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Why Content Measurement is Important

I’ll be teaching a six week in-depth analytics course starting next week, so I thought it would be a good idea to go over a few of the topics we’ll be covering in the class to give a little preview as well as provide some good tips for our blog readers. In this post, I’ll be taking a look at the importance of measuring content.

For the past few years there has been a lot of talk about content strategy and optimization. This is good! For the longest time, we online marketing folks were way too focused on generating junk to get a bunch of crappy inbound links to try to rank better. Google’s recent updates of Panda, Penguin, and now Hummingbird pretty much said bye-bye to this type of content in favor or unique, high-quality content focused on the needs of users. “Nice!”

So What is Good Content?

While the definition of good content is somewhat subjective, thankfully it’s something that can be identified and measured. For the purposes of this post we’ll be defining “good content” as original content that benefits both visitors AND the company’s business goals. But even this definition can be tricky.

We see a lot of companies that view this as a chance to overtly sell their products or services. Others tend to provide a wealth of factual information so that visitors are more likely to make a purchase. Every website is unique: there is no magic formula when it comes to content. But the sooner you get busy understanding your audience and finding out what they crave, the sooner your business will benefit.

Start with the Big Picture

Content_Example_Bloom

Let’s take a look at my wife’s nonprofit, Bloom Spokane, to examine the peaks and valleys of their historic traffic. In their case, these rises and falls are very much tied to their blogging efforts. As a nonprofit, they do not advertise at all. Blogging / outreach is their primary driver of traffic. We see that they had a big spike tied to an awesome blog post that went viral in early 2011 and had sustained growth the following year. Excellent!  But then what happened. We have a drop and a very flat traffic period for the next year. Let’s take a look…

Analyze Content Demand

Bloom_Top_10

I set up a segment to take a look at their top all-time blog posts. They have a lot of good informational posts, but their top two are either edgy / controversial or humorous. The Bloom blog does an amazing job of providing valuable information to expectant mothers, but maybe their audience wants more humor or possibly a more diverse selection of content. But, looking at the last 18 months of blog posts, there hasn’t been anymore break-out blog posts in terms of popularity.

What should they do? In their case, I would not recommend radical change, but a good idea would be to examine what their readers want. I’d recommend continuing to look at their analytics, as well as performing periodic surveys to learn exactly what their audience wants from the site. They definitely have their bases covered in terms of informational content. I would suggest adding more emotionally-driven content that visitors really connect with, in combination with the current informative posts.

Learn What Content Influences

Next, we look at what the content causes the audience to do next. Did they sign up for a class via the form? Did they visit a desired area of the website? In Bloom’s case, one of their main goals is to drive visitors to their provider page. These are professionals who list their services and advertise on the website. With Google Analytics, we are able to see where these blog visitors went next. Awesome!

Blog_Posts_Driving_Provider_Visits

We see that blog posts have driven 6,628 visits to the Bloom Provider Directory. Sweet! Also it is interesting that my humor-ish post, which was the #2 blog post in terms of overall visits, has fallen to 5th for driving visits to the provider directory. Also, the two very popular articles on whether or not to perform a circumcision are not even in the top ten when it comes to driving people to the provider directory. This is not a problem. It’s just something to consider each and every time you publish content.

Have Content-Related Goals

Most of the companies I talk with about content tracking do not have (what I would define as) goals. Their most common goal is to publish on a consistent basis, which is a good place to start. That said, I will be pushing people to define content-specific goals and dashboards to help define content strategy, measure effectiveness, and really help their business thrive.

In my blog post for Bloom Spokane, I used the quote below from Shane Falco aka Keanu Reeves to illustrate what I think advice from  husbands to their wives during labor would be like. Though far from an apples-to-apples comparison, I think it applies to writing as well. Blogging is harrrrd. Writing good content is harrrrd. But it’s worth the effort. Don’t worry. We’ll help make the tracking of it easy for you… with a little help from Keanu.

I hope this has been helpful in understanding the importance of tracking the killer content you’re producing. If you’d like to dive deeper into the analytics side of life, take a look at our upcoming analytics class series.

 

Back to Blogging – Five Observations from Week 1

It gotta say, I really enjoyed getting back to blogging for the first time in nearly a year. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy it.  I was also quickly reminded of how eagerly I await comments, so thanks for chiming in. I really appreciate your comments, support, and motivation to keep this whole blogging thing going. That said, here are my five observations from week one.

1) It strengthened my online community

I think the most powerful thing I discovered this week was the effectiveness of blogging for connecting or re-connecting with people. I received several blog comments and emails from industry peers and friends welcoming me back to blogging and providing encouragement. This extension of my community makes the world feel just a little bit smaller and reminded me of how cool it was posting to online forums and user groups back in the day. For example, I’ve never met Toronto SEO Dev Basu in person (Although I think we might’ve met at SMX Local in San Francisco – 2008). But I’ve respected his work for a long time and blogging is a great way to keep in touch with industry professionals like Dev and grow your network. I can only imagine how effective regular blogging + conference attendance is to growth in the industry. In fact, it was at SEOmoz Advanced 2009 that (after a little tequila if memory serves correct) I suggested Spokane as the first stop for Get Listed University. I always look forward to great conferences like SMX Advanced, Mozcon, & Searchfest to learn from the best in the industry, connect with my online marketing peeps, and have a great time. Regular blogging will likely help me grow my network so I can see more familiar faces in the crowd. Maybe I’ll even meet Dev at my next conference.

