Single metrics vs. complex metrics for measuring content performance

As a publisher or content professional, you certainly want to properly measure the performance of your content in order to:

  • Adjust your strategy the right way so that it corresponds with your audience’s expectations and aligns with your business model​
  • Improve the overall quality of your output and differentiate yourself from the competition​
  • Increase your revenue rates and better your brand image

Measuring content performance is inseparable from knowing and truly understanding how your readers engage with your content.

But making sense of data is ever easy.

This is why we created Content Insights, the next-generation content analytics solution.

In this article, we will cover the basics of measuring content performance and explain the key differences between single metrics and complex metrics.

After reading this article, you should get a clearer idea on how to truly analyze content performance and understand the importance of having actionable insights about your content, from a business perspective.

1. Content Insights: philosophy & approach

There are a lot of content analytics solutions out there designed for newsrooms, online media, or any type of publishers and content professionals. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these solutions

  • rely on single metrics and
  • measure browser events opposed to human behavior

This is the key problem.

If you take reports from this type of analytics tools for granted, you risk 1) false interpreting available data and 2) basing your entire strategy on wrong performance metrics.

At Content Insights, we believe content analytics should serve its users, not the other way around. Content analytics should save your time, not waste it.

We know that interpreting data isn’t a simple task and that you’re more interested in the human behavior, not just numbers and raw data. This is why we made our content analytics solution very intuitive and user-friendly, with real insights that are easily understandable and therefore actionable.

Our content analytics solution relies on the complex algorithm called Content Performance Indicator (CPI). CPI takes into consideration dozens of different content performance metrics and examines their relations. It also weighs them differently according to three behavioral models: exposure, engagement, and loyalty.

As a metric, CPI is always presented in the form of a number, from 1 to 1000, with 500 being the baseline (a.k.a. the “norm”) for the observed website, section, topic, author or article.

(Unlike many of content analytics out there, Content Insights designed complex, behavior metrics. Want to know more about them? Move on to the fifth and sixth section of this article.)

2. Who is content insights for

Content Insights was initially created with newsrooms and publishers in mind: by editors, for editors. The idea was to enable editors to identify the best authors and reward them accordingly, and to get the clearer idea about the type of content their audience is interested in.

The first version of Content Insights measured author performance and then it shifted its focus to measuring content performance. As you probably realized, these are not mutually exclusive (on the contrary).

Throughout the years, our CPI algorithm has evolved. Recently, it reached its third, most precise version yet. And we are very proud of that.

With additional features, high utility, and continuous development – Content Insights has expanded the pool of its users. We offer valuable insights for:

  • Publishers and newsrooms
  • Content marketers
  • SEO professionals
  • Professional bloggers

Basically, all professionals who deal with content on some level and need to measure their content performance can benefit from Content Insights.

3. Why measuring content performance matters​

We’ve all heard the saying: what gets measured, gets managed. Regardless of your professional role, by measuring your content performance – you’re testing your gut feeling and ensuring that you stay on the right track.

Skipping this step in your workflow might put you in danger of using the “spray and pray” approach, meaning you won’t be able to understand the logic behind your success or see which areas could be optimized. And assumption is the mother of all errors.

Here’s why measuring content performance matters, for different roles:

3.1 Publishers & newsrooms

In the era of clickbait and cheap-thrill-content, publishers and newsrooms have struggled to find a sustainable business model without jeopardizing their integrity and the quality of their content.

We know it’s hard to monetize on information in the era of hyperconnectivity where information is so easily accessible. But our clients have proven it is possible to optimize for quality and they do so thanks to the actionable insights provided within our content analytics.

(See how De Persgroep uses Content Insights to increase their subscription business or explore other success stories.)

By looking at the behavior metrics in our content analytics, you can understand the level of engagement of your audience and identify your loyal readers who have the highest probability of converting to subscribers. But this is just an example of the utility of the data available in the app. You can act on this information and continuously listen to your audience in order to fine-tune your strategy and the content you produce.

