New web metric puts the I in AIDA and helps optimize content

The first marketing class I ever had in college taught me the AIDA model of advertising. It’s still used today, lo these many years later. The AIDA model goes like this: Once you attract Attention, you must generate Interest, create Desire, and enable your market to take Action. Do all of those things and you’re golden.

Back then the only way you could actually measure any of these (except for the last A, which was making a sale) was by employing expensive and time-consuming research. The web changed all that. It allows us to measure each of these steps — except for that pesky thing called Interest.

Until now, the interest that people exhibit in a site’s content has been impossible to accurately measure through current techniques. What has changed? I and my team have come up with a workable solution — a simple way to plug the hole in that famous AIDA acronym.

We’ve found a way to reliably measure web visitor interest.

That’s a bold statement, but here’s why I make that assertion. After analyzing a critical mass of data from the site of one of our largest clients, I can say with confidence that we have a metric that is the rarest of creatures. It is a measurement that arms content managers with real, actionable feedback about the changes they’ve made to web content over which they have responsibility.Of all the content changes year-to-date, those in page #2 were most effective, as measured by CIIThe metric is called CII: Content Interest Index. I’ve been wrong more than once in my career. Sometimes I’ve been wrong in spectacular ways. But I firmly believe from what I’ve witnessed that this is a unique and valuable tool for managers of many types of sites.

The CII is most valuable for those who manage large amounts of product and service information, delivered over a site with a content management system (CMS) handling a ton of impressions. Volume is really key. The biggest constraint of this metric is it requires high levels of traffic to the pages being measured.

The graphic above is a sample from an analysis for a client — who will remain anonymous — who manages that critical mass of traffic I was referring to, and has provided two year’s worth of data to analyze. In the graphic, the CII illustrates to a single content manager how five product pages are doing, this year compared to last. Specifically, it shows that for two of the pages, CII has dropped in real numbers, while in all five cases page views have risen.

These CII comparisons help a content manager optimize pages using real feedback provided directly by the user (through the measurement of two behaviors, as described below). In the hands of the right content manager, CIIs for the pages managed should progressively climb, as a positive feedback loop continues to reward well-targeted content. It’s the equivalent of a public speaker talking to real audiences, and getting real applause (and real yawns), as opposed to merely guessing at what people want to hear by speaking to an empty room.

How is CII Calculated?

As this white paper (a PDF file) on the CII explains, this is a simple metric that can be built into just about any web site. Here is how it is described there:

The CII counts instances of a page’s “Printer Friendly Format” or “Email a Colleague” icon receiving a click. This observes what are arguably the two most common ways that visitors save or share information – either through printing or emailing content. To factor out a page’s level of overall readership, the sum of clicks is divided by page views.

Page views still come into the equation of analyzing CII, and they are excellent measures of the first A of a site’s AIDA. In other words, the number of people who view a page can be a proxy for the amount of attention you have to play with for that page.

As the white paper explains, the D of AIDA can also be measured using existing web metrics, because desire is exhibited as prospects circle your product or service more closely — and more often — investigating things like delivery options, pricing variables and means of payment. And, as with the “real” world, the online marketplace has always measured the A — as in action, well. This is a transaction.

That leaves interest as something without a good yardstick. Until now.

Check out my white paper and feel free to adopt the system on your own site.

I’d like to extend a special thank you to all of my marketing and technology friends and colleagues who have helped by commenting on drafts of this white paper. Your help has been invaluable.