The following is an excerpt from Enterprise Content Strategy: A Project Guide, by Kevin P. Nichols, the fifth book in The Content Wrangler Content Strategy Series of books from XML Press (2015).

Enterprise Content Strategy: A Project Guide
Chapter 7. Publish and Measure Phases

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Anyone who has written anything or aspires to be a writer knows that the word publish can bear a profound power. However, within a content strategy, publish functions as a mere step within a content lifecycle where content becomes exposed to an audience. Publish represents the culmination of several steps, and as a step itself, it lives within a larger content lifecycle. In a world where anyone can publish any content online via a blog, tweet, or personal website, the power of the term sometimes becomes lost. But make no mistake, publish does create finality in that the content will be seen, heard, read, and felt by an external audience.

The publish phase brings the content experience to life.

As soon as your content lives in the published or external realm and a consumer can access it, it travels down paths, journeys, and experiences over which you have little control. Tracking the path of your content, its use, and its exposure proves essential to its success.

An effective content strategy requires a performance-driven model, so measuring your content performance ensures a successful, sustainable content experience. By definition, successful content must resonate with a consumer and meet his or her needs. Only through constant evaluation will you know what works and what does not. An effective enterprise content strategy must include a well-defined metrics strategy. Metrics should reflect the strengths and weaknesses of the solution design and provide the impetus for content and solution optimization.

This chapter combines the publish and measure phases since the two go hand-in-hand. It defines measuring content performance, demonstrates how to create metrics, and provides information on reporting.


Let’s define a few key concepts to frame this effort.

  • Analytics: The capture and assessment of data, particularly with performance in mind. In the case of enterprise content strategy, analytics includes the measurement of content performance and the analysis of those measurements.
  • Metrics: Units of measurement. A metric can reflect any kind of measurement. This chapter provides the common metrics used to indicate the performance of content, such as the number of consumers who download an article.
  • Key performance indicator (KPI): A metric used to evaluate the performance of an organization’s objectives, for example, the number of products sold.
  • Conversion metrics: Measurement of a specific conversion, for example, when a content consumer completes a desired task.Typical conversion activities:
    • Purchase a product
    • Add an item to a shopping cart
    • Download a white paper
    • Share a video
    • Create a profile
    • Click to make a call on a smartphone
    • Register a product

    A successful metrics strategy begins in the assess, define, and design phases. During those phases, identify the metrics needed to ensure a successful experience so you know exactly what to evaluate after you publish.

    Identify metrics early during technology implementation, because you may need to customize your technology solution to track the metrics you need. Some systems require programming or database changes to enable measurement, so identifying metrics early will help avoid delays.

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Creating performance metrics

A successful metrics strategy starts with business goals and objectives. A business goal frames a general aspiration to which you create specific, measurable objectives. You should always start with a strategic intent for your experience and a goal. Let’s use a desktop website as an example. In this case, the strategic intent, goals, and objectives of a desktop website might look like this:

  • Strategic intent: Answer the question why our company? in a way that competitively differentiates us for the consumer, investor, career seeker, financial analyst, and media.
  • Goal: Become the premium website in the industry and go-to source for all products, outperforming all other competitors in purchases, traffic, and brand perception.
  • Objectives:
    • Sell X number of products within X amount of time to X audiences.
    • Generate X number of articles in (names of media) over X time due to exceptional media experience in news and media section.
    • Increase overall website traffic by X percent by X time.
    • Increase the amount of socially shared content by X by X time.
    • Increase number of consumer profiles created by X over X time.

    The strategic intent provides an umbrella strategy for the experience; the goal, a lofty aspiration; and the objectives, specific and measurable desired outcomes.During the plan, assess, and define phases, identify the key criteria for success. At that point, you should identify the strategic intent, goal, and objectives at a high level. Through the design phase, hone them all so each is specific to the solutions you create, down to the page, template or even module level. Metrics will measure whether you meet each of these objectives.

    To develop metrics, first look at an objective, and then extract a metric from that objective. Then define what success or finality of the metric means (for example, through analytics applications, dashboards, consumer surveys, conversion rates, or sales reports). Example:

Objective: Increase online sales by X% over X time with X consumers.

Number of website consumers who purchase a product within a given time period as measured by web analytics and sales data.
Make the metrics as specific as possible by asking these questions:
  • For whom is the objective targeted? Customers, potential customers, analysts, career seekers, etc. You can also include persona or segment.
  • When or how will we complete the objective? Example: within 6 months we will sell 20% more products.
  • How many consumers, products, downloads, the piece of content shared, etc., are we aiming for?
  • Where are we targeting the objective? Example: the geographical location, the channel, or a specific area on the site.
  • Why are we doing it? Example: to increase sales, to increase downloads, to increase shared content, to increase the number of content consumers.

