Content Curation & Analytics: What to watch and what to ignore

Most content marketing strategies rely on the same analytic measures as any other online marketing campaign such as page views, visitors, and traffic growth.  However, content curation is unique among content marketing strategies because it relies on third-party off-site content.  As a result, audience behavior is very different from traditional online marketing campaigns where all content is consumed within a brand’s online properties.

Let’s take a look at metrics to pay attention to specifically for content curation initiatives, and just as importantly, misleading metrics that you should ignore as well. There are many venues where you can share curated content.  In this article, we will provide a walkthrough of metrics by channels for your curated content namely sites, email newsletters, social media outlets, and feeds.

Site Analytics

One of the most popular places to warehouse curated content is on a website.  Often these are implemented as a branded web portal, or a blog that contains a mix of both original and third-party content.

Metrics to Watch

Page Views and Visitor Growth. Similar to any other content marketing campaign, to see if your site is garnering a larger audience month over month, you can simply track traffic growth month over month in Google Analytics for page views and visitors.  As your site grows both in terms of authority within your target audience by reputation, and in terms of search engine optimization (SEO), you should hopefully see a steady and healthy growth in your traffic numbers.

Frequency & Recency. It’s especially important to track if your audience is coming back to your site for curation marketing initiatives.  If you are providing valuable content, then your visitors will keep coming back to you as a trusted resource for a topic.  If not, your visitors will click off to a third-party article, and will likely never return again.  Either way, the metrics will reveal this.  

To get a better sense of your audience behavior in Google Analytics, to the Frequency & Recency page under the Audience metrics tab as shown in the picture below.

You will then want to filter for only return visitors to get a better idea of audience retention.  You can do so by clicking on Advance Segments and checking the Returning Visitors checkbox as shown below.

Within this page, you will find two types of performance metrics:

Count of Visits measures how many times are your visitors coming back to your site. While its expected that a significant percentage of visitors will see your site just a few times, the larger the bars are the lower in the chart, the better off your site is.  This means that it’s good at retaining repeat visitors.  For example, the chart below shows a healthy curated site where more than a fifth of visitors have been back to the site more than 50 times.

Days since Last Visit measures how often your repeat visitors are coming back to your site.  As opposed to the Count of Visits metrics, the more top heavy your chart is the better — meaning visitors are coming back to your site often.  If you are curating valuable content, this chart should reflect the frequency of your curation and publishing habits. If you update your site every day, its good to have the 1 days since last visit bar dominate.  On the other hand, if you update your site only once a month, you should expect your chart to have more percentage mass around the 31-60 days range.

Metrics to Ignore

Engagement, Bounce Rate & Visit Time.  Google Analytics has built in metrics to measure site engagement under Audience – Behavior – Engagement.  Google’s definition of engagement is to track the length of a visit.  Similarly bounce rates track the percentage of visitors leave your site to visit another site. These tend to measure success of sites extremely well on sites with large amount of original content, where users can spend a lot of time on the site in a single uninterrupted session.  In ordinary content marketing sites, a visitor only leaves the site if the content is not engaging. 

However, with curated sites, the content consumption dynamics are very different.  Visitors often leave the curated site to view interesting third-party content, and return again to read more content.  As an example, think about how you consume content on curated hubs like Reddit or Twitter.  You often go click on links to other sites, and then come back to the hub for more.  As a curator, you should not be overly concerned about engagement, bounce rate and time on site numbers.

Total Site Visits. The most successfully curators focus on a single specific topic for a select audience.  If you are doing a good job curating, you are likely doing this too.  As a result, you should set your expectation appropriately when it comes to the total addressable site visitors.  If you have a highly specific topic for a particular industry niche, even if you have a few hundred visitors a day, you may be doing a great job.

Comments. While commenting on your curated content should not be ignored entirely, it should be taken with a grain of salt.  It’s naturally for your readers to comment directly on the original article where content is written. If your comment count is low, that may be in fact be alright.

Email Newsletter Analytics

Email newsletters are yet another popular means of distributing curated content.  Some popular curated newsletters you likely already receive on a regular basis may include from FierceMarkets, SmartBrief, or LinkedIn Today.  Email newsletters are particularly important for curated content, because they are a push mechanism to get people to keep coming back to your site long after they visited your site. Indirectly, email newsletters can get your audience back on your site and dramatically bump up your site metrics as well.  

Metrics to Watch

List Growth. Assuming you have a sign up form for your newsletter on your site, list growth is one of the most important metrics to watch.  A steady growth in subscribes demonstrates that people visiting your site find your curated content valuable enough that they want the content pushed to them via email.

Opt-outs & Unsubscribes. On the flip side, you should keep an eye on opt-out and unsubscribe rates.  If you find that many of your subscribers are leaving, there are a couple of things you can do: email them less often (perhaps change from a daily to weekly list), segment your list by topic (so the content is more relevant to them), pay more attention to the content you are curating (perhaps you are being too self-promotional), or be more consistent (you may be curating sporadically which makes you less trusted).

Click Through Rate. Monitoring your click through rate is important to see how valuable your content is isolation.  If you find that you your audience is clicking through on your curated content, then its relevant, timely and valuable.  However, on the flip-side, a low click-through rate can be deceiving.  Many readers may simply get value by skimming the headlines, even without clicking through.

Metrics to Ignore

Open Rate. While curated newsletters typically enjoy the highest open-rates, more than lead nurture, or promotional emails, open rates are often misleading.  Open rates for any email newsletter can only be computed for readers who click through on links or disable images in newsletters.  So if you see a 25% open rate, the actual open rate is likely much higher.

Social Media Analytics

Followership. If you are sharing your content over social channels such as Twitter, a good metric to track is your followership.  While a larger number of people may be viewing your content as they browse Twitter, the ones who value your content and want to continuously receive it will follow you, (or they may simply be hoping for a follow back).

Retweets.  Another social media metrics to track is retweets.  While this is a metric for any content marketer, curators can employ this little trick to better track the spread of their curation efforts: when you share a third party articles on Twitter, retitle the headline of the article.  This allows you to share your perspective, make it more appealing but also more cleanly track retweets.

Feed Analytics

RSS feeds are a popular way of consuming curated content through feed readers.  Here are a couple of metrics to watch.

Feed Burner. If you use Feed Burner you can easily track your feed followership to see the total number of subscribers.

Google Reader. If you don’t have Feed Burner enabled for your feeds, you can track readership by searching for the feed within Google Reader (shown above).  This will show you the approximate number of subscribers but is often a gross underestimate because it only accounts for subscribers who use Google Reader.

Summary

While many of the metrics above are in common with the usual content marketing metrics, curation does change things quite a bit by providing a different content consumption experience.  By far, most high level metrics stay the same, but new curators are often thrown off by strange and often disturbing looking metrics such as bounce rates which they should be ignoring.  Hopefully this provides you with a quick overview of the metrics that work best for curation.  If there are other metrics you track, please do leave a comment below.

Need help getting your content curation program going? Get a Demo of Curata today to feed your content need.