Building Your Content Marketing Software Stack: Data, Analytics & Dashboards

As content marketing has matured as a business practice, most professionals have realized the immense importance of content performance measurement to the success or failure of their long-term marketing strategy. But frankly, many of us fall short when it comes to data, analytics, and dashboards. In fact, Content Marketing Institute’s most recent Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends reports shows that only 51% of B2C marketers, and 43% of B2B marketers report being able to “measure content marketing ROI.”

If you’re wondering why, the answer is simple. Talent.

Content writ large tends to attract writers, designers, entrepreneurs, and project managers, but lacks analysts, data scientists, and analytics gurus. Bottom line is we’re good with words, bad with numbers. That’s not to cast this generalization over all content marketers. Numbers-driven, analytical, dashboard-obsessed folks are out there. To our dearest data geeks, we salute you!

In our last installment of this Content Marketing Software Stack series, we discussed how to select and use the right content creation tools. Today, we will investigate how to find and use the right data, analytics, and dashboard platforms. Let’s start with a subject that we like to call…

How to Not Get Eaten by a Polar Bear: Survive In the Wild with Data & Analytics

For those of you getting lazy with content marketing analytics, or failing to use performance measurement data to inform your strategy, you’re basically this helpless seal waiting to get eaten by an extremely hungry polar bear.

And the polar bear? She’s your competition. If you’re not using data, it’s just a matter of time before you get eaten.

In order to survive in content, you must know whether your content is reaching, and more importantly, impacting your target audience. Understanding audience behavior and gaining their attention has never been more difficult. According to the American Marketing Association, the average consumer is exposed to more than ten-thousand marketing messages every day. There’s Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, push notifications, banner ads, iPhone facial recognition software that turns your face into a cute talking animal, email, smart home devices, Netflix, Game of Thrones. Wait, where the hell are my keys?

Lest you forget it, the Internet is a wild, dangerous, ferociously competitive landscape. There are thousands of predators waiting to steal your customers’ attention away.

Don’t be the seal.

Debunking the “Single-metric” Mindset

In a sea of potential content metrics to track, many marketers get overwhelmed. There’s nothing wrong with that. But as a result, many end up believing that just one or two key performance indicators can tell them everything they need to know. Dozens of articles support this behavior by citing “magic metrics” or reporting things like “there’s only one metric that really matters.”

Data should tell a story, and you can’t tell a story using a single data point. If you only track your website’s bounce rate, all you know is how many viewers left and how many stuck around. If you only track clicks, then you only know whether someone interacted with your page. Even if you exclusively track social shares (a holy grail metric), you still don’t understand why someone shared your content.

It’s when you combine multiple data points that the story unfolds and your discover why select audience behaviors are taking place. With this knowledge you can give your audience what they want. Without the why, you’re just guessing what to do next.

Understanding Analytics: Combining the Right Data Points

Deciding which analytics packages to focus on is a critical step in building out your content marketing software stack. In the following paragraphs, we will focus on how to use social media audience research, web analytics reports, and search engine optimization tools to ensure your content hits the mark.

1. Social Media Analytics Research

Understanding your audience and what they are sharing can greatly reduce the amount of time spent brainstorming, or guessing about what content to produce (otherwise known as throwing spaghetti against the wall). Try the following tools to get cozy with your audience:

Facebook Ads Manager

Facebook has access to tons of data. Scary amounts of data about literally everyone. This is because when you sign up for Facebook, you give them permission to share information across your web browsers, applications, and devices.

As content marketers, we can use this to our advantage by probing audience data to verify our story ideas, or find out whether our assumed audience interests are accurate. Simply sign up for Facebook Ads and start setting up a campaign to learn how many people would be interested in a specific topic, or fit a demographic profile. Helpfully, Facebook also gives you suggestions for related topics or audience behaviors.

For example, how many people on Facebook are interested in social media marketing or content marketing? About one million. What else does Facebook know about them? Many are small business owners, are interested in marketing strategy and are also interested in online advertising. No big surprises there.

But, with that information alone we’ve narrowed focus for our content, and especially the content we will put on Facebook. Potential topics could include social media tips for small business owners or small business content marketing advice. But like we mentioned in the paragraphs above, we won’t stop there.


Buzz-what? You heard it right; Buzzsumo.

This nifty tool is packed with helpful insights on what’s trending, from a social media perspective. It includes social media influencers, info on the popularity of specific topics, as well as the most shared stories and articles in those topical categories.

Step two in our social media analytics journey is to plug in topics and insights from Facebook Ads. This will help us understand what’s trending online in our topical wheelhouse. Here’s what I get when I query, “small business content marketing.”

Surprise! The most shared article on the web in this topical area combines the two interests we identified using Facebook Ads manager. Now we’re officially on to something.

With this information in-hand, our brainstorming and content generation can be more well-informed and targeted. Does it write the headline for you? Absolutely not (and neither will AI).  But it certainly narrows your focus.

Now that we know something about the social media behavior of our target audience, let’s look inward at the Google Analytics data of our own website.

2.  Web Analytics Research

I’ll preface this by confessing two things… 1) This explanation is focused on using Google Analytics because that’s the only web analytics platform that I’ve used throughout my career. You can presumably find or build similar reports in other web analytics platforms. And 2) entire books and courses have been written about Google Analytics. We certainly won’t cover everything here, but we’ll provide some key features to get you started.

