How to measure content performance

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Content should be at the heart of every marketing strategy. Creating it takes time and money, so it’s important you know how to measure content performance.

In this article, we’re going to show you how to measure content performance in Google Analytics, Search Console and a number of other popular analytics tools. This will help you ensure your content is hitting targets and improve any pages that are falling short of the mark.

First, know what you’re measuring

Before you can measure the performance of your content, you need to know what your objectives are and which KPIs represent success for them. Generally speaking, there are three broad goals for any given content marketing campaign.

  1. Awareness: Getting your content seen by the right audience.
  2. Engagement: Getting the audiences to interact with your brand.
  3. Action: Converting visitors into leads and customers.

You can break these core goals down into smaller objectives (e.g. increasing traffic, lead generation, customer retention etc) but they all come back to awareness, engagement and action. First of all, you need your content to be seen by the right people, then you want these audiences to engage with your content in a meaningful way, which hopefully results in them converting into valuable leads or customers.

So, the question to ask now is how we can measure content performance for each of these goals.

Measuring awareness – are people seeing your content?

The first measure of content success is that the right people are actually seeing it. For most brands, organic search and social media are the two key channels for achieving this. There are four types of campaign you want to be running here:

  • On-page content: Your website content for generating traffic from organic search and social media.
  • Off-page content: Content published on third-party sites to tap into wider audiences.
  • Organic social: Posts promoting your brand and on-page content (low reach).
  • Paid social: Social ads promoting your brand and content (high reach).

The first metric you want to look at for awareness is impressions, which tells you how many people see your results in Google Search and your posts on social media. For your on-page content, the best place to view impressions data is Google Search Console, which shows you how many times any URL from your site appears in organic search results.

Clicks and impressions in Google Search Console

You can also find reports for your search result position, telling you where on the page your organic listings rank.

Next, you want to know how much traffic your content is actually bringing to your website, which you can check in Google Analytics.

You can access this data in Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages and check the following metrics for specific URLs:

  • Pageviews: The total number of times this page has been viewed.
  • Unique Pageviews: The number of unique visitors that have viewed this page.
SEO data in Google Analytics for content performance

Delving a little deeper, you can check where the traffic for these pages is coming from (organic search, social, paid search etc) by clicking on the Secondary dimension tab and selecting Acquisition > Source/Medium.

This tells you how well your content is performing across organic search, social media and third-party sites, in terms of how much traffic is coming in.

Of course, you’ll get deeper insights into your social impressions, clicks and other metrics by using the built-in analytics tools of your social media networks. You’ll also be able to segment traffic volumes by organic and paid campaigns to get a better understanding of how these two channels are contributing to your content marketing efforts.

Once your awareness campaigns are performing for a while, you’ll want to keep an eye on the following KPIs:

  • Searches volumes for your brand name
  • Brand mentions on social media
  • Brand citations in third-party content
  • Links to your website from third-party pages

As for mentions on social media, you’ll want to use a tool like Hootsuite to measure these. This platform also serves as a useful social automation and analytics tool.

Measuring engagement – are users interacting with your content?

People may be seeing your brand online but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re engaging with your content. Traffic is a partial measure of engagement in the sense that it shows people are clicking your search listings and ads, which means they must be buying into your message to some extent.

What you want to do now is measure how much users are engaging with your content after they click through to your website.

You can measure on-page content engagement by assessing the following metrics in Google Analytics:

  • Time on page: How long users spend on your page.
  • Bounce rate: The percentage of users who leave your site without visiting a second page.
  • Pages visited: The average number of pages visited per session.
  • Conversion rate: Highly-engaging content often encourages people to take action.

The most important metric is the average time spent on any given page. You can find this in Google Analytics by clicking on Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages and check the figure listed under Avg. Time on Page.

SEO data in Google Analytics for content performance

Bounce rates, pages visited and conversion rates are all secondary metrics here that don’t tell you much independently. However, high bounce rates and low time spent on the page, suggests you’ve got a serious engagement problem – unless you happen to have some impressive conversion rates going on.

Next, you’ll want to move over to Search Console and check your Top linked pages, which basically provides a list of your most link-worthy content – a solid indication of engagement. In Search Console, click Links report > Top linked pages table to access this data.

You can also learn a lot about content engagement by looking at how it performs on social media. Once again, it helps to look at impressions, views or whatever your network provides to indicate how many users are seeing your social content and comparing with the following metrics:

  • Likes
  • Shares
  • Comments
  • Clicks
  • Traffic
  • Links

You can get this data from each social network’s individual analytics suites. But this is another area where it’s good to have a dedicated social media management platform like Hootsuite or Buzzsumo to access these reports from a single place.

Measuring action – is your content converting users?

Ultimately, your goal with content marketing is to inspire users to take action – buy from you, sign up to your email lists, download your free content etc. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to get conversion rates for individual pages by setting up goals in Google Analytics.

There are four goal types you can set up:

  1. Destination: When a user visits a specific URL.
  2. Duration: Sessions that last a set amount of time.
  3. Pages/Screens per session: A user who views a specific number of pages or screens.
  4. Event: When a user completes a defined action like clicking on an element, playing a video etc.

The easiest way to track conversion rates for specific pages is to set up Destination goals and divert users to a defined URL after they complete a conversion action. So, basically, you’re sending users to a “Thank you” page and when Google Analytics detects that a user lands on this URL it notes a completed conversion.

Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to create custom reports for your pages with Goal completions and Goal conversion rate included.

SEO data in Google Analytics for content performance

You’re not limited to tracking conversion by URLs though. By setting up Events Measurement in Google Analytics, you can track user actions based on the elements they click on your website. Which means you can create conversion goals for when users click CTA buttons or hit the submit button on a form.

Measure action and engagement with your content is by using a heatmapping tool like Hotjar

Another way to measure action and engagement with your content is by using a heatmapping tool like Hotjar. You can use click heatmaps to see how many users are clicking on your CTA buttons and scroll maps to see how much users are engaging with your content and whether they’re getting far enough down the page to see your CTAs.

Bringing your data together

The content goals we’ve looked at in this article have pulled in plenty of data from Google Analytics, Search Console, social media platforms and a bunch of third-party analytics tools. And we’ve only scratched the surface of how to measure content performance.

You’ll also want to keep a constant eye on the performance of your content in organic search, measure the quality of leads your content is generating, calculate a content ROI for each piece, spot new opportunities and so much more.

All of this brings yet more data into the mix and you need a single place to collate and visualise this data to extract actionable insights. We use our own software Apollo Insights to collect data from dozens of third-party sources and your website. This keeps all of your data in one place, making it easier to compare metrics and KPIs while Apollo’s algorithms spot actionable insights that would otherwise require an entire team of data analysts.

Apollo Insights dashboard on screens
Apollo Insights

Need help with your content?

You can find out more about our content marketing services here, or if you’d like to speak to us, call our specialists on 02392 830281.

Dave Colgate profile picture
Dave Colgate

Dave is head of SEO at Vertical Leap. He joined in 2010 as an SEO specialist and prior to that worked with international companies delivering successful search marketing campaigns. Dave works with many of our largest customers spanning many household names and global brands such as P&O Cruises and Harvester. Outside of work, Dave previously spent many years providing charity work as a Sergeant under the Royal Air Force Reserves in the Air Cadets sharing his passion for aviation with young minds. He can often be found in the skies above the south coast enjoying his private pilot licence.

More articles by Dave
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