Brands

The Ultimate Content Strategist Playbook No. 5: Measuring and Optimizing Your Content Marketing

By Joe Lazauskas May 20th, 2015

I read about two things obsessively: basketball and content marketing. So when I explain how metrics should be used in content marketing, I often wind up talking about the Miami Heat and their data-crazy young coach, Erik Spoelstra.

There’s a good chance you already know about LeBron James. But without Spoelstra, the Heat may have never won anything.

Long story short, everyone expected the Heat to dominate from the get-go when James joined the team in 2010, forming a superstar trio with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. But they struggled to play cohesively, and it took time for their coaches and players to evaluate what strategy worked best for their personnel. Eventually they won two championships and made four straight trips to the NBA Finals, but the team wasn’t a dynasty from day one. They had great players from the start, but they needed to learn how to optimize.

Coach Spoelstra was the one who got them thinking about data the right way. The young coach, an infamous data cruncher, turned to advanced stats to understand what went wrong—and what the Heat could do to get over the hump. While the story of the Heat usually focuses on James, the unsung star was Spoelstra—the nerdy, lanky coach who would blend right in at a marketing conference. He used smart analytics to tweak his strategy on the fly, giving the Heat the advantage they needed to rise to the top. He was half coach, half data scientist, and always looking for new ways to succeed.

To execute a successful content marketing operation, you need to embrace your inner Erik Spoelstra. Because for all the talk about “big data,” many marketers still struggle to translate numbers into action. Part of that struggle is not knowing which metrics matter, but the other part is not doing the work on a daily basis to create the most successful content possible. If the Heat were coached by a stubborn, old-school guy who just stuck with a preconceived plan, there’s a good chance James would have left South Beach without a title. Likewise, content marketers who stubbornly stick to their preconceived content strategies will never reach their full potential.

The good news: It’s easier than ever to make smart, data-driven decisions. When armed with the right tools and an understanding of how to measure content in a way that reflects your goals, you can create a powerful system that keeps driving your content marketing forward.

Continuous improvement is a challenge that every publisher faces today. The hard truth is that even after you’ve done everything we’ve covered in our first four playbooks—evangelizing a content program,crafting a content strategy, staffing and launching a publication, and putting an audience-growth plan into action—you still need to get better day after day.

At Contently, it’s a challenge we’ve tackled internally as well as with hundreds of brand and media clients. Over the past few years, we’ve come up with a solution, one that has the very executive-friendly acronym of C.E.O.: create, engage, optimize. Contently co-founder Shane Snow likes to visualize it with what he calls the flywheel (yes, it’s actually a pinwheel, but flywheel sounds so much cooler):

The premise is simple. If you want to continuously improve the quality of your content and grow your audience, you need a secret weapon that tells you what content to create, how to effectively distribute it, how to measure the success of each piece, and then how to use those conclusions to fuel your next round of publishing.

We’re here to give you that secret weapon. In this playbook, we’ll cover exactly what metrics you need to use, then explain how to use those metrics so you’re continuously employing them to create better content and engage your audience in the most effective way possible. Download it below.

Image by Kyle Fewell