Andy Crestodina Answers Our Most Pressing Questions on Content Marketing Metrics

 In Content Analytics

For content marketing managers, “top of mind” isn’t an especially precise descriptor. At any moment, we probably have about a dozen things competing for attention at the forefront of our brains, and the hierarchy is likely to change on a daily (if not hourly) basis.

However, it seems safe to say that content measurement is almost always in this top-of-mind mix. It’s just so essential to what we do: Substantive data serves to validate our efforts, guide our strategies, demonstrate our value, and earn us the resources necessary to grow.

Content measurement is also really hard. Nailing down the most useful content marketing metrics, and how to leverage them, is a constant challenge for marketing pros everywhere. Recognizing this, we’ve recently created blog posts on identifying result-oriented content metrics and making content analytics actionable.

It just so happens that our friend Andy Crestodina, Chief Marketing Officer for Orbit Media and author of Content Chemistry, came across our writing on the topic and noticed some thematic alignment with his own deeply comprehensive guide to content marketing metrics worth tracking.

Seeing an opportunity to collaborate and dive deeper, we asked if Andy might be willing to answer some questions that have been burning at the top of our own minds, and he was generous enough to oblige.

In signature Crestodina fashion, he went above and beyond with the depth and practicality of his responses. Read on to find Andy’s takes on the true value of social media metrics, the most critical website metrics, the best ways to increase blog conversions, the need for a dedicated analytics specialist on content teams, and more.

Q&A with Andy Crestodina on Content Marketing Metrics

1) You suggest that while social stats are the most visible content marketing analytics, they’re among the least meaningful. How can we make these metrics more valuable by rethinking what they tell us, or connecting them to other measures?

I love social media, but as a B2B company, I don’t expect it to have a direct impact on lead generation. So I don’t chase followers, shares, and likes. Those are the most visible metrics in all of marketing, but they’re the farthest from my website’s thank you page.

But I love social media for two other reasons.

First, the data-rich environment gives you clues into what your audience is interested in. It’s a testing ground for content.

  • Sending a newsletter? Try those subject lines in social media and see which gets the best click-through rate.
  • Looking for a provocative topic? Ask a few questions on social media and see which sparks the most conversation.
  • Need a catchy headline? See what’s getting the most engagement on your competitors’ sites.

So it’s filled with clues, but it’s also filled with people. And every great content program is powered by influencers and experts.

Even if your marketing is based 100% on search rankings, you still need social media to build the relationships that lead to those rankings. Try to do PR or SEO without social media. It’s impossible.

So the best part of social media is networking and making friends. There aren’t metrics for friendships. Social media at its best has nothing to do with metrics.

2) When analyzing website data, what are the one or two metrics you’ll look at before any others, and why?

Take it from the top. For website analysis, that’s the header and main navigation. You can use Google Analytics to measure the performance of your navigation with the Navigation Summary report.

Just go to your Behavior > Site Content > All Pages report and click on “Navigation Summary” at the top. I like to start with the homepage, but you can see it or any page on your site. Here’s what it looks like.

The findings may jump out at you. Are there big, prominent things that aren’t getting clicked? Usually this is “testimonials” or a similar navigation label that doesn’t indicate the visitor will find useful answers.

Or are there smaller or less prominent things that are getting clicked a lot? Usually this is a very descriptive navigation label that aligns with the intent of the most common type of visitor. You hid it, but they found it!

Within a few minutes, you’ll likely have ideas for how to rebalance your menu or re-label your navigation. Make the changes and your site will be easier to use forever after.

Other important metrics for website analysis:

  • Acquisition > Search Console > Landing Pages
    Which pages are ranking for which phrases? Anything that almost ranks high? Anything need a little help?
  • Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms
    What are visitors struggling to find on your site?
  • Conversions > Reverse Goal Path
    Which pages are getting visitors to take action and convert into leads and subscribers?

3) What about for analyzing blogs? What metrics do you look at first?

Blogs are at their best when they turn visitors into subscribers. So I’m looking to see the conversion rates for subscribers in general, then the conversion rates for specific articles.

