It isn’t always easy to evaluate ourselves and our work. Anyone who has created content in any professional capacity has had the experience many times of people responding strongly to a piece you didn’t think was any good, and then all but ignoring the one you poured your heart and soul into. It is an exasperating experience that reminds us that it isn’t always so easy to determine quality based on perspective alone.
The bad news is that evaluating content performance is a very necessary job. We have to be able to see what is working, and what isn’t, in order to continue to grow. Luckily, there is hard data to assist in the process, as well as a few things to keep in mind.
What Makes Content Successful?
Before looking at how to analyze the success of your content, you need to define something very important: what constitutes success. You might get a lot of views on a blog posts, but be disappointed by its lack of comments. Something could generate a ton of comments, but never get shared once on social media. It could be republished (with permission) on another site, but hardly generate any traffic for your own.
There are several ways that you could define success:
- The content receives a lot of engagement on social media, and brings people to your profile.
- The content drives clickthroughs to your actual site.
- The content generates a lot of traffic via SEO and search engine results.
- The content improves your visibility, and attracts an audience you were trying to target.
- The content enriches the authority of yourself and your brand.
- The content assists the steady growth of your site, even if only in part.
Here are only some examples. Really, success is defined entirely by what it is you choose it to be.
Once you have established this criteria, you will know what to look at moving forward.
Further reading: The Comprehensive Guide to Content Marketing Analytics & Metrics
The Need For Analytics
The simplest way to go about evaluating your content is to find patterns within data. That is where analytics come in. Google Analytics is your most basic tool (it is free for most people), and easiest to use. But you can find any number of tools online, including plugins that can be integrated into WordPress to provide the details right in your dashboard, or on individual posts.
Don’t make any decisions based on a couple of months of information. While three to five months can give you a small glance at how certain content is doing, it is a very small sampling. Six months should be your minimum, but a year or more is much better. The more posts you have to analyze, the better the picture as you see what has happened over time.
Analytics will tell you how much organic traffic has been generated, how long people have on average remained on the page (did they immediately click out, skim, or read in detail), and what posts are top performing.
You will also want to check out how often things are being shared. If you don’t have a social dashboard, like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, I would strongly advise that you sign up for one. The expense is small, and you will be able to get a clear look at how your posts are performing socially.
Once you have that data comes the tricky part…deciding what to do with it. It isn’t enough to know what content is doing well. You have to figure out why. Ask yourself:
- What patterns are emerging based on the topic?
- How was the SEO handled on those posts?
- Was there a specific tone within those posts?
- Did it include any kind of visual content that enhanced it?
- Was the style done in a particular way?
- Who created the content?
- Did anything special happen on social media, such as the use of particular hashtags when sharing?
- Were the topics related to something trending at the time?
You want to find the common links with this content, in order to figure out what it is about them that has been working.
Further reading: 7 Reasons to Use Piwik Open Source Analytics
When The Same Thing That Always Works Stops Working
One thing you may notice is a surge of popularity based on these patterns, and then a decline. If what you thought was always working isn’t anymore, analytic data will show you that with brutal clarity. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; times change, and you have to adapt with better content for new eras. Otherwise, you will be left behind.
If you find yourself noticing that what used to work is no longer bringing you the results you need, it is time to try something new. That might also be hidden in the data, as you can see the second most popular content that is still rising beyond the decline you’ve noted. It could inspire you to create something new. Take it as an opportunity to grow!
Further reading: Content Marketing Designed to Help Behavior Change
Being Honest About Your Content
You are going to be shocked by what you find, from time to time. You are going to want to deny it. No, there is no way your readers have started to avoid your Freaky Fridays theme week, or lost interest in meandering stories about your time working that job only you find interesting!
Well, that is just the way the cookie crumbles. People get bored, they move on, and you have to bring them back. Don’t get so bogged down with what you’re used to. Enjoy this chance to start fresh, and pay attention to what the data tells you. Even if what it tells you makes you a little bit sad.
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