In last week's post, we discussed how to establish the goals against which content will be audited. This week, we look at the next step in the DMAIC framework: Measure.
Determine which aspects of current processes and current metrics for content performance and user engagement you will analyze, and collect the data for the initial baseline. At the end of the project, measure updated data against the previous data to show improvement.
“Good data makes for good conversations.” —Joe Gollner of Gnostyx Research
Inventories help us measure the as-is state of a website and provide the basis for later steps in the process, such as scoping a project or doing a content audit.
The core purpose of an inventory is to give you a starting place. In most content projects, you’re trying to determine how to get from the current state to a desired state. The inventory enables you to define your starting point.
Inventories also serve another purpose in helping sell the proposed project to an organization. Few people in an organization have a handle on how much content is on the website and what it is. Each department or content stakeholder may have an idea of their section but may not know what else is out there. Content often exists in organizational silos, and the content auditor – the person conducting the inventory and audit – may be the only one looking across all those silos.
When you get to the audit portion of the project, where qualitative judgments are made, it’s possible to ruffle some feathers. People often defend their silos. So a benefit of a content inventory is that it depersonalizes numbers. You can defuse some potential conflicts by simply gathering people around the idea of moving forward in ways suggested by the data. A dispassionate presentation may inform the stakeholders that clearly addressable issues are supported by data.
“Measure what can be measured and monitor what can’t, recognizing that good intentions are no substitute for performance and results.” —Peter Drucker
Ideally, we regularly review and measure site effectiveness. One way we typically do this is via site analytics, such as Google Analytics, or other traffic and usage data sources. These types of site analytics are widely available but they aren’t usually enough to define effectiveness. For a more expansive view of content performance, we need to evaluate other measures as well – direct feedback, customer service and support requests, and mentions and reviews.
In their paper “Positioning Content for Success: A Metrics-Driven Strategy,” Kevin Nichols and Rebecca Schneider refer to these two types of data as “hard” metrics (quantifiable measurements such as conversions, numbers of visits, time on site) and “soft” metrics (qualitative measures such as user research, behavioral analysis, and customer satisfaction surveys).
To leverage all of this input, a strategy for adding analytics data and other metrics to your content audit can make the process more manageable, scalable, and insightful.
Key to effectively using analytics to help audit and track your content’s effectiveness is deciding which data is most relevant for your needs. In making that determination, think about what your organization values and how that is measured. If sales are a key performance indicator (KPI) for your company, tracking conversions is critical. If brand engagement is important, tracking data for social shares and sentiment analysis matters.
If your audit time is limited, it can be helpful to focus your attention on the pages that are receiving the most and the least traffic. With that list in mind, you can review the pageviews data again and find not only how many visits a page has received but the source of the traffic and how long the person stayed on the page once reaching it. Frequency and duration of views is a good measure of loyalty, which is more important for your business in the long run than just visits.
If you have defined conversion paths in your analytics dashboard, test users’ browsing path for that conversion activity against an ideal path. What pages are your customers hitting along the way to making a purchase, for example? How long does that pathway take to traverse and how often do they drop off before reaching the call to action? Is it the path you want or expect them to take? If not, you may have identified an opportunity for simplifying your customer journey.
If much of your traffic is driven by organic search, you have a good indication that your content is ranking well for keywords and links – but if the bounce rate is high or the time on page is low, perhaps what they’re finding when they get there is not what they were led to expect. High bounce rates may indicate disappointed users and may have negative consequences with your search rank. Use your audit to look for pages with a high number of page views, but also monitor high bounce or exit rates, and review the page content and experience to determine what might be causing that user behavior.
Various measures, such as site analytics, can help you assess content performance, but you should also look at the information you get directly from customers.
Access and review any sources of customer data: direct feedback sent via Contact Us forms or comments on the site; customer service requests, which can be a rich source of information that points out content gaps or inconsistencies; ratings and reviews, which help show what content is popular; and social sharing, which indicates engagement. Search logs are another rich source of information about how customers refer to your products or services (is the terminology they use reflected in your site labeling and content?) and where the gaps in content or navigation lie. If important content is buried so deeply that it has to be searched for to be accessed, you may want to rethink its placement on the site.
Next week: how to analyze the information gathered in the inventory and audit.
Paula Land is co-founder and CEO of Content Insight and author of Content Audits and Inventories: A Handbook.