As a publisher or a member of an online newsroom, you need to measure content performance so you can optimize for different business models:

  • Subscriptions and paywalls​
  • Memberships
  • Native advertising​
  • Ads

(Curious about the way how Content Insights can support your business model or help you develop a new one? Contact our marketing team and we’ll send you the materials right away.)

3.2 Content marketers

Many companies know that their brand could benefit from content marketing, but they get discouraged or sceptical if they don’t see the results right away.

Opposed to paid marketing where numbers are pretty clear and the results are far more tangible (money-wise), content marketing requires a different approach to reporting.

A proper content marketing strategy relies on producing and distributing different types of content that cover all phases of the sales funnel: from raising brand awareness and educating relevant prospects so they can make an informed decision about where to put their money, to actually motivating purchase and ensuring customers are satisfied, remain loyal to the brand, and ultimately – recommend the brand to others.

As you know, not all of these phases include conversions, but they are essential for navigating and managing your customers’ journey. Content marketing is all about building relationships with people through continuous offering of value. The key is to “woo” them and guide them towards making a purchase while actually caring about their level of happiness and the quality you provide.

For content marketers, properly measuring content performance is of crucial importance.

Being a content marketer, you are certainly familiar with the problem of setting relevant KPI’s and creating reports that are reliable enough to prove your client/employer the benefits and ROI of content marketing.

With Content Insights, you can clearly see how your content resonates with your audience. Stop relying on your hunches and arbitral interpretation of data. Our reports won’t drown you in numbers: we extract and explain data to you so you don’t waste a lot of your precious time making sense of it.

3.3 SEO professionals

Content and SEO are inseparable practices and they go together well, just like milk and cookies.

If you’re working in the SEO industry, you are certainly familiar with its exciting challenges. It’s not easy to keep up with the pace when things change fast, which is why agility remains the number one trait to have in this context. But that’s what makes the job interesting, right?

A good portion of SEO experts are focused on increasing online visibility for brands by producing quality content and optimizing it with relevant keywords, as well as building a strong backlink portfolio. In order to do their jobs properly, they use various SEO tools such as SEMRush, Ahrefs, Google Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest, Moz, etc. These types of tools enable you to do keyword research, monitor your backlinks and domain authority, keep an eye on your competition, brainstorm content ideas, and more.

However, these tools need to be used side by side with an analytics solution of your choice. You need to assess how your content is performing: from monitoring the traffic it attracts, to actually seeing how people consume and engage with your content.

Now imagine if you could do this with precise metrics that actually measure your audience behavior? Imagine if you could see not just the number of people who landed on your page, but the number of those who have read your content, engaged with it and found it useful? Imagine if you could measure the time they spend attentively consuming your content opposed to the time the page was just opened in the browser (regardless of their activity)?

Well, with Content Insights – you can do that. And a lot more. For instance, you can identify articles that “resurrect” at some point, which might be good opportunities for additional optimization or repurposing (in our app, those are called Long-tail Articles). You can see if there is a way to turn these articles into your evergreen content/linkable assets that will generate traffic continuously.

As an SEO professional, you certainly know that the ultimate goal of search engines is to provide the best possible and most relevant answers to user queries, organize the web and act as a filter for quality. Google’s complex algorithm relies on more than 200 ranking factors in order to make it easier for people to find what they are searching for.

In the SEO world, focusing on user experience and optimizing content for quality is the key to better rankings. To do so, you have to have the right metrics in order to measure your progress.

(Want to find out more about how Content Insights can help you maximize your SEO results? Request a demo or contact us today.)

3.4 Professional bloggers

Professional bloggers who have succeeded at making a living out of content have to have the right measurement system in order to know which milestones they’ve reached and how they can continue progressing.

If you generate high amounts of monthly traffic, you can certainly benefit from investing into an easy-to-understand content analytics solution that will help you figure out the best business model for yourself.

Most of the bloggers monetize their content through affiliate marketing or native advertising. These concepts imply a collaboration between bloggers and brands: brands utilize the credibility and reputation of prominent bloggers who already have a solid audience in a certain niche that’s of interest to them. Through the power of recommendation, brands are able to reach new potential customers, be it through creatively designed branded stories or through affiliate links.

