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How to Predict and Measure Content Effectiveness (Webinar Highlights)

12 min read

Content Science founder Colleen Jones sat down to talk with MarketMuse Co-founder and Chief Product Officer Jeff Coyle about predicting and measuring the effectiveness of content.

Jeff Coyle: [00:00:00] Welcome to another MarketMuse conference strategy webinar. I’m your host and the co-founder and chief product officer for MarketMuse. Jeff Coyle. Now today’s discussion is titled How to Predict and Measure Content Effectiveness. And it’s going to be a discussion focused on the investment in content.

And that we all make and how we can more accurately estimate and measure the return on investment or whatever the KPIs are on the content that we make. We’re also going to talk about the wins one can achieve by building internal champions and stakeholders throughout the content creation, optimization re-purposing websites.

Now enough of that, on to today’s special guest; she’s the founder of Content Science and the author of an amazing book.

If you don’t have it, go buy it right now, The Content Advantage. If you’re a mid-market, small enterprise, large enterprise, she’s the content strategy champion and Sherpa you wish you had to move, change workflows, shape minds internally. Colleen Jones is here. Thank you for joining us.

Colleen Jones: [00:00:59] Thank you so much, Jeff.

It’s a pleasure to be here. I’m so excited to join the series and to talk about a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. Hello everyone.

Jeff Coyle: [00:01:12] Tell our audience that may not know Content Science.

Colleen Jones: [00:01:15] Content Science has evolved to offer professional services around content, helping to analyze difficult, complex content situations and figure out a way forward. What’s a good strategy, approach, plan?  What content needs to continue? What maybe should we let go of? We have done a lot of independent research on that, conducted studies on things like content leadership and operations studies, content effectiveness, and the influence content has.

Jeff Coyle: [00:01:54] Cool. No, that’s a great summary. I wanted to touch on. How do you think about investment in content only?

And it all starts with how much money you’re going to spend. How do you think about the true cost of content and what are you seeing with your clients and with some of your data studies on the way people are thinking in the right way or the way people were thinking about the wrong way of how they spend time, money, how they measured time and money.

Creating Content Takes Time & Money

Colleen Jones: [00:02:20] Yeah. In terms of how are people thinking about investing in content? A big finding that we’ve seen repeatedly in looking at content leadership and operations is there’s this big divide. There are people, organizations, leaders that understand content is an investment.

They have made a lot of progress in defining budgets that involve content. They’ve started to think through. What is the investment? What’s the return likely to be? There’s that group. And then there’s this other group that just views content as a cost. Content might not even really be clearly delineated on a budget.

A lot of people don’t even know what their budget for content or content-related items like tools or people or the actual creation of the assets; don’t even really know or have a clear idea of what the budget is.

Jeff Coyle: [00:03:34] Yeah, you said so many amazing things in that one thing I’m completely stealing is that there’s a correlation between whether the leadership can clearly articulate a legitimate cost of content that involves all the true components to declare their investment.

The flip side of that is someone who looks at their bill from their one writer and says, “Oh, I did six articles and paid them $6,000. So, my art, my, it must be a thousand dollars in art.” I have teams and even prospects we talk to you that they’re saying,” Oh, those they’re spending a quarter-million dollars a month on paid.”

And they’ll be able to look at you with a straight face and say they spend a hundred dollars a page for content.

So, we think of efficiency as we created “N” content items, and only so many achieve the goals of the content we create. We typically see teams range between 5% and, coming in the door 30% and where they write a hundred articles, and between five and 30 are successful. We like to turn that number into 50, 60%, which really changes the game. But how do you predict whether the content will be effective?

And how do you think about those types of efficiencies?

Determining Content Effectiveness

Colleen Jones: [00:04:52] Yeah. I think it is a fascinating area that we’re excited about doing more work in. To this point, a couple of observations. One is, what we’ve seen is really consistent with the example you just mentioned.  We often find that 20% of that content is having 80% of the results. It might vary a little bit. It might be 30% of the content or a little less than 20% of the content. But, generally in that range. That’s usually happening when there isn’t a lot of thought to strategy. And as part of that strategy, there isn’t a lot of consideration of the data.  And so, it’s really hard to make that content effective.

It’s really like throwing darts in the dark. And, it’s just really not fair to anyone involved. And we’re excited about using data to shed more light on what will be effective, a lot of different aspects to that. And I’ll mention two. One is the ideal, which is as you set up your system for content and content marketing, a part of that system is ongoing content intelligence, so ongoing data feedback, insight.

Suppose you have that in place, then when you go to create some new content, you can draw upon that.  I think of prediction as collecting enough bits of data and insight and lessons learned that you can then use to make more of an educated guess as to what’s going to be effective and work instead of throwing a dart in the dark.

Jeff Coyle: [00:06:56] Yeah. You throw darts in the dark. The keyword I often will reference is your variance, right?

And predicting content success is about decreasing variance in its purest state. So you may have the net result of it being successful. But if you can decrease the variance and then also get closer to prediction, you’re just giving yourself a complete, unfair advantage against somebody who’s just writing what they think is right.

Colleen Jones: [00:07:23] Yeah, absolutely. I spoke a couple of years ago at the American Marketing Association’s conference focused on analytics. They were giving away rewards, an honor to a company for advancing marketing analytics. And I was really struck by what the winner said in his acceptance of the award, which was, “Texts from users, customers is the future of analytics,” and the reason that he said that was because that helps get at the why.

Things like feedback from voice of customer mechanisms can be hugely helpful, comments and sentiment, and all of the great analysis that can be done on social and otherwise these days can help fill in some of that gap. I’m really optimistic we’ll continue to make progress and tie better why things are happening to what’s going on, what you see in your analytics. But it is, I think, going to continue to be a bit of a challenge for sure.

