Making Content Work Harder
Mary Ellen Slayter, managing director of Reputation Capital Media Services, a Baton Rouge, La.-based firm whose services include content marketing strategy, notes content analytics can help make your content work harder just by knowing what your readers are doing on your website.
"You can see clearly what's working and what isn't. What types of content are your readers clicking on and sharing? Make more of that. What are they ignoring? Stop investing time in producing it," she explains. "Having reliable data in hand makes it easier for you to ‘kill your babies,' as the writing expression goes."
Once you've got the data, it's up to your team to turn that into action. "It really is as simple as changing up your editorial calendar," says Slayter. "If you see that content that mentions certain keywords converts better than other types, create more of that. If a certain style of headline in your newsletter draws more click-throughs, double-down on that style."
Jason Dodge, owner of Michigan-based Black Truck Media + Marketing, suggests publishers make "incremental changes" to content "while tracking those changes using an analytics tool to see the outcome."
"At some point you have to make some minor assumptions," Dodge explains. "By looking at those incremental changes and understanding the positive or negative affect that had (based on analytics), I would recommend putting a strategy in place that takes into account those results. If the original goal was to improve the conversion rate on a particular post-type, and we did so by enhancing the CTA in a certain manor, the suggestion might be twofold."
First, according to Dodge, any new content being generated should follow a similar CTA model. Second, he suggests focusing on "legacy" or older content that can be improved in a similar fashion. Depending on the size of the site, this might be a phased approach based on priority or popularity of a particular content piece, according to Dodge.
"Moving forward, if a strategic plan has been outlined, it is much easier to hand this off to content creators, copywriters, etc. to ensure everyone is on the same page when generating content," he says. "It does not stop there though. The plan must be revisited on a regular basis and adjusted as necessary to ensure it is meeting goals and objectives."
Romain Damery, marketing manager for RDA Enterprises, a New York City-headquartered network integrator, notes that analytics software will show you what content is most popular. "Once you have that info, you can try to push similar older (but still relevant) content from your site," he says.
And, once you know what works, "The next step is to create more content in those areas, explore those topics even further and continue to crank out more information in the formats your audience prefers," observes Cournoyer.
"This information also frees you up to spend less time on the topics and content formats that have proven less successful, so that you are always focusing your efforts toward maximum effectiveness, and not wasting your time on stuff that doesn't work," adds Cournoyer.
Knowing what works can also "provide a signal to experiment with new ideas," he adds. "A blog post on topic X didn't do well-maybe it would make a better video? Maybe you could take different angles that your audience would find more appealing? Or maybe the content is fine, but you simply chose the wrong distribution channel? Using content analytics in this way will help you make wiser decisions going forward."
Adding interactive elements is another way to get more value out of your content, notes Cournoyer. "Including various links and calls to action that encourage audience engagement is one strategy, and you can use analytics to track how effective certain content items are when it comes to driving visitors to different parts of your site. If you're not getting the engagement you are looking for, you can then experiment with different messaging and graphical elements to increase those numbers," says Cournoyer.
Polls, quizzes, and survey questions are other possibilities, he adds. "Including these elements with your content is a great way to gather more detailed information from your audience," says Cournoyer. "In some cases, you can even include questions like these with video content, allowing viewers to take polls and surveys from directly within the player. The data you gain from this can be added to the rest of your viewing analytics to gain even more insight about the people visiting your site."
Once you know what your readers want, you can use tools like text analytics to better identify your content and subsequently serve it up to readers who are interested in those topics. McNeill insists that text analytics is a must-have for a publisher attempting to create relevant content for its readers.
According to SAS Institute, Inc., its text analytics software uses sophisticated linguistic rules and statistical methods to evaluate text like a human mind would. It automatically determines keywords and topics, categorizes content, manages semantic terms, unearths sentiment, and puts things in context. All of this combines to help users find the content they want, but it also helps publishers serve that content to users it has determined would be interested in it.
Analytics for Marketers
Of course, serving up content your readers want is only one piece of the puzzle; that content needs to also be matched with the right ads. SAS Intelligent Advertising for Publishers-an ad-serving tool from SAS-"goes beyond ad serving to seamlessly gather and present data to enable precision forecasting, decision optimization, inventory management and sales performance reporting," according to SAS.
"Essentially what we are helping our publishers do is take what they used to know about their audience, maybe five or six things, which would be a small amount of things, and help them know 30 or 40 things about their audience," says Jeff Wood, senior director of SAS Intelligent Advertising.
This more diverse knowledge of the audience "creates a win-win situation," continues Wood. "It creates a situation where, when the publisher knows more about their audience, they can drive up the value of their audience. It's a win for the advertisers and the agencies because they're actually getting the audience that they want and it's a win for the consumer because they're getting relevant ads, relevant content, relevant offers-all creating a better experience for them," continues Wood.
According to Saunders, "Personalizing the user experience based on content analytics is a natural and necessary function for high-performing web properties."
Saunders used Amazon as an example. "The classic example is Amazon.com. Once Amazon understands what you are interested in, based upon the analytics of your path through their stores, every subsequent page is built around your interests. They do a marvelous job of understanding users via content analytics, and then adapting immediately to merchandise entirely based on user behavior and signals."
Thankfully, one does not need to be a retailer to use these effective strategies, adds Saunders. "Many content management platforms now include personalization based on user behavior and content analytics as a core function. When we utilize personalization and user experience management functions, our web properties start to become more responsive to users."