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A Three-Step Approach for Linking Content and Behavior: Measuring Relevancy

by Laura Patterson  |  
November 21, 2012
  |  10,678 views

Various studies over the years have examined the relationship between content relevancy and behavior. Almost everyone would agree that content must be relevant. But what is relevance? According to Wikipedia: "Relevance describes how pertinent, connected, or applicable something is to a given matter." A thing is relevant if it serves as a means to a given purpose.

In the context of this discussion, the purpose of content is to positively influence customer or employee behavior, such as increasing purchase frequency, purchase velocity (time to purchase), likelihood to recommend, productivity, etc.

When we ask marketers and others how they measure content relevancy, we often hear, "We base it on response rate." If the response rate meets the target, then we assume the content is relevant; if response doesn't meet the target, we assume it's not relevant.

Clearly there is a relationship between relevance and response. Intuitively we believe that the more relevant the content, the higher the response will be. But measuring response rate is not the best measure of relevancy. Many factors can affect response rate, such as time of year, personalization, and incentives. Also, in today's multichannel environment, we want to account for responses or interactions beyond what we might typically measure, such as click-throughs or downloads.

So, what is the best way to measure relevancy?


The best-practice approaches for measuring relevancy are many, and many of them are complex and require modeling. For example, information diagrams are an excellent tool. But marketers, who are usually spread thin, need a simpler approach.

The following three steps provide a way to tie interaction (behavior) with content. It's critical that you have a good inventory of all your content and a way to define and count interactions, because once you do, you'll be able to create a measure of relevancy.

The process and equation include the following:

  1. Count every single piece of content you created this week (new Web content, emails, articles, tweets, etc.). We'll call this C.
  2. Count the collective number of interactions (opens, click-throughs, downloads, likes, mentions, etc.) for all of your content this week from the intended target (you'll need to have clear definitions for interactions and a way to only include intended targets in your count). We'll call this I.
  3. Divide total interactions by total content created to determine Relevancy: R = I/C

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Laura Patterson is president and founder of VisionEdge Marketing. For 20+ years, she has been helping CEOs and marketing executives at companies such as Cisco, Elsevier, ING, Intel, Kennametal, and Southwest Airlines prove and improve the value of marketing. Her most recent book is Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization.

Twitter: @LauraVEM

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  • by Rich Wed Nov 21, 2012 via web

    No s**t sherlock.

  • by Steven Wed Nov 21, 2012 via web

    I always dislike negative comments, especially those with a specifically non-contributing character like the one above.

    This stuff is so bluntly obvious to mister Rich here but he won't even add some of his superior knowledge to make things more interesting for us all?

  • by Ken Wed Nov 21, 2012 via web

    The formula is unclear. Is this a benchmark approach? Every time you post new content and we calculate each R per new content post how is R being weighed. What determines a good response rate or bad rate over time? The formula doesn't address time other than 'during the course of a week'. Of course there will be a spike in traffic in the initial few days because its new content. The formula doesn't include a 'given purpose'. Is the given purpose to attract unique new visitors or keep current tweet followers engaged in the brand with free white papers and other content. What does this relevancy exercise achieve?

  • by Elaine Wed Nov 21, 2012 via web

    Let's get back on the track of helping each other rather than the negative stuff. Ken asked some good questions - especially how can I use this to determine good vs bad relevancy rates over time? How do I factor seasonality into this as well? And, what if content was placed in the market several weeks ago but it is still well-read (likes, retweeted, etc). How do I factor that into the relevancy score?

  • by Terri Wed Nov 21, 2012 via web

    I found it interesting and worth sharing - I'm often surprised by how many people measure only the numbers of downloads and/or enrollees, instead of total interactions.

  • by Fritz Wed Nov 21, 2012 via web

    It seems as if the lower the score, the better. If I had a single "content activity" and 1,000 "content interactions", my score would be 0.001. Has anyone come up with a scale? What's acceptable, generally? Laura, have you been able to make use of this for your own organization? And if so, what are you seeing as trends, averages, etc.? Measurements like this are great ways to figure out how well the content group is working, and additionally, to compare employee performance. One could track ideas/output to this and determine the rockstars on the team. I want to second the time issue... as tweets get retweeted and facebook updates get shared, the life of some activities can last for weeks if the audience finds the content engaging.

  • by john Wed Nov 21, 2012 via web

    I like the idea of staticising your work. Moreso ,in this article,the list of ways of increasing your conversation is appreciated.

  • by Jackie Bitutu Tue Nov 27, 2012 via web

    Hi, I like this model. I updated my website and sent out an sms broadcast and was able to measure this. This has been an area of pain for me but I'm now beginning to understand measurement of content relevance. Thank you.

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