In order to make the most of these business opportunities and approach these collaborations professionally, bloggers need to offer a certain proof of their website real estate and the personal brand image they’ve established for themselves. This is where content analytics steps in.

Showcasing the level of readers’ engagement and their loyalty, the exposure your website has, the total number of article reads and the read depth of your content – can make a solid case for forming business partnerships with various brands.

That’s just a small portion of what you can do with Content Insights.

(Want to find out more about how Content Insights can help you boost your blogging business? Request a demo or contact us today.)

Alas, working with content is always tricky. It’s hard to predict how people will interact with what you produce. This is precisely why your hypothesis needs to be anchored in the data.

You cannot pick your data, but you can pick the metrics that bring value to your organization and empower you to improve your results.

4. What are single (simple) metrics and browser metrics?

Single metrics do not provide a full picture nor can they help you understand how your content performs. They are one-dimensional and usually describe a single action that’s not necessarily tied to real human behavior.

Browser metrics is a colloquial term for metrics that measure browser events, meaning they cannot properly track human activity.

Take Pageviews for example: this metric might as well be called Page-Loads since it doesn’t necessarily reflect the number of times a certain page was viewed, but a number of times a certain page was loaded in the browser (regardless of whether or not the page was opened for just a second or even read).

(To learn more about the fallacy of trusting single and browser metrics, move on to the sixth section.)

5. What are complex behavior metrics

Opposed to single (simple) metrics and browser metrics, complex metrics combine different types of metrics which are weighed properly, in order to quantitatively measure actions that matter. This way, you’ll get access to actual insights without digging through raw data. You won’t have to waste your time and energy in the attempt to extract data and then manually put those available metrics in the right correlations.

Behavior metrics measure real human behavior. They take in mind the actual human actions that happen behind the screen, not just what happens within the browser.

Content Insights’ metric called Read Depth is a good example of behavior metric: it unveils how deeply a visitor has got into reading a piece of content by taking in mind several metrics that indicate the level of reader’s engagement.

To better understand the difference between single metrics and complex metrics, move on to the next section.

6. Simple metrics VS complex metrics

Now that we explained what are single metrics and what are complex metrics, it’s time to see what does this division look like in practice. We’ll show how Google Analytics and most of the analytics tools on the market measure things, and how we at Content Insights do this.

6.1 Pageviews VS article reads

Pageviews is a metric adopted by many analytics tools out there, but alas – it cannot measure content performance. Many people falsely interpret the data in the following way:

More pageviews = more people read my content. 

However, this is not quite accurate.

According to Google’s definition:

A pageview (or pageview hit, page tracking hit) is an instance of a page being loaded (or reloaded) in a browser. Pageviews is a metric defined as the total number of pages viewed. […] If a user clicks reload after reaching the page, this is counted as an additional pageview. If a user navigates to a different page and then returns to the original page, a second pageview is recorded as well.

There is also a metric called Unique Pageviews. It represents the number of sessions during which that page was viewed one or more times. So, if a user visits a certain page and comes back to it within the same session, only 1 unique pageview will be recorded.

However, neither Pageviews, nor Unique Pageviews – can describe the way people engage with your content.

A person might open a page in a new tab while doing something else and then never come back to it, or open it and immediately close it. Pageviews will be recorded regardless.

You certainly want more meaningful data than this, right? This is why we developed complex, behavior metrics:

  • Article Reads
  • Read Depth
  • Page Depth
  • Engagement CPI

These can really help you get valuable answers to burning questions.

Want to see how many times readers actually started reading your articles, not just opened them? Article Reads is a behavior metric that takes in mind attentive time spent on page, but also the way people interact with the page (e.g. clicks, text selection, scrolls, etc.).

Want even more information about the level of their engagement and to see how deeply they’ve got into reading a piece of content? Our Read Depth metric shows you just that.

Interested in how well do your articles perform in terms of making people stick around and explore other content on your website? Our Page Depth score can serve as your compass here.

