Content campaigns have become an increasingly important part of the marketing mix over the last few years as brands strive to reach cynical, media savvy audiences who may be turned off by traditional marketing techniques. The World Media Group’s last annual Content Survey showed, not only is content marketing on the rise, but there’s a clear trend towards ‘content activism’ – that is, brands using content campaigns to align themselves with the social and environmental issues that consumers care about most.

Consumers are no longer ‘brand loyal’ so content marketing provides a platform for a brand or organisation to differentiate itself by engaging with audiences on the key issues of today – and doing so with both authenticity and understanding. Of course, content activism is subjective, so how can marketers measure its true value? Are traditional KPIs such as ‘engagement’ and ‘time spent with content’ still relevant when audiences will judge a campaign based on factors such as interest, tone, integrity, accuracy, relevance and credibility when deciding whether to engage or not?

A more holistic approach

The short answer is yes, but we need to look at content measurement holistically, combining these traditional analytics with more qualitative measures. That means setting KPIs that are tailored to your specific content strategy, and shared and understood by all parties. It’s surprising how often we still see marketers working in silos, with a completely separate team looking at performance metrics. All metrics are interdependent and need to be examined as a whole, so in an ideal world, the person managing the content strategy and ideation should have a good understanding of traffic sources and site user-interface to deliver a successful programme.

The challenge here is that very few have all these skills, so it’s essential to build a team that can bring all of the elements together and discuss them as one unit to deliver a successful campaign. That means having a strong analytics team with access to real-time data, who can quickly articulate which metrics are important and which ones can be used to improve your platform design and content. First, let’s look at the more traditional measurement tools. At the very minimum, you should be combining:

Traffic measures: to tell you how many page views / unique visitors / visits you’ve had; with

Engagement metrics: to tell you how relevant (or poor) your content is, based on the time spent on the platform, time on the page, scroll depth, interaction rate, download rate, bounce rate, social shares, page views /session; and

Audience insights: to tell you whether you reached the audience you wanted to when you put your media plan together. That could include demographics, geography, seniority levels, occupation and industry, interests etc.

If you want more bespoke feedback, however, you’ll need to create your own unique metrics. Some publishers for example, have started to create success metrics and scoring systems by combining multiple engagement stats to ensure a ‘quality read’. If you look for users who spend at least 30 seconds reading a content piece and also scroll to halfway down the page, for example, it’s safe to say that those people are almost certainly actively engaged with the content.

Another method is to look at behaviour flow to understand how users navigate through a site so that you can identify the point at which they drop off. This helps you to understand the content that users don't engage with so you can improve the website or platform design. Breaking down the site data by geography, device, operating system and traffic sources will allow you to find insights that could help explain and improve the overall performance. As a content strategist, it’s also important to have an understanding of SEO and keyword rankings, allowing you to fine-tune your site description to maximize site traffic.

Moving beyond ‘What?’ to ‘Why?’

When it comes to softer, qualitative metrics it becomes more difficult – they’re not as easily understood and we often find that clients are not exposed to them much. The nature of analytics and the way business intelligence platforms are created means that we’re trained to ask the question ‘what’ before we ask ‘why’.

This is where social listening comes in to play, allowing you to discover what really makes people tick. By surfacing users comments and feedback you can find out why people are engaging with content and what their opinions and sentiment towards the brand or product are. While this information can be invaluable, it’s important to remember that once you go down this route you must have the resources in place to answer negative feedback or comments efficiently too.

Another way some of the larger publishers are eliciting direct consumer feedback to campaigns is through technology platforms like Opinary, which can be embedded alongside the content. They invite visitors to provide their feedback, scoring the quality and relevancy of the content as they’re navigating the site. Tools like this, when combined with traffic and engagement performance metrics, tell a much more sophisticated story than page impressions and engagement times alone.

Unlike performance marketing metrics, which can be benchmarked against industry standards, it’s difficult to set out hard and fast rules to measure why people engaged and what they found interesting about a particular piece of content when the answers will be different for every client, publisher or platform. What is important is that your initial content strategy includes both hard and soft KPIs that work for your brand.

That means taking into account everything from where you want your content to be seen, to whether the tone you’re taking resonates with your desired audience and if the issues you’re aligning with are viewed as relevant, authentic and positive associations. By building this layer of qualitative feedback into your campaign analysis, you can ensure that you’re not just getting eyeballs on your content but that you’re genuinely engaging with consumers who respect and believe in your brand and values.

By Alex Delamain, SVP of Sales at The Economist and President of the World Media Group

About the World Media Group:
The World Media Group is a strategic alliance of leading international media organisations that connects brands with highly engaged, influential audiences in the context of trusted and renowned journalism. Its members include The Atlantic, BBC Global News, Bloomberg Media Group, Business Insider, The Economist, The Financial Times, Forbes, Fortune, National Geographic, Reuters, The New York Times Company, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and associate members: Moat, Smartology and The Smithsonian.


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