When you hire copywriters, or even if you are one yourself, the task seems relatively simple: write good content.
But how do you define “good”?
This is a thornier subject than you might think.
One method is to look at holistic factors. Chris Ribaudo looks at factors like understandability, likability, depth and emotion.
These are the classic factors that have been involved in critiquing writing work for centuries, but their origin comes from literary criticism in fiction.
In these data-driven days, where most content is factually based, they offer a ‘soft’ solution to the issue of assessing quality. These factors are primarily subjective and almost impossible to analyze in a rigorous and consistent manner.
So how do you find metrics to assess copywriting performance?
Even that isn’t a straightforward process. There are two rounds of analytics you need to be prepared to do: pre-publishing and post-publishing.
In this article, we’re going to get into the different data driven solutions to assessing your writing quality. By the time we reach the conclusion, we’ll be talking about how you can use that assessment to improve things for your site.
1. Readability Score
Believe it or not, it is possible to assess how easily readable an article is. Your writers should be understood by the vast majority of your audience.
It’s possible to write simply about complex topics. There are tools you can use to not only assess readability, but improve it too.
Flesch-KincaidIn the Flesch reading-ease test, higher scores indicate material is easier to read, while lower scores mean the content is more difficult to read.
The formula assesses average sentence length and average word length by number of syllables. The higher these values are, the lower the score becomes.
Any score below 30 can usually only be understood by those with a college graduate level education. That said, a score over 90 can be understood by a 5th grader. Realistically, you want to be aiming for a score of around 60-70.
Gunning-Fog ScoreThe Gunning-Fog index was created by an American businessman in the 1950s, and offers a more nuanced look at the readability of a passage.
First, select a passage at random of 100 words.
First you create the average sentence length by dividing the number of words by the number of sentences.
Then you count the complex words (those with three syllables or more). Divide the total number of words by the number of complex words.
Finally, times that by 0.04
The resulting score will tell you how readable your content is. A score of 6 means it can be understood by a 6th grader. A score of 17 means it can be understood by a college graduate. As such, you want a score of around 10-12.
Both these tests have their limits. Not all difficult words have a lot of syllables, and not all words with a lot of syllables are difficult to understand. Equally, short sentences can be as confusing as long ones.
Still, as a rule of thumb, it gives you a litmus test. If you get bad scores, you know you need to do some editing.
If this all looks difficult, you’ll be glad to know there are tools to help you do most of the work.
- BiQ’s Content Intelligence will show you your content’s readability score with AI-guided optimization. Besides being able to do so, there are 25 crucial ranking factors that you can analyze instantly. Sign up for a BiQ account for free!
- ReadabilityScore.com will help you analyze this without having to do all the calculations manually. Just copy paste a chunk of text into the box and hit “measure readability”. I just put this text through and I’m doing ok so far. 64.5 on Flesch and 10.8 on Gunning Fog. Nice!
- SEOPressor Connect is something we’ve developed to try and offer a complete SEO solution for content marketers in a single WordPress Plugin. Part of that includes tools to optimize both readability and machine readability.
- Hemingway is an app I’ve talked about before in my blog on tools for copywriters. It helps you by analysing your writing live. It tells you if you’re getting too complex, and suggests what can be simplified and improved. This cuts down your editing time by letting you keep track while you write.
By what about that all important title? After all, if the title is no good, no one will read the article. Joanne just covered ways to boost your title for search and social , but here are another couple of tools to make it easier.
- CoSchedule Headline Analyzer is a great free tool that breaks down your headline into common (accessible) and uncommon (hook) words, emotional words, and power words. It will also tell you your headline type, and optimize the character and word length.
- Blog Title Generator is another little tool we’ve created that will help you come up with titles to inform your content, based on what is performing well in your niche. Just enter your keyword and industry to get great suggestions.
2. SEO Score
Now you’ve made sure your content is easily readable by humans, you need to make sure it’s also easily discoverable by search engine algorithms. If you don’t, those humans that now can read your content, won’t. Your tree will fall in the forest with no one there to hear it.
Good SEO is the key to good traffic. Here’s how to assess your SEO score:
- Keyword density is a moveable feast. The density of keywords changes according to the length of the content, the strength of the keyword, whether you’re linking internally or externally, and how well trusted your site is.
- LSI keywords usage is equally essential, but relatively little known. These are words that are semantically related to your keyword, and help amplify the keyword’s impact. We wrote a guide on how to master these, so check it out if you want to know more.
