Drive your digital content with data

Published on
February 26, 2015

Let’s be honest — structuring digital content for maximum impact and ‘useability’ can be challenging and frustrating. What to include, where to place it, does it need to be there at all? These are all important questions when planning how your digital content comes together, but it doesn’t have to be that hard.

When you don’t know how your content performs it can be tempting to lean on instinct. But while ‘gut feel’ can be a useful guide, it may not be the best way to serve your users. Good content needs to be planned. This is known as ‘content strategy’ and, like any rational decision, it’s made much easier with smart use of empirical data. The trick is in ensuring that your digital projects are making this data (also known as ‘analytics’) available to you.

Fortunately gathering analytics on your content is now straightforward. Free products like Google Analytics and New Relic are simple to use and easy to setup. Most social media channels also provide some form of statistics for reviewing user activity and tracking how many people give your content the ‘thumbs up’. For website and mobile app tracking, Google Analytics is one of the most popular options. As of February 2015, over 28.5 million websites use Google Analytics, including 60.2 per cent of the top 100, 000 websites (as measured by Quantcast).

You don’t have to look hard to see the benefits of content performance tracking. Small, incremental insights can be gathered simply from a greater understanding of your user base, while massive campaigns like Obama for America show the full power of utilising real-time analytics.

For the average website, simply knowing how popular (or unpopular) each page is and how long users stay there can start to reveal a lot of useful information about the content’s performance. Being armed with the facts will help immensely when it comes to making any content strategy-related decisions.

An abundance of useful information can help execute an action plan faster — but take care, the devil is always in the details. Analytics data on its own can sometimes be misleading. Without context it can paint a vastly different picture from what is actually going on.

At first glance, a page with a long average visit duration might indicate it’s engaging users and performing quite well. If it’s the home page, it could actually suggest users are struggling to find what they are looking for. Proper analysis of the data against the design is the only way to tell what’s actually happening. In content strategy, context is most decidedly king.

Like most things it’s easy to scratch the surface, but before long it can feel like being back at square one. Certainly it pays to have a rudimentary understanding of how to utilise analytics, but in the hands of a professional data can generate truly great results.

Establishing a rock-solid information architecture according to the project’s goals and backed by meaningful data is tough to beat. When analysed correctly it creates clear channels of content, promotes user flow, and informs future design decisions.

The result is a project that has established, solid foundations, organic content, and fosters the right conditions for search engine optimisation (SEO).

The bottom line is there’s no quick and easy solution for content strategy — it’s a garden in need of constant attention. It’s at the core of any digital project, regardless of the platform. Don’t rely on hunches to inform your strategy any longer. Let data drive your digital content.