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Monitoring Your Content

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How do you know your content is working for a client? Unless you have access to their analytics you are pretty much in the dark when it comes to judging the raw performance of your work on their site. You don’t know what their site performance numbers were before you started and in order to have a good idea what effect your content is having, you have to be proactive from the beginning of the job.

In fact, before even beginning a job for someone it’s probably a good idea to do some legwork and put together a few statistics before you ever deliver your first chunk of text. There are several good reasons for this, but as a content provider you should be concerned with keeping track mainly because your purposes and those of your client are not the same and at times can be at odds with each other. For instance, if they don’t feel your content is performing to expectations and want to renegotiate rates while you’re certain it’s more than adequate, how will you settle the dispute?

Why track content on a clients’ site?

One reason for monitoring your content on a clients’ site is the simple fact that you want your content to be effective for your clients. As I mentioned in a guest post over at Rick LaPoint’s Internet Marketing blog, “A great product will make a customer feel good about their purchase. Excellent service will make them feel confident in it as well and willing to buy more, even if there was a minor setback at the beginning”.

 If you want your customers to use your services on a repeated basis, your content is going to have to produce. Tracking how well your content performs for a customer allows you to not only hone your content writing skills, it allows you to put together some solid performance data you can use as part of your personal arsenal of marketing tools.

Educating clients with real data

An added plus is the ability to show customers who are not so well versed in the art of creating content just how much benefit they are receiving. Some of the biggest problems encountered by content writers are the unreasonable or naïve expectations their clients have. They read somewhere about keywords, relevancy, uniqueness and how content can propel them up through the search engine rankings, then hire a writer and expect miracles overnight. Having some real world data can help you to manage these unrealistic expectations and educate clients as to how good content really works.

So how do you track the performance of your content? It’s difficult enough doing this on your own site, so how do you keep track when the content is appearing somewhere else? The answers, fortunately, are similar whether it is your own sites’ performance or that of a clients.

Set up a performance file for every client

Along with all your other client files, create one specifically for logging performance data. Put everything you find and compile into it, then when the job is finished, use this data to put together a single cohesive record of how well your content performed for the client. This can be page rankings, keyword performance, Alexa ranking, SERPs, and anything else that indicates how the content affected the site.

Test their keywords

Before you begin creating content, your keyword research, if necessary, should include some time spent checking how well the client currently ranks for their keywords. Most of us when performing keyword research are only interested in finding the best keywords to use. With commercial copy this is often a moot point as the client already has a set of keywords in mind.

 However, by taking note of how well a client is currently using their keywords, you will be able to record whether or not your work exceeds their previous efforts. Regardless of whether you are using long established keywords the client has targeted or new ones they are supplying, how well your application of them performs is critical and will be a big part of determining whether your content fails or sails.

Check their page rank

Although there is a lot of controversy over whether or not page rank is important, the general attitude is to give it a lot of consideration. Page rank is difficult to utilize from a content providers perspective because it is affected by so many factors besides content, and Google is notorious for irregular page rank updates. However, if your client projects are long term, it can be a useful way to get some sense of whether your content is providing any of the boost a client is looking for. Even for short term projects, occasionally checking on the page rank of past work may help you to improve the effectiveness of your content.

Do a back link check

Good content attracts links from other sites. While commercial copy might not inspire a lot of back-links, blog posts, articles, about pages, reviews, and even some product descriptions can attract a lot of link love when written well. You can be pretty confident that when a clients’ site receives back-links because of your content, they are going to be very pleased with your efforts. Even better, with back-links being such an important part of how a site’s authority is measured, if you can demonstrate an ability to build back-links with your content, then you have greatly improved the value of your services. A before and after picture of the back-links your clients site has generated can be a very powerful way to not only impress the client, but attract new ones as well.

Every little bit helps

These are just a few of my own ideas of how to independantly monitor the performance of your content. While they are not mandatory or even a commonplace practice among many content writers, it’s my opinion they can only help. There’s nothing to lose and you just might surprise yourself with just how effective and valuable your content is. Aside from your own site, how do you judge the effectiveness of your content?

