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How to Build an Analytics Package to Measure Off-Site Content Distribution

Dave Snyder
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Analytics Definition

Marketers and advertisers have been spoiled in the cloud-based world we now call home. Data is seemingly ever present and infinitely divisible into segments that allow for minute-by-minute reactions to advertising and marketing campaigns.

Because of this we define "analytics" as the software that gives us this insight, however true analytics is the system by which we measure any data or statistics. By this definition analytics have been the core of modern advertising as early as we could quantify audience numbers of media.

As content marketing evolves as a practice, one area current analytics packages often fail – and thus leave marketers wondering about ROI – is in regards to content based activities that take place off of a company's website. Whether it is a publisher, social network, or social curation platform, marketers have a hard time figuring out how to grade performance in a seeming black hole of data.

The following tips give a good framework for how marketers and advertisers can build their own analytics solution internally.

Step 1: Measuring on Social Networks

This one isn't as straightforward as you would hope. Some of the issues that arise in documenting content spread effectively on social network are:

  • People taking images and uploading them directly to the network.
  • People augmenting the URL of the content.

This renders the open APIs that networks such as Facebook and Twitter have pretty ineffective when it comes to these specific issues. However, the basic URL data should be enough to allow marketers and advertisers to easily pull information about their campaign.

You can actually create a pretty basic version of a tracking software using Google Spreadsheets.

  • Create a Google Spreadsheet and add the content you want to monitor
  • Open the Script Editor

Open Script Editor

  • Enter basic functions to pull open APIs. I give you Twitter and Facebook below

Facebook Twitter APIs

  • Enter your URLs to monitor and reference the functions to pull the data.

Enter URLs to Monitor

This basic tool can be very helpful when you are dealing with publishers that don't have widgets that track such stats, or a large amount of content outreach going on.

Step 2: Monitoring Publishers

This one is tough. Most publishers aren't going to give you analytics access to measure your performance. But all the information you need is at your fingertips if you are inventive.

First let's think about the metrics that are going to be most important to us as marketers:

  • Overall visitors.
  • Time on page.

There are a few ways to handle this. Each will depend on your relationship with the publisher.

For new relationships where the publisher is very particular about what they will put on their website, you can utilize a system like Compete to give you basic visitor metrics for the website, and break that number across the number of new pages. This is a pretty flawed concept, but it gives you a general idea of what is going on traffic wise. You can also back this out using click-throughs from the content to see if it matches other sources you have better data on.

For relationships you have established, a JavaScript wrapper or basic pixel in the content can give you a ton of data on the page level. We have chosen to build a standardized, secure JavaScript widget to use with our publishers.

With the JavaScript option you can easily monitor any statistics any other analytics software would monitor, and you can easily utilize such a system to make on the fly changes to content. This is also something our system allows for.

The main issue is trust. If you're going to be sneaky with such a widget and try to spam your publisher base or not let them know ahead of time, you could be in for an earful. And rightfully so.

Step 3: Monitoring Impact

Referral data can still be difficult in either scenario above, and furthermore referrals can have larger impacts than direct traffic. The links that drive that traffic are the links that drive SEO value as well.

The last piece of a makeshift analytics package to monitor content marketing would need to be Majestic SEO. For my money, it doesn't get any better than Majestic's ability to update links quickly, and let you know the content that is working and what it is yielding.

This ability really replaces the ability marketers lost with the closing of Yahoo's Site Explorer.

Majestic SEO New Backlinks

Through the steps above you can close the gap on analytics needed to guide your online content marketing. Some of the techniques discussed are less exact than others, but they do address the current black hole most marketers face in a way that can at least justify budgets, gauge ROI, and chart progress.

Most of these processes can be set up in an afternoon, and designed to funnel into Google Spreadsheets for easy reporting.


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At SES London (9-11 Feb) you'll get an overview of the latest tools, tips, and tactics in Paid, Owned, Earned, Integrated Media and Business Intelligence to streamline your marketing campaigns in 2015. Register by 31 October to take advantage of Early Bird Rates.

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