Spoiler alert: Pageviews aren’t the end-all-be-all. Here’s how to identify your top-performing content so you can create more of the same.
In an ideal world, content marketing would be easy.
You’d write a new post every day, each bringing new traffic to your site — and sales to go with it. Your boss would applaud your work and you’d be the star of your organization. Unfortunately, reality is messy. As content marketers, we put a lot of effort into content strategy. We work to understand our customers and develop content specific to their needs.
And yet, not every piece of content performs as we would expect. Sometimes it’s the time-consuming, long-form article that can’t seem to earn backlinks. Other times a post will surprise us by driving impressive organic traffic, email sign-ups and sales.
But this isn’t a guessing game — success in content marketing is largely dependent on testing ideas and refining your content strategy over time. It’s crucial to pay attention to your best performing content and attempt to replicate that success. But what does “best performing” mean? Many marketers start with pageviews, but that’s not the only way to identify effective content.
The Problem with Pageviews
Pageviews are certainly one way to identify top-performing content, and they should be part of your measurement arsenal. However, you shouldn’t completely rely on them to identify your best content.
To illustrate, let’s say you run a healthcare site and you publish two pieces of content. The first is titled, “How running contributes to osteoporosis” and the second is titled, “The shocking reason you should avoid orange juice.” If, during the two weeks following their publication, the first article gets 3,000 pageviews and the second gets 2,000, then we can assume that the first article is better performing, right?
Maybe not. Maybe the first article received three times the paid media spend of the second. It’s possible the first article didn’t lead to any revenue, while the second led to thousands in revenue. Without a holistic assessment of content performance using multiple data points, it would be hard to say which article is better with any certainty.
To get a stronger analytical foundation for assessing performance, include the following data points in your analysis.
Goals are specific actions that users take on your site, which are tracked in Google Analytics. Goals don’t come with your initial Google Analytics setup, so you’ll need to define the actions you want to measure before you can use this metric to assess content performance.
The need to build goals cannot be overstated. Tracking your goals is arguably one of the most important aspects of analyzing site performance. Some of the actions that you might want to measure include:
- Email subscriptions
- Form submissions
- Product purchases
- Clicks to important external sites
- Users who stayed on a page for a specified length of time
- Case study downloads
Once you have goals in place, you’ll want to identify content where these goals are completed most often. As with the earlier example, the total number of conversions that take place on a page may be skewed by external factors, so you’ll want to look at goal conversion rates as well.
A page with a less than impressive total number of conversions shouldn’t be overlooked if it has a high conversion rate. This could indicate that they page needs greater promotion to drive more traffic, leading to more conversions.
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If you set up a goal to measure form fills on your “contact us” page, where would that goal take place most often? Your “contact us” page of course! This is hardly useful information, so that begs the question: Where were users at before they clicked through to the contact us page and filled out your form?
To answer this question, you’ll want to look at your assisting pages. These are pages a user visited prior to completing a goal. You can measure these pages in two ways:
First, you can go to your landing pages report in Google Analytics and identify landing pages that lead to goal completions. If 15 percent of the people who read an article ended up buying a specific product, you’d want to analyze that article and attempt to replicate that success. You’d also want to drive more traffic to that page to increase sales.
Second, you can go to your reverse goal path report. This will show pages where conversions took place, along with the previous pages users visited. This can help you identify content that drives users to complete your specified goals.
When you’re identifying top performing content, you’ll want to take a look at engagement metrics. We recommend looking at time-on-page. If users are highly engaged with an article, they’re likely to spend a longer than average time reading that content.
As we’ve discussed before, Google Analytics doesn’t accurately track time-on-page without a little help, so make sure you’ve fixed how time-on-page is measured before you put a lot of faith in this metric.
There are a variety of ways to measure content quality, but what if you could get direct feedback from the people who read your content?
You don’t need to survey your customers to gather opinions, you can start by looking at social performance. What do people comment on? What do they say? What content do they share? These metrics offer insight into the content people find useful.
A Comprehensive View
When identifying top content, you should avoid relying too heavily on a single metric. Rather, you should complete a comprehensive assessment of performance that considers all the aforementioned metrics, though goal completions should receive the greatest consideration when assessing performance. This approach will keep you focused on your objectives and allow you to create more content that helps you complete those objectives.