Yes, Virginia, There Really is Measurable Content Marketing

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Here at Brandsplat, we’re often surprised to learn that new clients once shied away from joining the blogosphere simply out of fear that they couldn’t measure the results of their efforts. Had they never heard of Google Analytics? Some hadn’t, so we set that right. Others had, but felt overwhelmed at the prospect of tracking Return on Investment (ROI) on content marketing. Still others had tried using Google Analytics to help them paint a picture detailing which content provided what audience and so forth. But all of them had thrown their hands up at one point or another.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. But measurable results are vital to ensuring your content is doing what you ask of it. And, frankly, it’s part of our sales pitch: We want to get you measurable results, so we have to know how to measure them. So let’s walk through a few tips for using Google Analytics to judge just how well your content marketing plan is performing.

Arnie Kuenn, author of Accelerate! Moving Your Business Forward Through the Convergence of Search, Social & Content Marketing, admits that using Google Analytics can be overwhelming at first.

“The amount of data available are innumerable,” Kuenn says. “However, there are specific subsets of data that are valuable in assessing content marketing success once you have determined your goals.”

Kuenn suggests choosing just one of the following three ways to measure content marketing using Google Analytics: traffic/time spent on your page, conversions, downloads and referral traffic. Of course, it helps to know a bit more about how each of these things is expressed in Google Analytics, so let’s take a look.

1. Measure Time on Page Alongside Traffic Figures

We know that traffic alone doesn’t tell the whole story, but when you’re investigating the ROI on your content marketing strategy, it’s a great place to start. It is safe to assume that if a page gets a lot of traffic, there’s something on there that visitors dig. It might be as simple as a headline. Or it may be that your content’s SEO and ads have boosted its click-through rate. But have you checked to see how much time they spend on your pages?

“When the average time-on-page for a certain page is higher than the site average, it implies this page captures and keeps visitors’ attention more than other pages,” Keunn notes.

Rest assured, even Google Analytics newbies can navigate around the site and find this information. With a few simple clicks of your mouse, you’ll be viewing these in no time. Then ask yourself: What is it about the content of your most popular pages in terms of time on page that is holding (not just capturing) visitors’ attention?

2. Measure Conversions

What do your conversion numbers look like? Whether you’re asking them to purchase something or simply to provide their contact information as a prospective business lead, do you know what your rate is? Do you know what pages visitors frequently view before they sign on the dotted line? By setting up a goal in Google Analytics, you can effectively track visitors’ interactions with your site and learn more about what motivates them. There’s a bit of decision making ahead, but don’t let it deter you: The information on the other side of this tool is worth it.

There are four types of goals you can set up via Google Analytics. The first is Destination, which tracks when a visitor lands on a specific page of your site. This is a raw numbers tool, allowing you to monitor page visit growth, for example. Duration, the second tool, allows you to determine a specific length of minutes or seconds and then track visitors who meet that goal. This way, you can monitor visitors who, for example, spend quite a bit of time on your site. Did they commit? Did the ones who committed spend more time on a specific portion of your site? The Pages/Screens Per Visit tool lets you see how many pages or screens each visitor viewed while at your site; from this information, you should be able to glean some insight as to which portions of your website are holding visitors’ interest. Finally, the Event section helps you see who played a video or downloaded a white paper (hopefully you’re set up to trade this “event” for the visitors’ contact information — but that’s a whole other blog).

3. Measure Referral Traffic

How did they land on your site? Knowing the answer to this question gives you immediate ROI on any content marketing and advertising strategies you use. Did they click through via a social media link? Google AdWords ad? Email your company sent directly to that visitor? You’ll see which of the tactics you’ve used to spread the word about your company ultimately worked best. Then you can use this information to tailor your next round of outreach efforts. What could be better than that?

Finally, you can use Google Analytics for free if your site is generating less than 10 million hits per month. That means more money for hiring content writers to help boost your time on page numbers, now that you know the baseline!

But what say you, dear readers? If you’re already using Google Analytics, do you have any other tips? Let us hear from you in the comments section below!

In Blogging and Social Media, Editing is Your Friend

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The writer of this blog worked as an underpaid assistant and mildly abused copywriter back in the day where we faxed stuff to clients all day long. Other than how to nap in the copy room without getting caught, one of the valuable lessons we learned was the importance of double-checking and editing our work. Our mentally unstable boss might have pushed us over the edge with this task, but we certainly learned how to edit for content and how to clearly present the intended message. As a social media expert, it’s a lesson I’m grateful for 17 years later and one I use everyday in blog marketing and social media content creation. 

