Escape ExHell and Prove Value

You know that good content marketing works, but you still have to keep proving it time and time again to your boss / client / [enter your persistent asker of proof here]. For many of us this then lands us in ExHell; a repetitive battle generating monthly reports in Excel with data from disparate data sets. Time that you probably think could be better spent creating impactful content campaigns for the business. Even if you are not responsible for the reports, someone in your team will be and there is more you can do to help them.

If falling into an abyss of data as you download, paste and tackle vlookup is a continual battle for you or your team, then here are a few tips to help you prove the value of your content without falling into the talons of ExHell.

1. Setup up UTM links for all offsite activity

Many content marketing efforts are perceived as a top funnel ‘brand awareness’ heavy activities, which is typically true. However, there are now many ways to prove the business case for creative content including the use of UTM codes (a simple code that you can attach to a custom URL in order to track a source, medium, and campaign name).

For those not in the know this is a long URL that includes tracking elements. If used correctly this data will then be clearly labeled in Google Analytics, helping you to validate the social activity but also the linked content. It was this method that helped me to prove a 20% increase in sales for a client recently, following a blog post and social share and boost on Facebook.

For every single social post or link to your content in offsite articles, you should be creating a specific UTM link. This includes social sharing, blogger outreach (a separate link for each blogger) and could even include PR. The easiest way to do this is to use Google’s URL Builder. Just fill out the simple form and copy the generated link. When you want to view the success of these campaigns you can find the tracked information in Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns.

2. Optimise Google Analytics

If for you Google Analytics is a place where creativity goes to die, then set aside some time to put your analytical hat on and face your data phobic fears. Yes, it’s a big task but one or two days swotting up on measuring ROI and conversion rates and optimising GA could save you from continually returning to same head spin each month.

To help get you started here is a a complete guide to measuring content in GA. You can setup custom dashboards that can include those content campaigns tracked with UTM codes in step one; helping you to get to the data you need a lot faster, which will free up more time for you to get creative.

3. Setup Google Search Console (aka Webmaster Tools)

Content marketing and SEO tend to go hand in hand. If you want to prove the value of your content, especially onsite blog content, then beyond engagement and click-through metrics, you also need to look at any SEO value. While a narrow view tracking SERPS was once an acceptable way to measure the success of SEO, many SEO savvy marketers now know that the most valuable way to prove the ROI of SEO, and in turn the content involved, is in the CTR (click-through rate). It’s not just about getting to the top spot anymore, it is more important to look at how long those keywords sustain their position. This tool will help you go much deeper than keyword positions and tracking your list of target keywords.

Google Search Console provides you with a list of keywords and pages that are ranking, but also offers insight into any ranking flux and CTR rates to those pages. As it stands this is the best free tool available that offers that level of insight. However, it does still have some pitfalls. This includes:

  • Access to only 90 days of data – forcing you to return and download every 90 days if you want to do any like for like comparisons.
  • A 999 limit on keywords – meaning you still have a limited view and could be missing some keyword opportunities.
  • No ‘in-page’ data – you are currently not able to click on a page to gain further insight.

The good news is that there are a number of third party tools that can improve Google Search Console data and resolve the restrictions listed above. This brings us nicely onto…

4. Review and refine the tools used across the team

The most common reason for falling into ExHell is disparate data sets and data siloes. While it can be easy to get caught in a rut with the same-old tools, make reviewing tools used in-house a priority. There are now so many premium tools available that could provide you with a fuller view across teams and save you time, tools that will reduce the need to manipulate data in Excel.

Unfortunately, budgetary constraints or slow moving restrictive corporate processes often leads to a cycle of uptake on free tools from differing teams, that offer no integration or automation. If this is true for you then it could be time to build a business case for a better premium solution that could work across teams. Often simply highlighting the issue and measuring the profit loss of time wasted bringing those varying data points together in monthly reports is enough. If you spend a little more on getting the right tools – you will actually save time and money in the long run. Here are a few to add to your radar:

  • Search Console Improvers: Linkdex, Console Rocket*, Search Analytics for Sheets*
  • Analytics: GA and Adobe are the two leaders here
  • Keywords & Rankings: SEMRush^, Searchmetrics, Linkdex, Brightedge and others
  • Crawling: Screaming Frog^, DeepCrawl, Linkdex, Searchmetrics, Brightedge
  • Link Data: Majestic, Ahref, Linkdex
  • CRO: Content Experiments in Analytics (Google)*, Optimizely, Visual Web Optimizer
  • Integrated Reporting: Linkdex, Searchmetrics, Brightedge, Moz

^ Freemium


Are you ready to dabble in the data?

Content marketers, designers, bloggers, writers, designers and videographers alike will eventually all have to validate the value of their creative output. Where once upon a time getting a like or a comment was an exciting prospect, relying on engagement and clicks to prove the case is no longer enough. Even if this additional expectation is frustrating and, quite frankly, often harmful to the creative process, it is understandable. In order to provide you with the budget to keep your job and run your creative campaigns, your boss needs to not only prove that content is being engaged with and driving traffic, but also leading to conversions and impacting the bottom line.

Take some time to implement the steps above and you can go back to focusing on doing the stuff that makes you tick – creating and publishing inspiring content.

This post was courtesy of guest-blogger, Jennifer Le Roux. Thanks, Jennifer!

Jennifer Le Roux is a freelance writer and content marketing specialist with over 9 years experience in digital marketing and 5 years in SEO and publishing. She is also founder of ALT-MU Magazine and ALT-MU Creative, a freelance creative network.

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