How can you tell whether your content is truly performing at its best?
One way of course, is to consult your analytics. This will tell you how many people are landing on the page, how long they are spending there, and whether they are clicking on links.
Analyse your content continuously and you'll start to spot patterns and trends which will help you form a picture of what content works well and what doesn’t.
However, this information doesn’t tell you why a particular piece of content performs better than others.
And the why is really important.
Was a piece effective because of the writing? Because of the design? Or perhaps the images and the layout?
Was it the story you were telling or the strength of the call to action (CTA)?
In theory, with enough content, you could use analytics to compare the effectiveness of two similar pieces and pinpoint the contributing factor that made one more popular than the other, but that process would be lengthy and difficult.
So if analytics only tell you what is effective but not why, how do you work out why a piece of content is effective?
Unfortunately, there are just too many variable factors in even the simplest piece of content to make it easy to isolate the one that determines success.
And since analytics only review what you have done, it has no way of suggesting what might work better – what you could do to get even better results.
Thankfully, with a little common sense, experimentation, and qualitative reviewing, you can begin to maximise your content's performance.
Start by comparing two similar pieces of content that your analytics have shown to be widely different in terms of effectiveness.
I’m going to assume that they are formatted and laid out in similar ways, two posts on a blog for example – identical fonts, layout, colours and so on.
Let’s look at some of the factors that could influence their effectiveness.
The most obvious difference might be the subject matter of the content.
One piece might be on a subject dear to your audience’s heart – something that they need to know about, or an issue they need to address.
Whichever it is, the choice of subject will be a major factor in a piece of content’s popularity.
Here, analytics can help – if there are relatively few views of the page it may be that the choice of subject is a poor one. If there are lots of visitors, that’s a pretty good sign that the subject is a solid choice.
If you have two posts on a similar subject and one is far more popular – take a look at how the content has been promoted – check whether that is a factor – maybe one post’s promotion was more effective than the other?
Tone of voice
It may be surprising, but one of the main reasons people can be turned off is the use of an inappropriate tone of voice. Either terribly patronising, too technical, too comical or too serious, for example.
Use analytics to look at your most read and acted upon content – then compare that to your least read and acted upon – does the tone of voice vary?
Think about your target audience and ideally think about your buyer persona, is the tone of voice of your content pitched right for that audience? Consider whether the tone of voice should be formal or informal, jokey or serious, easy to read or more sophisticated in the use of language, full of jargon or explaining everything,
Does the headline grab the readers attention? Ideally, the headline should have been created using keyword analysis and a headline analyser such as CoSchedule's.
You might also want to review the style, length and typeface. Is the font easy to read, and in a logical place at the start of the content?
Does it have some room around it to separate it from the rest of the content? Does it have the right amount of letter spacing to read well?
The quality of the first couple of paragraphs is a crucial factor in grabbing an audience's attention. You can compare your best performing content with your worst by looking at dwell time – the length of time spent on the page before returning to SERPs.
Looking at the higher performing content, does the introduction give people a compelling reason to stay on the page and read the content?
Does it intrigue and hold your attention? Does it allude to questions that compel the reader to stay engaged?
After reviewing the introduction, take an overview of the entire content.
How is it structured?
Does it have a logical beginning, middle and end?
Does it feel like the issues raised in the introduction have all been addressed by the time you reach the end of the content?
Does it feel like it reaches a natural conclusion?
To paraphrase Eric Morecambe and André Previn – 'you can have all the right elements present but if they are not in the right order, then you won’t have a masterpiece.'
You may have included all of the right elements in the right order, but if you do not tell a compelling story you risk losing your audience altogether.
It’s not a skill that can be easily explained, but the ability to take a piece of technical or informational content and turn it into a narrative that engages and captures the reader is a real advantage when creating content. As humans, we digest and retain information better when it's presented in story format.
We communicate through story-telling more than you might realise, even in everyday conversations. Applying this to your content can have a great impact on engagement and the content's overall performance.
Call to Action
If you are getting plenty of visits and good dwell times, but few click-throughs, this suggests the problem might lie in your call to action.
How to write an effective call to action (CTA) forms the basis of several other blog posts, so I am not going into detail here – but making sure they are as effective as possible is essential. After all, getting a prospect to respond and engage is the main reason for creating the content in the first place.
Take a look at the analytics for all your content and cross-reference the length.
Is there a strong correlation between length and effectiveness? Or between length and dwell times? Does long-form content put people off or increase engagement? Is there a sweet spot that seems to trigger the best results – an optimum length?
We’ve looked at comparing your best and worst performing content, but even your best content has the potential to perform even better.
It’s always worth going back and reviewing past content to see what you can learn and review, but it’s also important to assess the overall form of your content and each new piece of content too.
Apart from the factors we've highlighted above, there are some overall areas to review:
Do you have at least one image associated with the content? Is it relevant and eye-catching?
Does it complement the message of the content?
You should also review how it is cropped and the image quality - is it consistent with the sizing and themes of other blog images?
Is the layout clear with headers and white space? Could the content be easily read by someone with cognitive or learning disabilities? Ensure the font and colour contrast are appropriate and concur with accessibility best practice.
Furthermore, ensure there is a clear hierarchy to the content. Are subheads easy to pick out when squinting or at a distance?
It’s really important to keep the design clear and simple and help the reader process the content as easily as possible.
Of course, it's no use gathering all this analytics data, appraising your best and worst content, reviewing the design and layout, working out why it works (or not), if you don't actually take some action based on all your hard work.
By reviewing your content this way on a regular basis you’ll be able to improve the performance of your content and make sure you get the maximum return on your investment for your content creation.