- Keyword placement is also key. You need to make sure you have your keyword in the opening, closing, title, meta description as a start. We have a handy tutorial on that too.
- Length is also really important to ranking. Contrary to popular belief, the data shows long and in-depth posts with over 3000 words tends to rank better.
Of course, there’s a lot going on here, and it may feel right now like by the time you’ve gone through all these processes you’ll never be able to publish at the rate you need to. Again, there are tools that will come to the rescue and allow you to optimize these in seconds.
- GDoc SEO Assistant lets you analyze and improve your content for better SEO, all within the accessibility of Google Doc!
- SEOPressor Connect gets a mention again here because of course, we’ve outfitted it with robust SEO tools including keyword analysis, covering every single one of these factors.
- SEOBook also have a tool for calculating keyword density, if that’s the only gap you need to fill.
- Website Grader will give you global analytics on how your website is doing overall.
- LSI Graph will help you generate semantically liked keywords for your primary keyword for inclusion.
So, between analysing your readability and SEO optimization, you’ve done everything you can to make sure an article is ready to go.
Now, in order to continue to improve your performance, you’re going to have to do it iteratively. That means learning from every article you publish in order to improve your next one.
Traffic is what you’re doing this for, right? I don’t need to tell you that you need to pay attention to it.
While no one single post is going to transform your traffic forever, every blog post will contribute to your long term success.
You need to make sure you’re measuring it accurately, and seeing what you can learn from it ready for next time.
The 3 main sources of traffic:
- Organic traffic is the traffic you don’t pay for through ads. This traffic comes to you primarily via search engines like Google and Bing. Getting organic traffic relies heavily on SEO, which is why it’s so important to get this right pre-publishing. Some consider this a Key Performance Indicator for copywriters in Search Engine Optimization and Positioning. That of course isn’t everything, but it’s important.
- Referral traffic is the traffic you get from people linking to the post on other websites. This can be people using your article as a citation or resource, or people sharing your stuff on social media like Facebook and Twitter. This relies heavily on content promotion, and link-earning initiatives with other sites.
- Direct traffic comes from people typing or pasting links into their browser, bookmarks, and internal sources. It serves as a catch all category when the source of the traffic can’t be determined. It’s worth pointing out that this gets thrown out by internal sources, with writers rechecking and revising their own work.
Fortunately, there’s a single tool that will give you an idea of exactly how these different sources of traffic are combining to produce your overall audience figures.
Google Analytics is the single most robust and powerful tool for measuring traffic. It allows you to check:
- Traffic Sources – All of the above, broken down into data visualisations.
- Keywords Searched – What people searched in order to get to your post. This might surprise you, if your LSI Keywords are working hard enough.
- Unique Visitors – How many actual people have visited your site. You can also see how many total visits you have for those who keep coming back.
- Pageviews – This tells you how many other articles or pages a visitor clicked on after the article got them through the door.
- Time On Site – The longer they spent on site and the fewer page views in that time, the more engaging and compelling your content appears to be.
4. Social Shares
Social media shares work differently to search engine traffic, because people are effectively lending their endorsement to an article (or are actively condemning it, it you’re using flame-bait). This means that those who see the shares are far more likely to click the post.
As such, social sharing is a great shorthand for how popular the content and respected the content is with real audiences, as well as telling you how likely it is to go viral.
These include Facebook shares, LinkedIn shares, Retweets, and more.
Getting a lot of social shares are also a strong sign of a good and likable content. There are key tools you can use to track these, including:
- SocialMetricsPro is a powerful WordPress plugin that helps people keep track of where their content is being shared, by whom and in what volumes. Users can track any and all shares on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Digg and LinkedIn. The tool automatically ranks posts according to their social popularity and color-codes them accordingly, while also offering advanced search and features to go deep on related content.
- Social share counter plugins are popular and commonplace, and help you not only keep track of your social shares, but display them too, to help new audiences see how popular your content is. Obviously, this is only worth doing if you’re experiencing high social performance.
Comments are useful because they’re motivated responses to the content you’ve posted. People can share their evaluation or commentary on your content, or alternatively they can add to the content by sharing their own insights.
Feedback can be received via email or through social pages, and can let you know how people feel about what you’re posting. After all, a social share might seem like a good thing, unless the person sharing it says “look at this terrible article. I can’t believe they got it so wrong.”
Having said that, all feedback is positive, even when it’s negative, as long as you’re learning from it. Negative feedback is especially positive if that was your objective, as it can sometimes be when you’re using controversy to market.
