I’m sure you’ve all heard the expression “content is king”, and whilst there’s no doubting that content is vital to the long term success of SEO, the fact of the matter is – most site owners have absolutely no idea if the content they’re publishing is actually doing anything.
Over the years, I’ve worked with countless site owners that either –
- Don’t bother with content at all because they see no value in it
- Start with a level of enthusiasm only to give up, and lastly
- Those that publish an enormous amount of content, and “hope” it works.
It goes without saying that in business, you need more certainty and less “hope”.
This is why it’s absolutely essential to track and measure the performance of your content marketing efforts – especially if you’re investing a lot of time and money towards it.
As a site owner, you need to be able to answer the following questions with absolute certainty.
- Is my content bringing in additional search traffic?
- Is my content resulting in sales?
- Is my content bringing in customer enquiries and signups?
In other words, you can’t just be publishing content for the sake of publishing content. You MUST know whether or not you’re content is actually working.
Why measuring the performance of your content is important
Look, to be honest, I’m by no means any data nerd.
But when it comes to content marketing – I want to know for sure that I’m not wasting my time. Because creating, publishing, syndicating and potentially repurposing content takes a considerable amount of effort.
If I’m going to be invested towards doing all of that work, I certainly want to know, at the very least, if my content is actually bringing me a return on investment.
In other words, it’s about reducing waste, working with purpose and making intelligent decisions based upon factual data.
You can’t do any of that if you’re not actively tracking and measuring your efforts.
Publish and prey is not a good marketing strategy
Most site owners follow the same sort of behavioral pattern when it comes to content.
- Publish a piece of content
- Share it on social media
- Then wait for something to happen.
Then of course, the boredom of waiting for something exciting to happen wears off, and the whole process starts all over again. Over time, this results in a lot of content being published that just kind of sits there, doing nothing.
These are site owners that usually respond with comments like “We have no idea if anyone reads this stuff?”, or “We really have no idea if it’s working – but we do it anyway because we’ve been told that content is important”.
A lot of the times taking an approach like this is based upon superstitious beliefs and misinformation, such as –
- “We need to be publishing content frequently to keep Google happy”
- “Publishing content will help improve our domain authority and that’s a good thing”
- “Publishing a lot of content will improve our rankings”
Needless to say, all of this is total nonsense.
Sure, publish brilliant content, but work with purpose.
It’s pointless just cranking out content if you have no idea if it’s actually performing.
Enough nonsense, let’s do this
Okay, so let’s get down to it.
In order to track and measure the performance of your content, you’ll need a few basic tools. They are –
- Firstly, Google Analytics. If you aren’t using this already, then you should be. Its absolutely vital.
- Secondly, you’ll want to start using (and understanding the importance of) Custom Dashboards within Google Analytics. Don’t worry, I’ll cover this in a sec.
- You’ll also need to be using intelligent page paths within your URL structure. Of course in this case, within your blog. Don’t panic, I’ll explain this too.
- And lastly, a swear jar (trust me, I was at $23 the first time I attempted this)
Installing Google Analytics
Okay, if you’re not running Google Analytics, (why on earth wouldn’t you be???) then head over here and follow the instructions. There’s no need for me to cover that in detail here.
Once you’ve got Google Analytics up and running, you should be right to go. Move onto the next step.
Setting trackable page paths
Okay, don’t lose your mind – what are page paths?
Page paths are simply the way in which you structure your URLs. In terms of Google Analytics, they’re useful from a ‘content drill down” perspective, for reporting (so you can see how users are engaging at various levels on your site) I say “levels”, because you’re able to track and measure engagement and interaction at various levels, depending upon how you have your URL structure put together of course.
So, if you have the following –
- Page path level 1 would be /folder1/
- Page path level 2 would be /folder2/
….and so on.
It sounds technical, but it really is quite straight forward.
So how can this help us measure the effectiveness of our content?
The simple answer is to structure your URLs in a way where you can accurately track and measure conversions at a page path level.
I’ve spoken about this before, and infact, I cover this quite heavily inside my SEO training course. (you should join)
There really are any number of ways you can setup your blog posts URL structure. In the past I’ve always recommended using something like the following –
There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, and infact it’s always a good idea to assign pages to certain categories. However this becomes problematic, from a reporting point of view – especially if you have dozens of different categories. If you have dozens of different categories, that would mean having to filter and set rules for each category, and if your categories are constantly changing, then this over time becomes really difficult to manage. You’ve only got to make a small mistake, and you’ve screwed up all your reporting.
So a much better approach would be something like any of the two suggestions below –
As you can see, I can quite easily assign a fixed term (that’s important) as my page path – in this case /blog/ to act as my page path (level 1). This would of course allow us to easily track and measure how our content is performing, because all of our blog post entries would start with domain.com.au/blog/
Let me explain.
Okay, take a look at the following screen shot. This is a rule I set up within what’s known as a custom dashboard within Google Analytics. I’ll cover this in just a second but for now, this is how you can effectively track and measure organic search traffic, at “page path level 1”.
To better explain, here’s what this filtering rule is asking…
Show me –
- Blog post titles (per user session)
- At page path level 1 exactly matching /blog/
- Search traffic (organic) only
When we get data like this, it really changes up the dynamics considerably. We can start querying Google Analytics to show us all sorts of cool stuff like –
- Which blog posts are attracting the most search traffic
- Which blog posts are resulting in conversions (customer enquiries, sales, signups etc)
- ….and just about anything else we wish to view.
Here’s a simple report that tells me which content is the most popular on my own site.
Here’s a simple rule that lets me filter out content that is actually helping drive conversions (in my case, customer enquiries)
And this of course, would give us a snapshot of data that looks something like this.
Of course we could do a lot more and setup rules for all sorts of things, but before you go ripping your URL structure apart, TAKE NOTE.
If you intend on implementing this change, it is absolutely essential that you set 301 redirects, so that you don’t kill your search traffic.
Remember, the minute you start changing your URL structure is the minute everything changes (internal linking, inbound links, navigation etc) so be sure you think ahead and plan this out properly. Otherwise you’ll end up with about $800 in the swear jar.
Putting it all together
Okay so assuming that you’ve installed Google Analytics, and changed your URL structure in a way that allows you to accurately track your blog at page path level 1, you’ll now need to setup and configure what’s known as a “Custom Dashboard” in Google Analytics.
To save you some time, I’ve created a simple template that you can use right away. All you need to do is just click on the link below, and it will open Google Analytics.
Select the property you want track, and apply it.
Now, of course, I can’t accommodate for every case scenario, so you might need to customise it slightly to suit your needs. That’s pretty easy to do, just click on the little pencil in the top right corner of each widget and edit the rules to suit your setup.
If you don’t see anything under content that converts, you may have to tweak it to suit your goals, OR you’ll need to start improving your efforts!
If you’re going to be investing your efforts towards creating, publishing and sharing content, then you’ll want to know you’re not wasting your time. It’s important that you track and measure your blogging efforts (just as I do here at SEO Point) by implementing custom dashboards through Google Analytics.
There’s no better feeling than seeing customer enquiries, or sales coming through because of content you’ve published.
If you’ve found this how to article useful then be sure to leave a comment below. If you’ve got a question, post it below and I’ll do my best to answer it. Don’t forget, all this juicy information (and more) is covered in my SEO training course. You can learn stuff like this and a lot more by becoming a member today. It’s cheap as chips – $20 a month.