Incorporate as many of the above points as you can within an objective to make it as specific as possible.


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Adopt the SMART approach

You can also use the SMART approach to develop your objectives. The SMART approach generally applies to setting business goals and objectives, requiring objectives to have these characteristics:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Accountable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Example: Increase the number of new visitors to the home page by 20% within the next 6 months.

From your objectives, you can glean what to measure. See Table 7.1, “Common metrics” for a list of common metrics.

Table 7.1 – Common metrics





User/consumer path and clickstream Measures the path a user takes to complete a task. To use this metric, assume user journeys or paths for the completion of specific tasks (for example, purchase an item or download a white paper). This metric helps you determine what a content consumer does within a journey. This metric helps to validate what you think your consumer journeys are versus the actual path a content consumer takes. For omnichannel experiences, measure this journey across multiple channels.


Length of visit Captures how long a consumer stays within the experience. For example, how long does a content consumer stay on the website?


Depth of visit Shows how far a consumer goes into an experience, such as a website. You can also look across channels to see which channels a content consumer engages and where and when.


Conversion Measures the completion of a task. Many types of conversion metrics exist. You will want to measure number of consumers, tally bounce and exit rates prior to conversion (noting where the exit happens), and review the journey taken to convert. For each conversion metric, create one or more user/consumer journeys.


External keyword search terms Identifies which terms are used in search, both within your digital experience and through organic search (for example,, You may want to review both mobile and desktop experiences. Google Analytics or other tools can help track this information. Stay informed regarding changes to algorithms by major search engines, which can render this task difficult.


Onsite search keywords Shows which key terms are used within your digital experience for search, as opposed to an external search engine. These indicate people’s interests. Note when a consumer jumps to use online search, often indicating that the consumer cannot find what he or she seeks via navigation. In addition to top search keywords, look at failed searches or searches that return no results. Also note when the consumer refines the search terms, and capture facet usage, if relevant. Preferred search terms (canine over dog) are another important metric.


Number of visits to convert Identifies the number of times a consumer leaves and return before converting. Where does the consumer go (if you can track it) upon leaving the experience?


Point of entry Identifies where a consumer enters the experience or content. This metric may provide a starting point for the consumer journey. How does a content consumer get to the experience: via a keyword search? via a banner ad? via a competitor’s site?


Value of interaction Calculates the total revenue generated from the visit. This metric can be itemized or can account for all visits to the website by dividing the number of visitors by the total revenue.


Cost to convert Demonstrates how much a conversion costs a business or an organization. This metric looks at internal spending and the total number of conversions as well as revenue of conversions when relevant.


Exit metrics Measures where a content consumer exits an experience. Note the length of time spent and which device the consumer uses prior to exiting. An exit does not necessarily correlate to a cause for concern; perhaps the visitor accomplished what he or she needed to do and, thus, left your experience satisfied.


Bounce rates In contrast to exit rates, bounce rates inform you that a visitor reached your experience and left immediately. In other words, a consumer might reach a product-landing page through an external site and – without spending any time there or going further into the experience – bounce out of the website by going to a different URL. Track whenever this happens, as well as point of entry, length of time of visit, where the consumer went after, etc. This metric may help you detect under-performing content.


User-interaction history Indicates how often a consumer visits an experience. What does he or she do while within the experience? For consumers with profiles (users who are logged in), which features, functions, and content do they use?


In addition to the metrics in Table 7.1, “Common metrics,” you might need to capture social media metrics. Table 7.2, “Example social media metrics” provides some common social metrics:

Table 7.2 – Example social media metrics





Post rates Tracks which content (for example, a product or video on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest) is shared by whom and when. Look at how often a consumer re-shares the content (for example, by retweeting).


Share of voice Captures how frequently social media mentions your experience, brand, or organization.


Referrals from social media Indicates which social media refers visitors to your experience, for example, a link in Twitter that results in a visitor landing on an article on your website.


Social sentiment Tracks what others are writing about you in social media. Sentiment can be tracked with regard to perception of a brand, an experience such as a website, specific pieces of content such as a video, or even the experience with a product or service.


Repeat engagement Indicates which consumers, and how many, continue to mention your experience or content, for example, repeat likes within Twitter, repeat shares of your content on Facebook, repeat mentions of your brand or organization, etc.


