A Model for Scoring Content on Media Sites

If you’re a media site, one of the most critical measurement objectives is to assess the success of your content. But how does one go about measuring this? Default web analytics reports often fall short in this area. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular content metrics provided by the analytics solutions.

Page views

This is probably the best out-of-the-box metric for measuring the success of a content. The more the number of page views, the more popular the content. However, relying on this number alone has two potential shortcomings. First, it fails to differentiate between segment traffics. For example, a loyal visitor is more valuable to a content site than someone who visited the site for the first time and will likely never come back. Also, page views alone fail to report the level of engagement on the page. For example, visitors could be clicking an article and spending only a few seconds on it. The quality of traffic should therefore be accounted for.

Time spent on page

This metric clearly adds a new dimension around engagement. The more time visitors spend on the content page the more engaged they are. However, you cannot rely on this metric alone. One key reason is the fact that this metric is not always available to all visitors. For example, if the content page was the only or the last page viewed during the session, then this metric is simply not calculated within popular web analytics solutions (we’ll discuss this in a separate post).

Another shortcoming of this metrics is that like page views, it fails to segment the reports by the quality of visitor (first-time vs. loyal).

And finally, the Time Spent metric alone does not take into account the popularity of the content. For example, an article could be very engaging but only be viewed by a handful of people.

Visitor Loyalty

Web analytics solutions often provide this in context of the overall site traffic and you may have to do some tweaks to your reports to get this, but it’s important to note what percentage of your content is consumed by first-time visitors and what percentage by loyal visitors – visitors that come back to the site. The reason this is important is because in the long run, you may want to create a loyal following and create content that’s tailored to them.

Bounce Rate

This is also one of the most popular metrics within analytics solutions, but media sites should be careful not to over-analyze their bounce rates. As an example, consider a media site with an RSS feed. Through the RSS feed, visitors can see the headlines of new content using their favorite RSS aggregator. If an article looks appealing, they click the link, enter the site, read the content and then leave. That’s a bouncing visit but still a highly qualified traffic, because the visitor has subscribed to the RSS. The visitor loyalty metric indirectly takes care of this shortcoming.

Content Engagement Score

In this post, we’d like to introduce you to a content scoring KPI that we’ve used to help some of our media clients put a monetary value next to their content.

The formula is as follows:

Engagement Score = (Page Views × Avg. Time Spent  × Avg. Loyalty)

Where:

  • “Page Views” is the number of times the page was viewed during the reporting time period.
  • “Avg. Time Spent” in the average number of seconds or minutes spent on the page by visitors.
  • “Avg. Loyalty” is the average number of visits to the site by your visitors (1 for first time visitors, 2 for those who’ve been to the site twice, and so on).

Of the three metrics needed to create this KPI, “Avg. Loyalty” is the most difficult to get, but this can be obtained done using estimates in popular tools. For example, with Google Analytics, you can use the %New Visits metric to estimate the average loyalty. You can use the following formula for this purpose:

Avg. Loyalty = (%New Visits) + 2 * (1 - %New Visits)

What this formula does is that it assigns a score of 1 for each new visitor and a score of 2 for all others, providing a reasonable approximation. You can create a similar model with Yahoo! Web Analytics – see below figure for an example of such report in Google Analytics.

Using this model, pages with the highest traffic, time spent and the most loyal visitors will get the highest scores, which is the desired outcome. You can of course use any analysis tool to create your score. One popular tool is Microsoft Excel, where the score can easily be created and analyzed. See figure below for an Excel example. It shows that our posting for tracking internal campaigns is the most engaging even though it’s an old blog post.

Overall, this model provides a simple KPI for measuring site content, while taking into account the popularity, engagement and the quality of the visitor. It does however have its shortcomings. The primary shortcoming is that it is dependent on cookies. For loyalty to be counted, visitors have to accept cookies. Furthermore as visitors delete cookies, it will impact this KPI. However, it’s fair to assume that visitor cookie deletion is not dependent on their content preference, so you should expect the same rate of deletion across the board.

The metric also depends on time spent reporting, which is not available to all visitors. Having said that, it’s also fair to assume that the time spent by those who view a certain content as their last page should be inline with those who view the content in the middle of the session. After all, the purpose of this model is to provide an approximate score for content engagement and popularity.

You may also be in a mode where loyal visitors are no more valuable than first-time visitors. For example, newer web sites fall into this category. In that case, you can simply omit the “Avg. Loyalty” metric from the formula (or replace it with the value 1).

So there you have it. We welcome your feedback on the model and hope you find it of use.

Happy Analyzing!

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