The industry is still in love with impressions and clicks, and this must change, writes Nick Moon, digital account director at UM London.
According to Advertising Week in New York, branded content creation is up 300% year-on-year. And that got me thinking: while brands are increasingly getting smart to the value of content, what’s the best way of measuring its effectiveness? How much can a click really tell you? And what other metrics should you consider?
The industry is still in love with impressions and clicks. They are the simplest online measures and provide some sense of short-term security. And that’s because clicks prove a campaign is effective, don’t they? And big numbers keep senior management happy, right? Well, maybe, but the trouble is, clicks don’t tell you very much.
Clicks can tell you if someone has decided to take the next step, but not what they do once they get there. That has limited value when the business objective is incremental profit. In fact, clicks pretty much only tell you if you’ve got a good headline – and even the value of this can be called into question when you think about how many people actually engage with ads: less than 10% of the online population account for 85% of clicks.
Engagement, behavioural and business metrics
So how should we be measuring the effectiveness of content? In my mind, in the same ways we measure the effectiveness of other digital tactics. The challenge lies in identifying the right digital metrics among the wealth of data that we have access to. To do that, we need to understand what the content is trying to achieve. What’s the hard business objective?
If the business objective is to drive incremental profit, for instance, then we can begin to examine what impact the content has had on this goal. Attributing incremental profit back to content can be complicated, but this is where econometrics has a role to play in identifying where there are significant relationships within the activity. Did the activity lead to an increase in conversions on site, or in store?
“Consumers are complicated organisms; they do not become brand advocates overnight after encountering a single touch point with the brand”
Where econometric modelling is not possible, behavioural measures have a role to play. Things like awareness, penetration, footfall, and purchase intent can all act as precursors to determine the impact the content has had on the business objective.
A pre- and post-campaign, or exposed and non-exposed, uplift can be considered more important than a simple up-lift in click traffic because it demonstrates that the content is actually changing the way consumers think or feel about a brand. And that is important, because consumers are complicated organisms; they do not become brand advocates overnight after encountering a single touch point with the brand.
This brings us to the engagement metrics that allow us to optimise the quality of the content by understanding on a page level how users are engaging with it. That means measuring things like social shares, video completion rates, bounce rates, dwell time, and clicks deeper into the site.
Identifying the right metrics for your campaign
So, how can you get smarter at measuring your content? Well, first things first, you need to identify what your business objectives are for your content and make this clear to all parties involved in its creation and distribution at the very start of the process. Ensure your campaign is set up to be able to robustly measure against this business objective, and think about how this feeds into any attribution or economic modelling you have in place.
When you know what you want your content to achieve, work with your agencies to develop clear strategies that will help you meet your business objectives. Determine a timeline, and have a number of hypotheses to test, and be narrow minded in setting a single primary KPI. Challenge all parties on their proposed solutions and question the role and measurement for each line on the plan. Be prepared to fund measurement that complements your media. Think quality over quantity.
When your campaign has finished, you need to start reviewing your data against your hypotheses. Did your content reach your target audience? Did your content have the desired effect on your consumers’ attitudes and behaviours? Were there uplifts pre- and post-, or exposed and non-exposed?
This approach will make post campaign measurement a simpler, more structured and more valuable process to all involved and, if we’re lucky, consign clicks to a thing of the past.