2) My website traffic jumped

There’s a pretty huge caveat here. I have very low traffic. It just hasn’t been a goal of mine. And with my infrequent blogging, let’s just say I haven’t exactly grown a large following. While I don’t put much merit in overall traffic increases, I am pleased with the increase in referral traffic and brand search traffic driven by my recent post. While it hasn’t translated into business this past week, I believe that putting out good content on a regular basis will put me in the right position to earn new business. I had a comment from Matt McGee that sums up this thought very well:

And if this increase in referral traffic (shown in my Google Analytics data below) continues it will likely lead to good things down the road, just like Matt says.

When you examine the referral traffic in detail you can see that this traffic comes from my business network in Spokane (Facebook & Twitter), industry peers (Twitter), my Get Listed University faculty friends, and my Mom.

3) It drove searches for my brand

And while my brand search traffic is low, there is certainly a nice increase compared to the previous week (as seen below). This is probably the biggest take-away for small businesses in my opinion. By providing good content to your audience they’ll be looking for more content from you. And in time, you’ll have the possibility of earning their long-term business.

4) Search isn’t always the big dog

My blogging failure post started ranking quickly for, guess what,… blogging failure.

Within two days it was ranking 2rd on Google for “blogging failure” (4th on Bing/Yahoo). And for a second I was lured into thinking this would be good for business. It won’t (for a variety of reasons). My point is that people tend to place too much emphasis on rankings (myself included at times) and not the bigger picture. For example, here’s a success story I was touting at Get Listed Spokane last February.  My wife’s nonprofit Bloom Spokane has ranked 5th for “birth advice” and 1st for “hospital birth advicesince her blog post was published in February. What has it gotten her? Fame? Fortune? Free t-shirt? Nope. Just thirty four visitors via organic search traffic.

Don’t get me wrong. I love long-tail organic search traffic. It can be really important to a business. But it’s important to see the bigger picture. Three months of searches for all things “birth advice” does not represent a game changer to her nonprofit.

But the 122% increase in overall traffic since her blog post went viral makes a difference. That’s 5,772 more visitors than the previous period. More importantly, those 5,772 visits represent social media influencers, industry experts, potential speaking opportunities, and increased national exposure.

5) There’s Always Some Risk

There’s always some risk when you put your neck out there. You could offend your audience, not research a topic thoroughly enough, or inadvertently drive Twitter traffic to the wrong Ed Reese.

Sorry other Ed Reese. I’ll do my best to keep my business major, marketing frat boy douchebag friends at bay. We’ve got some kegstands to do, anyway.

My Blogging Failure & Rebirth

I have a confession. It’s been nearly a year since my last blog post. Yep, I haven’t blogged for nearly a year. That adds up to an #epicfail on the “how to blog effectively” front. So here’s my admittance of guilt, proof of the power of blogging, and plan for the future. Hopefully, it will provide some insight and help you craft a plan for your business blogging efforts.

Yeah, that’s quite a gap in blog posts. What makes this even worse is that I’m constantly preaching the virtues of blogging to clients as well as attendees at Get Listed University events. In fact, my wife’s blogging for  Bloom Spokane is part of my Get Listed analytics presentation.

In fact, I talked about her recent blogging success so much at our last few events that Matt McGee started calling me Ed “My Wife’s Blog Post” Reese. But she wrote an amazing article / interview that went viral in her niche. Talk about the power of blogging. It quickly boosted her to a national level and nearly doubled her average readership. Here’s a look at the timeline:

And not only did it help grow her audience, but it helped her search engine optimization efforts as well. Thanks to the new inclusion of social media signals into the search engine ranking algorithm (chronicled very well by SEOmoz here, and then tested on Twitter here, and detailed in amazing fashion here ) she is now ranking very well for a pretty broad phrase that’s often searched in her industry.

Nearly everyone I respect in the industry blogs on a regular basis and makes it part of their business practice. They’ve also told me in person (or publicly at conferences) how it has positively impacted their business, reputation, and careers. So whether it’s Rand Fishkin, David Mihm, Mike Blumenthal, Matt McGee, Lisa Barone, Neil Patel, or any of my awesome Get Listed compadres, they’ve all told me the power of words. In sequence. Online. That says stuff. Cool stuff. Insightful stuff. On a regular basis. It’s time to get back on track.

But if blogging is so dang effective, why doesn’t everyone do it?

  • Writing is hard. I liken it to golf. I may get better but it will always be a challenge.
  • It takes time. Life often gets in the way (work, kids, clients, etc.)
  • It’s not a direct payoff. It nearly always gets bumped for client work.
  • Consistency is hard. The ideas for posts don’t necessarily come on a regular basis.

So what am I going to do about it?

  • Follow Matt McGee’s advice and blog regularly. For me, that’s going to start at one post a week.
  • Create a blog publishing schedule to stay ahead of the game
  • Invite my team as well as guest bloggers to participate and provide a richer forum & perspective.
  • Create a process for publishing blog posts effectively.

Photo courtesy of Anthony Productions

Time for this epic blogging failure to come to a close. At least at the next Get Listed University event I won’t have to hide my head in shame when Matt McGee says “Would you trust someone (that has a blog) who hasn’t posted in six months?” Hey Matt, it was almost a year. But I’ve finally taken your advice :)