Why great content is only as good as the analytics behind it

Andrew Bredenkamp, founder of Acrolinx, discusses the importance of content quality and governance metrics.


No matter what type of marketer you are, content matters.

When companies deliver bad content, the results can be disastrous. Consider Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ‘Unity’ commercial and how poorly it was received. Both the Pepsi and Jenner brands fared badly as a result of the misjudged ad, seeing Pepsi issue a public apology – and Kendall report that the collaboration badly affected her public reputation.

However, when a company delivers compelling and engaging content, they provide a better user experience, create better relationships with customers, showcase their vision and values, and even increase sales. When content is honest and transparent it sparks reflection, conversation, and engagement.

For example, and on the opposite end of the spectrum to the Jenner/Pepsi debacle, when non-profit organisation Be Vocal partnered with an award-winning documentarian to create a short film on mental health, the results were more positive than either party could have hoped. Because the film was seen as authentic, following three people living with mental illness and honestly portraying their struggles, it was well-received, and the engagement levels were impressive. Despite the absence of any paid promotion, the film successfully extended the reach of the Be Vocal message, earning an estimated 416 million impressions and raising awareness of the organisation.

We all know that content can make or break a brand and it’s the analytics behind the content that can be the difference between a great piece of content performing well or that same asset disappearing without a trace or damaging brand equity.

Learning which metrics don’t really matter

It won’t be a revelation to hear that a good content strategy must go hand in hand with comprehensive analytics – which help organisations work out how content is being consumed, what’s working, and where activities should be focused next.

Most of us already know the importance of metrics – and any time a piece of content is published, our instinctive reaction is to look for data about how well it performed. How many people saw it? Liked it? Shared it? These so-called vanity metrics include views/listens: the number of times that someone has looked at, watched, or listened to a piece of your content, sessions: the number of distinct interactions users have with your website, and session duration: the average amount of time visitors spend on your site. As an industry, we’re also good at measuring social shares and likes and open rates.

While this kind of information can be motivating, the reality is that not all of the metrics that fall into this category are equally useful. In fact, when it comes to helping you deliver better business outcomes, only a handful actually matter.

Although we like to think that every view and listen equates to a prospect taking the time to consume our content in full, that’s simply not the case. You’ve only got to land on a page or hit the play button for a second for it to be counted. In cases like these, at best the person wound up there by accident and was never actually your intended target. At worst, the person was your target and got turned off because they didn’t like what they found.

Likewise, having a bunch of sessions, users, or social shares may seem encouraging. But, unless they translate into sales, what real value do they have? Admittedly, it’s always a good thing to have eyes on your brand and on your content, but that alone isn’t enough.

And understanding those that do

If you want metrics that will command your C-Suite’s attention, you have to track how you’re helping your company meet its business objectives. At its most broad level, this means asking if your content is aligned with your brand strategy, and whether it’s communicating the key messages that are important to your customers.

However, even more fundamentally, the main way that content fuels business growth is by helping to generate qualified leads. In many businesses, this is the primary metric that matters, and it’s something that can ultimately be tracked and measured.

However, there are intermediary steps that come along the way.

The first of these is goal completions. Once someone has confirmed their consent to subscribe to your newsletter, downloaded one of your gated content assets, or shared their email address with you, you’ve earned the right to proactively communicate with them. That’s hugely important. First it means that you’ve gathered some information about them, which you can use to start qualifying them as a lead. It also means that you can begin proactively sharing your messages with them as you try to move them down the path to purchase. That has clear implications for the overall success of the business.

Of course, leads aren’t the only things that matter. When you want to demonstrate that your content is getting meaningful results, other metrics can also be helpful, including shortening the length of your sales cycle. Indeed, one of the most important roles that your content has to play is educating your customers about your products and services. If you make the right content available on your website, for example, you can get potential customers to qualify themselves by helping them understand if your product or service is a good fit for their needs.

A good sales enablement tool will help you keep track of what content your prospects are actually consuming and what effect, if any, it’s having on the sales cycle. Once you know what pieces are moving the needle, you can figure out which combination of content assets will maximise engagement and get your prospects to take action soonest.

This is all important but ROI metrics are the real game changer. They demonstrate the value you’re creating for your business by investing time and money in content. Unfortunately, calculating the ROI of your content is a lot easier said than done. In fact, according to research from HubSpot, 40 per cent of marketers say that proving the ROI of their activities is their top challenge. But it’s an activity that’s worth doing. Marketers who calculate ROI report that they’re 1.6 times more likely to receive higher budgets.

The technology solution

So, making measurement a priority is just the starting point. It’s the metrics you use, and how you use the information provided, which is crucial.

However, there’s a major flaw in the metrics most often employed by brands – that they’re only available to you once you’ve published your content. And whilst you can still use them to make changes to your content and content marketing programmes, you’re always left doing so after the fact. To get the best results, you also need metrics that can help optimise your content and content creation processes before you ever publish anything. This means using technology to help.

With a content governance platform like Acrolinx, you can analyse your content before you publish it, measuring it against a number of key metrics that have been proven to impact performance. These include things like the clarity and accuracy of your content, the tone of voice that you’re using, and how consistent it is with your company’s unique brand standards and in its use of terminology. By evaluating these things before you publish, and making adjustments as needed, you can reliably enhance the chances of your content getting the best results.

Indeed, when it comes to technology, emerging artificial intelligence (AI) solutions give us the capability to harness a new kind of analytics – much more nuanced than anything we’ve seen before. AI can analyse tone of voice, the appropriateness of content for a discrete audience and linguistic features, and importantly, it can scale. Large organisations can create hundreds of pieces of content every week, from multiple writers – too many to accurately control and manage manually. And it’s here where tech really does provide the solution.

Companies spend a lot of time, money, and effort fine-tuning strategies around their brand – how they want to appear to the market, who their buyers are and how they can resonate with them. It’s equally important that these companies have a long-term view of whether or not their content is aligned with these goals and how it’s performing against useful and strategically important metrics.

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