If content is king then context is queen, which is why it falls to marketers to understand exactly what their content is supposed to achieve – and why their customers might want to consume it. These days, content is created and consumed at an unprecedented rate. Back in 2010, Google’s Eric Schmidt said that we create as much information every two days as we did from the start of history until 2003. Businesses are drowning in data, and consumers are drowning in content.
But the data from your analytics suite doesn’t have to be overwhelming. In fact, used correctly, it can enhance the content that you release so that the two work in harmony – delivering both content and context, as and when visitors need it.
Knowing which metrics to track is half the battle. You’ll still need to use the data that you receive to refresh your content. Set time aside accordingly and be sure to requisition budget and resources if needed. Your CEO will thank you in the end.
Not sure what to look out for? No problem. Here are five of the most important Search Engine Marketing (or SEM for short) metrics to track if you want to improve your website’s content.
1. AVERAGE TIME ON PAGE
Monitoring how long your visitors spend on site is the most obvious way of figuring out how engaged they are. If you release a 2,000 word blog post and people only spend 30 seconds on the page, it’s pretty clear that they’re not reading it all.
As a general rule, the longer a piece of content takes to consume – whether it’s a video, a blog post or an infographic – the longer you should expect people to spend on the page. Be warned, though, that your metrics can be distorted by visitors who bounce.
If your content is so relevant that visitors are arriving on your site, consuming it and then immediately leaving because they found what they were looking for, their time on page won’t be measured. If this happens, you have an internal linking problem and will want to inserts calls-to-action on the page to tell visitors where to go next.
Remember to track both time on site and time on individual pages, and to set benchmarks based on which area of the site you’re looking at. There’s no point comparing blog posts with your landing pages when you could compare them to other blog posts.
While time on page isn’t necessarily a full sign of how engaged your visitors are, it does help to give you an idea of whether your visitors are sticking around.
2. TOP LANDING PAGES
By looking at your top landing pages, you can identify which pieces of content are bringing in visitors. According to HubSpot, 1 in 10 blog posts are compounding, meaning that organic search traffic increases over time. Use landing page data to make a list of those pages and use that to determine new content types to target similar keywords.
Better still, revisit the original blog posts and bring them up-to-date by adding new research and statistics, or add new calls-to-action to make sure that you’re making the most out of your visitors. You may even be able to repurpose the content by using it as the basis for a video, an infographic or a whitepaper.
On top of this, it’s a good idea to look at other metrics for your landing pages – and at what those visitors are doing in particular. If they’re bouncing off-site or failing to convert, it could be a sign that the content wasn’t too relevant to begin with.
3. SITE SEARCH TERMS
If your website has inbuilt search functionality, you can use Google Analytics and other software packages to monitor the terms that are being used. This is an underrated tool for content creation and one that not many people think of – so you can use it to gain a leg up on your competitors.
The theory here is surprisingly simple. If your visitors are searching for content on your website, you want to make sure that it exists. Sort the search terms based on how many times they were used, then key in the most popular ones to see what comes up. If there are no results, or if the results that do show up are in need of an update, you’ll want to create some content to fill the gap.
This technique doesn’t tend to work for smaller sites because there’s often insufficient data to draw conclusions from. It does, however, work well for ecommerce stores – if they don’t have an item in stock, they can create a piece of content that lists the alternatives, encouraging visitors to go ahead and make a purchase.
4. BOUNCE RATE
This is the obvious metric to measure, but the fact that it’s obvious doesn’t stop it from being important. In fact, you should measure the bounce rate for every area of your site, and not just for the areas that house your content.
Bounce rate is a weird one, because sometimes having a high bounce rate is a sign that your content is too good. If visitors are arriving on your site and finding the information that they need, there may be no real reason for them to stick around.
If that’s the case, you’ll need to make a reason. Introduce widgets that automatically suggest similar content so that they stay on site, or add calls-to-action to encourage them to convert into a lead or a customer.
Ultimately, very few websites want their visitors to arrive, consume their content and leave. It’s a catch-22 situation, especially for blogs and news sites. If a visitor clicks a link that they see on a social network, they only want to read one article. Webmasters must satisfy that need whilst simultaneously keeping their visitors hungry for more – after all, the more page views they receive, the more money they bring in from advertisements.
5. CONVERSION RATE
Every site owner should have conversions in mind from the time they wake up until the time they go to sleep. Whether you want your visitors to make a purchase, sign up to a mailing list or simply spend a certain amount of time on site, you’ll need to make sure that you’ve set up conversion tracking.
With that in place, you can then start to drill down on what’s causing your visitors to take those actions. Certain pieces of content will have a higher conversion rate than others, and you’ll want to pick up on that and determine how to replicate it elsewhere.
It may be that the content has the perfect call-to-action, or perhaps it’s simply so compelling that readers have no choice but to want to buy from you. It could just be that it’s a buying guide or something similar that’s designed for people who are near the end of the sales funnel.
If you’re able to assign a value to conversions – such as if you run an e-commerce store or if you know the average lifetime value of a new customer – then you can start to calculate a return on investment. If a 10,000 word blog post is twice as likely to convert someone as a 2,000 word blog post, it may be better to write five 2,000 word posts – despite the lower conversion rate.
This is also the metric that your CEO will expect you to report on. By keeping an eye on your conversion rate, you’re ultimately able to prove the case for fresh content in the first place.