This one framework will change the way you use analytics forever

This is the eleventh in a series of articles on growth hacking, inspired by my journey to a minidegree in Growth Marketing from the CXL Institute. Read more: What is growth hacking? | How to run a successful growth marketing experiment in six steps | This one mindset will make you a better marketer | The successful formula for A/B testing mastery| This one overlooked tool will supercharge your content marketing


When it comes to content marketing, the pull to move onto the next content project is the greatest right after hitting “Publish.” This makes sense: You’ve just spent all of this time building out the content product and quite possibly the last thing you want to do is spend more time with it.

You know where this is going…

You must resist! The instinct to move on quickly is a factor of your human nature! We like novel things — and at this point, your content marketing project is most certainly not new. So you have to work doubly hard to see your content masterpiece through so it can live up to its fullest potential.

How do you do that? Analytics, of course!

A framework for analyzing content marketing performance

This framework actually applies to any type of marketing performance, as it hinges on getting to the root of specific questions and then finding the right data that allow you to act in a way that boosts your business.

However, this framework has a huge difference in normal analysis: you use it at the start of a new project to find the right story in your data. So you’ll use it to analyze the performance of your content marketing by diving into your analytics with a specific question and action in mind. Then, you’ll dig for data in your analytics that helps answer the question.

This is called the QIA Framework and here’s how it works.

Question. Start your analysis with a question in mind. Make it targeted and useful. In our content marketing example, let’s say that we just published a sales enablement white paper targeted to marketers at midsized tech companies.

The question could be: “We want to increase our spend on Linkedin Ads to promote this whitepaper to our target demo. Should we?” Or it could be “Should we create a mobile-optimized landing page to promote the whitepaper?” Or, if done in advance of your content marketing project

Information. Armed with a question, then you jump into your analytics. This allows you to stay focused and not distracted. You should pursue only the data and information that helps answer your question.

In our case, we are going to analyze our current performance with paid Linkedin Ads, as well as other paid media. We’ll also look at our organic traffic from Linkedin and benchmark it with other channels. We may also look at our mobile device usage to determine viability of a landing page.

Action. The last piece is to have a specified action that you will take with this analysis. All too often, great content marketing projects are produced and distributed, with fancy parts shared up the chain. And that’s it. There’s no action attached. Pat on the back, move onto the next project.

Unfortunately, that leaves so many insights on the table, insights that could be used to improve the next project or to further leverage existing resources for stronger ROI. In our example, the action could be “If Linkedin drives at least 10% of our traffic to past whitepapers, we’ll invest in ads.” Or If 10% of our traffic is mobile, then we’ll invest in a landing page.”

With QIA, you set your action threshold in advance so that you know what you do with the data and have clear yes/no momentum coming out of the analysis.

Why action helps analysis

Of course, finding a story in your day that doesn’t only happen after a project. You can (AND SHOULD) also use the QIA Framework to dive into your analytics when considering a content marketing or conversion optimization project.

Most important thing is to have that pre-determined action that tells you what you’ll do with the answer to the question. You need to know what you plan to do with the data prior to analysis so that you don’t get subsumed by analysis process. It’s so easy to stare down a wall of Google analytics data and have no clue where to start.

By starting with a question, and knowing what you’ll do with the answer to that question, you have a very specific task and a clear outcome. This focuses your analysis and ensures that the time you spend will deliver insightful results that optimize your business.

If you take nothing else away it’s this: knowing the action makes analysis easier! It keeps you sane and saves you hours of endlessly poking around your analytics, with nothing to show for it. QIA works!

The two questions you need to ask when doing on-page user surveys

This is the tenth in a series of articles on growth hacking, inspired by my journey to a minidegree in Growth Marketing from the CXL Institute. Read more: What is growth hacking? | How to run a successful growth marketing experiment in six steps | This one mindset will make you a better marketer | The successful formula for A/B testing mastery| This one overlooked tool will supercharge your content marketing


On-site user surveys are a goldmine for content marketers. Deepening your understanding of each user’s mindset on a given page can help you optimize that page for the desired conversion.

