Measuring the Value of web content

There are many tasks that require understanding the value of your web content. These include:

* Determining what content to invest in, and what to retire.

* Picking new features to add.

* Working in new content channels.

* Identifying and fixing site problems.

One of the most difficult tasks, though, is understanding the value of content that does not provide an immediate ROI. Some site areas do not generate any revenue directly, while other site areas may be valued in other terms. For example, some content may be primarily informational. Other web projects have to be considered part of the cost of doing business.

Companies must tailor their approach to measuring the value of their web content to their goals and the needs of their customers. Here are four tools that can be used in this process:

Conversion Rate

Conversion rates give you a good idea of how everything is working together at your site. Conversion rate, in a nutshell, measures the percentage of users in a given time frame that, when given the opportunity, choose to complete an action at your website.

Conversion rate is a good high-level measure because it encompasses many aspects of your site, including usability, site availability and performance, and even the importance of the task to your customer. Conversion rate is also very useful for evaluating revised versions of your content. By comparing "before" and "after" conversion rates, you can measure the effectiveness of the changes.

While conversion rate is often applied to e-commerce areas, it can also be used as a tool to measure the success of any area where visitors can complete tasks at your site.

Measuring perceived value

There is often a large gap between a company's goals for a site and the goals of site visitors. This can lead companies to invest in content that provides little value to customers. Because of this gap, it's important to look at customer values and measure the perceived value of your content.

There are a variety of ways that this can be done:

* Focus groups.

* Site feedback forms.

* Comparative or competitive analysis.

* Customer satisfaction surveys.

By understanding the perceived value of your web content, you can develop and promote the content that customers are most likely to be interested in.

Tracking content currency

Content currency can also be used to understand the value of your web content. For many types of content, currency is highly valued. By looking at the age of your web content, you can learn the most recently updated content and also the oldest. Many web analytics and content management tools can provide reports on content currency.

Currency reports let you know the "hottest" and the "coldest" pages within a site. In some cases, old content should be kept or updated so that links into your site will not be broken. In other cases, this older content should be pruned out. In large sites, the oldest content is typically of the least value to site visitors. This content is often out-of-date, and may even be a potential liability.

Usage patterns

Web analytics can also be used as a tool to understand the value that customers place on your content. One approach is to create reports based on content groups. Content groups are collections of related pages or applications. Activity to these groups can be tracked by defining a URL pattern for each content group. Any web activity that matches the URL pattern will be logged as a "hit" to that content group.

The benefit of tracking content groups is that it provides a high-level understanding of how visitors use web content. Activity within the site can be broken down by percentages of hits to each area. This provides a broad picture of what content is most frequently used.

There are many other ways that web projects can provide value:

* Improved efficiencies, such as order accuracy, and faster order fulfillment.

* Ease of working with your company.

* Reducing duplication of effort.

* Increased customer satisfaction through self-service.

* Improved competitiveness.

* Better quality of leads generated.

* Greater understanding of the profile of profitable customers.

* Improved marketing efficiencies.

* Increased ability to correlate costs of service with customers.

* Ability to change marketing approach on the fly.

Finally, it's important to recognize that some e-business initiatives may provide little direct value; they may be the cost of doing business. For example, e-businesses need to provide privacy information on their site. This may be old content that provides little direct benefit, but it's a cost of doing business. Another example is the press release area. It may be extra effort to post press releases to your site, but this is becoming an expected channel of communication.

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