Within Google Analytics (GA), you can select from a library of thousands of free dashboards. Access these by logging in, clicking “customization” and then “dashboards” in your left-hand navigation (see below). This is a good starting point for anyone feeling lost in the sea of data that is Google Analytics.

You’ll then need to click “create” in the upper left-hand corner.

Then, “import from Gallery” in the lower-right.

Once you arrive at the Gallery preview, you’ll see the following:

In the upper left-hand corner, you can type in queries for dashboard types you’d like to try. We recommend you try the following:

  • BrightonSEO
  • eCity Conversion (from Moz)
  • Content Analysis

These three dashboards will give you a good sense for how your blog and website are performing from an SEO, lead generation, and content performance perspective. After poking around, you’ll be ready to dive into more specific analytics data points.

When you’re ready, here are some Google Analytics data combinations to help you discover whether your content marketing is making an impact.

1. New Versus Returning Visitors & Bounce Rate

A key tenet of content marketing is gaining subscribers and, at some point, converting those subscribers into customers. You simply can’t build a subscriber base if no one’s returning to your website, blog, podcast, video series, or whatever else you are regularly publishing.

In your Google Analytics left-hand navigation panel, click on Audience > Behavior > New versus Returning.

Within this view, you can discern what percentage of your website viewers are new and what percentage have visited your website, blog, or specific page before. For example, maybe you wrote a blog post titled, “Content Marketing Tips for Small Businesses Ready to Go Gangbusters.” Awful title of course, but let’s pretend people loved it, read it, shared it, even commented on it, but didn’t visit any other pages on your website and never returned to read similar posts.

How would you know this? By comparing your new versus return visitor views, and digging into your bounce rates. If your new visitor bounce rate is extremely high (meaning someone lands on a specific page or post, but doesn’t visit any other pages on your website), you are likely not doing enough to incentivize audience exploration.

2. Audience Behavior versus Traffic Source

Understanding how your audience is navigating within your website and where they came from are both powerful bits of information. Better yet is a side-by-side comparison of this data in order to discover whether specific online sources of traffic are more valuable than others.

Click Audience > Behavior > Engagement to arrive at this view. Then, you’re going to get a bit technical. But it’s not that hard, stick with us!

In the middle of your screen you will see a box that says, “add segment.” Click that. Then select up to three traffic sources you would like to compare. Select, “apply” in the lower left-hand corner.

Within this view, you can compare the engagement of various traffic sources. For example, you might discover whether referral visitors (who arrived by clicking on a link from someone else’s site) are spending more time reading your content. Or, perhaps organic visitors (that who found you using a search engine) are visiting more pages than others. Maybe your paid traffic (driven from your own advertising) isn’t converting, clicking, or engaging? Time to adjust course.

Taking the time to dig into this data and ask some tough questions will instantly put you closer to content marketing greatness.

 3. Conversions and Goal Tracking

In order to get the most out of Google Analytics, you’ll need to track conversions using the Goals feature.

Whether your specific content marketing objective is newsletter subscribers, getting your visitors to download an eBook, watch a video, or even access an interactive game, you’ll track the success or failure of these actions (dubbed by the GA team as Conversions) using the Goals feature.

Here’s a quick video demonstrating how to set up your Goals.

Once your Goals are set up, you can find them within GA under Conversions > Goals > Overview.

But keep in mind that for most Goals you must have a “thank you” or dedicated landing page that a visitor is sent to after a goal is completed. GA separates visitors based on page views, so if downloads or subscriptions are your Goal, you’ll need a page served up after the action is completed; the number of people who land on this page is the number that have completed the desired action.

Thriving In The Wild: Custom Dashboards are the Campfire of Content

Quick disclaimer: we recently launched DivvyHQ Analytics, an all-in-one content dashboard for DivvyHQ Enterprise customers. While we would love for you try our software, I wanted to briefly mention that there are other options out there.

Building or purchasing custom dashboard software can truly simplify your entire content marketing operation. If content marketing is all about storytelling, think of your dashboard as the campfire that warms your team. You observe, marvel at the data, and allow it’s insights to fill your imaginations with new ideas.

After using many of the tools listed above, you’ll likely find that it becomes incredibly time-consuming to move between multiple toolsets, dashboards, and downloadable performance data. Combining insights across platforms can get cumbersome.

Once you know exactly which metrics and analytics packages are most important for your team, getting all the numbers into a single reporting dashboard makes the decision-making process much simpler.

And frankly, it makes meeting to discuss results more fun too. But before you go headlong diving into dashboard options, be keenly aware that there are many different types of dashboards, many of them purpose-built for specific needs. Broadly, these include:

  • Business Intelligence (BI)
  • Data Visualization
  • Marketing & Content

Know too, that there are some incredibly complicated dashboards out there. Our advice is to keep it simple.

Are You Ready to Build Out Your Content Marketing Software Stack?

Whether you’re dipping a toe into Google Analytics or taking your industry by storm with the most targeted, data-informed content program of all time, picking the right software is part of the process.

We get it, you’re overwhelmed and there’s simply too much data to comprehend. That’s why we recently published “The Future-proof Guide to Content Marketing Measurement” to help marketers deal with an overage of data and improve their content marketing effectiveness through targeted, customer-centric insights.

Download it now for exclusive advice from leading thinkers!