[You are using on-page surveys, right? 😀]

For example, you may realize that the call to action does not match want to use wants to find on that page. Or that the content doesn’t answer the right questions to users looking for. A mismatch between expectation and reality is the surest way to push somebody off your site.

So how do you learn more about your user’s mindset? It’s simple: Just ask! There’s no point in waiting around for the 1% of customers that will reach out to ask questions or tell you what was wrong. Most people will just move on. They won’t invest the time to reach out because they are busy.

These on-page surveys give you immediate feedback and instant insights into your users’ mindsets. The on-page survey is an opportunity to leverage real-time insights so that you can optimize content to align with what most customers expect or need from each page. Survey software VWO calls this “asking questions for actionable insights.”

It works like this: You set a timer that triggers the survey after a user spends a certain amount of time on your site. You can also have the survey triggered by an action, such as a user exiting your site. The survey asks a targeted question related to that specific page with the goal of getting direct feedback.

Even though on-page surveys are the most reliable way to discover what your consumers want, not everyone will complete the surveys.

To increase your rate of completion, limit each survey to one or two questions max. And think carefully about the best question(s) to ask on each page. The question should be relevant to the task at hand, so that means a different survey for someone clicking away from checkout then someone on a blog article or product page.

Here are the two questions you need to ask your users. Remember that each brand is different. And every website has its own unique conversion objectives. So, while the text may differ, the objectives are similar. These two questions deliver the greatest punch at the lowest cost for you and the lowest effort for your user.

#1: Do you have any questions that you haven’t been able to find answers to?

The objective of this question is to identify gaps in your content marketing strategy. The question can be worded in all kinds of ways, so as long as it is focused on identifying unmet expectations on each phase.

Responses will be extremely useful to you in several ways. First, you can assess whether or not the page has the right content, structure, and/or CTA to address user expectations. You want to reduce friction and make each page an optimized touchpoint in your user journey.

Second, you can use these questions to inform your FAQs and other content that lives elsewhere in your purchase journey and user experience.

Finally, these insights can also be shared with your marketing colleagues so that relevant marketing campaigns can be updated with stronger copy or more targeted landing pages.

#2: What’s holding you back?

The objective of this question is to identify roadblocks in the path to purchase. This question is more conversion-oriented and best suited to later stages in the purchase journey.

It can also be phrased like this: “What’s holding you back [TARGET ACTION/ right now?” This further directs the question towards specific feedback that you’re looking for.

One potential challenge with this question is that it is very broad and may convert poorly. If that’s happening on your site, try this approach:

  1. Start with a YES/NO question: “Is there anything holding you back from buying this product right now?”
  2. Then, once a user has invested in the answer, they’re more likely to complete the second question: “What’s holding you back?”

Answers to these questions should also be shared with your sales team, as they can identify opportunities to create season sales enablement material that addresses existing and emerging user concerns.

Even if your sales team already has a robust understanding of common objections, they can benefit from real-time insights that identify shifting patterns. That’s doubly true for sales teams that only update their sales enablement content and user research quarterly. Any delay in getting these insights into the sales process reduces revenue!

Linking survey insights to analytics

We’re not going to get deep into this but a quick word about analytics. There’s a major opportunity to pull these insights into your analytics and link them to specific segments. This is how you will identify content opportunities, such as content upgrades addressing specific concerns for certain segments.

The smarter you are about matching each page’s goal with the on-page survey, the more actionable your feedback will be. You can align these goals with those Goals and Events set up in your analytics, and then match survey responses to build segments based on demographics, goal completions conversions and/or other variables in your analytics.

This requires a certain level of sophistication, which can be developed by assessing the health of your Google Analytics. An integrated approach that pulls data insights from across the business into your analytics creates a holistic view that’s both accurate and highly actionable!

The overlooked tool that supercharges your content marketing

This is the ninth in a series of articles on growth hacking, which I’m going deep into with a minidegree in Growth Marketing from the CXL Institute. Read more: What is growth hacking? | How to run a successful growth marketing experiment in six steps | This is the successful formula for A/B testing mastery| This one mindset will make you a better marketer


Content operations are one of those things that live at the unfortunate intersection of boring and mission-critical.

