|As many of us reach colossal levels of burnout and think more discerningly about where to focus our energy, I want to share two questions to help you gauge how well your content strategy is working for you.
First, let’s define the objectives. Every content strategy, regardless of whether you’re utilizing it for your business or personal brand, drives back to the same two overarching goals: grow an audience and drive tangible results. To engage and grow an audience, we use content as a connection point. We used to talk about content as a way to “provide value” for an audience, which is true but one-way. The most meaningful relationships we build with customers, industry peers and stakeholders, investors, recruiters, etc. is one that involves a back-and-forth and ongoing engagement. We want to think about our content as the catalyst for a moment of connection, whether that’s a simple “like” to say the content resonated or a longer, offline conversation.
The first question to consider is: How well is the content helping me connect to the people I most want to know?
Have you noticed an uptick in people referencing your articles in conversation, commenting and engaging on your posts, or replying to your emails? Does there seem to be a growing interest in your work and POV? Are the people who are connecting with your content the people you want to engage (think: industry, role, seniority, values) or outside of that list? We won’t ever be able to know the true reach of our content work, regardless of how deep we go down analytics rabbit holes, but we can get a sense of an upward or downward trend.
Next, consider: How is the content driving tangible results?
The key here is knowing which tangible results you want your content strategy to drive. It sounds simple, but many business owners and corporate professionals jump into creating content with vague objectives like “build brand awareness” and “get my work in front of more people.” This leads to murky strategies and okayish-but-not-great results.
So, get specific: Are you looking to fill your one-on-one consulting work by the end of the summer, hit specific product launch numbers by the end of the year, or be able to pitch a speaking gig at a well-known industry conference with more confidence? If you want your content to do a number of things, prioritize those goals so you know which one is driving the bus.
Once you know the 1 – 3 tangible results you want your content strategy to produce, identify:
– The specific piece(s) of content that are driving those results more than others
– How your overall body of work is or isn’t helping you hit those goals
Once you’ve got that down, you want to explore your platform analytics. Here’s what I look at when understanding the health of a campaign, as well as some benchmark data I’ve gathered over time. Depending on the tangible results you want your content to drive and the marketing platforms you’re using to promote that content, the hierarchy of these metrics will change.
For websites, I’m mainly looking at page views, traffic sources (where are people coming from and does that track with how we’re promoting the content?), session duration and bounce rate. (Google Analytics calculates time on page in a funky way which makes the data a little tricky to interpret, so I don’t rely too much on that one.) My SEO partners will also look at keyword rankings, search visibility (also referred to as “SERP” visibility —search engine results page) and referring domains.
With emails, I pay attention to open rates, click-through rates, list growth rate and unsubscribe rates.
On social media, I’m looking at organic reach rate (which tells us how many people a post has gotten in front of without paying for ads or newsfeed boosts), engagement rate (likes, shares, comments), growth rate and click-through rates.
Across all of these platforms, I’m mainly looking for three things:
– Content that has highly engaged or disengaged our audience(s)
– How these stats are growing over time, usually looking in three-month increments
– What additional clues these metrics can give us about our audience and/or the tangible goal(s) we set for our content strategy
As you dig into your own analytics, here are a few benchmarks to give you a (very) rough sense of cross-industry averages. Keep in mind that these metrics are all context sensitive, vary by industry, change over time and the data sets are taken from multiple platforms, so hold them loosely.
Average bounce rate: 26% – 70%, with optimal range 26% – 40% (data source and a helpful breakdown here)
Email Marketing Benchmarks
All data sourced from here.
Average open rate: 27.91%
Average click-through rate (CTR): 12.89%
Average unsubscribe rate: 0.33%
Social Media Benchmarks
I reference these monthly benchmarks for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (though the data is limited) and LinkedIn.
You want to feel comfortable interpreting these metrics and the clues they offer about your content strategy. (I jump in 1 – 2x a week to eyeball how the data is tracking within each content campaign.) Saying that, I spend much more time reading through social media comments and email responses, asking new and potential customers how they heard about a product or service (was it through a piece of content?) and finding opportunities to use the content as targeted and meaningful connection points more than I obsess over platform analytics.
Data points are useful to identify trends and, in certain moments, problem solve, but they don’t carry the nuances and language that come from keeping an ear to the ground with the people you’re creating the content to serve.
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