What should content teams focus on to see the results they’re looking for? Alan Edgett, Founder and CEO of The Gig Agency, recently addressed this topic and others in his recent rellify webinar, “How to Use Data to Drive Your Content Marketing Performance.”After his initial presentation, Edgett held a Q&A session and discussed data tracking, AB testing, focus areas and best practices for content teams, and more! This transcript has been edited from the original video.
Stats that matter for content teamsWhat is the most important stat that people should be looking for [in long-form content] in terms of whether they’re succeeding or failing in their content marketing efforts? Alan Edgett: If you can’t easily repurpose and slice and dice your content, then in effect, you’re creating more work for everybody else; your paid acquisition marketers have to make their own ad, and your SEO marketers may not be happy, etc. The ability to utilize one piece of content for the organization in multiple areas helps alleviate some of that pressure. But it depends on the primary goal. I would either focus on impact. Or, (if I was being judged on lead generation performance and I was the content marketer), I would look at some of those engagement metrics. For example, time spent, scroll rate, or trying to find keys for why or how or where my content was being impactful. If it’s a video, it’s a little more obvious because you get the viewing metrics. But I would focus on content that is performing well and engaging its audience.
Finding the right strategy for content teamsAnd again, it doesn’t even have to be on-platform; it could be off-platform: if I take this video over to LinkedIn, does it get any engagement at all? Are there any likes or shares? Try to quickly sort through and try to figure out why a particular piece of content is getting more engagement than others, and then focus your efforts. That is one way to alleviate the burden of producing content. In digital marketing, we’re all under the demands of, “I need to fill this entire content calendar.” But the truth of the matter is, is we’re trying to create a good content strategy, not just a high amount of content. Make sure that you are contributing to your goal and you’re not just producing content for the sake of producing. I see a lot of people that have hundreds of blog posts, and they still rank poorly in SEO. That should not happen. So, what does that mean? You are not accomplishing your goal, and you need to revisit it. Quantity is not helping you, and you need to slow down and focus more. On the other hand, I see people all the time that produce landing pages that don’t generate the lead. So again, if the goal of that content is lead generation, you need to learn why that landing page isn’t working. Test, test, test – three, four, five, six, seven different versions – so that you can find one that works rather than just continuing to do what you’ve done.
UTM tagging and source dataIf UTMs (Urchin Tracking Modules) are being used to capture the original lead source, will UTM tagging on-site links overwrite the original source data? Alan Edgett: Yes. Generally, if your website’s constructed in a certain way, the last UTM will probably be stored. I try not to do that. I think it is important knowledge to capture the UTMs where the traffic came from. Like Facebook – let’s get all those UTMs and store them. Then if they go through internal processes that add UTMs, we’d like to store that in a separate area. So, that’s just a little bit of configuration for your web, HubSpot, or CRM marketers to think about. The same phenomenon happens when users come from LinkedIn: they browse, they go away, then they Google you, then they come back to your site. Oftentimes in B2B, they’ll fill out a form from Google, go away for two weeks, and go cold. You might resuscitate that lead with a LinkedIn ad, then they come back and fill out the form again. And usually, CRM/marketing automation programs always store that last UTM. But, that does not give credit to the first UTM that sourced them, so we like to try to store our UTMs in an array.
Avoiding content marketing pitfallsWhat are some common pitfalls content marketers can fall into if they have a very lean content team, i.e., they’re the only content person? Alan Edgett: Not knowing the goal or target audience of your content creation is probably the biggest problem. I see sometimes content marketers are told, “Hey, we need a newsletter.” What is the goal of the newsletter? Is it re-engaging current users or getting conversions? Am I just trying to get engagement, or is it trying to lead gen a user who’s not quite filled out a form, but they gave us their email? Where are they in the funnel? Those are all totally different newsletters. Try to define and choose your goal wisely because then you can choose your key performance indicators that go with it. I see a lot of content people who are advised to just do the best they can. Or maybe they’re told, “Here are the ten topics that the CEO wants us to talk about.” They don’t know why, and they don’t know how they’re being judged. So they just go about producing these ten pieces of content (that takes them quite a long time). Then three months later, everyone yells at them. “We’re not getting leads,” and they weren’t even told that they were supposed to be generating leads from that content. So, the biggest pitfall I see with a content team is they hurry up and produce without knowing why or what they’re getting judged on. Make sure everyone agrees on the KPI and the judgment of that particular piece of content.
