3 Tips for Content Evaluation
You know that web content is the text, images, audio, and video in your website or web application. Content evaluation is a constant assessment of how well that content meets your goals.
Why evaluate your content? It’s the only way to understand whether you’re making progress or having an impact. With ongoing assessment of your content, you can make the business case for staying the course or making a change. You also can explain your progress to stakeholders so they support your journey toward big goals such as increasing sales or reducing support costs.
Now, when I mention content evaluation, I never hear, “That’s a terrible idea.” Most everyone understands the benefits. Instead, I hear sighs of frustration. Evaluating content gets lost in the shuffle of planning and producing content. To help you make evaluating content a priority without experiencing pain (or, at least, less pain), here are three actions to take.
3 Tips for Content Evaluation:
1. Start with Specific Questions
If you dive into the data first, you risk drowning in it. Step back and ask what you want to find out from your evaluation. Does your content work at doing what, exactly? To give you a jump-start, this table includes common useful evaluation questions for different types of content.
Table 1 – Common questions to guide your content evaluation
With specific questions in mind, the next two essentials are to have the right data in place: analytics and surveys.
2. Get Access to Analytics
Analytics measure behavior on your website. In other words, they measure what people do with your web content or as a result of experiencing your web content. That’s important to know if you really want to understand whether your content is working. I am shocked at how often the people who have the most at stake in evaluating content have the least access to web content analytics. Evaluating content will be a slow, painful chore if you cannot easily see analytics data. While web analytics is only one tool in your content evaluation toolkit, it’s an important one.
How to get access
You can access analytics in a number of ways depending on your comfort level with the analytics, the size of your website(s), and the complexity of your company or organization. If you have a high interest in analytics, then I encourage you to get the most direct access you can and take advantage of all the training available. Google Analytics, for example, offers lots of free training for web analytics at www.google.com/analytics/learn. If your organization uses a different kind of analytics tool such as SiteCatalyst, then basic training likely is free, and your company’s subscription might include more training. Here are some useful options to consider.
Table 2 – Methods for accessing analytics
If you don’t have an analytics tool…
You need to get one, stat! Google Analytics offers a free version, and it’s easy for you or a freelance analytics professional to install. Find the details for setting it up at www.google.com/analytics.
3. Launch a Content-Focused Survey
Surveys measure people’s perceptions, expectations, and intent. In other words, surveys measure what people think about your content or about other issues as a result of your content. This insight is important because people consider information and make decisions before and after they act (do a behavior). And when the goal of your content is to influence what people think about your organization or a topic, this data is invaluable. For example, IBM launched a digital magazine with useful content for midsize businesses so that those businesses would view IBM as in touch with their needs and challenges.
Surveys also give insight into who is using your content. IBM, for example, would want to know whether employees of midsize businesses really were using their digital magazine. Sometimes this kind of survey is known as an audience analysis survey.
To get the survey going, you need the following:
- Questions to ask the people who use your content (also known as a survey protocol)
- A way to deliver the survey and capture answers
As with analytics, you can pick from a variety of options. The right option depends on your comfort with becoming a survey guru, the complexity of your website(s), and the size of your organization.
Table 3 – Options for launching a content-focused survey
So, there you have the three actions I recommend taking right now. Let’s recap quickly:
1. Ask specific questions about your content’s effectiveness—what do you want to know?
2. Get access to analytics—the sooner, the better.
3. Launch a content-focused survey—get insight into people’s perceptions, expectations, and more.
Want to learn more? These tutorials and books can help.
Tutorials and Further Reading
Many of the tools above offer useful tutorials and training for free or low cost. I also recommend these great websites:
For essential reading, don’t miss the following books:
- Questionnaire Design: How to Plan, Structure and Write Survey Material for Effective Market Research by Ian Brace (Kogan Page)
- Actionable Web Analytics by Jason Burby and Shane Atchinson (Sybex)
- Does Your Content Work? by Colleen Jones (New Riders)
About the author:
As the principal of Content Science, Colleen has led strategic initiatives for Fortune 50 companies, government agencies, boutique brands, and savvy startups. She regularly consults with executives and practitioners to improve their strategy and processes for digital content. Colleen shares insights from her experience in these books: “Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content” and “Does Your Content Work?”
With an M.A. from James Madison University, Colleen is an active member of American MENSA, American Marketing Association, International Association of Business Communicators, and the Association of Computing Machinery. Colleen regularly speaks for industry conferences around the world and gives guest lectures for institutions such as University of Georgia and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.