Want to identify which content is connecting well with your audience, and which generates the most interest from your readers? Measuring engagement is complex, but you can look at Engagement CPI for guidance. Presented in the number between 1 and 1000 (with 500 being the threshold or “the norm” for the observed website), Engagement CPI will calculate everything for you and provide you with the top-overview of your content.

6.2 Average time on page VS attention time

When trying to define the level of engagement, many publishers look at the Time on Page and Average Time on Page metrics. They falsely interpret the data in the following way:

Great Time on Page = great engagement

If we blindly trust the name of this metric, we can interpret it as the length of time people spent actively consuming content on a certain page, but it cannot measure this.

Time on Page measures the total time a certain page remains open in the browser tab within a single session, regardless of whether the person is there or not. In addition, Google Analytics cannot measure the time a user spent on the last page of their visit to your site (unless you deploy some event trackers that will record engagement hits). Plus, if the visitor leaves after viewing just one page (i.e. if a visit is a bounce) – no time will be recorded at all.

Pretty tricky, right?

So, how are you supposed to measure real, attentive (engaged) time that your articles generate? Attention Time is a behavior metric that can help you out here. Rest assured “idle time” won’t be included here – only the actual time users spent consuming your content.

6.3 Returning visitors VS loyal audience; new visitors VS Exposure CPI

Publishers and content professionals try to make sense of their web traffic by monitoring new and returning visitors. This way, they hope to see how good their articles are at attracting new audiences and retaining existing readers. It’s easy to falsely interpret the data in the following way: 

Returning visitors = my loyal audience; New visitors = new audiences I’ve managed to reach.

One glance at the New vs. Returning Visitors report and you seem to have all the data you need. Quite straightforward and logical, right?

Well, not really.

First, we have to make it clear how Google Analytics and similar analytics tools track users.

The first time a certain device (desktop, tablet, mobile device) or browser (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer) loads your website content, Google Analytics tracking code assigns a random, unique ID called the client id to it, and then sends it to the server.

Unique id is counted as a new unique user in the reports. However, if the user deletes browser cookies or changes the device when visiting the website, the id gets deleted and reset.

Returning Visitor is the one who uses the same device or browser as before to access the website and start a new session, without clearing cookies. So, if Google Analytics detects the existing client id in a new session, it sees it as a returning visitor.

So, what’s the issue here?

Well, analytics tools might count the same visitor who returned to the website as new – just because they’ve changed their device or browser, or cleared their cookies. That’s simply the way users are tracked. Plus, the same visitor might be recorded as new and returning, if they return within a certain time period, which causes data discrepancies.

This metric does not indicate the number of loyal users nor does it describe their loyal behavior. It only measures browser activity.

You may want more from this report, possibly to find answers to questions like:

  • How good is my content at keeping people engaged?​
  • How well do particular articles help me build loyal audiences?
  • How do people connect and interact with my content?
  • Are these people just occasional visitors or have they built a habit of returning to my publication and consuming my content?

To help you answer these questions, we managed to define what makes a reader loyal. Our definition of loyal readers as “habitually highly engaged readers” has proven to be consistent and statistically correct. Their “Active Days” are counted in a specific way within the Content Insights app, so that you’re certain that coming to your website is a part of their routine.

We measure loyalty on an reader level because we know that’s what you’re interested in. Thanks to the latest version of our Loyalty CPI, you can see which articles encourage loyal behavior, organize your content team accordingly, or even introduce a new business model.

If your goal is to increase the visibility of your publication, you need tangible data to see if what you are currently doing is bringing results. New vs. Returning Visitors report does not provide a full picture.

If you value volume, our Exposure CPI can give you a clue of which articles are good at attracting new audiences.

7. How is Google Analytics insufficient for content performance measurement

As we already explained in the previous section, Google Analytics is an out-of-the-box analytics tool that relies on single metrics which are not suitable for measuring content performance. It was designed primarily for ecommerce businesses.

The behavior of potential shoppers who are browsing products online is significantly different from behavior of people who read or consume different types of content.

Online shoppers who are ready to make a purchase (or are in the phase of collecting information to make one) typically make a sequence of different website interactions as they go through the product catalogue.