Competitor tips for content teamsIf you want to look at your competition and say, “How are they doing in content marketing? What is working for them, and what isn’t?” What are some basic things people can do? Alan Edgett: Participate in your competitors’ social points of presence, whether it’s Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. There is a lot to learn from what your competitors are doing in their social media marketing. If they’re getting engagement and you’re not getting engagement, start there. Potentially their topics are more interesting, or the way they’re writing is more interesting. It could be that they’re the largest established competitor, or they have a bigger audience. Try to sort through that.
Analyze the competitionDraft off this and see which of their pieces are failing and which of their pieces are getting some engagement on the social side. Also, on the paid side, make sure you understand how your competitors are using their Google search ads. Understand what landing pages and what content they’re driving into. Don’t always just look at their main website because performance pages sometimes are different, and they’re testing things over there. Identify where they like to test and what they’re testing. A landing page does not survive the month if it sucks. So, if your competitors are still using a landing page multiple months in a row, either they’re total idiots, or it’s a good landing page, and you should learn from it. Especially if they’re a bigger brand, it’s probably working. I always look at competitive landing pages or even just the big boys in the industry of all industries. It doesn’t matter what [industry] you are – go find the big players. Look at their landing pages and see what kind of taglines they’re using, how they’re describing their benefits, and pay attention to their user experience because you’ll learn a lot.
Best analytic tools for content teamsDo you have any favorite analytics tools for AB testing? Are there any tips for doing it faster than normal? Alan Edgett: I do! If you have money, I like AB Tasty. If you don’t have money, use Google Optimize. It’s free, so you can’t go wrong, and it’s not a bad tool! If you have a lot of money, Optimize is fantastic, but AB Tasty is about half the cost and does just the job. For testing, keep it simple. People forget all the time that testing takes time and traffic. If you’re testing your home page and your home page gets fifty thousand visitors a month or so, you can do a test or two every week. But if you’re testing a lower-level blog page that gets three hundred visitors in a month, you can do one test every two months. Be realistic on what you’re going to test, and don’t test multiple things on a page. Understand the difference between multivariate testing and AB testing. If you’re going to do AB testing, you’re at a high level; you’re trying to determine different macro approaches. “Does macro approach A work better than macro approach B?” You are not able to determine whether the single line of text was better because you’re trying to keep it at a high level. For example, I’ve got two landing pages competing with my Medicare client: one with a doctor on it and a whole bunch of text, and one with a regular consumer. I’m not judging it on the lower-level pieces of text. To do that, I would need to do a multivariate test. But AB is important here. And so, what is my hypothesis? “Doctor” is better than “consumer.” People trust the doctor.
AB testingIt’s that kind of high-level learning. Once you get through the test, of course, now you can take “doctor.” Put her on all the pages, and test the next thing, the tagline. And so that’s how you keep the variables simple so that you don’t get confused. You do not want to try to test the new tagline with the doctor and a different tagline with a consumer. That violates the Google principle, right? You don’t know which of those two was pulling. Keep your test simple and high-level if you’re doing AB. If you have a lot of traffic and you can get over into multivariate with a tool like AB Tasty or Google Optimize, then you can set up cells where you are testing different taglines and different pictures, all at the same time and it will sort that out for you. Understand how complex you’re capable of going based on what level of traffic and kind of what tools you have.
What’s a good starting point for content teams?
Take someone that’s just getting started. Let’s say they’ve been focused on the content side of things and not the data side of things, and now they want to balance it out and focus on the analytics data a little bit more. Where is the best place to start?Alan Edgett: I would start with your target audience and their persona; Where does your persona want to consume your content? Make sure your content is there. How does that persona want to consume your content? Video, text, long-form vs. short-form content? What marketing channels is your target audience on? For starters, try to figure out where your persona would like to engage with you. Then look into how they would like to engage with you and steal from your competitors’ knowledge. See what they’re doing because they might already know the answer. That might start to help you start to narrow down where and how best to serve them the best customer experience with relevance.