The metrics in Table 7.2, “Example social media metrics,” can all be attained in various ways, including Google Analytics, Bing Analytics, social-tracking tools, and web analytics software. Additionally, many content management systems include this functionality, and there are applications that track a variety of metrics. In many cases, you may require more than one application.

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Operational Metrics

So far, I’ve covered metrics for digital experiences. Obviously, though, digital metrics do not capture all the objectives that an enterprise should measure. Let’s consider the following operational metrics, which can prove equally important for showing the value of content within your organization.
  • Reduction in cost to produce content: Measured by data supplied by business units, internal audits, and operational metrics dashboards
  • Reduction in cost associated with finding and leveraging content within an organization: Measured by user and consumer surveys, audits, and operational metrics dashboards
  • Reduction in localization cost due to improved processes and systems: Measured by audits and operational metrics dashboards
  • Cost per word (used in translation cost assessments): Measured by audits and operational metrics dashboards
  • Time saved authoring, maintaining, and optimizing content: Measured by user and consumer surveys, audits, and operational metrics dashboards
  • Increase in internal satisfaction with information and content: Measured by surveys and operational metrics dashboards
  • Decrease in content redundancy: Measured by user and consumer surveys, audits, and operational metrics dashboards
  • Reduction in cost due to content reuse: Measured by user and consumer surveys, audits, and operational metrics dashboards
  • Time saved in taking a product to market: Measured by user and consumer surveys, audits, and operational metrics dashboards
  • Decrease in employee attrition through improved employee tools, self-service tools, and resources (portals): Measured by user and consumer surveys, audits, and operational metrics dashboards

Content experience metrics

Finally, you should look at other evidence related to content experience. User/consumer/customer feedback, surveys, and user-testing tools can show how your content performs and why content consumers may or may not respond to it.

Additional content experience metrics:

  • Consistent brand experiences with all customer touchpoints (facilitated by content that is on-brand and effectively targeted across multichannel platforms): Measured by consumer surveys and audits
  • Retention of customers: Measured by customer databases, sales data, surveys, and audits
  • Acquisition of new customers: Measured by analytics, sales data, and audits
  • Optimized content quality (means consistent content across channels, free from errors): Measured by quality standard audits, customer feedback, and time-to-publish updates and modifications
  • Up-to-date, relevant content: Measured by quality standard audits, customer feedback, and time-to-publish updates and modifications
  • Efficacy of content related to its value proposition and key selling points: Measured by analytics, testing (for example, A/B testing or multivariate testing), customer feedback, audits, and sales data
  • Improved localized content with fewer errors and revisions: Measured by quality standard audits

Identifying the types of metrics to capture only provides you with partial success; what you do with the metrics is what really matters. Let’s discuss how to analyze metrics data and report on it.


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Analyzing and reporting metrics

Metrics provide you with data that helps you draw conclusions about your content and its performance. But metrics by and large do not answer the question why? Metrics do not tell you why consumers do or do not view or share your content. To find out why you must dig deeper.

Let’s first discuss when and where you should look to answer this question. If content performs well, that is, it’s meeting its objectives, then perhaps you will want to produce more content similar to it and make investments in its ongoing success.

When content fails to meet its objectives, you have a problem. Look at every place where content does not perform well. After you have a list of the problem areas – which can be anything from consumer journey to conversion to content not receiving any visitors at all – find the cause. For content not viewed at all, are consumers interested in the topic? Do they seek it out? Are issues in search or navigation preventing them from getting there in the first place? Have you received negative feedback on the content?

When something seems amiss, first check to see if there are issues with the user experience. Then, see how the content performs elsewhere in the industry. Do competitors use the same content? If so, how does it differ from yours? Are there social metrics to indicate interest? You may need user testing to see why content fails to perform successfully. In some cases, you might need to modify your objectives. Maybe, content you consider important is not important to your audience.

As you determine the causes, build and maintain a list of resolutions.

Report to the content team any findings, perhaps using a dashboard. Present internal metrics, track efficiencies, costs, etc. quarterly. For metrics that track your content experience, determine how often you wish to review and present. In many cases, you will want to analyze metrics monthly. In other cases, you might want to do so quarterly. In some larger e-commerce environments, organizations track metrics hourly. Chapter 8, Optimize Phase, deals with how to optimize your content based on your findings.

To read more from Enterprise Content Strategy: A Project Guide, check it out on the XML Press website, or buy the book now on the Amazon, Barnes & Noble or the O’Reilly Media website.