Jeff Coyle: [00:08:42] Yeah. I think you described one of my favorite topics is intent mismatch, where the person thought they were going to get something, and then when they got to the page, it’s something else. And that naturally happens. It will naturally happen because of the way people search. Finding those misses and saying, “Hey, should I have given them the right answer?” Okay, I’ve got to tweak this or write something new that it does. Or it wasn’t a hit in the first. It wasn’t a hit in the first place.  I think you hit that well. And I think it’s really important.

Colleen Jones: [00:09:10] Yep, absolutely. That’s a great point.

Satisfying Business Goals

Jeff Coyle: [00:09:12] We talked a little bit about search engines, and I once heard someone say, “Hey, we write for both the reader and the search engines, but that’s not enough to get a budget.” Like, how do you think about that missing audience? The budget holder leadership, the internal champions, that require content to put points on the board.

Colleen Jones: [00:09:29] Yeah, absolutely. I think that there are a few different ways that I’ve seen to tackle that. One is, going back to the idea of a pilot that I mentioned earlier, that can be a great way to, especially for budget holders who are supportive, but maybe it’s not all clicking. And they’re a little hesitant to make the all-in investment, a bigger investment without having more insurance that, “Hey, this is really going to work for us in our organization, our market.” And so a pilot where you identified a narrow, clear opportunity and you can easily understand whether you’ve achieved success or not.

Data Types That Inform Content

Jeff Coyle: [00:10:21] And, I guess the question becomes, like what makes. What makes this objective? What data is best to use in these types of pilots?

Colleen Jones: [00:10:31] Yeah, I would say it certainly depends a little bit on the exact, company, organization situation. But, definitely a mix of that behavioral analytics data, the perception, voice of customer data, and then the business levers. And what exact combination of that is most convincing for a company might vary a little bit. But, I find, in general, there’s a big over-reliance on vanity metrics and scale alone. And not a lot of thoughtfulness.

Jeff Coyle: [00:11:15] No, I think you said several things that I hugely advocate. I think that the journey progression is a key data point. But also, you said it earlier in the discussion too was let’s make sure that we’ve polished the mirror on looking at ourselves today.

And we truly know who we are. Where we have expertise in our content and where we have written comprehensive content. That’s what is extremely important to make great decisions about the future. It’s also getting some of the myths out of the organization—the one page for one word cannibalization myth that leads to your voice of customer disasters.

That’s that. How will you write the one page that covers every industry party that covers every stage of the journey? What you’re going to end up with is The Beginner’s Guide to Making Brownies. It’s like the most generic, likely to miss. Those are great to write, the long-form pillar pieces, really comprehensive things, but they need support to truly address and attack all the stages of the buy-cycle.

Colleen Jones: [00:12:20] That’s a fantastic example. Yeah, exactly. It’s just the content that’s related to that action, that conversion. And nothing to nurture the relationship or educate people to help them move along to that point. What do you think is going to drive someone to that landing page, advertising?

To some extent, but it could get a lot more impact if you had more content supporting. The upper stages of the funnel or the earlier stages of the life cycle, depending on what metaphor you like for your customer relationship.

Jeff Coyle: [00:13:00] It’s like your persona doesn’t get thrown out, and your specific personas or your specific targeted groups don’t get thrown out of the window because it’s top of funnel. If you’re providing that insightful guide that you wrote could be specifically for coffee roasters. It’s still can be general, but it could be targeted for them so that they feel like, “Oh, they get me.” It’s not just tax accounting: tax accounting, people running your coffee roasting business.

Colleen Jones: [00:13:26] Yeah. And it’s amazing the impact. If people feel like the content is relevant to them, somewhat personalized, and this is isn’t even like individually personalized, just you have a sense of who I am, my role. Yeah, that has a tremendous impact on perceptions of the content, like improves perceptions tremendously. People will be more likely to trust it, to act on it, to view the content itself, and view you as a brand more favorably. That relevance and personalization are huge.

Jeff Coyle: [00:14:05] What do you see typically in as far as measurement goes? What do you see as the top one or two?  Mistakes or just challenges to getting a team to come to alignment and what it means to have successful content.

Overcoming challenges

Colleen Jones: [00:14:22] So I see a lot of times one of two extremes. One is they don’t spend any time or effort looking at measurement because they can’t. They don’t have time. It’s something that is relegated to, maybe once a quarter. Or it’s very infrequent. Maybe even other people are the ones looking at it. And that brings in a lot of risks that they’re not getting the full story and not arriving at the right interpretations. And that can backfire on you down the road. So that extreme and then the extreme of analysis paralysis, where people get into such a myopic view and, even arguments, productive kinds of arguments. And, then along with that, at times, getting so focused on the data that they think the data will tell them what to do. They think the data will decide for them.


Jeff Coyle: [00:15:29] I love that it’s a variant of something that I’ll often, you know, because a lot of times you have stakeholders, you don’t know the reasons, but there’s a reason why they’re not involved in the content process today. Often, people who haven’t bought off on content, they’ll just say either, “I don’t know anything special. What would I write about?” is always a great one. And they’re like literally subject matter experts.

Or, yeah, it happens to me all the time. Or it’s a stakeholder who just “I’m not involved with that type of content” or “I’m not involved with,” “Oh, that’s demand gen content” or something like that.

Colleen, thank you so much for joining us today. This was an amazing discussion. I think it’s so motivating to think about what I can change.  


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Stephen leads the content strategy blog for MarketMuse, an AI-powered Content Intelligence and Strategy Platform. You can connect with him on social or his personal blog.