4 Keys to Building an Analytics-Driven Editorial Team
The B2B publishing industry is surrounded by analytics. From site metric tools to lead-gen platforms to ad analytics tools to advanced business intelligence products, we have a plethora of data flowing our way. If used right, this data can help us make decisions, understand usage, and ensure that we are truly meeting the needs of our marketing partners and audience.
But, the key word in that last sentence is the word “if.” I’ve had countless discussions over the years focused on this simple word. Most executives know that we have a ton of analytic tools at our disposal, but these same executives wonder “if” these tools are actually being used.
The one department where the question comes up the most is in the editorial groups. And for good reason. While more and more editors are leveraging analytics to their fullest, there are an equal amount of editors and editorial teams that see analytics as a nice to have and don’t truly leverage analytics to help improve engagement with their audience.
So how do you turn your traditional editorial team into an analytics-driven operation? Here are some tips that will help put you on the right path.
Tip 1: It Starts from the Top
When I was working at my last B2B company, we went through a major shift in our CRM operation. In that shift, we were concerned about the adoption of the new CRM. Well those fears were eased when the CEO of the company made it clear that he was going to rely on the CRM and that he expected everyone to tow the line.
The same type of leadership matters here. Using analytics is a major culture shift for an editorial operation. To succeed, you need to make the use of analytics in an editorial operation a strategic initiative that starts with the C-suite, filters down to the publishers, and ultimately filters down to the editorial team.
Where do you start? An easy way is to collapse a report that is distributed to everyone in a group or company with the stats for all properties on it. It doesn’t have to be a fancy report. Focus in on things like page views, unique visitors, Google referrals, and mobile traffic. Add a tracker to the report showing growth month over month and year over year.
From my experience, this one single report starts to make everyone in editorial aware that everyone, from top down is looking at this report monthly. It also gives them insights into how other sites have performed on a monthly basis.
It also gives you, the executive, an opportunity to point out successes in the company. When I worked as a VP of online media, I used the monthly report as a way to acknowledge – to the entire team – the success a brand or editor had. Point out the big growth site. Point out the large content wins. By doing this, you’ll make the analytics important, which will change the focus for editors.
Tip 2: Change the Discussion
Maybe one of the most underutilized opportunities to build an analytics-focused editorial team lies in the editorial and staff meetings held by a media brand. This should be the opportunity for analytics to take center stage, but, all too often, analytics are not part of the discussion.
In these meetings, the editorial team should be coming in with reports telling everyone what’s working and what’s not. The editorial team should be talking about the topics that are resonating best through digital channels and the ones that are not.
This will force the editorial team to understand their metrics. It will push them to use the tools. But, more important, it will help the entire group identify potential opportunities for content focus and areas to focus business development.
For example, if there’s a lot of interest in a topic like mobile security presenting itself in web traffic, the editorial can look to build a package that can be promoted through the website, newsletter, and social channels to drive growth. At the same time, the sales team can leverage this information to sell products like whitepapers, native advertising, webcasts, and more.
Tip 3: Change the Tools
Probably the biggest tip I can provide to an organization looking to be more analytics focused is to start by changing the tools you provide to the editorial team. Traditionally, we have relied on web analytics tools, such as Adobe’s SiteCatalyst product and Google Analytics, to have our editorial team track analytics on their sites. While essential for every publisher, these tools are slow and require editors to dive many levels to find the information they are seeking. Even with custom dashboards, these tools take time to use, which is the number one complaint I get from editors when discussing analytics.
Fortunately, there are better solutions on the market today. Two that continually come up in conversation are Parse.ly and Chartbeat. Basically, these tools are visualization tools that do two things. First, they are focused more on content, making them a more intuitive approach for editors. Second, they are quick to use. Both provide an easy way to find out what users are reading and how they are getting to that content.
Whether it’s these tools or another, the key is to provide a better, more focused tool set for the editorial team. The tool should allow editors to quickly understand what’s going on now on their site so they can make better decisions on what to promote in newsletters, on their homepages, or through social channels. The tools should also allow the editors to track trends over time.
Tip 4: Make it About the Audience, Not the Numbers
As a former editor, I always felt my job was to build content that served an audience. I use numbers to help keep pace with the sentiment of the audience, but I never forgot that there were people behind those numbers.
That’s one of the biggest challenges we face with analytics. Editors who are becoming more anaytical can get so hung up in the fact that story X drove this much traffic and story Y drove this much traffic that they forget to ask: Did I drive the right traffic?
That’s the real challenge for today’s B2B editorial team. Like the early days of SEO, editors can easily fall into the trap of writing content that simply boosts traffic numbers. In fact, one of the scariest discussions I have with any editor is when they come to me and talk about how one story drove so much traffic. My response in these situations always is: But was it the right people?
As we push editors toward a more analytical approach, we can’t forget that we are a B2B organization. And, as a B2B media company, it’s not always about having the most audience, it’s about having the “right” audience.
So, how can we check this. The first step is to put the tools in place to track who is reading what content. For example, at my last company, we focused a ton on lead generation. But, we didn’t limit our lead-gen capabilities to simply sponsored content. We built a system that could track any piece of content to see who was reading it. So, when I asked the question about the right audience, we could go into that piece of content and see who actually read it and see how that aligned with our overall audience objectives.
If you don’t have the ability to track users at the content level, there are other options. Take time to look at your most popular newsletter content and see who engaged in it. You can also look at recent registrations for the site or lead-gen products to see if the right types of people are joining your audience database.
Don’t Forget to Train
While all of the tips above will help you create a more analytics-based editorial team, you won’t succeed unless you devote the time to train the editorial team in analytics. All too often we bring in a new analytics tool to our companies, give it to the editors and say go use these analytics to make us better. To succeed, you need to put in the time to train the editors on the tools and provide real-life examples of how the tools can help their media franchise,
And, you need to do it again, and again, and again. Training shouldn’t stop in an analytics-driven editorial operation. Analytics tool providers are continually making enhancements and launching new features. Use that as an opportunity to train the team again to ensure the tools are being used right and delivering the value you’re looking to achieve in your organization.
Rob Keenan is the President of Keenan Media, LLC, a consultancy firm providing digital, content, marketing, and audience support to the media sector. Rob has worked in the BtoB media sector for 20 years, most recently at the VP of Online Media for Edgell Communications. You can contact Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org.You can also follow him on twitter @robkeenan11 or connect with him on LinkedIn.