Does Your Content Measurement Strategy Track What Actually Matters?

With a strategic mindset guiding your analytics, your content can serve big-picture business goals, not just drive traffic to your site.

By Eric Goodstadt and Melissa Bouma

To drive success, associations produce lots of content—and take lots of steps to measure its efficacy. But depending on your content measurement strategy, you may be missing the mark on bigger opportunities. Consider the following:

  • Traffic and page metrics, both tactical strategies, often drive content evaluation but may leave business measures—conversion rate, revenue impact, or profitability—off to the side.
  • Content measurement tools can be inconsistent across channels, making it hard to figure out what is and isn’t working.

As Forrester analyst Ryan Skinner said of these shortcomings: “Marketers need better intelligence on the performance of their content—what it’s about, how it speaks, how effective it is at accomplishing certain goals, what emotions it calls to mind, etc.”

Here are two content measurement strategies that could make a big difference in the success of your association in the long run.

Strategy No. 1: Outcome-Based Measurement

As we wrote earlier this year, it’s important to build your content based on brand ambitions. Likewise, you should also measure that content with the bigger picture in mind.

Specifically, think about your organization’s ultimate goals—not necessarily on a particular content project, but how content fits into the larger objectives of your organization.

Every good association has mountains it hopes to climb. What’s at the summit? Are you angling to build awareness or to retain existing members?

The American Nurses Association offers a great example of building toward the latter: It leans heavily on social networks like Twitter and Instagram, but its reason for doing so has nothing to do with retweets. Really, it’s focused on engaging with current and potential members—the nurses on the front lines around the country. A successfully deployed meme is just a means to an end.

You need to build your analytics around the elements that show your association is reaching a broader goal rather than a more modest objective. (In the marketing world, this metric is traditionally called a key performance indicator, or KPI.) Not only is that better to track, but you can also strategically act upon it more easily.

Strategy No. 2: Give Your Content a Quality Score

Looking at Google Analytics is great for understanding your site’s performance, but in terms of what the content actually does for your organization, page views don’t mean much—especially if you’re putting a budget behind paid placement for that content.

Instead of looking at traffic numbers alone, it’s worth considering how well your content does in light of these questions:

  • Does the content successfully engage the reader and hold his or her attention for the time that it should take to fully consume the content?
  • Does the content encourage the reader to engage with another piece of content on your site?
  • Does the content activate the reader to take an action that is important to your association?
  • Does the content perform well in organic search?

These four questions offer the starting point for a quality score that you can build around your content. (Feel free to put more weight on one answer over another, if needed.)

By using these strategies—starting with your owned channels, then expanding to external channels—you can develop quality scores based on your needs. This can help create KPIs that better translate your work into focused objectives and broader goals.

A Plan for Action

Ultimately, the goal of any good content strategy is to measure things consistently and rigorously so you can make better decisions. Knowing whether a specific strategy moved the needle on your business goals will help you figure out where you can take things next.

When analyzing a content strategy your organization has used, ask yourself these questions:

  • What worked? How do we do more of that?
  • What didn’t work? Could it have performed better on another channel or with different messaging?
  • What larger themes are emerging?
  • What surprised you most?

It may seem difficult to arrive at a business-forward content strategy, but these fundamental ideas are the basis of a long-term strategy you can iterate upon. Over time, this leads to less of a paint-by-numbers approach and becomes something that uniquely matches your needs. With the right metrics, you can build content from a position of strength that won’t just serve your analytics reports—but your actual business goals. And that’s how it should be.

Eric Goodstadt, president of Manifest, has more than two decades of experience in the agency world, serving clients in diverse sectors—including associations, nonprofits, and Fortune 500 companies.

Melissa Bouma leads Manifest’s account, strategy, data, and digital marketing practices with a proven track record of building successful teams and divisions.