Last week Techcrunch published an article called “The Only Metric That Matters For Content Marketing” – but what is the metric – and is it really the only metric that matters?

That was the fourth topic on the most recent TWIO episode, and here’s what our guests had to say about it…

DAVID BAIN: I read the article. I thought it was very clever because it was an article about testing different headlines and how different headlines generate high click-through rates. ‘The Only Metric that Matters for Content Marketing’, that headline, apparently got a 45% click-through rate improvement compared with the original, which was, ‘The One Metric that Matters for Content Marketing’. But how important are headlines in content marketing? Hannah, shall we start off with you on this one? What are your thoughts on this?

HANNAH THORPE: I’m a bit shocked that you’d…obviously that headline is click bait, but that you’d write a headline in that way as the only metric. To me, it’s kind of about who gets to the end, which is something that they spoke about in the article. So I would always measure on both and the way you can deem success is not only if people are clicking but if they’re clicking off. We’ve had people in the past ask us to write them the greatest headlines and you can do that and you can get all the clicks you like, but if the content doesn’t measure up to the headline they’re going to click straight off again and then it’s kind of defeated the point of your content.

DAVID BAIN: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, measure up in terms of value and quality of article, but also in terms of relevance of article as well. If it’s not true, then you’re going to get people pretty upset probably about your article, but maybe even about your brand as well and perhaps less likely to come back and view future articles. So it’s not all about traffic directly just on that one visit. It’s about that long-term relationship with that visitor. So in that instance, obviously you said it was click bait and I’m sure it looks like that. Ben, what are your thoughts on that one there? Have you got involved in devising different headlines in the past there?

BEN MAGEE: I’m not actually one of the copywriters at Liberty but it’s interesting what you were just saying about user experience on the page and in terms of how long a user actually hangs around on the article. Click-through rates are a ranking factor that’s really, really important. For instance, you might have the best headlines, you might not be first (you might be third or fourth) but you’re above the fold so people can see your headline and do click through, but if your user experience is atrocious and they go straight back, you’re more than likely going to start dropping down. And you might get the traffic through but as a ranking factor, the click-through rate could be detrimental as much as it could help you. And we’ve had instances in the past at Liberty where people might be getting confused between two pages, so it’ll do its own little experiment. It’ll try the one, then it’ll try the other and it might try both or it might try neither, and then it’ll use user experience to actually figure out the best page. And it is one of the few metrics that actually puts user experience at the fore. With Panda and Penguin it’s all automated with crawlers and the like but with click-through rate it’s a completely user experience-generated ranking factor and that’s the thing that interests me. It’s all very interesting.

DAVID BAIN: But Paul, if you read a headline that said, ‘Ten Great New Things About iOS 9,’ and you clicked through and it was an article about Windows 10, what would your response be?

PAUL HUNTER: I’d throw my computer out the window?

DAVID BAIN: Your Apple computer out the window?

PAUL HUNTER: Yeah. Dammit! I’ll have to go and buy a Windows one now! No, I think it’s going to be interesting in the future. Click-through rate is everywhere now and in the way that you get banner blindness with things like native advertising becoming more and more, I wonder if we’re going to start seeing click bait blindness, if that makes sense. ‘Cause it happens a lot, doesn’t it? ‘Oh, you wouldn’t believe what these celebrities looked like when they were kids,’ and it’s no one you’ve ever heard of in your entire life. You don’t care about it. It’s interesting.

So coming back to this, it’s all about, ‘Why do we write content?’ If I was giving a report to a client on how the month’s been and I was like, ‘Oh, we had fantastic click-through rate on this article,’ and I said, ‘The bounce rate was 90%,’ they’re actually not going to be happy. So for ranking, click-through rate yeah, it’s good, but I think in broader terms in terms of goals and what you’re trying to achieve, I think what is on the page and user experience is much more important.

DAVID BAIN: So Stewart, I saw you nodding away there when Paul was talking about high bounce rate and how that’s not great. Do you think click bait can ever be an effective marketing tactic or do you think that there should be no place for it in any legitimate marketer’s arsenal?

STEWART ROGERS: It depends what type of business you are and what the end goal is here. For example, the article that appeared on TechCrunch (I’m using my words very carefully there because it’s not a TechCrunch article, it’s an article that appeared on TechCrunch; it’s actually written by the CEO of Pixable), so realistically what you’re looking at here is what we call an OpEd where somebody is providing additional content to fill out the stories that day and give their opinion of a particular topic. So TechCrunch published this OpEd from Pixable and it’s about testing different headlines to see which one is the best. If your only job in the world is to drive clicks to your website because that enables you to publish bigger and better viewer numbers so that you can get bigger and better advertising revenues from the people that provide you with advertising revenue, then it is really the only metric that matters.

That’s not the reality for 99.9% of what I call the Fortune 30 Million, which is the small to medium enterprises that need to sell or they will die. Content market, by definition, is the process of producing content in order to sell something. It’s different from content, which is just producing something. Content marketing is producing something for a reason, and that measurement might be reach or it might be action or it might be a conversion or it might be to engage and as a demand generation piece, to show people that you are the leaders in that field.

And when I last looked, you would break those down – reach, act, convert and engage – by things like brand measurements, by things like commercial measures such as clear indicators on things like satisfaction ratings, all of that kind of stuff. And tactical, like views and clicks and interactions and likes and tweets and post rank ratings and all of those good things.

So actually, is there one metric that matters in content marketing? No. I’ve got a list of 50 metrics that matter in content marketing. It’s just whether you’re B2B, B2C, ecommerce, whether you’re pure play, whether you’re bricks and mortar, what you’re selling (is it services or product?). There’s a heck of a lot more to bring into this than just the one metric which is a headline.

And by the way, an interesting point on headlines. If your headline tells everybody what they need to know in the headline, no matter how clicky you think it is, you probably won’t get any page views ‘cause nobody’s going to click through – they just read everything in the headline. So it’s not just about headlines.

DAVID BAIN: A lot of great thoughts there. Thank you. And moving onto Rob. Now Rob, Stewart mentioned that there are 50 different elements that can impact the success of content marketing. I’m sure you agree that there are lots of different elements as well, but is it fair to say that headlines are the most important element, if not the number one element? Or is that just not true, you just can’t say, ‘This element is the most important one’?

ROB WEATHERHEAD: I doubt that there’s many campaigns that we would run where headline would be anywhere on that list of the most important element, if I’m being completely honest. It all comes back to the objectives of the campaign but unless – as a couple of people have pointed out – unless you’re selling ad impressions and that’s the objective, then headline rarely comes into it. Often you’re looking for traffic, yes absolutely. But more importantly you’re looking for where that traffic ends up, what it results in from a business perspective, how many people go onto buy whatever it is you’re selling, whether that be direct conversions, whether that be assisted conversions or whatever it might be. But headlines rarely even feature, I guess. We’re producing content to engage with people, we’re producing content to influence people, we’re producing content to rank in the search engines. We’re not producing content that is there just to entice a click and I don’t think that many people are, really, other than the ‘viral’ websites that are literally looking for page impressions.

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