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Posted in: How To, On Writing

This article has 9 comments

  1. Rob Berman 12/27/2010, 9:47 pm:

    Paul:

    You need to agree with the client upfront what are the metrics to be reviewed for success. If expectations are out of alignment at the beginning, then it will be worse at the end.

    Rob

  2. Paul Novak 12/28/2010, 2:56 am:

    Absolutely Rob.

    Imagine how much nicer it would be though, if someone you did work for wanted to negotiate a lower rate because they felt the results were not what they hoped for, but you had documented a significant improvement in page rank or search engine results;)

  3. Rosanne Dingli 12/28/2010, 2:25 pm:

    This is so totally out of my sphere, but I’m very impressed. How intricate it can be to ensure clients get value for money in a project that’s not only effective and efficient – but also elegant. There: I’ve used up all my Es.

  4. Sherryl Perry 12/28/2010, 3:53 pm:

    What a fantastic post Paul! I am not a freelance writer. So, it would never have occurred to me how important it would be to collect and document this data.

    You’re right, when I research keywords, I’m looking for things like how people are searching to find my product and I’m trying to discover targeted niches. I have never researched to learn how a site ranks for specific keywords and keyword phrases. That would be so valuable to document the value of your services.

    Have you ever shared any statistics with a potential client? I realize that you would not share the specific client’s personal information (unless you had a testimonial and their permission) but I would think that clients would be impressed that you take your work so seriously and that you’re committed to producing measurable results for them.

    • paul novak 12/30/2010, 5:15 pm:

      Hi Sherryl. I’m actually in the process of preparing to try showing a client how page rank works and why it’s really not important for a commerce site. In that respect, I have to show him how his search engine results do more to determine his success than his page rank. He’s noticed a change in his page rankings which are likely due to Google working on updating them, and is worried about their disappearance on some pages.

      Because of this, if I can show him how even with 0 page rank, he shows up on the first pages of Google for his best keywords ahead of his competitors, he will likely forget all about worrying about Page rank.

      If I can show him how my content has bumped him higher for his keywords, and has him ranking for more terms, he’ll likely be more inclined to have me perform even more work.

      This is the precise reason I pay attention to a clients stats. Even though a page rank drop issue like this one has little if anything to do with my services (Google is probably changing stats, and links to his pages may have been removed) I can show him that in reality he is performing better than before.

  5. Jeannette Paladino 12/30/2010, 5:51 am:

    Paul – a lot to mull over. I think it’s important to establish in advance what constitutes “success” for a client. It may be very different from what we think. More than statistics about key word usage, page ranking, and the like, the client may actually feel that getting comments from clients and prospects is the most important metric. Or, getting guest posts from people who could become clients. I’ve asked this question, “What would constitute success for you?” and it really makes the client think. We shouldn’t assume that our criteria for success is the same as the client’s.

    • paul novak 12/30/2010, 5:27 pm:

      Absolutely Jeannette. Don’t we all set expectations from the outset? If not, we should.

      In my line of work, web content creation, the top primary concerns are traffic, SERP standings for specific keywords and of course, inciting action on the part of visitors.

      These concerns are usually the same for just about anyone who relies on a web presence. Certainly there are always different scenarios like with blog posts or PR work, but those are more an aspect of social presence and to be honest, I have yet to find a client who put such interactions ahead of a sites financial performance.

      However, if they are looking to specifically improve such areas, then we are right back at square one where these metrics should be specified from the outset.

      Thanks for a great reply Jeannette.

  6. Catarina Alexon 01/02/2011, 3:17 pm:

    Good article Paul. Agree with you that you have to know what the client is expecting in order to deliver. If you don’t, they are able to say that they are not satisfied regardless of how well you have delivered. Jeannette is absolutely right when she asks “What would constitute success for you?”. If you don’t know that how can you come up with a formula that succeeds?

  7. Catherine Lockey 01/05/2011, 1:47 am:

    Nice post Paul! I see a big future for content creators who understand SEO. Writing well is a an art – a gift. Mix it with marketing and SEO skills and what you have to offer is highly specialized and quite valuable.

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