They usually have a specific intent when coming to your website. In this sense, metrics offered in Google Analytics can be of use (if taken with a grain of salt), while event and goal tracking provide a relevant monitoring system of how well your product pages are converting.

Google Analytics offers a variety of reports, which gives users an impression that they have rich set of relevant data at their disposal. But publishers and content professionals have little use of these reports.

Take for instance the Behavior report. After exploring available metrics and reading about the way GA measures things – do you really think this report can provide you with reliable insights on how your content performs? Despite its name, you don’t really get access to behavior data that you can act on. But not many people will think that far: they’ll just be glad to have at least some data to hang onto.

Also, you should take in mind the data limitations that Google Analytics has:

  • Standard (free) Google Analytics has a limit of 10 million hits per month per property
  • With the paid version, Google Analytics 360, you get 1 billion + hits count per month per property

Hits are any type of user interactions that are being recorded in the GA. If it happens that your website exceeds the number of hits that are allowed by the Analytics Terms of Service, the excess hits are not likely to be processed.

Data sampling may occur if the number of sessions for the date range you are using exceeds the threshold for your property type. For free version of Google Analytics, this is 500.000 sessions for the selected date range, and for the premium version it is 500 million.

Publishers should know that Google Analytics selects samples randomly. This raises suspicions regarding the precision and accuracy of the sampling method.

For instance, if you run a publication that has 10 million sessions, sampling would have to be employed. It would include a maximum of 500.000 sessions, which is only 5% of your total sessions. The burning question is: is this a relevant enough sample for your report to be accurate?

In addition, free version of Google Analytics might not be a good choice for your publication if you have a lot of users and therefore generate a lot of monthly traffic and interactions. If you exceed the number of hits, you can experience inconsistencies in your data and therefore – miss the full picture of the way your content is performing.

Before the limit is reached, Google will send a warning to your account. For websites that have a lot of visitors, this is clearly not an option. Minimal annual pricing for the premium version (Google Analytics 360) is around $150.000,00.

Content Insights forms its pricing depending on the size of the publication, i.e. the amount of data being processed. If this data gets exceeded, the team waits for 3 months to see if this means the publication in question has reached a new tier. This way, we can be certain that increased visits are not just a temporary trend. After three months, the publication in question gets notified about the pricing upgrade. Also, we don’t deploy data sampling.

8. How to explain the value of content analytics to your team member

We know how difficult it can be to explain the value of content analytics to your team members. A lot of communication gaps naturally occur when you have people of different opinions, job roles, decision-making powers, and personal beliefs.

The most common misconception we encounter is the following:

“Content analytics is nice to have, but it is not necessary for our organization.”

People are naturally very resistant to change. They don’t like adopting new tools, regardless of how mild the learning curve is, or the actual benefits they’ll get.

You may have heard of Raymond Loewy, the father of Industrial Design who came up with the MAYA concept for successfully introducing innovations. MAYA = Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable, which means it’s necessary to find just the right balance between what’s already familiar and adopted in the present, and new things/features that evoke the future. This way, you are including familiar patterns in the design of your product, making it easier for users to adopt them.

At Content Insights, we were very careful to create a content analytics solution that won’t disrupt your usual workflow or make the adoption phase painful. On the contrary, it aims to enrich your everyday content operations and help you make the most of your content efforts. In a way, it’s your data-rich strategic partner.

The whole point of using content analytics is to measure progress and adjust your strategy straight based on real data, not on your assumptions. This way, you will be able to create better content that your audience will be pleased with and consequently – earn more money.

Can your organization work without content analytics? Sure, but the burning questions remain:

  • How well can your organization work without content analytics?
  • What are the potential monetization opportunities you miss because you don’t have access to the right data?
  • Is your success there because of the lucky set of circumstances or something else?
  • Every piece of content you produce has to have a goal, so how do you know if you reached it?
  • You produce content for your readers, but how do you know if you’re doing a good job without their feedback?
  • How do you know if there are ways to improve your output?
  • If you’re an author, how can you be sure your developing professionally and progressing if there are no insights about the way your content performs that can guide you?

