Content marketing is also known as inbound marketing for a reason. The content draws your potential clients in towards your services. But there is a gap between people coming to visit your site and people who click the contact or buy button. You have to reach a critical mass of traffic before statistics tip in your favor.
Content is a long-term game, powered by the slow build of generating authority and delivering content that has value to your potential clients. It can therefore be frustrating to not see it converting new customers.
That doesn’t mean that your content strategy is not working. Fortunately, there are concrete metrics that you can measure to see if your strategy is performing. I’m not only going to present these metrics in a general way (most of them are easy to find in your Google or Adobe Analytics) but I’m also going to tell you how to use each metric to improve your overall content strategy.
The first post in this series focuses on the lifeblood of the internet: traffic.
Traffic literally pumps to and fro giving life to websites and when sites do not have traffic they don’t live long. The primary goal of your content strategy should be to gain traffic.
Traffic goes up and traffic goes down. It can be frustrating to measure traffic on a daily basis. You should look at the time period that’s most relevant to you. Most websites evolve how they report traffic as their traffic grows over time. You will invariably use the time period that makes your traffic sound the most impressive.
Websites that are just starting out will focus on visits per month. Once the traffic has increased, websites will switch to visits per week, and – if you’re lucky – you might even get up to reporting your traffic in visits per day.
This might sound really basic, and it is, but measuring traffic is actually much more complicated.
There is a big difference between visits and visitors, and this is why the time period is surprisingly important. (FYI, In Google analytics, visits are known as Sessions).
Visits count how many times people come to your site. If I visit your site three times in one day, that counts as three visits. Not much else to say here.
Visitors (also known sometimes as unique visitors) count how many individual people visit your site during a given timeframe. The timeframe is very important here because a visitor could make 20 visits during a month but they are only counted once. It might be better to report your visitors in shorter timeframes to make sure that you are not limiting what people think of your site, since having people come back is a crucial part of any content strategy (we will get to that later).
Some websites will report their traffic in hits. Hit are essentially page views, so every time a single webpage is loaded from the server. This number is much higher than visits because a visit can have multiple pages visited during that visit.
Hits or page views are most often used when talking about display advertising since an ad will load a new time for each page visited, even if it’s the same unique person seeing the ad multiple times.
If you are buying ad space you will want to be wary of websites reporting traffic in hits, since you might end up exposing a consumer to the same ad over and over again instead of reaching a wider audience.
The baseline traffic metrics that I outlined above are easy to measure, but they are less useful for determining how well your content marketing strategy is performing. I recommend taking your traffic analysis deeper. When you do, you can gain important insights.
Visits per unique visitor
This is an important metric for determining how sticky your site is. You will inevitably have more visits than unique visitors (unless you’re really doing something wrong). Take the timeframe of your choice (again, depending on traffic levels) and divide the number of visits by the number of unique visitors.
If your content strategy is working, this number will be higher than 2. If it is, that means that a lot of people who come to your site are coming back again. You’ve given them something of value and they want more.
If this number is slightly higher than 1, that means that people are not getting true value out of your site and so they don’t come back. Maybe you aren’t hooking them enough, or they aren’t aware of new content so they forget about you.
You can put concrete strategies in place to increase this number, for example creating a newsletter than people can sign up for to be alerted when new content is posted. Adding Follow and Subscribe buttons to social platforms works well too.
The best thing you can do is to create more in-depth content. Taking time to create something of higher value than simple, short, and shallow articles will cause people to come back on their own.
Be careful to calibrate this metric according to your publication schedule. If you are posting a few pieces of content per month, you should measure along a monthly timeframe. If you are posting everyday you would want to measure on a weekly basis.
Page views per visit
Another deeper metric, people will quite often see a couple of your pages before leaving your site. If this number is close to 1, that means that your content is not grabbing their interest. You might also have problems by not using enough internal linking (sending people to other relevant articles on your site).
Of course, there are certain websites that people come to, consume content, and then bounce away. News sites are like this where people click from social media and then leave.
If you are creating a lot of instructional content, you will want to try to get this metric as high as you can, like around 2 or 3 average pages views per visit. You can achieve this by adding boxes and call to action buttons in your content that directs towards other content. Make sure that your site navigation is clear and that there are menus conveniently located around your content so people can find something they are looking for.
Amazing content will generate more page views per visit since people will want to gather as much information as they can. Again, focus on the quality of your content.
This is getting a little bit more technical but cohort analysis can help you determine which types of content were the stickiest and kept bringing people back to your site.
A cohort is a group of people who first visited your site during a certain timeframe. Some people will come back again over time while others won’t. A cohort measures how many of those people come back over time. If you’re measuring by month, you might say that 3,000 people visited in April, of those 3,000, 20% came back in May, 10% came back in June, and 5% were still coming back in July.
Cohorts naturally diminish over time, but the trick is to compare cohorts and see which groups keep coming back the most. What content did you publish during those stronger cohort periods? The stronger your hook, the more likely people are to stick with you.
Change in traffic
This last one is the measuring stick to rule them all. For your content strategy to work, you need to see an increase in traffic over time. Your traffic might not always increase during certain time periods, but on a large enough scale you should see a steady average increase.
If you take a look at the traffic to my blog, you will see that this year my traffic dipped during the summer months since I was very busy working and not posting very often:
It’s not a reason to despair though, because if you look at my traffic over the last few years, things are looking good:
If you’re not seeing this you might be looking at too short of a time frame or there is something seriously wrong with your content strategy.
Don’t despair, I can help, get in touch and let’s talk about how to improve your content strategy!