Talk About Data to Improve Your Digital Content

foundation_digital analytics January 25, 2021 By: Jenny Nelson

When you bring key data points to conversations about content, you sharpen your focus on what’s working and what isn’t. ASAE Research Foundation studies benchmark what associations are doing with their data and offer guidance for more effective application.

How is your content doing? That’s a question that leaders increasingly should be able to answer, according to the ASAE Research Foundation report Association Content Strategies for a Changing World. As digital content has become a primary mode of knowledge dissemination, monitoring digital analytics was one of 17 tactics recommended by the research to support an overarching content strategy.

Associations are recognizing the importance of analytics. Benchmarking research from the foundation shows the diverse methods that associations use to monitor their digital data. But many associations are still sorting out how to answer a second critical question: How are you applying what you know about your content?

As defined by the report, monitoring digital analytics means “[c]ollecting data on content usage and applying data to measure content usage and success. Analytics tools are only one part of the larger effort to determine the target audience and measurable goals, do the measurement, and make decisions about content based on the data.”

Most respondents were familiar with digital analytics, and 83 percent said their organization monitored digital analytics in some way. But collecting data is only one part of the equation—the application of content data is where organizations find value. Association professionals rated applying analytics as one of the most valuable content strategy tactics, but they also rated it as more difficult than collecting the data.

How Associations Track Digital Data

Benchmarking in Association Management: Policies and Procedures, Vol. 1 pulled together a number of key benchmarks on association marketing and communication practices. Roughly two out of three respondents handle their marketing and communications analytics in house. Slightly more than 6 percent outsource their analytics, while about 20 percent use in-house and outsourced resources as necessary.

57.3% Percentage of associations that said that they look at their data in department-level strategic discussions about content.

Popular data points include website traffic and usage (monitored by 86.6 percent of respondents) and email open rates and click-through rates (82 percent and 84.1 percent, respectively). Google Analytics was the most common data source—91.5 percent of respondents reported their organization used it—and 47.7 percent tracked unique URLs.

Organizations are also tracking social media metrics to understand the success of shared content. The most commonly used data points include number of likes (82.5 percent), number of page views (78.8 percent), and number of shares (72.9 percent).

But associations are applying data less than they’re collecting it. When asked how metrics are applied to content strategy and planning decisions, just 57.3 percent of respondents said that they look at their data in department-level strategic discussions. Even fewer, 47.4 percent, said that metrics are used for other dissemination-related decisions, while 28.4 percent said that metrics are not applied at all.

Tips for Applying Digital Data

Association Content Strategies for a Changing World provides a number of recommendations for putting your data to work. A first step is to simply bring data to the discussion, which improves buy-in within the department and with the top executives, according to multiple respondents.

Metrics are most illuminating if everyone has a shared understanding of goals. An organizational content governance policy that documents goals and success indicators sets up clearer conversations about data and implications within departments and across teams. A policy also helps identify what to adjust if goals aren’t being met.

Leaders also may find value in sharing metrics with members, especially with committees that oversee resource creation or contribute content. If content creators know what sparks member interest and drives traffic, they can guide and create more effective content. 

Jenny Nelson

Jenny Nelson is director, content and knowledge resources, at ASAE.