If a blog doesn’t convert, it’s usually because the CTA isn’t prominent enough. Yes, pop-ups will fix that problem, but they’re not the only way.

  • A sticky header or footer that stays with the visitor as they scroll
  • In-line calls to action, right there in the middle of the article
  • In the website footer, so it appears on every page
  • Contrasting color that stands out against the rest of the page

Image source: Lead Generation Websites, Orbit Media

So visual prominence is critical, but there are two other P’s that go into a great signup form.

  • Promise
    Does the signup box tell the visitor what they’re going to get and how often? The topic should be explicit. “Get Updates” isn’t much of a promise. Remember, specificity correlates with conversion.
  • Proof
    Does it show that you’re legit? You can indicate the number of people who are already on the list “Join the 1,200 people who…” or you can add a tiny testimonial “I love the content you share!” Either of these are forms of social proof that can increase the conversion rate.

If you make changes to your blog’s signup form, measure the conversion rate before and after. Here are a few other important metrics for measuring blog performance:

  • Behavior > Site Content > All Pages (filter for blogs)
    Which posts have high traffic but low time on page? These posts need more detail, depth, and video.
  • Behavior > Site Content > All Pages (filter for blogs)
    Which posts have low traffic but high time on page? And a high conversion rate? These posts need better promotion. Keep them in heavy social rotation, link to them from other articles, and write guest posts that refer to them.

4) How important is it to have dedicated personnel/resources for analytics on a content marketing team? What circumstances would dictate this, in your mind?

I actually recommend against this. Everyone should have access to and be aware of metrics.

Do sports teams have players who are dedicated to the scoreboard? No. All the players know the score.

Unless you’re in a very large company with lots of complex data challenges, doing near-constant analysis, with loads of fancy tools… you don’t need a full-time analyst or data scientist. You’ll get better results with one data-driven content strategist and a team of marketers who all know which needles they’re trying to move.

If you hire a single analytics expert, they’ll likely be an outsider. They’ll be swimming upstream in a river of doubters. It’s also expensive.

Instead, develop a culture of curiosity. Build a team that turns opinions into hypotheses and turns ideas into tests.

  1. Get everyone to take and pass the GAIQ test.
  2. Start a series of lunch-and-learns, where people bring insights they’ve found.
  3. Gently call out people who don’t align their ideas with a measurable outcomes. And give kudos to anyone who makes suggestions based on data.

5) You’ve written that “if the metric is easy to see, you’re probably putting too much importance on it,” which is sage wisdom. But how can content managers make important measures more visible to them and their teams on a regular basis?

We called this Julian’s Law in our article about content marketing metrics. “There is an inverse relationship between the visibility of a metric and it’s importance.”

Another way to say that is you have to dig a little bit to find the gold. For example, when people just start out using analytics, they click on the left a lot. So they see a lot of reports with aggregate data.


But the more skilled you become, the more you want to slice and dice the data. You start drilling down into dimensions, adding secondary dimensions, and adding segments and filters.


This is really where the insights are. This data is less visible (it takes more than one click), but more valuable (you can see more specifically what’s working and what isn’t).

  • Don’t just look at traffic, look at traffic to specific posts for people from different sources.
  • Don’t just look at your bounce rate, look at bounce rates for specific pages for different traffic sources.
  • Don’t just look at traffic sources, look at traffic sources for mobile and desktop.
  • Don’t just look at conversion rates, look at conversion rates for various landing pages and traffic sources.

You get the idea. A little more work will reveal much better insights, driving better decisions and better results.

Nothing is Beyond Measure

As Andy mentioned, “every great content program is powered by influencers and experts,” which is why we’re thrilled to feature his insights as someone who qualifies as both. If you enjoy the content here on our blog, you’re sure to also enjoy the pieces being churned out by his team at the Orbit Media Blog.

We know we don’t have all the answers, and so we’re focused on providing our audience with perspectives from authoritative outside voices like Andy’s. You can subscribe to our blog below to make sure you don’t miss out.

(Feature Image Credit: Content Marketing Institute)

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