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5 Great Ideas for Improving Your Content Metrics Right Now

What sort of reader are you? It may seem like a ridiculous question, but think about it:

  • Are you pouring over every word?
  • Are you scanning the sentences?
  • Have you already moved onto the next section?

The answers to these seemingly simple questions are at the heart of content marketing: how do you measure these behaviours and so define what success looks like for any given piece of content?

Sure, you can follow multi-channel funnels, set goals that ascribe a value to content or use the usual suite of content metrics, such as sessions, average time on page and bounce rate, but they don’t tell the whole story.

Here’s a quote from Moz’s Rand Fishkin, in his brilliant Whiteboard Friday about content marketing myths:

"Actually, at Moz, did you know that it's, I think, on average seven-and-a–half visits before someone takes a free trial?"

And here’s the full video if you want to get the context of this quote: 

If industry leaders such as Moz take that number of visits to drive one of their goals – and I think we can all agree their content is really good – then driving more understanding of that ‘seven-and-a-half visits’ is crucial.

At the moment, digital marketers infer engagement from the standard data we know and love (to hate), broadly: pageviews, unique pageviews, sessions (formerly visits), time on page, bounce and exit rates, and social shares.

But the validity of these metrics depends on certain assumptions:

  • Time on page correlates with reader engagement
  • Social shares correlate with reader engagement
  • How and when you leave the page/site correlates with how engaged you were with the content

But these assumptions are being challenged, as Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat, has written in his great article for Time magazine:

  • 55% of readers spend fewer than 15 seconds on a page we’ve they’ve clicked on
  • There is no relationship at all between how much content is shared and how readers engage with the content
  • Those who do share content are a tiny proportion of site visitors, making assumptions based on these visitors dangerous anyway

Other writers have written about flaws in the standard metrics, too. Google’s digital marketing evangelist Avinash Kaushik writes here about the problems with time on page and time on site.

So, how can you track content in a way that will give you better data? Here are five ideas you can implement in Google Analytics (GA), which will hopefully help you fill in the gaps in your knowledge, and help generate a better understanding of your audiences and how they interact with your site.

As with most things in life, none of these ideas are new, nor indeed my own. Fresh Egg has been implementing some of them, and the rest I’ve found reading influencers’ blog posts.

Credit goes to Fresh Egg’s senior digital marketing analyst Julian Erbsloeh, Google’s analytics evangelist, Justin Cutroni, digital analyst Michele Kiss, the guys at Technical Marketing, and analytics guru Avinash Kaushik.

1.     Scroll depth

Once a person lands on the page where do they scroll to? If they are fully engaged, they should scroll to the end of the piece. And you can track this in GA with some custom JavaScript.

Justin Cutroni has a great blog post about implementing scroll tracking for Universal Analytics.

With this method, you can track when a page loads, when scrolling starts, when the bottom of content is reached and when the bottom of the page is reached. 

Picture: http://cutroni.com/

You can see here in this image from Cutroni.com that just over 28 per cent of users reached the bottom of the content in question.

An alternative setup is to implement the scroll tracking by page depth percentage, as seen in this screenshot from GA for one of Fresh Egg’s clients.

In this example nearly 50 per cent of users reached the bottom of the content. Perhaps explaining its great bounce rate!

2.     Goal values

On an ecommerce site, goal value is easily assigned to pages that are part of a successful conversion. If a conversion has a value, each page included in that visit gets assigned part of the value of that conversion.

(You can see Page Value in the above graphic, used to illustrate scroll tracking.)

So a page value can then be assigned to any page that is part of a successful conversion.

But what about visits that end in a conversion that is not a purchase?

Avinash Kaushik advocates creating micro conversions for your site and assigning them economic value in this brilliant blog post: Excellent Analytics Tips #19: Identify Website Goal [Economic] Values.

Here, you can get insight into the real value of site interactions that are not purchase orientated.

Also, check out our own blog post Identifying Macro and Micro Conversions (there’s a part two), written a year ago.

3.     Content page views per visit

This is an idea from a Michele Kiss blog post. It’s an attempt to turn pages per session (formerly visits) into a more usable metric.

The basic principle is that pages per session is an inaccurate measure of engagement as users could be visiting many pages because they cannot find what they are looking for. If that’s the case, they will tend to move around ‘navigational’ pages until they find what they need.

So, it makes sense to exclude ‘navigation’ pages from the metric to find out how your actual content pages are engaging visitors.

It’s not perfect, but if you want to understand how well your site is keeping people around because of ‘content’, this will give you more accurate insight.

4.     Social shares

Social shares are helpful for tracking content engagement but, even with campaign tagging, they are a very broad brushstroke.

Given that, they do provide an indication of popularity so, courtesy of Technical Marketing, here’s a blog listing three ways of using JavaScript to get more data into and out of GA with your social sharing buttons.

In essence, you can track likes, unlikes, sends and shares on Facebook, when someone tweets of one of your URLs or follows you on Twitter, and when someone uses the LinkedIn share button on a piece of your content.

5.     And finally, get a metrics BFF

Of course, in the end, you will probably need to be choosing metrics based on the type of website in question and the business it represents. Choosing the right metrics is critical for the overall success of a site.

There is always a temptation to choose metrics in silos, so that a particular department in an organisation tracks a few metrics which show their work in the best light.

To counter this temptation, Avinash Kaushik talks about a metric’s BFF. The idea is that for every metric that will help one part of an organisation track their results, they should also have a BFF metric set into their KPIs that makes them pay attention to other aspects of digital marketing.

One example he uses is sessions, which should have the BFF of new users. His reasoning is clear and logical. If you are tracking sessions, then you should be tracking new users as well, as it is one thing to attract lots of traffic, but can you hang on to that traffic and get the users to return to your site? Having a metrics BFF tends to balance out any distortion in just using the original metric.

And that’s it…

So, why not try some of these ideas and see how they help you optimise your content strategy. Of course, getting the metrics right is only one aspect of a fully formed content strategy. Check out our blog post The Content Cycle – a  Visual Guide for more about getting the best out of your content.

If you have any better ways of implementing these tips or better ideas for the way forward for content metrics, then please leave a comment below. If you need help with the analytics for your site, then please use our contact form.



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