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Positioning Content for Success: A Metrics-Driven Strategy

Positioning Content for Success:

A Metrics-Driven Strategy

By Kevin P. Nichols, Director and Global Practice Lead, Content Strategy, SapientNitro & Rebecca Schneider, President, Azzard Consulting


You may have heard people say content is king. You may have also heard that content strategy is the tool used to unlock the true potential of content. But if content is king, how do organizations validate the worth of their content and improve upon this valuable asset? Return on investment (ROI) for content strategy is a hot topic. But let us push that conversation even further. How do we leverage metrics and analytics for content development? How do we make content work for us? Whether you are an analytics or metrics expert, a content strategist or a content creator, you will be able to start to derive a formula for successful content by the end of this paper. You will have a greater understanding of the appropriate metrics, analytics and KPIs necessary to make content intelligent. You will know which metrics will measure content ecacy, and how to rene personalized content, develop useful metadata and taxonomy, measure what is important for publishing and content lifecycle, ensure eective content governance, capture mobile-specic information and avoid pitfalls.


In order to understand content strategy, let us rst discuss a working denition for content. Content communicates an idea that is recorded. Content strategy focuses on the ways to meet the needs of content consumers, exercising oversight and management of content distribution. Content strategy is the systematic, thoughtful approach to surfacing the most relevant, eective and appropriate content at the most opportune time, to the appropriate user, for the purpose of achieving a companys strategic business objectives and customer goals.

Sapient Corporation, 2014


Positioning Content for Success: A Metrics-Driven Strategy

At SapientNitro, we break this concept of content strategy down into three pillars: Pillar 1: The rst pillar is content experience or the end-user experience. It includes the information provided to the end user and includes anything from terms used to search for products to personalized content and content structure. The second pillar is content delivery (what we call the content lifecycle) the model we use to acquire, create, maintain and optimize content. The third pillar is content governance and considers the operational processes and mechanisms required for successful content.

Pillar 2:

Pillar 3:

The term metrics is o en used interchangeably with KPIs and analytics, so let us clarify some o -used terms before we go any further: Metrics are tangible measures of inputs and outputs. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are sets of metrics used to quantify progress towards organizational goals. Analytics are conclusions drawn from metrics.

There are many kinds of metrics, which typically fall into two categories: hard and so . Hard metrics are quantiable measurements. They are the what. These are the numbers and facts. Examples include conversions, number of visits, time on site and key words. Hard metrics are crucial when measuring the ecacy of content solutions and demonstrating quantiable ROI. So metrics are qualitative measurements to get to the feelings or motivations behind an action. They are the why. Examples include focus group research, marketing trend studies, online behavioral analysis and customer satisfaction surveys. It is best to use these measurements when trying to further understand customer behavior and hard metrics data.

Now that we have some basics out of the way, let us dive into content personalization, the process of developing intelligent online content solutions that are tailored to a specic user. Personalization is an evolving process; it requires an understanding of customers and an ongoing analysis of customer behavior. Types of personalization include content based upon:

> specic type of user > user location > user behavior; and/or > information (e.g., gender, age) within a user prole.

Sapient Corporation, 2014


Positioning Content for Success: A Metrics-Driven Strategy

What types of metrics should we use to ensure that personalization is eective? Consider where does the customer go and where can content be personalized? A good way to determine this is to look at the customer journey. For a desktop website experience, this may be a click-stream path to purchase, or return visit to a particular area of a site. For an end-to-end omnichannel experience, this would include all of the customer touch-points and what the customer does within each. (For example, a customer clicks on a banner ad while using a desktop computer, which takes her to a website. She creates a prole and later uses her smart phone to locate the companys store via a Google search. Upon arriving at the store, she scans a products QR code to compare products, checks for any available coupons and purchases the product. Once home, she follows the in-the-box instructions to share the experience on social media.) Other critical metrics are length of visit per page and the depth of visit. In order to improve upon personalized experiences, it is imperative for you to understand how customers behave, which touch-points they use and how they use them. It is also important to understand what content each customer sees as relevant and useful. Since most personalization begins with an assumed or predicted customer journey, it is critical that you evaluate the reality of how a customer behaves against what was previously assumed, so that content can be optimized. A er the user journey, the next important metric is based upon the customers reasons for coming to the site. We can determine this by looking at top keyword searches or the customer interaction history. For example, what accessories were previously purchased? What types of music or books has the customer ordered in the past? In order to evaluate this customer rationale, your technology solution will need to use cookie-based logic or another type of prole logic. And last, where and when does the customer convert in other words, where and when does the customer complete a task (e.g., lling out a user prole, adding an item to a shopping cart, registering for an event)? Site registration, viewed product information, and purchased product are all good metrics to help understand conversion.


Metadata and its associated taxonomy can signicantly support the content experience. And improving taxonomy (for navigation and search) and metadata (lters to nd the desired result) can get the user to the content as quickly as possible. In order to determine key taxonomy and metadata metrics, rst ask yourself: Is the user nding what he needs? Is the navigation taxonomy working? Is he using metadata lters as expected? Take a look at the organic and paid keyword search rankings. Find out which keywords are converting. For example, when shopping for a computer, are people searching for notebook or laptop? Also, nd the top successful searches. Are these searches for seasonal items, brand names or accessories for products already owned? Other useful statistical data to pay attention to are click streams to specic product categories. For instance, if a customer is looking for childrens furniture does he click on children or furniture rst?