Recently, I had a client in a panic. After shooting off a post on the company Facebook page which can only be described as bonkers and then getting the expected angry responses from followers, he looked like a kid who nearly burnt down his kitchen after playing with matches. The first thing we did was delete the post. The next thing we did was have the editing talk. The editing talk is one we all get — one that is incredibly vital in social media. Especially with branded blogs and social media accounts, we have to pause and ask ourselves, “Is this the kind of post that even makes sense for our company to comment on?” If we find that maybe our impulse was of the reactionary, angry variety, maybe we should hit delete button before we incite a riot and damage our company’s reputation.

All of this digital marketing comes back to reputation, essentially. Look at the difference between a brand like Oreo and a brand like Chick-fil-A, for example. One kept it fun, light and entertaining while the other got political and in hot water. Oreo has emerged as a leader in social media while that other place is still trying to repair the damage nearly two years later.

The next question in the talk is this: Is it social or personal? Social should be the kind of stuff you talk about at a cocktail party while personal should be reserved for you inner circle and done only in person. Fans will turn on brands in an instant when they start commenting on stuff that is inappropriate for their image. You want to yell about Obama or your mother-in-law? Super. Just don’t do it on the company blog or Twitter page.

The last and most important part of this talk is reread, reread, reread. Take a cue from my old boss and take five minutes to read your post. And then read it a few more times. Not just for brand-friendly content but for grammar, language, cohesion and spelling. Well-edited blogs and social media posts are the kind of things your brand can be proud of and set you apart from the crazy people.

 

In Blogging, Keywords Still Count

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In_blogging_keywords_still_count

Whether the final death knell for search engine marketing has been officially rung is a debate we’d rather not get involved in. What we do know is that some of our old SEO marketing practices are still incredibly valuable, especially in blog management and blog marketing. Keywords, for example, are one tool from the golden days of SEO that hasn’t gone out of style. But even after all this time, many folks new to blogging might wonder, “What are keywords and why the heck should I even care?”

A keyword, to put it simply, is that word which pops up in bold when a search engine like Google or Bing returns a list of results. At the top of the search engine result heap are the sites which use the keyword in question. Google wants bloggers to use keywords and wants readers to click on sites that use them too, so by putting the keywords or phrases in bold it makes the decision of which search engine result to click on even easier. Every blogger should give a hoot about keywords because they are incredibly easy to use and help make finding your brand online a snap.

To dip your toes in the keywords waters, start simple. With branded blogs and blogging for business, the best place to start is keywords which reflect what you do and where you do it. If, by chance, you are a landscaper in Atlanta, Ga., something like “Atlanta landscapers” or ” Georgia gardening experts” would do the trick. More keywords can go deeper into your specific services and topics that your blog talks about.

Once you’ve picked out keywords, start sticking them in your posts. Coincidentally, a good list of keywords makes planning your posts less stressful, too. As you map out your posts for the week, peruse your keywords and pick out the magic word you want to discuss and optimize. Use this word in your headline and throughout your post, but also use it in tweets and other social media marketing platforms. And don’t worry about packing your posts with tons of keywords. Keyword density isn’t as important as we once thought. Plus, using keywords over and over looks awkward to readers (and for good reasons).

As blog creation changes and SEO morphs, keywords remain a powerful and easy tool. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised to see keywords flourish even further with the continuing explosion of tablet blog reading and ongoing Google algorithm updates.

Your Content and Google Penguin Can Be Friends (Really)

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Content marketing gurus and SEO mavens alike were in a tizzy earlier this week as Google rolled out its Penguin update. Penguin, like Panda, is an algorithm update aimed at catching webspam. Sometimes these updates, which Google routinely does, do really have an impact on online marketers outside the SEO world. But Penguin is unique. Being smaller than Panda, its focus is more direct and strict. And if blogging for business or article marketing is your thing, you could get bounced by Penguin and not even know it. Luckily, there are ways for your blog to play nicely with Penguin and they come straight from Google’s mouth.

Google’s top 8 things to avoid via WebProNews on Penguin are:

1. Avoid hidden text or hidden links.
2. Don’t use cloaking or sneaky redirects.
3. Don’t send automated queries to Google.
4. Don’t load pages with irrelevant keywords.
5. Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains or domains with substantially duplicate content.
6. Don’t create pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans or other badware.
7. Avoid “doorway” pages created just for search engines or other “cookie cutter” approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.
8. If your site participates in an affiliate program, make sure that your site adds value. Provide unique and relevant content that gives users a reason to visit your site first.

These are all great tips — especially the keyword stuffing — Penguin or no Penguin. We’ve seen clients eager to jam as many keywords into a blog or article as possible and it never seemed like a good idea. Now we know it isn’t. Things like sneaky redirects, hidden links and multiple pages of duplicate content have always been looked down on by Google and now Penguin is better way combat it. In short, Google is getting smarter all the time and updates like Penguin are on a mission to take out bad, spammy content.

The good news is that these updates actually help those of us who create original, non-shady content. By playing along with Penguin, instead of against it, your content can now be found faster and read by more people!