Content analytics: a simple guide to marketing terms for creatives

Matt Cooper, CEO of visual content company Visually, explains how creatives can measure the success or failure of their content on websites, social media and email marketing.

Content analytics: how creatives can track the performance of their content on the web, social media and in email marketing
Content analytics: how creatives can track the performance of their content on the web, social media and in email marketing

Walk the floor of any marketing conference and you’ll quickly realize the industry is divided roughly into two factions - those on the creative side who produce the text, visual and video content, and those who focus on automation and analytics so they can measure the impact of a campaign and use that data to inform future marketing.

One would think the two sides would operate as close collaborators, but too often I’ve seen marketers, especially on the creative side of the equation, who don’t measure the impact of the content they’re creating.

Without a basic knowledge of the underlying analytics of a campaign, your content marketing is destined toward inefficiency and lost sales.

Content from creatives who understand the numbers behind what works and the basics of the systems that drive the results will be able to make informed decisions that drive client and customer acquisition.

Of course, marketing automation and analytics have become increasingly sophisticated, so creatives could be forgiven if they don’t have the skillset needed to launch segmented marketing campaigns that track every user's interaction down the marketing funnel.

But there are some basic metrics a creative can track in order to gain a better understanding of how users engage with their content.

Website analytics

Whether your company uses Google Analytics, Omniture (now part of Adobe's Marketing Cloud), or some other tool, chances are you can easily track some very basic metrics about how your content on a website is performing.

Just ask your webmaster for access to this tool and a quick overview. You’ll be able to measure:

Page views: This is the number of times a page is actually loaded in a browser. It doesn’t tell you how many people actually visited the page, however. It could be someone’s cat pressing the reload button. Which brings us to…

Uniques: This is the number of individuals who actually visited the article. Many marketers regard this as a more reliable figure for judging a page’s success.

Average time on page: Though different analytics platforms measure this metric differently, it roughly means the average amount of time a user spent on a page before leaving it. The more time spent on a web page, the greater the likelihood that the content was engaging.

Referrals: You can track where your visitors originated, whether it was from social media, Google, or some other source. Because of the rise of https, it’s become slightly more difficult to track referral sources, but even having a basic understanding of who is linking to your content can allow you to target future content to a particular platform.

Social Media

Most creatives now produce content with the explicit hope that this content will be shared on social media. Though social platforms offer varying insights into how posts have performed, it’s possible to glean at least some information that will aid you in honing your copy to better appeal to a social network’s users.

Before we discuss the different tools you can use to measure social media sharing and reach, it’s important to acknowledge that it's difficult to compare actions across different social platforms.

For instance, hitting "like," "comment," or "share" on a Facebook post will result in it showing up in others’ newsfeeds, whereas hitting "favourite" on a tweet serves very little value in terms of exposing it to a wider audience.

For Twitter and Google+, it’s very easy to search public posts. On Facebook, it’s almost impossible. In terms of a post’s reach, Facebook will show you the number of people who saw a page post, but on Twitter you’re only told the number of impressions.

LinkedIn offers no data on people who have seen your status updates but will tell you the number of page views a native blog post has received, along with a breakdown of the industries of a post’s readership.

Suffice it to say, you need to accept a little bit of ambiguity when measuring the impact of your content on social media, and with many of these platforms changing their algorithms at a daily pace, there’s no universal standard for comparing, say, a Facebook like to a Twitter retweet.

Topsy: Topsy is a tool that allows you to paste the URL to your content into its search bar, and it’ll tell you the number of people who tweeted a link to the content as well as the number of "influencers" who have shared it.

Twitter search: Twitter’s internal search tool offers up a bevy of features that allow you to gain a snapshot of what the hivemind is tweeting about on a particular subject or piece of content at any given moment.

Tweet analytics: Twitter recently introduced a small icon beneath each tweet that allows you to track how many people have seen the tweet, how many have interacted with it (by expanding it, retweeting it, or even clicking on it), and the number of people who have clicked on a link included in the tweet.

Facebook analytics: Though it’s impossible to find every instance on Facebook in which someone shared your content, your brand page gives you access to a number of metrics for how your post performed, at least on your own page.

You can get an overview of who has liked your page, their ages, demographics and locations. Facebook also tells you how many people viewed each post, either in the newsfeed or on the page itself.

Email marketing

Email marketing is its own beast, with some platforms allowing increasingly sophisticated levels of tracking and analytics, but there are a few basic metrics anyone can learn.

Open rate: This is the number of your subscribers who have opened the email. This is especially helpful when assessing the success of a subject line.

Click-through rate: Of those who have opened your email, how many actually clicked on a link? That's what the click-through rate tells you.

Unsubscribe rate: Those that read your email and then click the unsubscribe link. While the average rate is important, you’re also looking for spikes in this number. If you see a jump in your unsubscribe rate, it’s worth digging deeper to see if readers really didn’t like the content.

Social media and email subscribers: It’s always informative to track when a piece of content leads to new subscribers. Those who take the time to subscribe to your channels have expressed interest in receiving more information from you and are much more likely to convert into customers or clients.

Sales and leads tracking: This requires a more sophisticated understanding of analytics platforms, but through tools like Hubspot and Marketo, you can actually follow users as they land on your page and then navigate their way toward your contact or buying form.

This grants you tremendous insight into how to optimize your page in order to maximize these sorts of conversions. Most of these tools come with courses you can take to better understand their offerings. You can also find plenty of free tutorials on YouTube and blogs.

I recommend that with each piece of content you create that you use a spreadsheet to track how it performed based on the most appropriate analytics listed above.

When you don’t have access to one of these analytics tools, set up some time to talk with the marketer who manages the specific channel in which your content was distributed to better understand how it performed.

If you have the time, resources, and systems, I also recommend A/B testing. Create two different versions and work with the marketing team to send them out to two different groups, and then assess which performed better and why.

While it might seem like extra work, it's a good habit to get into so that you can assess which techniques and approaches drive results.

And at the end of all this, you can highlight the results of your content to your manager or a prospective employer, and expand your skillset so as to stay relevant as marketing organizations become increasingly focused on analytics.

Matt Cooper (@matt_cooper) is the CEO of Visually