Five ways to quantify relevance in content marketing

financial services content signals

Relevancy, relevancy, relevancy; it’s the mantra of digital marketers around the world. But when it comes to content marketing, how do you quantify this? Can you determine just how relevant you are, and how you can improve it?

Relevancy is now a critical element in search marketing, but understanding and quantifying that relevancy is no easy task.

It takes a combination of human and algorithmic review to really get to the bottom of what makes content suitable to answer your audience search query, but how do you know that you are looking for the right things?

Content, context, timing, technical proficiency and audience targeting – these are all critical to ensuring that your brand is delivering effective, relevant content.

Understand your audience personas

As more and more branded content is produced, more and more of it becomes ambient, ignored and ineffective. That’s a huge amount of resource and investment that is going to waste.

A lot of this is down to a lack of meaningful insight on the part of brand publishers into how different audiences behave online. Few brands genuinely understand how their target audiences and consumers engage with the web and, without this critical understanding, it becomes increasingly difficult to find the right content, the right medium and the right tone to attract the attention of those target markets.

Many organisations rely on their audience personas to overcome this problem, but these personas are usually discussed in very broad terms. In order to succeed in this digital environment, your audience personas need to be more than just a demographic profile.

As a digital brand, in order to be relevant, you need to understand three key elements of behaviour; what motivates an audience, where are they located digitally, and how they participate in the consumer-brand dialogue.

In terms of motivation, what drives them to engage with a brand? Are they driven by price or by service? Do they need reassurance or convincing? These questions will shape the content you produce.

Location will shape where you put that content. What media do your audiences consume? Where they are digitally active and what devices do they use?

And how do they participate in conversation? Different audience groups will interact with content, and with brands, differently.

Your audience personas have to become much more than just a demographic profile. They have to be a reflection of the evolving and capricious behaviour of your audience.

Follow the customer journey

It is rare that a consumer bases a purchasing decision on one query so your digital presence needs to be able to reflect each and every potential stage of the customer journey.

Most customer journeys are likely to involve multiple queries, and multiple stages, before they actually convert into a sale. It isn’t enough to answer the original query, but subsequent queries that arise as part of this journey.

search queries

Functional content, or on-site content if you prefer, is what guides your user through this journey. Not only does it define the experience for your customers, but it is also crucial to search visibility.

These search queries reflect the intent of your audiences, and this intent needs to be reflected in your keyword coverage. A lot of marketers will identify keywords without looking at the context and intent behind those keywords, and this means that there is a greater risk of your content not being relevant to your audiences’ queries.

Rather than focusing on the generic keywords, consider keyword strings that include ‘action’ keywords, such as “book mexico holiday” or “cheap mexico holiday”. Alternatively, your target audiences may be using ‘knowledge’ keyword terms, such as “best time to travel to mexico”, “best family resort in mexico”, “flight time to mexico” or “mexico weather in june”.

In order to be relevant, you need to be able to deliver answers for these queries as well as the core commercial and generic terms.

Find the right page for the right keyword

For those brands with extensive websites, it is likely that you have multiple pages all vying for position for one particular keyword cluster. You may have a number of pages, all of which contain a very similar topic of content or address a very similar user query, and these could be fighting for position in Google search results.

Unfortunately, it can be tough to determine which page is actually most appropriate to serve that particular query.

To address this, Stickyeyes has developed a tool known as SCOT (Stickyeyes Content Optimisation Tool). The tool, which is free to use, is designed to appraise the on-page content of a website in a similar way to how search engines would assess it for quality and relevance. This includes scoring the content on known ranking factors, including technical and engagement metrics.

The benefit of this tool is that it allows marketers to understand which pages are actually most optimised for a particular keyword.

stickyeyes tool

This insight can help you to make some important decisions on your content marketing strategy when it comes to optimising your content. You may find that you have been focusing your efforts on one particular page, when a completely different one is more appropriate. It may also be that you have built up such a large number of individual pages that it is actually diluting your content’s effectiveness.

Of course, any content appraisal and audit needs to have a degree of human intervention, but what this approach does is allow marketers to automatically get an objective score of how relevant their content is for their keywords.

Solve your customer’s problem

Perhaps the key metric of relevance is how well you actually solve the problems that your audience are experiencing. If your content answers a query in an effective manner, then you are delivering precisely the sort of user experience that search engines want to promote.

How you tangibly measure this will sometimes depend on the query that you are serving. A very simple query can be served extremely quickly with a single page, whereas more in depth queries will require much more detailed, long-form content.

Using another of our internal tools, known as Roadmap, we can start to identify correlations between both known and potential ranking factors, with high search ranking positions. The more strongly that high-ranking websites score for particular factors, the stronger the correlation.

The graph below demonstrates how particular factors, in this case those that are indicative of a strong user experience, with higher search engine rankings, correlate with higher search ranking positions.

content signals

What we can see is that there are particularly strong correlations for trust metrics, as one would expect, but also for metrics such as ‘average time spent on site’ and ‘unique page views’. Page speed is also seen as a strong indication of good customer experience, and this has grown to prominence in recent months as a ranking signal.

Even body copy word count – the lowest correlation score on the above graph, is actually one of the highest correlating metrics of the ones that we monitor.

These metrics tend to differ for different industries, which can be a reflection of the differing purchasing journey between industries. Take this example, which looks at the five factors that correlate most strongly with high rankings in the financial services sector.

financial services content signals

What we can see here is that there is a strong prevelance of factors related to on-page content and keyword coverage, which is perhaps indicitive of the long-tail search terms that are frequently used in this market.

These metrics, and this insight, gives us a starting point for objectively assessing the relevancy of our content for the industry that we operate in. By benchmarking how a website performs on the metrics that appear to support high rankings in our respective industries or markets, we can start applying some objective assessment of our on-site content.

Strike at the right time

Timing is everything in content marketing, and striking when the opportunities are strongest is ultimately going to give your content the best possible chance of success.

Some topics will impact your brand and your industry completely out of the blue. Consumer trends will emerge, regulations will change and the environment that you operate in will evolve, and these content needs will require flexibility in order for your brand to be first.

Others however will be relatively established and can be planned with a degree of certainty. Every industry has moments which are relatively cyclical, whether it is a peak seasonal purchasing period, or simply a new financial year, and you should plan to have content in place for when search volumes are likely to be at their highest.

When formulating your editorial calendar, look at the search volumes for the keywords that your content is likely to target. Ideally, you want to be publishing around two months in advance of the peak search volume, in order for your content to become established.

Michael Hewitt is Content Marketing Manager, Stickyeyes and a contributor to SEW. You can connect with Michael on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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