“Content ops” refers to everything you do to keep the content trains running on time and at full speed — or the project management of getting content planned, created and published. It’s also the safety and profitability of the trains as a business — or the tools and analytics that ensure your content is contributing to the bottom line.

One of the unsung heroes of content marketing is Google Tag Manager. GTM is a data layer builder for Google Analytics that allows you build out custom variables to send into analytics for a more nuanced, precise and valuable portrait of your user journey.

If you’re not using Google Tag Manager in your content marketing then your trains are likely running slow and intermittently. At the very least, you lose track of where your trains are, who’s on them and how much money they’ve paid for their tickets.

In other words, you don’t really know much about how users engage on your site and what actions lead to the ideal business results. You’re just not able to get as much detail and nuance with analytics alone.

Google Tag Manager fixes all of that by giving you the ability to track behavior on your website with more detail than analytics alone. And these details can have dramatic effects on how well your content marketing does its job.

Connect content to conversion

For the content marketer, one of the most important functions of Google Tag Manager is to more accurately connect content to conversion (and thus commerce). That content could be paid ads, organic social posts, blog articles, videos, webinars…whatever it is, Google Tag Manager gives you the flexibility to build a site-specific analytics masterpiece.

When deployed correctly, GTM stitches together your inbound traffic sources to show you which content types and topics resonate most with your target audiences — and which of those sources best convert attention to dollars.

One example is GTM’s “timer triggers” which allow you to measure the amount of time a user sp0ends on a page by sending data at timed intervals. You can use these intervals to see what a user is doing, how long it takes them to read articles, or which areas of a page are more engaging (or harder to read?) than others.

For instance, there’s “dwell time,” or the length of time that a user spends on specific pages. If your content is doing its job, that dwell time will be enough to capture attention long enough that you have a chance to convert attention to action. That action could be putting a product in a cart, scheduling a consultation or signing up for an email newsletter.

Let’s take your email newsletter. Do you know which pieces of content are most effective at converting to subscribers? And are you able to connect a behavior flow from social media, when someone clicks on a specific URL, and then lands on your site, consumes two articles and signs up for your newsletter? In most cases, you would attribute the conversion to the page where the sign up occurs. But that gives you an imprecise view into how each content touchpoint contributed to conversion.

Engaging content boosts conversions – and GTM gives you the insights you need to optimize your content (and thus your conversions).

Add richness to your analytics

Dwell time is only one example of the benefits of adding richness to your analytics. If you’re just publishing content and reviewing analytics, you’re not getting the full picture!

Some examples of data that you can capture:

  • Scroll depth, or how far users get down a page. While you can see this information in other third-party tools (such as Hotjar), integrating it with GTM pushes the data to your analytics. That richness gives you more precision so you can do things like segment your most engaged users or learn which traffic sources bring you the most engaged users.
  • SKUs, or product types. You can use GTM alongside Google Analytics for robust e-commerce tracking that even supports multiple currencies. By doing this, you can learn which behaviors result in your best customers — and then orient your efforts around finding more of your most valuable customers. Sure, you can see some of this in order size via your CRM; but attaching this data to a user flow means that you can segment your customers in really valuable ways.
  • Video time, or how long a user viewed a video. Are you sure that you should be using a video at that specific spot in your website? And are you certain that the video is engaging enough to merit above the fold placement? What id you could see how long someone watched the video — and then track users according to view time to see which viewing lengths correlate to the ideal customer or most conversions? Yep, with GTM you can!

Once you see how rich and useful your analytics can be, you’ll wonder how you got by without GTM. You can get so nuanced and detailed with how you capture user behavior to pass along into your analytics — it changes everything.

Bridge between domains

Have you ever wondered what happens to your analytics when someone moves from your website into a checkout flow hosted on another domain? Maybe you aren’t even aware that this is an issue. The problem is that GA assigns a new client ID each time a user lands on your site to keep sessions intact. What happens when you host a payment form elsewhere? If a user leaves and returns, analytics logs a new user and that journey is ruptured.

Not useful for an analytics-minded marketer!

