The difficulty of measuring content performance
John Wanamaker (1838 – 1922), an American merchant and marketing pioneer, is famously quoted as saying, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”. In those days a marketer relied on advertisements in newspapers and on billboards and it was difficult to measure their effectiveness until techniques for gathering measurable data on them were developed. The most famous work on the subject was published in 1922 by Claude Hopkins called “Scientific Advertising” in which he described how he was able to measure the effectiveness of his marketing campaigns. Hopkins was placing coupons in newspapers that readers were encouraged to cut out and send in the mail to take up an offer. He was then able to count the number of responses he got and he could test different advertisements to see which ones worked best. By a continual process of testing and measuring campaigns in one city or state until he was sure he had an advertisement that was effective he could be reasonably sure that it would work just as well across the entire country. This type of campaign is known as “direct response” marketing and pay per click campaigns in Google Adwords and Bing Ads use the same principles today because it works so successfully.
In fact, Claude Hopkins’ approach was so successful that David Ogilvy, one of the founders of the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather, said, “Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”
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Modern ways of measuring content performance
On the internet today there are many tools that can provide a website owner with information to measure the performance of its content, the most popular being Google Analytics. The first thing a website owner will want to know is how much traffic it’s getting and where that traffic comes from. Analytics tracks the number of visitors to a page and shows if it came from organic search results, a paid click in an Adwords campaign, a referral link from another site outside the Google network or a direct search where someone has searched for the website’s URL. Besides the number of visitors a website owner will need to know if they are engaging with the site and meeting the business objectives. Analytics can track anything that can take place on a site that the owner decides is of interest and that depends on what they’re trying to achieve. If the site is trying to make sales for example it can measure the percentage of visitors who actually bought something or if the aim is to generate leads then it can measure how many filled in a form.
Improving content performance
In order to stay competitive and profitable a website owner will need to measure how well their content is performing at the moment and then try making changes to see if they get better results. This ongoing process of measuring, tweaking and testing is not really anything new, it’s the same kind of thing that Claude Hopkins was doing a century ago. It can get good results so it’s worth the investment.