How we learned to love reanchoring our content’s key performance indicators

Ever since we expanded our team and hired an analytics specialist, we’ve been watching changes in how our clients’ audiences enjoy the content we produce. Ten years ago, I would have told you about major spikes in page view, the overall number of unique visitors, and whether our link-building campaigns had any effect on Google’s PageRank score.

Today, we’re spending more time talking about return visitors, time spent on site, and how many times our viewers cycle between our client sites and their favorite social network. Year-over-year growth still counts for a lot, but we’ve also found ourselves embracing customer strategy: tracking back and eliminating spammy traffic, distracted audiences, and low-engagement sessions from our metrics. It’s easy to make any set of numbers show “up-and-to-the-right” progress that clients love. It’s harder to reveal the real reasons why audiences seek out information from your website, and the motivations you need to trigger for return visits.

We’re not the only ones.

Buzzfeed’s Publisher, Dao Nguyen, wrote about how her organization spent the past year “reanchoring” their metrics. Instead of chasing unique visitors and page views, Buzzfeed’s tracking “content views,” or the number of times that audience members experienced a piece of content regardless of platform — instead of relying on the platform, they’re considering the customer experience. That means combining data from their own website with available numbers from Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, and any other networks where they run content. Buzzfeed also looks at “subscribers” in a different way, aggregating everyone who’s raised their hand and opted-in to receiving notifications about new content in some way.

We’ve been urging our clients to think about reanchoring in the same way. Driven by our research, we’ve been uncovering insights into the benefits of increasing overall time spent on a client’s site—even if an audience member’s scrolling around on a single page or watching a video instead of clicking through multiple stories. We’re emphasizing e-mail subscription signups in a bigger way than ever, recognizing that the inbox still drives far more sales than we see from any social network. We’re encouraging clients to consider NetPromoter System scores. And we’re doubling down on producing live events and experiences, like workshops and webinars.

The web’s long since graduated from the days of loading a blog post with tricky, long-tail phrases to grab search results. Instead, you’ve got to surprise and delight audiences with stories that are worth sharing, backed up by tools that invite your viewers to return again and again. I’m sharing many of the things we’ve learned over the past year in our upcoming webinar series, and I hope you’ll join our team for some fun and enlightening conversations.

As always, please contact our WordPress consulting team or complete a project request form if there’s any way we can be of service. We’d love to learn how we can put what we’ve learned to work for your organization.

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram