Let's say you're moving into a new home, and you're bringing all your existing furniture with you. In order to decide where each piece of furniture should go, you need to know the size and the layout of the room, and the size and shape of each piece of furniture.
Knowing the measurements helps you map the layout of your new home and makes moving a more efficient process. Measurement provides clarity and promotes efficiency. When it comes to measuring your content performance, it's no different.
For years, we've been hearing that content is king in SEO. And that hasn't changed. But the shift in SEO to focusing on content performance rather than keyword performance means our content performance metrics must also shift.
While many of the metrics SEO professionals have used for years are still useful, marketers have taken a step back to get a bigger picture of what it means to say, "Our content is a success." So how do we get there? The answer is measuring your web pages.
Understanding content at a page level gives us a bird's eye view of what resonates with a brand's audience and drives conversions.
Big changes in 2013 to query data collection (secure search) has altered how many SEO professionals gauge success; couple that with big changes to Google's algorithm (Hummingbird) and how the search engine understands content, and we have a new approach as marketers.
As we step into 2014 with a renewed look at content from an SEO and marketing perspective, the time is now to plan for how to measure its success in order to build efficient strategies.
Here are three ways you can measure content at a page level in 2014.
Before You Measure
No one wants to waste time guessing or trying to piece together bits of data from multiple unrelated sources. The tips in this column come with the disclaimer that you should first identify your trusted data sources.
Many will use Google Analytics plus a few other trusted resources for specific metrics. Whatever your sources, streamlining your technology makes for less of a headache when sifting through data.
The majority of your content's performance can be measured on your website, but don't forget to measure your content's performance across the channels you are promoting it in. This can also include special metrics within your social marketing channels.
1. Page Rank in the SERPs
We're not talking PageRank here (which attempts to measure a site's authority); we're talking about the rank of a page within the search results.
Today, PageRank may have less importance as a primary success metric of content, but it still matters.
Many of you know the organic search results vary by user as a result of personalization due to numerous factors, including browsing history, location, social media connections, and more. Rank still exists, but it's a complicated matter.
We also know that depending where in the results a web page shows up can increase click-through rate. Research supports time and time again that top placement matters, whether it's rank in the standard search results, or rank within image search, local search, and so on.
Your web pages may not only differ in rank from user to user, but from device to device (mobile versus desktop) and type of content (blended results like images and videos). Here's just a sample of the different results one query can return:
So the first rule in measuring your content in 2014 is to understand how your rank varies across searches. Here are some areas you can monitor your web pages' rank in order to gauge the success of your content:
- Local search, including the "carousel" results.
- Universal search, which can include images or video linking back to your web pages, or videos on your YouTube account.
- Other search results like those from Google's Knowledge Graph and any social results on your brand.
- Mobile search - Your sites lack of mobile search friendliness can negatively impact your placement in the results.
- Your competition's rank in all the aforementioned areas, which can give you the insight you need to improve your pages.
2. Page Traffic
Keywords are to traffic what traffic is to conversions. In other words, keywords matter in that they are still a step in the acquisition cycle, giving clues to the topics (a.k.a., the content) people are looking for. As the words that make up the content on your site, they are indicators to Google what your content is about.
Before you begin to monitor the traffic to your pages, you can get a picture of how much traffic you might garner for new or existing pages by using keyword search volume, cost per click data and a competitive analysis for the topic. This can help you determine how competitive your pages might be for that content.
Once the pages are live and optimized, it's simple to get a picture of top-performing content through analytics data that shows you most-trafficked and most-linked-to pages.
To better understand your traffic, segment it by device, location, new and returning visitors or any other segment that is important to your business.
Think about the success of individual pages as well as groups of pages that either represent business units, types of products, topics and so on, so you can compare x versus y as a contributor to the overall success of the website and the business.
Don't forget you can increase your share of traffic through best practices for on-page optimization, including schema markup and compelling meta information, which increases click-through rate from the search results. And you can use page performance data to find those pages with captive audiences that are primed for testing conversions.
3. Page Engagement, Conversions and Revenue
Every page has conversions elements – what you want your users to do. Some are micro-conversions, those smaller acts that are still important to the experience on your site and indirectly, to your bottom line, while others are macro-conversions.
It's up to each brand to figure out for pages and groups of pages, what's the goal? Then, begin tracking the metrics that matter. Conversions come in many forms, and can include:
- Downloading a content asset
- Signing up via a form
- Placing a product into a cart or wish list
- Purchasing a product
- Bounce rate
- Time on the page
- Pages viewed (and where they went next)
- Social interactions like shares or clicking on "connect" buttons
- Comments, where applicable (such as blog posts)
If you're asking what this has to do with content, the answer is everything! Your web pages are a canvas for the content that moves people to act. How you organize that content, what you say in the content impacts a pages success and the experience of the page.
The ultimate goal is to tie the success of your content – your pages – with real revenue where possible. Ecommerce sites are perhaps more straightforward. But for B2Bs, if you have the right technology to follow your leads from the website to the close of the sale, you're in good shape.
Measuring content means knowing the business outcomes it contributes to, whether it's real revenue, branding or something else. In SEO, measuring content begins with its place in the search results, the traffic it drives, and what people do when they get there.
Going back to our furniture analogy, each piece of furniture must find its place in a room, and each room comes together to create the experience of "home." Today's SEO is centered on understanding the performance of content as a whole, not just piece by piece.
Just like we would do when measuring and planning what furniture goes where in a new home, in order to get the big picture of content as it relates to SEO, we have to take a step back from focusing one or two metrics like keywords or rank, and look at the whole house.