Alexandra Tachalova will be speaking at the next BrightonSEO conference on the 22nd of April 2016.
Every day, users are bombarded with content. According to Worldofmeters, more than 2 million blog posts are written per day. That’s a lot! But, the truth is that only a tiny percentage of all those pieces are effectively delivered. BuzzSumo research tells us that 50 percent of articles are of such poor quality than no one wants to share them on social media marketing channels. And I’m certain that the rest of the content that is shared is still struggling to gain a sufficient number of readers.
It’s obvious that, nowadays, one of the biggest challenges we face is being heard over all the content noise. Unfortunately, the majority of content marketers think that generating content on a regular basis can solve this issue easily. However in reality, frequency is the easiest part to tackle; the hardest part is maintaining a balance between quantity and quality. In order to reach the perfect equilibrium, you need to set up a quality assessment process for your articles that will guide all your future content marketing activities.
Without having a solid foundation in analytics, it’s hard to select the right metrics and approach that will reveal meaningful and useful insights. That’s why in this article I want to share a step-by-step guide explaining how I conduct content quality analysis. I use this approach when I need to consult with clients that are interested in improving their content marketing campaigns. The research that I present is separated into two main parts: the first one is dedicated to analyzing the general competitive landscape, which determines a site’s current position against other websites. And, the second part is focused on detailed content analysis, which will help you determine your most and least successful pieces in terms of social shares, gained traffic and backlinks, user behavior and conversions.
Determining the average competitive landscape
It’s crucial to have a birds-eye view of what you and your industry can do. You can’t make any significant conclusions about your content’s performance without having something to compare it to. Personally, I prefer to compare the content I create with direct competitors and industry leaders that I know are producing texts. If you don’t know who your competitors are or you want to expand your current list, then this article on my blog will help you a lot.
For getting a general overview of your competitive landscape on social media marketing channels, I prefer using BuzzSumo’s “Content Analysis” tool. With it you can see a summarized overview of how many articles the site posted in a specific timeframe and how these pieces performed on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
BuzzSumo builds amazing graphs and helps me determine the least and the most powerful social media channels in general, by content type:
Using the graph titled, “Average Shares By Network,” you can easily interpret which channels are generating the most engagement for the analyzed articles. On the other graph, BuzzSumo tries to categorize your content so that you can make it more engaging on social media.
In this example, we see that articles that contain infographics are shared much more than others. So, based on this data, I suggest that business owners experiment with producing how-tos in the form of infographics and see if they earn the same number of shares.
Additionally, because content is an important part of a company’s SEO presence, it’s not a waste of time to find out where a domain’s content stands against its competitors. In order to get this data, you can use any tool that provides competitive insights. SEMrush, SERPstat, Searchmetrics, SpyFu, SimilarWeb, Ahrefs all offer keyword ranking reports that allow you to filter out any unnecessary pages. Normally, I try to build my final reports in Google Docs, which make them much easier to share with other people than an Excel spreadsheet. That’s why I use SERPstat to get these numbers in a majority of cases – it allows me to export all data directly into Google Drive.
BuzzSumo’s “Domain Comparison” feature is the perfect solution for running a quick comparison of two domains. This tool is invaluable when you don’t have enough time to crunch numbers, but need to see if you’ve achieved a balance between quality and quantity.
Here’s a good example that demonstrates how maintaining a balance between quantity and quality is the key to success. From the graphs below, it’s obvious that Moz.com produced 10 times less content than SearchEngineJournal.com. However, Moz received twice as many shares.
Indicating the best and worst content
Besides analyzing the general competitive landscape, it’s crucial to know exactly which pieces are your best and worst ones. Analyzing your articles’ performance on a regular basis will allow you to determine which techniques need to be improved or discontinued.
By collecting and analyzing the metrics mentioned below, you can formulate your strategy based on a data-driven approach.
1. Social media shares
The majority of digital marketers prefer to mostly concentrate on social signals when trying to evaluate an article’s effectiveness. But, this metric can’t provide you with sufficient data to indicate your content’s performance. In reality, social shares can hardly tell you whether your articles have reached the right audience or not, but they can tell you a lot about your content’s virality.
Normally, to check the number of social media signals for each article posted on a website, I use BuzzSumo’s “Most Shared” report, which shows you a list of all pieces that were produced in a specific timeframe.
2. Traffic from social media marketing and other channels
The number of visits that your website gets from social media marketing and other channels is a must-have metric. For instance, sharing takes no time at all, but clicking on a link and then reading an article is much more time consuming. Analyzing this data will help you determine the most and least effective channels and what you need to further improve. Normally, I collect these numbers using the “Channels” report in Google Analytics, which will show you a summary of data for each channel, including the number of sessions and new visitors.
3. Bounce rates, exit rates and average session durations
Also, it pays to look at bounce and exit rates, as well as average session durations. If visitors stay on your site and read your articles, then your content meets their expectations and needs, and you obviously know how to make your audience happy. Remember to also check to make sure that all those metrics are not performing below the average website’s metrics. If they perform worse, then your content campaigns must be reconsidered.
4. Referring domains and links
Unfortunately, BuzzSumo doesn’t provide the number of referring domains and backlinks each article has in table view. To get this data, you can go to Ahrefs “Content Explorer” tool, which shows you the number of referring domains.
What I do at this point is to combine BuzzSumo and Ahrefs data into one spreadsheet. First, I export the report from BuzzSumo’s “Most Shared Content” report.
After I export the content’s URLs, I copy them from the spreadsheet and paste them in Ahrefs’ “Batch Analysis” tool which also allows you to export data.
The last step is to put together two datasets from Ahrefs and BuzzSumo into one table by using a simple VLOOKUP formula.
In the end, you might see that social shares hardly correlate with the number of referring domains your content has. Here’s a list sorted by the Referring Domains column that points out that the most linkable piece on the PageOnePower blog has less than 30 shares.
However, the number of referring domains and backlinks doesn’t tell you whether they’re relevant or high quality. To get this insight, you’ll need to go through the list of domains that are referring to a particular piece where the most important metrics for you are domain rank and relevancy. Using Ahrefs, you can find out a domain’s rank, but its relevancy can be only be verified by checking it manually.
In order to save time when checking manually, you have the option of using Majestic, which offers a “Topic Trust Flow” metric that shows how authoritative and trustworthy the domains and URLs referring to you website are within their niches. With the help of this tool you can score the relevancy and quality of backlinks profiles much more quickly and effectively.
I saved this indicator for last, but be aware that, for business owners, that’s the only metric that make sense. Yes, I know that in a majority of cases content marketing is a long-term investment that supports all other channels like paid, organic, social and others, but businesses are anxious to see conversions via content, because they’re spending a lot of money and resources. As a good content marketer, you need to be sure that you have properly set up analytics that will help consumers understand the role of content, so they can make an informed decision. Plus, you need quick wins that will make your boss happy – that’s why you shouldn’t forget to include content that is primarily focused on converting users in your strategy.
To sum up, I want to say that by measuring the metrics listed above on a daily basis, you will be able to make informed decisions based on real data. You can then focus your future activities on delivering less content, but more quality content. By presenting these stats to your managers, you will easily prove that you’re totally in control of the situation and focused on continually improving your content marketing process.