You can measure the number of comments, evaluate the positive versus negative comments, and do both quantitative (statistical) and qualitative (insightful) analysis of the comments to help make your content better.
Disqus is a suite of add-on tools that provide you with the best way to track your following and help it grow. The tools include:
- Engage – engage is a comments section that matches your current website design, but includes many more features than the usual comments section. It allows for fast moderation, metrics and demographic data. It offers commenters the ability to set up notifications, follow other commenters and more, all designed to retain and engage audiences.
- Reveal – Reveal is the advertising side of the software, which allows you to create in-text ads within the comments section, keeping your actual article nice and clean. The best part of this is that if it doesn’t suit you, you can opt out to keep everything clean.
- KYA is another analytics tool with a smart comments section that allows you to get detailed information on your audience engagement, which is also summarised handily with a score for each post. Because it tracks behavior on and off-site, it gives you a more overall understanding of how people are responding to your posts.
6. Opt-in & Conversion Rates
If the intent of the content is to make audiences take an action (and all content should motivate people to do that, whether explicitly or otherwise), then you need to track how well it is doing that.
This means taking your focus away from how good it is in a qualitative, soft way and instead measure how fit for purpose it is.
There are several ways your content can convert:
- Sign-ups for email lists can increase if content is set up to share a taster of what exclusive content lies ahead for exclusive subscribers.
- Downloading stuff can also encouraged through posts by explaining the need for a download and what it will achieve for the user.
- Completing a purchase can be encouraged whether through the use of special incentives in the blog post or simple, classic marketing.
The point of a fit for purpose post is that it should convert. This means taking readers and turning them into active parties. You can see how well content is converting by looking at the ratio of readers in the audience to purchasers/subscribers.
If an article draws a huge crowd that’s one kind of success. If an article makes all 20 people who read it drop a thousand dollars on a course, that’s a different kind of success.
- Google Analytics can help you measure blog conversion if you know how to use it, and if you’ve set it up right. For content to be able to convert, you need to have a structure in which the content plays a valuable role. No article will, in itself, make you a million dollars. There needs to be infrastructure, commonly referred to as a sales funnel.Create a Goal URL, and make it the page that will enable your readers to take action. You can then put the call to action in the content, and measure the conversion by how many click throughs you get to the goal URL using Google Analytics. The reverse goal path will then tell you exactly which post converted the visitor.
Remember, Tools Fix Specific Problems
Tools aren’t the end goal. Don’t simply use everything in this list to tick-box a checklist and say you’ve done everything. Now you know what processes are available, you need to undertake an analysis of your own site, your objectives, and how to best use these tools to match those objectives.
For some, it may be all about the conversion numbers. After all, that’s the direct route to profit.
Early on when you’re still in the audience development phase, more qualitative factors like readability and social sharing will matter more. You need to know you’re getting the greatest number of eyes on your website.
It’s also worth mentioning that your copywriter, whether that’s you taking on the role yourself or someone you’ve hired, is therefore only one cog in the machine. They have a responsibility to write the content, and you need to give them the tools to ensure that content matches your expectations.
If you don’t give your writer a pre-established goal then it isn’t their fault the content doesn’t convert.
Equally, you can serve several objectives at once in a single piece of writing, but you have to prioritize. Is the piece mostly about selling, or is it mostly about establishing authority? Is it about getting sign ups or is it about entertaining?
These factors are all inter-related, but one must come first. Fortunately, there’s a tool to help you measure success, whichever it is.
Using Tools To Build Success
The mark of a great writer is not just how well they write, but how well they can respond to changes. Fulfilling the brief is one thing, but it’s also important to be able to work longitudinally with copywriters. Your relationship with them will develop and change. So should your approach.
When you start out, you’ll have relatively little data to go on. As you start to collect more with the help of these tools, this will inform and shape your approach.
If your writer’s work is performing poorly, you can present your writer with the data and make recommendations to improve that performance. When they know these are informed decisions rather than based purely on matters of taste, they should be able to easily understand why they need to adapt.
What’s more, when they see the results change as a result of the adaptation, they’ll feel more motivated to continue doing so in the future. Anything else is stubbornness and a clear warning sign that they could jeopardize your long-term success.
What other tools to do you use to inform how your content strategy evolves? Any crucial approaches I’ve missed? Are you a disgruntled copywriter who thinks they know better? Drop your ideas in the comments below.
This post was originally written by Azfar and published on Oct 13, 2016. It was most recently updated on November 28, 2019
Updated: 28 June 2020