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Baby Steps to Metrics – Starting your content analytics

Jason St-Cyr
Dad, Blogger, Speaker, Head of Developer Advocacy @Sitecore , and Stopper of Slapshots. Opinions expressed are my own, of course.
Originally published at jasonstcyr.com on ・4 min read

Hi there and welcome back to the Baby Steps to Metrics series! At this point in our story we started small with a few numbers by counting things done by the team. However, like I’ve said before, counting things is a pretty terrible metric overall. We need to start seeing what impact we are having. At the very least:

Is anybody looking at this stuff we’re creating?

“Eyeball” metrics are easy to grab

The concept of “eyeball” metrics is a very early step in measuring content marketing effectiveness, but it can apply to other engagement measurements as well. If you’re approaching this from a DevRel perspective, learning a bit of the way content marketers gather data is a great starting point. These initial metrics are a great place to start seeing the impact of the work you and your team are doing by tracking how many times your work is being seen or used.

Google Analytics dashboard showing trends over time of users, page views, and sessions. Includes a geographic map of the session activity.

There are some easy ones you can do right away:

#1: Video

Gather data like the number of views you are getting, and the number of new subscribers.

If you use a platform like YouTube, this data is available from the YouTube Studio in the Analytics section. Select the time period you want to report on and grab the numbers from the overview dashboard!

#2: Articles

Similarly, you can easily track metrics like unique visitors and total views for a blog, or for individual articles.

If you are using Google Analytics to track your blog, you can create a custom dashboard with a Metric widget for ‘Pageviews’ and another Metric widget for ‘Users’. When you select the time period to report on, you can then quickly capture the totals for these metrics from your custom dashboard.

#3: NPM packages

Tracking NPM package downloads over time is an easy way to start charting adoption.

If you use a tool like npm-stat you can specify your NPM package names you want to report on and then generate charts.

#4: Community growth

If you have a community tool, like Slack, you can start tracking how the various channels are growing over time.

In our case, our community tends to create new channels for specific tech/features as demand for it grows. Then, we can add those channels into our metrics to see what adoption is like for various products compared to each other. This gives us an insight into what is being used/adopted/triggering discussion.

Trends are your friend!

Those raw numbers in and of themselves are not particularly valuable. Where is the context? So you had 10K video views on your YouTube channel. Great! Is that good? Or is it bad? WHO KNOWS!?!

You need to chart this over time, just like I was talking about with those basic counting metrics. This way you can see how what you are releasing works.

Two line charts showing trends over time. On the left, Views per Month steadily declining and then rising. On the right, Subscriptions per Month on a wavering rise/fall pattern with an overall downward trend.

Try to set yourself a target for the year, maybe a 10% or 20% increase? Pick what you want to aim for and as the year passes you can see whether the work you are doing is getting you closer to your goal, or further away.

In the image shown above you can see a blue line which is what I set as our growth target. While overall we didn’t achieve what we intended to, you can see where there were points in time where we realized there were issues and and then made attempts to try to correct them.

Eventually, you’ll want to go on to deeper engagement metrics like time on site, scroll depth, watch time, that sort of thing… but for now, this is a good step for you to start seeing some impact.

Using counting and engagement together

You can use these numbers to start tracking your team’s effort versus the value delivered. As an example, let us consider that you are looking at videos published by the team. Are you getting the same number of new subscribers even though your team put in extra effort to publish more video content?

At this point, from a ‘showing management some graphs’, we’ve got some data and charts we can use. Can we pull this all together? Like I said before… counting things is pretty terrible. It doesn’t show the value of the work done. But counting things is not a lost investment!

Graphs of video activity on the left and subscriptions per month on the right

In the analysis shown here, we can see a gradual increase in video output, but the subscription rate isn’t growing at the same rate as the video output. Somewhere between the effort done in the Summer and the work done in the Fall/Winter is probably the sweet spot.

The activity tracking combined with your deeper engagement insights give you a total Return on Investment view. You can start looking at ways to possibly dial back in certain areas if you can achieve the same results with less effort.

All those things you counted and the trends on activity you graphed out now can help you balance against the aggregate value being delivered. You can now dig into where the team can focus time.

Remember to keep iterating and improving, because this is still just the early days of your analytics and metrics journey!

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