8 rules on optimizing content performance

Content Publishers are facing the challenge of a rising heterogeneity and fragmentation of their users and their content publishing. Users are using different devices on different times, using different apps and social networks. The strategy one content fits all is long gone, users are consuming content differently on platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook or on the Web and they expect to find quality content there.
But what is quality content and how can it be measured? And even more important: How can this quality content reach the user or more exactly how can we achieve the match between this quality content and the personal usage situation of the user? How can we achieve to serve the right content at the right time to the right channel – by considering limited resources when it comes to content production. And how can editorial resources be used efficiently so that they have more time to concentrate on developing new content ideas?


1.      Choose the right web analytics tool

We don’t want to get into detail, but using a web analytics tool like Google Analytics is an easy choice when you don’t have the budget to use a tool like Adobe Analytics or AT Internet. I you are looking at a more detailed comparison, take a look at this article.


In this article we will refer to Google Analytics, simply because it’s the tool that is most widely used. And no – I won’t start a discussion about data privacy either.


2.      Set the right KPI for your company

Web Analytics is of course the first step in measuring content performance. So the first step is to define the relevant KPI (key performance indices). The main KPI that come to your mind are of course the likes of

  • Page Views
  • Visits
  • Users
  • Page Views per visit
  • Bounce Rate
  • Time on Page

If you want to measure content performance you can also add some conversion goals that can be reached by your users. This can be either generic goals or specific goals.

Generic Goals

These are goals that derive from KPI that have been mentioned above. In Google Analytics this is the goal type “Duration” or “Pages / Screens per session”. Here you may set a goal if a user or session is more than X seconds on a page. This is helpful for a long term analysis on user engagement. Another generic goal can be the number of page views per session.


You can also set a goal when a certain page is visited.


3.      Use event based custom goals

Most likely you will fire an event to set a goal. For content publishing this could be when a certain link or button has been clicked (for example “print article” or “share on facebook”). For more information on how to set up events for Google Analytics, read this article.

In short: An event in Google Analytics has three parameters that should be defined:

  • eventCategory
  • eventAction
  • eventLabel

These events can be seen “Behaviour” / “Events”. If an event has been defined as a goal the conversion rate for this event can be seen under “Conversions” / “Goals”


4.      Use custom dimensions

Wit the use of custom dimensions you can add additional information to pages that can be used as segments or dimensions in reports. A custom dimension could be for example the content type like article or image gallery. Or you could use the custom dimension to categorize your content, for example by categories or tags or authors. By using custom dimensions you have a good way to segment your content and analyse it in more detail.


5.      Use enhanced e-commerce for measuring content performance

Every shop is probably using the enhanced e-commerce tracking with which a lot of data like price of a product, quantity, variant of a product etc. can be analysed. You can also track when a user views a product, when he adds it to his shopping cart and when he does the checkout.

Simo Ahava had the great idea to use enhanced e-commerce tracking for content tracking. When we think about user engagement there are a few information that cannot be extracted from Google Analytics out of the box. An interesting information could be the scroll depth of the user in order to analyse if your content is really read until the bitter end. In combination with that you could analyse the time on page and bounce rate to get a nice KPI or score for user engagement. We get to that later.


Erik Driessen added some more information in his article “Track content performance using Google Analytics Enhanced Ecommerce report” which is worth reading.

An even more elaborate way to measure average user engagement is explained in this article of Simo Ahava where Google Tag Manager is used. You start by setting up a custom JavaScript variable and then a custom metric, Total Engaged Time in Google Analytics. Then in Google Tag Manager you set up the event tag that will be fired. And at last you set up a calculated metric in GA that defines the new KPI “Average Engagement”.


6.      Use calculated metrics for Content Marketing

With calculated metrics you can add new KPI that are calculated by taking existing KPI. For example: If you have imported the cost data of your content marketing expenses (through Facebook, Outbrain etc.) you want to track the performance of different campaigns. Interesting KPI could be the cost per 1.000 page views or per user or new user or session or …


We have set up the following calculated metrics as new KPI:

  • CPM: {{Cost}} / {{Pageviews}} * 1000
  • CPNA (Cost per new acquisition / user): {{Cost}} / {{New Users}}
  • New users in %: {{New Users}} / {{Users}}

You find the calculated metrics in the Admin Tab.


7.      Set up the right dashboards, custom reports and segments

It’s important to define right from the start which KPI are relevant to your company our specific teams. Only then you can build dashboards or shortcuts based on custom reports that are really useful. Okay, that sounds self-evident, but I learned that it’s not – and it’s not a good idea to build various dashboards with lots of KPI that are fun to watch but are seldom used. Even worse – they irritate the users and keep them from using analytics tool at all.


So the best way to start is in a short workshop, team by team – because nothing is more boring than listening to other people’s analytics needs. As a step by step guide I would recommend:

  • Discuss (in GA-terminology) what metrics are relevant to them and what dimensions.
  • If there are KPI that are not existing yet or that Google Analytics does not offer out of the box, then start implement custom metrics or calculated metrics (see above)
  • Define conversion goals for your content
  • Think about how to use e-commerce tracking for content and how to define your bounce rate
  • Discuss if there are any additional data sources that need to be integrated in Google Analytics (like cost data)
  • Start to set up a main dashboard that’s relevant for all or most of the users. Then set up additional dashboards that are relevant for some teams and share them (not for all)
  • Set up custom reports that are relevant for some teams and share them
  • Set shortcuts for each account that is using Google Analytics to that the most used reports are integrated there
  • Do another workshop to discuss if the team’s needs are fulfilled and ask what reports and data could be the next step. And by the way – a Google Analytics workshop for all team member makes very much sense if you don’t want to be flooded by questions.
  • Take the next steps and deep dive into more analytics, custom dashboards, performance publishing …


8.      Allocate resources and go further

It’s important for your company to allocate resources for the analysis of your content performance and to educate all users that are working with the analytics tools. And stop generating reports that do not matter or are not widely used.

The next step is to think about what else matters to your company. Is it the usage of social channels, content promotion or marketing, SEO-data …? There are many topics not covered in this article that are special to your company.

If you are using WordPress in your company, then take a look at our WordPress-Plugin Performance Dashboard that integrates data from Google Analytics into WordPress and that also combines certain KPI so that you get recommendations for optimizing your content performance right away.

If you want to find out, what that could be – I am happy to answer your contact …