headlines to lure readers into clicking on an article (which usually under-delivers on content). This is largely carried out by businesses wanting to draw more traffic to their website, possibly because that’s part of their monetisation strategy or because they hope that once lured there under false pretences you will suddenly engage with them as a supplier.
Usefulness of this metric? Limited.
While increased traffic can boost your SEO, it says little about how engaged readers are with your content and brand. Overall, this is more of a vanity metric.
2. Time on page
Come for the clickbait, stay for the incredible content? Sadly no.
A high average page visit time (literally, the time your visitors on average spend on your page) can mislead content managers into thinking that people are engaging with the articles or stories. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Many CMS measure time on page as the total amount of time a web page is kept open on your browser for. However, this often doesn’t account for people having more than one tab open at once, which is something most people do. It helps not at all if your customer has your page open as part of a 50-tab stack.
Clicks and time are frequently used metrics because they are easy to measure, but the objective of most content isn’t really to entice readers to click a link, read a headline and view a page. The real goal of having a content strategy is to encourage conversations between those visitors and your business – preferably that progresses to a sale or some other kind of tangible return on your investment. This is why you should have a call to action (CTA) at the end of your content as a better way to measure the ROI – and this should link to the actual action you would like them to take. This could be signing up to a newsletter, so you can speak on future issues, providing you with details in a form, or emailing a consultant or sales rep.
To capture this data look at both ends of the transaction. Track the number of contacts through the CTA as well as enquire with callers how they found your business.
4. Length of content
Just because you have lots to say about a topic, doesn’t mean people are going to read it all. The reality is your readers are busy, and don’t have the time to sort through pages of text to find what they’re looking for. It’s estimated 55 per cent of visitors will spend only 15 seconds or less reading your web copy; usually skimming the text to look for concrete, valuable information. At the same time, a blog post that is too short is a waste of the effort of clicking through – particularly if it lacks substance.
The correct answer to ‘how long should your post be’ is actually two answers: quite short and quite long. That’s because there is a spike in readership around the 300-500 word length, and again upwards of 2000 words. Don’t start padding your text to meet the upper limit, however. Keep the information useful and detailed. If you need to summarise complex information, break it up with infographics, images and video.
This is somewhere between a vanity metric and an actionable metric. On one hand, a high volume of comments indicates your audience is engaged and interested in your content. On the other hand, these might not translate into sales leads or new business. Comments are still a useful metric, as they give you a chance to interact directly with your audience and can demonstrate your high levels of customer service — but don’t lose sight of the proportion of your customer-base who are commenting. Sometimes, the commentators are just the squeaky wheels.
Is sharing really caring? Before you get too excited by the number of people redistributing your content, you need to find out who these people are. Are they employees under duress or people who find you genuinely helpful? Even if you see a spike of activity on a piece of content, this doesn’t mean people agree with what you’re saying. Check out this cringeworthy example of a video going viral for all the wrong reasons. Remember that on Facebook, content that is shared is ranked more highly than content that just sits there, but content that is revisited or searched for by readers also gets top marks.
The bottom line is although we are surrounded by data, not all of it helps businesses make decisions about what they should say and how they should say it.
It is important to differentiate between data that makes us feel good about our content, and data that demonstrates whether your content is making a positive difference to the business.