Sapient Corporation, 2014


Positioning Content for Success: A Metrics-Driven Strategy

Second, what is not working? Ways to discover this include bounce rates (when a user enters a page from outside the site, then immediately leaves) and exit rates (when a user spends time looking around the site, then leaves). Was the page unhelpful? Was the product without a picture? Was something out of stock? Keep in mind that exit rates are considered successful when customers leave a er converting. Another piece of data to look at is the previous page prior to search, which can point out potential navigation problems. If a user is on a home dcor page and searches for a lamp, that probably means she is expecting to nd it within that section. Third, what terms should be added to taxonomy or metadata? Consider adding terms that are used frequently that return no results because of the way they are named or search terms in ad hoc description elds that may or may not be in the actual taxonomy. And fourth, what terms do users employ in search? There are o en search terms that are variants of a preferred term (e.g., soda vs. pop) and terms used in taxonomy but not in SEO metadata. Look at rened searches, which are key to not only adding terms to the taxonomy but also looking at how users navigate the site.


Content lifecycle metrics seek to measure the eectiveness of the overall content delivery processes. The lifecycle is the entire end-to-end process in which content is acquired, created, managed, published and then optimized or retired. Start by understanding the benets to an improved content lifecycle process. One benet is time saved (and therefore, cost saved) in each step of the content lifecycle when the optimal choices are made for your business. An additional benet is reduced time to market for new products as content bottlenecks are removed. So, what metrics can help improve content quality? Examples include reduced numbers of errors in content (when product items are properly tagged), decreased content redundancy to improve content quality and reduce cost, and decreased response times to feedback, content errors and content changes. Also, streamlining robust localization processes result in reduced localization costs and increased ROI due to more ecient CMS processes.

Acquire/ Create Content

Manage Content

Enhance Content

Governance Publish Content Evaluate Content

Improving internal user satisfaction should not be overlooked either. Determine the number of people using CMS compared to those who should be. If your employees are not happy with the system, they are not going to use it, which will aect the success of the entire content strategy. Use a survey instrument (e.g., ForeSee) to nd existing problems and then measure the increase in internal organizational satisfaction once they are addressed.

Sapient Corporation, 2014


Positioning Content for Success: A Metrics-Driven Strategy

Content eectiveness enables good content experiences. Content journey, content quality and overall t for the user are all key aspects for customers and businesses.

SMS Michelle, an existing customer, receives a text message from retailer.


As she approaches her local store, she receives a push notication on her phone, letting her know about new accessories.

Mobile Web

She clicks the e-spot to view more. She clicks on the product to view more details.

As she adds to her favorites, recommended products become even more relevant.


Entering the store, Michelle is greeted by Ken, a sales associate. He has Michelles favorites ready for her to view, which he pulled up on his tablet.

Tablet Web Using her iPad, Michelle visits .com to look for new products. She notices a module on the homepage for a featured product that is her favorite brand.

Tablet App

Michelle saves product to her favorites and continues to browse the product catalog.


Michelle has saved 6 products to her favorites. Michelle updates her customer prole and sends her favorites to the nearest retail location.

Using the sales associate tablet, Ken is able to pull up Michelles prole, where he accesses her store loyalty coupons.

One way to measure content for ecacy is to measure the rate at which content is viewed, both in frequency and duration. Another option is to conduct A/B testing. You may test these by creating and assessing the use of two dierent value propositions, homepages, campaigns, headlines or images to see which performs best. Multivariate testing, which uses variations of data, is another way to measure content eectiveness; it tests the placement of various items like ltered navigation on a page to help enhance performance. Also, determine the most popular content the content that is trending based on trac and engagement time. Today, trending apps can help uncover real-time performance of content. So then, how do you determine if a content journey is eective? As technology continues to emerge and as user patterns change, it is important to test an actual browsing path against an assumed, pre-dened browsing path. If customers are looking for a soundcard driver, are they going home > support > drivers or home > product > support > drivers? You can also look at the number of visits to convert and the time to convert. Check to see if they returned to your site a er any initial research to purchase, and pay attention to how many visits they made and for how long. Where and when a customer exits prior to conversion can determine trends based on exit behavior. Did they not like what they were seeing? Are they being forced down a certain path? And bounce rates, which we have briey discussed, can indicate that they arrived somewhere unwanted or unexpected. Next, how do you determine user satisfaction? Find the rate at which content is being shared via social (e.g., email, Facebook) or downloaded (e.g., user manuals, instructions), survey the user with user feedback tools (e.g., ForeSee) to help validate and rene the metrics and determine problematic areas through bounce rates and exit rates.