Google Tag Manager supports cross-domain tracking. First, you go into Analytics to exclude domains from your referral traffic. Youll add any URLs related to your user journey that you want to remove from Google Analytics so your traffic stays intact and you can accurately pinpoint which traffic sources convert best.

Then, use GTM to stitch your traffic sources together to get a single view of a customer across your entire user journey — regardless of if its hosted across several sites. All you have to do is auto-link any domains involved in your purchase journey so that the same client ID is attached to a single user throughout her journey.

Boom — you now have a more precise sales funnel to optimize with your content marketing!

[Read more on cross-domain tracking]

Learn more about Google Tag Manager

Ready to supercharge your content marketing with tags, triggers and variables? It’s certainly a lot to learn but I can’t underscore how powerful GTM can be for your marketing communications.

Here are two key resources:

What is owned media? Defining the most affordable channel for your brand marketing strategy

Owned media that is arguably the most important piece of a brand’s content marketing strategy. It’s the core that everything else should emanate from. From this core, a brand can also leverage earned media and paid media. We’ll get to those two in future installments of the series. But first we must ask for the most important piece of it all: owned media.

What is ‘owned media?’

So what is owned media? It’s simple — and powerful:

Owned media is any content published to a channel owned and operated by the brand itself. This is any brand marketing created by the company, such as a blog, a catalog, a magazine, or a newsletter.

Social media isn’t really a form of owned media, as the brand doesn’t on the channel, it doesn’t fully qualify. The company that owns the network can change the algorithm at any point, making the company powerless to define its own future. Since the platform is controlled by third-party, there is no controlling what may happen there. An algorithmic change can wipe out a brand’s position in a matter of minutes!

Why should I care about owned media?

There is one defining feature of all owned media: You’re in control of your own destiny. That’s why it should be at the center of your brand marketing strategy, with organic media, earned media, and paid media in orbit.

Here’s a breakdown of the four parts of a successful brand marketing strategy.

Organic media

When a brand publishes to a third party platform, there is just no controlling what that platform may do. Thousands of dollars could be lost instantaneously, as an investment goes from meaningful to worthless. The time and potential sunk investment cost for organic media can be prohibitive.

Earned media. When a brand relies on public relations for media placement, there’s no controlling what types of stories journalists are working on and whether those stories align with a brand’s communications plan. Journalists are a fickle bunch, pushed towards deadlines with fewer resources than ever before. It takes a lot to cut through the clutter. The time cost for earned media can be prohibitive.

Paid media. When a brand pays for media placement, whether through sponsored content or paid advertising, there is both a financial cost and an authenticity gap. Cost per clicks are going up, and fewer users are clicking on ads. Also, sponsored content has a high cost while still being seen with a suspicious by many readers. The financial investment for paid media can be prohibitive.

Owned media. When the brand publishes to its own blog, or distributes its own magazine/newsletter, it controls the narrative completely. Content is published in the brand voice and aligned with internal company objectives. Any relationships built through capturing reader emails are fully owned by the brand. There’re no intermediaries taking a cut of the investment in the content. You are in charge of your destiny.

And the best part about owned media? The return on your investment only grows over time!

While true that you need to continue to invest in content, much of the investment occurs upfront to get your channel momentum going.

Once established, the cadence has been set, and the content starts delivering greater results for lower investment over time. This cannot be said for the other media strategies, except for perhaps earned media, where journalist relationships tend to bear more fruit over time.

So whether you’re investing in your company blog, or in a more ambitious piece of company branded content, such as a magazine, consider it a smart long-term investment.

For more proof points, check out the stats below. You’ll be amazed at how affordable an owned media strategy can be for your brand marketing strategy!


Dropping engagement rates on social media = Increased cost to distribute content on third-party platforms

Data: Hootsuite/WeAreSocial

B2B readers share owned media content with colleagues = free organic distribution of content

Data: 2018 B2B Demand Gen/Content Preferences Report

Paid search costs are increasing each quarter = Increased cost to distribute content on third-party platforms

Data: Q2 2018 Digital Marketing Report

B2B decision-making involves LOTS of branded content = plenty of opportunities to engage via owned media

Data: 2018 B2B Demand Gen/Content Preferences Report