10 Tips to Build a Data-Backed Content Strategy

  • Stephanie Allen
  • April 30, 2014

Find out how to build a successful data-supported content strategy by asking the right questions and utilizing Google Analytics essentials.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the 2014 IA Summit along with a slew of veterans and excited first-timers - like myself - against the backdrop of a sparkling San Diego marina. The summit featured a variety of talks geared towards UX Professionals, UI Designers, Information Architects, Content Strategists and every job title in between. One word that rang through just about every talk in every mutation imaginable was “data”– big data, data storage, data collection, data visualization, data tools, and on and on.

A presentation that really resonated with me was Jonathon Colman’s “Data Sets You Free.” As a Content Strategist at Facebook, Colman explained how essential it is to back up content strategy with data and provided tips on how to utilize analytics to do so. It made me reflect on my work with the Digital Strategy team at Velir and how we provide context to our clients through analytics.

Colman said, “Data on its own doesn't speak for itself. It requires analysis and interpretation to tell the story.” He continued by offering the following tips and tools to build a successful content strategy supported by key metrics in Google Analytics.

  1. Build a customized, intelligent dashboard. Citing Avinash Kaushik’s model of “Acquisition. Behavior. Outcomes,” Colman recommends implementing custom Google Analytics dashboards to evaluate how visitors interact with your organization online. Check out the Google Analytics Solution Gallery to find custom, open-source dashboards.
  2. Align metrics with core values and vision. Content Strategists need to investigate what it is that truly makes an organization tick in order to create appropriate content and select metrics with which to measure success. Find out what the organization’s brand pillars are, what success looks like, and what differentiates the organization from others and build content around this key information.
  3. Create and measure custom segments. Use segments (pre-set and custom-defined) to narrow down data so you’re not looking at everything in aggregate and making assumptions about the entire audience. For example, examining behavior of those who arrive from social media versus search engines, or returning visitors versus new visitors.
  4. Focus on loyalty instead of just visits. Loyalty and retention are paramount to most organizations’ success. Look into “Frequency & Recency” reports to segment out loyal users who may be considering a higher level of engagement. Craft content to speak to these users directly and encourage conversions. Check out Avinash Kaushik’s post on Frequency & Recency Analysis for further information on how to do this.
  5. Rethink the context of bounce rate. A bounce is typically counted when a user exits your website from the landing page they entered on, without going to any other pages and a high bounce rate is usually seen as an indicator that content isn’t meeting the expectations of visitors. However, there are circumstances where visitors may have successfully engaged with the content on the page, but are still discounted as a bounce. For example, a user enters on an article page, reads the whole page, copies the link, IMs it to a friend, and closes the page. Colman suggests updating the tracking code embedded on your site so engagements like this aren’t considered a bounce. Here’s how to do it (and a deeper explanation of why you should do it).
  6. Consider the depth of engagement. Look at the depth of visits – 1 page, 2 pages, or more? Segmenting users who engage more deeply within the site allows Content Strategists to understand which content is engaging users better than others. Here’s an excellent in-depth read on advanced methods for tracking engagement in Google Analytics by Justin Cutroni.
  7. Examine the frequency of interactions. Look at the value of conversions relative to how much content visitors clicked through. Analyzing this information gives us a notion of how much time it takes to get a visitor to convert. Colman showed an example where 36% of conversions took place on a different day than the first visit. Data like this should push Content Strategists to create content that helps build deeper relationships with customers so they feel compelled to come back and convert when the time is right. Learn more about analyzing conversion paths.
  8. Measure micro-conversions. A click on ‘Add To Cart’ would be categorized as a macro-conversion but a micro-conversion may be logging in, clicking to read more details, sharing on social media, etc. Tracking micro-conversions helps us get a better sense of where people are on the path to converting and are valuable leads for future macro-conversions. Read about how to track micro-conversions and tips on measuring conversions.
  9. See how content impacts acquisitions costs. How much does it take to acquire a new customer? And what’s the ROI on that customer? This is essential data for a Content Strategist to understand because it can provide additional support for the current strategy, or pave the way for a future strategy. Take a look at this presentation on breaking down the value of content by Content Consultant, Melissa Rach.
  10. Determine your multi-channel mix. Typically, each brand channel (Facebook, email marketing, display advertising, etc.) has a designated content creator, often leading a fragmented brand experience across channels. It can be short-sighted to focus solely on one channel at a time. Utilize the Top Conversion Paths and Multi-Channel Conversion Visualizer (and more multi-channel reports) in Google Analytics to best understand the paths through which customers arrive to your site, then streamline the brand experience across those highly-accessed channels. Mike Pantoliano gave a talk at Mozcon about this titled Attribution Modeling with Google Analytics.

There is a lot to digest in these 10 tips but implementing even a handful of them can go a long way to help shape your content strategy into a successful endeavor.

Still want more? View Colman’s Slideshare from the IA Summit to learn how data can set you free or share your thoughts via comments below.