When you’re choosing a topic to write about, or deciding where to promote your content, what do you base your decisions on? Go on, be honest: a lot of it is simply by gut feel, right? But other marketing specialties (email, social, CRM, etc.) have greatly benefited from tools and data to drive their decisions for years now. So what gives?
Let’s face it, content marketing has been a crapshoot for a long time – too long – especially considering blogging has been around for about 15 years now, (which equates to approximately 3 millennia in internet years). Well I say now it’s content’s turn!
The tools that let you put analysis like this on autopilot are definitely coming, but in the meantime, you can pull super-valuable insights from fairly basic stats about your content. In this post, I’ll show you how to use readily-available web analytics data to inform some of the most important decisions that’ll fuel the growth of your budding content marketing empire.
So, onward! For the empire!
Table of Contents
Which are my best posts?
First of all, by “best”, you should be talking about most engaging, not whichever has the most pageviews. Now, everyone’s definition is slightly different, but I’m gonna go out on a limb here, and say that subscribing for your mailing list is one of the highest forms of engagement you can get as a content marketer – which makes figuring out which pages your subscribers are coming from a pretty valuable endeavor. You can do this by:
- using the super-awesome ConvertKit, or
- use Mailchimp’s variables, if you’re feeling more adventurous, and developer-y
Once you’ve established the major sources of your subscribers, calculate the signup rate for each page (# subscribers / #visitors), and rank them. You may be surprised by the results! Your top page by pageviews, likely doesn’t do its fair share of the heavy lifting when it comes to actually bagging new subscribers.
A quick ranking like this provides a TON of benefit when you factor it into a decision such as which posts to:
- repurpose in a different format
- enrich with more info/updates or media
- re-promote on social media
You want to make the strongest possible first impression when trying to persuade someone to part with their email address, so knowing what your most compelling stuff is gives you an edge when it comes to distributing your content.
What should I write next?
Wouldn’t it be awesome if some magical genie could look at all your blog data, and tell you exactly what you should write for your next post? It would kill the stereotype of the struggling writer overnight – success would be as simple as painting by numbers!
As it stands, though, no such genie exists yet (working on it…), so we still need to do a little detective work to figure out where our next big hit will come from. Here are a few data-driven breadcrumb trails you can follow, to get you started:
This is trendy internet nerdspeak for hopping on the bandwagon and, um, riding the wave, I guess? Basically, you use something like Google Trends to find out what’s going up in search volume right now in your area of specialty.
For instance, let’s say I write for a cat blog, and I’m thinking about writing my next post on kittens, and how cute they are.
The downward trend here apparently means kittens just ain’t doing it for the internet any more, so maybe this isn’t the best topic to write about right now. But if I find some related search terms in my field that are rising in volume, it gives me some pretty good clues to work from.
Looks like interest in Scottish Fold cats is exploding, though, so maybe I should write about those instead! Oh, and by the way, here’s maybe why:
Lawd have mercy.
Voice of the people
You can survey the roles of your readers of your readers to better understand what they’re looking for, using something like Qualaroo or some other embeddable survey tool. Hell, you can even do a live chat with them, if you prefer your feedback straight up, with no ice.
Either way, you’ll be using this intel to build a persona of your reader, in order to understand what they need, enjoy, or value. Our friend and guest contributor Sujan Patel has written an excellent investigation into the brainstorming phase in the life of a blog post.
Where’s the best place for me to promote?
There are a few ways to divine where to plant yourself for max engagement:
The sharing distribution
Um, just look at it – see how your total shares for a post are distributed across the social networks. Social Authority Checker is a quick, free tool for this.
Or, you’ll be able to use Filament to keep tabs on this soon.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “but what about on-page vs in-network shares?” – wait, you weren’t? I’m just kidding, those are pretty insider-baseball terms, but I’ll explain:
Total shares = On-page shares + In-network shares
On-page shares occur when one of your readers clicks a sharing button on the page itself.
In-network shares occur when someone retweets you. Reshares you. Re-pins your pin. In other words, in-network shares perpetuate the reach of your content, but aren’t guaranteed to actually send someone back to the page.
So when it comes to measuring the actual engagement of the content itself, In-network shares sound kinda gross right? Even worse is that it’s tricky to break down your total shares between the two (this is something we’re looking to do with Flare), but eyes front! I’m about to drop a quick hack on you:
How to calculate your on-page shares
- Run a Crazy Egg or other heatmap analysis of your page (I feel like I mention them in every post!), and find how many times your visitors clicked on the sharing buttons over a few hundred sessions – the more, the better.
- Divide the # of clicks by the total number of visitors in the report to get your in-page share ratio
- Now, multiply the page’s total shares by the in-page share rate to get your total on-page shares. Subtract on-page shares from the total shares to find the number of in-network shares. Make sense?
Once you’ve run the numbers, they’ll yield some interesting findings:
- If the ratio of on-page to in-network shares is high: you’ve got a good ‘un – this page is likely among your most compelling. Send more people here.
- If the ratio is low: you’ve got a great headline that people are resharing – likely without actually reading your magnum opus.
Which of my posts could do better?
This one’s pretty simple – any decently-lengthy posts where the avg. scroll depth of your visitors is less than 33% likely has something wrong with it that’s causing visitors to bounce.
Find out where readers are bailing from the page, then enrich the post, re-promote it and measure again.
See it in action
I’ve used these tactics on this blog to learn where we can improve – which posts we should optimize, & where we should promote them. It’s been an eye-opening process, and I share my findings in our experiments series of posts.
In summary: forewarned is forearmed
You work hard to create your content, so you want to make sure you’re giving it every chance at success. Having a little data at your fingertips helps to keep you focused on the matching the best content in the best opportunities for it to flourish – so invest time in the analysis upfront, and grow your engagement quicker!
What other data do you use to guide your content marketing efforts? Let me know in the comments below.