Let’s use a simple analogy: imagine you’re on a fitness journey, trying to lose weight and become healthier. As you know, each body is unique and responds differently to diet changes and workout regimes. You may choose to start a certain training plan and improve your nutrition by decreasing sugar intake, for instance.

But unless you measure yourself consistently, you won’t be able to control your progress or make necessary changes to your routine in order to achieve your goals. You won’t have enough tangible data to see if you’re losing fat fast enough or if you should pivot to a better program, more suitable for you.

Is it possible to lose weight regardless? Yes. Is it better to measure progress? Definitely.

9. Why Content Insights and not some other content analyics solution

As we already explained:

  • Content Insights relies on an advanced algorithm called Content Performance Indicator (CPI) that focuses on real human behavior, opposed to browser events.
  • CPI takes into consideration dozens of different content performance metrics and examines their relations. It weighs them accordingly to three behavior models: exposure, engagement, and loyalty.

This is the heart and soul of our analytics solution and its greatest advantage.

Here’s an overview of why Content Insights makes the perfect choice for your publication or content business:

Intelligence tool that provides actionable insights suitable for different business models​

Google Analytics and similar analytics tools are just that – tools. Google Analytics allows you to measure tons and tons of stuff, but it is not an intelligence tool that publishers and content professionals need.

Most of the analytics tools do not provide actionable insights. Google Analytics has limited features out-of-the-box, but it does offer webmasters an opportunity to build upon it, create custom dimensions, deploy goal and event tracking, etc.

Our goal at Content Insights is to ensure you stay data-informed, not data-blinded.

The advantage of our analytics solution in this context lies in the fact that it directs the attention of editors, publishers, and content creators to what really matters. It is an intelligence tool since it shows you exactly how your content is performing and interprets the data for you, so you can devote your time to more meaningful actions.

Content Insights aligns with different business models and is a strategic partner in a sense, looking not to replace data analysts but to make their jobs significantly easier.

Whether you rely on subscriptions, ads or native advertising, our analytics solution can help you grow your business.

(Curious about the way how Content Insights can support your business model or help you develop a new one? Contact our marketing team and we’ll send you the materials right away.)

New approach to reader loyalty​

Our definition of the loyal reader as the “habitually highly engaged reader” has shown to be statistically accurate, consistent and very valuable for subscription-based businesses. We also managed to prove a correlation between the reader’s journey and the probability of converting what we call loyal readers – into subscribers.

Content Insights’ product development and data engineering teams are currently in the phase of fine-tuning the comprehensive report for publishers who run their businesses by relying on reader revenue, i.e. the subscription excellence report.

This report should help publishers optimize their paywalls, understand true audience behavior in order to distinguish which premium content is not performing well and which free content could be turned into premium. In addition, it will help publishers grow their base of loyal readers and nurture the relationship with them as this group has the highest probability of becoming subscribers. Preventing churn is also an important piece of the puzzle.

Strategic partner for your growth​

Content Insights is a progress-driven company with real editors in their ranks who understand the complexity of measuring content performance, as well as the struggles of finding a sustainable business model that actually works.

We nurture great relationships with our clients, devote attention to them and ask for their feedback in the different stages of developing our product. Our client success team is devoted to helping you make the most out of our analytics app and support you when you’re in doubt regarding the insights you need to take in mind for your business model.

In addition, our CPI algorithm relies on ratios that are tailored to your specific publication. By relying on metrics available in Content Insights – you can grow steadily and healthily, and define what success means for you. CPI’s baseline value is formed based on your current success, but it adjusts as you become better, and supports your progress in the best possible way.

(Interested in the full list of key value points Content Insights can bring to your organization? Contact our marketing team and we’ll send you the materials right away.)

Now the spotlight’s on you!

What type of analytics tools do you use?

What are the gaps not covered by the available metrics?

We’d love to hear from you and discuss your business challenges in order to see if a different approach to measuring success might be more fruitful for your organization.

Get in touch with Content Insights today at!