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Choosing tools for content marketing analytics

How to identify the content performance data you need — and the tools that can provide it

To figure out what’s working, what’s struggling, and which areas show the most potential in your content program, you need data.

There are lots of slick analytics tools out there, and many of them provide interesting data… but which ones do you absolutely need?

In this post, we’ll explore that question.

The answer begins not with brands but with the types of data you need to track. Once we’ve laid out the data you need, we’ll suggest particular tools to track it.

We’ll focus on analytics for organic search performance (as that’s our specialty).

What content marketing analytics tools do you really need?

Before you can optimize any organic search content, you need data on the page’s fundamental performance.

To do this, we recommend five use cases:

  • Web analytics – How many people are finding your site? What are they doing once they arrive?
  • Search queries – How is the page being found in search?
  • Keyword research – Which keywords are resonating with your audience?
  • Heat mapping – What parts of the individual page are showing the most engagement
  • Library management – What are the trends across your site?

We’ll look at each of those use cases and which tools help the most.

Criteria for choosing a content marketing analytics tool

Before we jump into the weeds with brand comparisons, a quick note about the tool evaluation process. Especially for small teams, and limited budgets, it’s important to find things that fit some very basic criteria:

  • You can use it – It’s accessible.
  • You will use it – It’s easily integrated and requires minimal time investment.
  • You can afford it – Simple rule for this one: don’t sign up for annual plans.
  • It provides the specific data you need – Simple data you use is better than complex data you never use.

Which content marketing tools should you try?

We’ll look at each use case, its importance, popular options for tools, and Ercule’s personal preference.

Web analytics

This is brass tacks for any content performance analysis.

Popular options

There is Google Analytics, and then there’s everything else: Fathom, Piwi, Matomo are a few popular examples.

Why we use Google Analytics

First-party alternatives have their virtues (and often their UX is more inviting than Google’s). However, the most reliable search data is coming from the search platform.

Search queries

You need to see what queries people are using to find your pages. Which queries are your competitors dominating?

Popular options

Google Search Console is the big dog in this world. Other content marketing tools like Moz, Ahrefs, or SEMrush can pipe in that data.

Why we use Google Search Console

This is Google’s own data directly from the source. It’s a necessary supplement to Google Analytics because GA doesn’t provide data about queries or branded vs. unbranded traffic.

Keyword research

Keyword data will show you which terms people are actually interested in. A keyword tool can tell you how frequently a keyword is searched and how tough it is to rank for a given keyword.

Popular options

The three biggest brands in the keyword tool market are: Moz, Ahrefs, SEMrush. Each one has its own bespoke formula for generating data. None of these (excellent) keyword tools are authoritative. Each of them is approximating in their own way.

Why we use SEMrush

Keyword tool selection is largely a matter of personal preference. User experience is a big factor – you should choose a tool that allows you to get what you want with relative ease. These platforms all offer different ancillary features that might appeal to your particular use case.

We use SEMrush because, honestly, we’ve been using it for a long time. The interface is familiar. We use it almost purely for the data. We collect data, then export it. That’s it.

Heat mapping

Getting pages to actually convert is a challenge for any marketer. Heat maps make conversion rate optimization amazingly accessible. They show you the areas on a page that attract the most attention.

Popular options

Three brands that are popular among our content marketing peers: Hotjar, CrazyEgg, Microsoft Clarity.

Why we use Microsoft Clarity

It’s reliable and it’s free. Sometimes this is reason enough to try a tool.

Library management

As your content library matures, every piece within it must be maintained, updated, optimized. It’s a continuous cycle. To complete it strategically, and at scale, you need a way to easily locate, compare, and sort content according to strategic metrics.

Popular options

Ottimo and… honestly? That’s about it. People are doing this important work on their own with an improvised series of spreadsheets and GA data.

Why we created Ottimo

Ottimo enables us to provide the kind of strategic content management that we simply couldn’t find in existing tools. For example: sorting libraries by traditional performance metrics as well as qualitative considerations like topic strategy and keyword usage.

The Ottimo approach

Ottimo helps marketers strategize and optimize content based on clear analytics and recommendations.

Integrating data from Google Analytics and Google Search Console, Ottimo highlights the metrics that content marketers actually need – and cuts out the rest.

Wrapped into a user-friendly platform, Ottimo enables marketers to track and improve content performance across their site.

Identify, prioritize, and execute on opportunities in your existing content library with Ottimo.

Next steps

If you only have time to assemble the very beginnings of a content analytics suite, we highly recommend you start with web analytics – also known as page analytics. Set up a Google Analytics account for your site and – most importantly – make sure that it works.

(You’d be stunned by how many companies have a huge website and yet a Google Analytics account that isn’t generating any data because of some small but fundamental error.)

If you’re looking to make decisions between any of the brands we mentioned above, check out the customer reviews on G2. Ask your peers in the marketing community – on social or in real life – about the tools they use. And as always, feel free to send us any questions!

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