5 Metrics to Measure Great Web Site Content

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about the dire direction in which online publishing is going – a race to collect eye-balls does not encourage the development of quality content. I am grateful to Dana Oshiro, Senior Media Analyst & Publishing Strategist at NetShelter Technology Media, for offering her thoughts on how you can measure the ‘quality’ of web site content.

Dana is the Senior Manager of Analysis and Publishing Strategy at NetShelter Technology Media – a technology publishing group with more than 4500 contributors and 200 independent sites including MacRumors, Phandroid and 9to5Mac. In her spare time she writes for The Next Web, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb and her personal site VillagerswithPitchforks.com. She is available on LinkedIn at http://linkedin.com/in/danaoshiro and sends updates with Twitter at @suzyperplexus.

Sniffing Out Quality: 5 Metrics for Great Content

Let’s be totally clear here. Quality content doesn’t automatically lead to audience engagement, eyeballs and revenue. This isn’t the Field of Dreams — if you build it, they will NOT come.

Quality sites receive high reach, engagement and revenue through deliberate content and distribution efforts. As NetShelter’s  Senior Manager of Analysis and Publishing Strategy, this is where I try to help.


Most professional site owners track social, mobile and web activity to surface patterns of success and continue to survive as a business. But revenue aside, this data also provides obvious insights into what audiences want.

Externally my company uses this data to aggregate existing stories into our inPowered stories ad units and internally, we use it to help our publishers understand their readership. Below are 5 ways publishers measure their sites.


1. REACH & TRACKBACKS: Two of the more traditional site metrics include unique visitors and inbound links. Both weigh heavily in search engines and while they’re great for tracking readers as “eyeballs” or impressions, they don’t speak to reader loyalty or relevance. Search audiences tend to be less engaged than social referrals or direct visitors.

2. SOCIAL REFERRALS: Social sites are tallied in search engines, but the power of social media is in friend-to-friend recommendations. Social proof improves content performance as it is pre-verified and recommended (or commented upon) by like-minded networks. Or at least that’s the idea. That being said, the number of social links in the public stream cannot be an all-encompassing mark of quality. Social streams have become tainted as aggregators, Twitterbots and those hoping to game social media platforms automate sharing.

3. TOPIC-BASED REFERRALS & EXPERTISE: Social media and links are often considered in relevance and targeting. Content producers should identify their topic-relevant advocates. For technology journalism, I’d take a referral from father of the World Wide Web Tim Berners Lee over Oprah any day. This is because when proven topic-based experts vouch for you, you’re far more likely to see the right audience visit your site. The right visitors have a higher chance of becoming engaged readers and sophisticated contributors.

4. SENTIMENT ANALYSIS: Sentiment analysis on comments, trackbacks and social shares show us how readers feel about our stories. Nevertheless, negative reactions to individual stories are less important than negative reactions to the publisher brand. Remember that loyal readers may dislike a story in comments, but that their reactions are also an indication that they’re still engaged in the content experience. Many writers maintain a healthy balance and produce controversial opinion editorial to provoke discussion.

5. FROM THE GUT: This sounds like a line from Stephen Colbert’s White House Correspondents’ Speech, but measuring your content “from the gut” is by no means invalid. Many publishers check their best performing articles and top referring search terms in order to avoid an online identity crisis. It’s a simple piece of advice, but quality content comes from those who savor their work, respect their audiences and gut check their contributions. What type of expertise are you trying to establish? Is it translating to your audience?”

Thanks Dana.

It is good to see people who are measuring things other than audience size but I would love to know how you take your five metrics and turn them into revenue. How do these softer measures evidence themselves in the business? Do writers write differently if they are measured on these metrics (if indeed they are). Do you have any comments on the value, for example, of readers found via social sharing activity as opposed to Google Search?

One response to “5 Metrics to Measure Great Web Site Content”

  1. Jack Oldham says:

    Good post. I think it’s also worth considering whether that content is quality assured, free from broken links and misspellings, as well as being accessible, and easy to find etc. That typifies great content