We all have the best of intentions to communicate regularly with our teams about what content is working well in editorial. Yet, too often those intentions become overwhelmed by the day-to-day activities.
A systematic approach to editorial reporting, however, can make action possible. And after all, we know that a documented content marketing strategy enables content marketing programs to be more effective. Imagine what a documented editorial reporting plan could do for your team.
I’ll admit that I was as guilty as the next person who leads a content team. While I talk regularly with everyone on our CMI team, my formal updates on our content progress were hit or miss.
Enter, my new, systematic editorial update. It’s a Google Slides presentation that details our key metrics — and more importantly, explains how the team can use every piece of data to take action. A work in progress, this collaborative document answers the editorial team’s questions while keeping me accountable.
From my perspective, having a structure on how to report progress has saved me time, and I’ll be more easily able to track trends month over month.
A Blueprint to Jump-Start Your Content Marketing Strategy
Notes and cheat sheet
Before we dig into specifics, here are a few things to consider as well as a quick checklist of the data for your reference:
- I don’t include data for the sake of reporting data. Each slide includes an orange box that explains how I use this data.
- I don’t want everybody on the team to have to go to five sources to get the information they need. Each slide includes a source line so everyone knows where the data originated.
- I am considering two versions of this update — one for the editorial team who likes a lot of details, and a shorter, simpler version for other company teams so they can understand trends. Right now, I use a single presentation for all.
- While you can use this as a template, you need to customize for what is important to your team.
- In general, I look at year-over-year performance instead of month over month to account for the varying number of days per month (e.g., it’s easy for March numbers to surpass February’s because March has two or three more days) and seasonality (e.g., our numbers always dip over the December holidays).
- Make your update as “cookie cutter” as possible so someone (who is not you) can help collect the data. Of course, you need to add the analysis.
With that, I present our template for editorial status (special thanks to creative director, Joseph Kalinowski, who designed this template.) If you want to save a copy to customize:
- Go to File > Make a Copy and save it as a new Google Slide presentation.
- Go to File > Download As > Microsoft PowerPoint to save it as a PowerPoint presentation.
Below is a quick look at what to consider including in your editorial status report. Read farther down for more details of each.
Click to enlarge
Update on primary goals
The initial slide should include an update on the main goals for your content marketing program. What impact do you want your content efforts to have on your business? (Understanding what success means is a key differentiator between effective marketers and their less effective peers.) For CMI, these are things like email subscribers, CCO subscribers, event registrants, and CMI University students.
How to use this data: Even though your editorial may not directly impact all of these goals, it is helpful to have these metrics front and center so people are thinking about how the content they create will impact these goals.
How to get this data: This will depend on what goals you are tracking and what systems you are using. (A lame answer, I know, but it gets much more specific as you read on.)
How to Match Key Metrics With Your Content Goals
Top blog posts by traffic
These are the blog posts of the reporting month that get the highest amount of traffic on the website.
How to use this data: High traffic can be an indicator of topics the audience is interested in and/or popular authors. We also review these posts to make sure they are optimized.
How to get this data:
Google Analytics > Overview > Behavior Flow > Site Content
BONUS TIP: On a quarterly basis, I run this analysis for top blog posts that weren’t published in that month as well as our static web pages. I want to make sure these perennially popular pages are getting regular tune-ups.
Also, ask: Are there opportunities to link to this high-performing content? And what are people clicking on once they are on these pages?
Conversion champion posts
Conversion champions are posts that convert better than other posts (hat tip to Andy Crestodina who I believed coined this phrase). Of course, conversion will mean different things to you, but at CMI, we track new email subscribers.
How to use this data: If you track just one piece of data per month, this should be it. While it’s interesting to see what posts are getting traffic and social shares, what really helps reach your goals?
At CMI, our conversion champions are those pages that have the highest percentage of traffic converting to email subscribers (conversions divided by pageviews). When we prioritize posts to re-share on social or add to high-traffic pages, we pull from our list of conversion champions.
How to get this data: How you get this info varies, and it will likely require some manual work. For a great explanation, see No. 2 in this post from CMW speaker Andy Crestodina: 3 Internal Linking Strategies for SEO and Conversions.