Sapient Corporation, 2014


Positioning Content for Success: A Metrics-Driven Strategy

Content governance is the organizational oversight of content and it focuses on the operational models needed to manage content and ensure its continued success. When you are looking at content governance, you will want to look at the structure in response to requests. The time it takes to implement content changes based on governance decisions is crucial. Be sure there is a governance structure in place with dened workows. For example, if there is going to be a major structural taxonomy change, how long will it take from request to implementation versus one that is minor? Also, take into account how long the addition of new information will take. Look at the time it will take for the governance committee to review requests and ensure that it is possible to complete a content review cycle. Make sure content is up to governance standards in terms of accuracy rates, currency and eectiveness.

Metrics captured for mobile can be very similar to those captured for the web. However, the analytical perspectives will dier because of the physical nature and practical constraints of a mobile device. And a mobile user behaves dierently on a mobile device than she does on the web; according to Mobile Commerce Daily, 68 percent of mobile searches result in a map look up, 61 percent of local mobile searches result in a phone call and 59 percent of mobile users interact with businesses via social media regularly.

Executive Sponsor

Governance Committee
Strategy Brand Accessibility Legal Taxonomy Content

Working Groups
Strategy Operations Technology Marketing Publishing Taxonomy

Sapient Corporation, 2014


Positioning Content for Success: A Metrics-Driven Strategy

Smart phone metrics

Metrics to pay attention to include time spent on pages optimized for smart phones, which, in contrast to desktop web analytics, may instead indicate that the user cannot achieve his goals or nd information. In addition, it is wise to focus on taxonomy and metadata related metrics as well as search rate. While on mobile devices, users rely on search more than they do navigation found within navigation menus, so if you notice search use on mobile decreasing for your users, it o en indicates that the user cannot interact with the search functionality easily. Consider how o en the phone orientation changes from vertical to horizontal and vice versa. Unless there is a specic reason for the orientation change, such as a user who wants to view a video and changes the perspective to do so, higher rates of orientation change correlate with higher exit rates. And how is social media being used? As mentioned above, over half of mobile users interact with businesses via social media regularly, so it is imperative to survey the amount of trac entering from social media. Businesses should also track user behaviors in-store (like barcode-scanning and product comparisons) to monitor those behaviors. Another metric to look at is how many users accept location awareness prompts; this metric can demonstrate trust with the brand as well as indicate demographic behavior information.

Tablet devices have similar metrics to smart phones, and many of the below metrics can also be applied to smart phones. Also note that several are important for personalized content and omnichannel experiences. For websites that have apps, an important tablet metric to measure is how many users ignore the call-to-action to download the app and opt to view the actual website. The advantages of the app may not be clear prior to download. Also, look at the number of apps that are being downloaded versus purchased. This metric is relevant for organizations that oer both types of apps and organizations that oer apps that can be activated a er a certain trial period. For omnichannel experiences, measure the delta between the conversion rates on a tablet or smart phone versus a desktop. How do customers convert on mobile device versus a website, and which products or services do they purchase on each? The dierence may indicate whether content is working well on the device and can help you derive customer behavior per channel (e.g., a customer wants to view long-form specications of a product on the website, which are not available on an app). Also look at how many users switch to the desktop view from a mobile app. This could indicate that the user cannot use the app as well as the desktop. Look at the points at which a customer goes from desktop to mobile and vice versa. Two metrics that measure how responsive design is used include the screen resolution and the type of device being used. These metrics measure how and where content is being consumed. For commodity or published content, what is the actual number of readers in a tablet edition versus a paper published edition? Many publications such as The Economist, Vanity Fair and the like have oered their subscribers complimentary digital access. How many users take advantage of this?

You can use metrics and analytics to improve many areas of content, but there are some pitfalls that you should avoid. First, do not treat all statistics equally; some statistics are more important than others. Second, not all data is good data, and more data does not always equal better data. Third, you cannot just pick the indicators that tell you what you want to hear and you should not let other stakeholders who may be privy to the metrics do so either. Remember to use a critical eye to draw solid, specic conclusions.

Sapient Corporation, 2014


Positioning Content for Success: A Metrics-Driven Strategy

ROI is not just about more products being sold, conversions or operational eciencies. By using solid metrics, content creators and managers can improve their content with the robust metrics and analytics that make content optimization possible.


KEVIN P. NICHOLS, @kpnichols
Kevin P. Nichols is Director and Global Practice Lead for Content Strategy at SapientNitro. He has over 18 years of experience. A Harvard graduate, he executed his capabilities in the Sabre Foundation before traveling to Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he was Webmaster for Physicians for Human Rights. He went on to Sapient Corporation as a UX Lead for global brands on Web and CMS projects. Kevin played a key role in launching MITs OpenCourseWare project, and as a Senior Consultant at Molecular, he led UX teams for global brands. He went on to become an independent consultant at Kevin P Nichols Consulting before returning to Sapient as a Director of Content Strategy.

REBECCA SCHNEIDER, @azzardconsult

Rebecca Schneider has extensive background in librarianship, knowledge management, systems and information technology. She formed Azzard Consulting, a content strategy services and stang rm, with the conviction that there are better ways to manage content. Rebecca has worked in a variety of industries, including retail, education, real estate development, international development and nancial services. Rebecca is also familiar with non-prot and government sectors.

Sapient Corporation, 2014


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