6 Linking Techniques That Will Help Your Content Get Ranked, Found, and Read
Top pages by traffic
These are the website pages (not posts) that get the highest amount of traffic. While these pages are unlikely to change from month to month, these are key to your tracking to keep them on everyone’s mind.
How to use this data: The editorial team pays close attention to these pages to answer:
- How are bounce rates trending? Are people sticking or leaving from these pages?
- Are there opportunities to link to high-performing content? (See conversion champion category above.)
- What are people clicking on once they are on these pages?
How to get this data: Google Analytics > Overview > Behavior Flow > Site Content
Overview of traffic by channels
I like to look at how traffic is coming to the website by channels. I use the same breakdown that is presented in Google Analytics:
- Organic search
How to use this data: The channel report is interesting for a few reasons:
- It helps you focus your promotion efforts. If certain channels are bringing in the bulk of the traffic, focus on those.
- You can look at year-over-year trends to see how your efforts are helping. For instance, are any sources seeing a drop in traffic? If so, why might this be?
- Organic search traffic is typically traffic coming from older content whereas email traffic (and often traffic from social) is likely a better indicator of how your most recent content is performing.
Of course, many organizations, including CMI, have marketing teams that play a huge hand in the success of their content, so this data is not something specific to editorial.
How to get this data: Google Analytics > Overview > All Traffic > Channels
Top posts on social shares
While I don’t think social-sharing metrics are all that critical, it is interesting to see which posts are shared most on which networks — so team members can continue to share specific posts that perform well on those platforms.
How to use this data: Lisa Dougherty, who manages our blog, shares our top posts with the team each month. While these updates had focused more generally on top posts, she is now calling out which posts are most widely shared on which social network so our team can customize what they share where.
How to get this data: If you have collected social metrics, you know that they vary from source to source (what you see on your website is likely different than what is reported in BuzzSumo or TrackMaven, for instance.) Instead of focusing on the absolute number, pick one source of truth and then track the relative performance.
BONUS TIP: Use one slide per social channel to give people on your team details on what to share on the proper channel.
Is Your Social Media Content as Popular as You Think?
Top posts via email
I also started looking at which posts are getting the most traffic from our daily and weekly emails.
How to use this data: Email is a key channel for us at CMI, so in addition to tracking how much traffic is getting to the site via email in general, it’s useful to see if any types of posts are resonating especially well with our subscribers.
How to get this data: Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels > Email
NOTE: Primary dimension needs to be Landing Page.
BONUS TIP: You can track which pages are getting the most traffic from organic search, but this often does not make much sense on a monthly basis as it takes time for posts to generate search volume.
If you are getting email subscribers through gated offers, how are these people coming into the system?
How to use this data: The editorial team can see which gated offers are most effective and use them in blog post links and calls to action.
How to get this data: This will vary depending on your systems.
BONUS TIP: If your gated offers aren’t drawing as many subscribers as you would like, consider making them freely accessible on something like SlideShare.
13 Ways to Get More Opt-Ins From Your Content
Once we curate all of the data, the fun part begins. I analyze all of the data and look for trends on topics and themes that our audience is interested in. I report on a few things:
- What trends are we seeing this month? Are these new or a continuation of what we have been seeing?
- Are any authors performing really well?
- What isn’t working so well? (We recently added this category. While I hesitated to call out the poor performers, it is a useful thing for everyone to know and learn from.)
Of course, your editorial status can also include other things pertinent to your team. For instance, our status also includes:
- Current and upcoming projects: As part of the monthly editorial update, we include a quick run-down of any major changes or projects coming down the pike so the team is in the loop.
- Top Click to Tweets: In the past several months, we started including Click-to-Tweets in our posts, which is a widget we use to call out tweets that readers can easily share with one click. Are these worth the time? And, what type of tweets are tweeted most often? We also consider where these tweets were placed in the post. Do the first tweets get tweeted most often?
- Keywords to consider for posts: Our SEO consultant, Mike Murray, gives us a monthly update of how our search is trending. As part of this report, he provides suggestions for keywords for which we may want to consider creating content, as a way to round out our editorial.
I’d love your thoughts. Is this useful? What types of information do you include in your status?
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute