If Avinash Kaushik knew this data the way I know it, I have no doubt he’d agree. It’s time to welcome this data into your life with a big bear hug and an awkwardly long kiss. (Okay, maybe you don’t have to be awkward about it…) Before I explain why this data is so exciting for your content marketing or content strategy, let me clarify what I mean by content sentiment and perception data.

What Is Content Sentiment + Perception Data?

This data is not web analytics. It’s data such as but not limited to:

  • Responses to content-specific questions on surveys.
  • Ratings of content.
  • Comments about your content posted on or sent directly through your website, social media, email, or other touchpoints.

This data reveals your customers’ or users’ intent, attitude, perspective, impressions, thinking, and more related to your content.

A common misperception is that this data is qualitative and, consequently, inferior to analytics. Noooooo! With a decent sample in your survey, for example, you can have statistical confidence in perception data.

Some of this data is text based. Not numbers. Text. Another common myth is that this data isn’t as good as the numbers. Not true. In fact, this text data is often better. That’s why the prestigious 2016 Robert J. Lavidge Global Marketing Research Prize went to Tom H.C. Anderson of OdinText, a firm that has advanced natural language and text analysis in practical ways for companies ranging from Disney to Shell.

In short, many of us have dismissed this kind of data the way we dismiss a potential suitor (did I mention I’m from the 1800s?) as not good enough for us. In fact, this kind of data is not only good enough for us, it’s exactly what we need to make our content strategy or content marketing thrive.

Here are 3 reasons why.

1. It Fills the “Why” Gap in Your Data

If you know what your users or customers do with your content but not why, you don’t know much. Take American Cancer Society, who found that their content about quitting smoking on cancer.org had high page views and a high bounce rate.

What does that mean?

Did visitors to that content find exactly what they needed and then leave? Or did visitors find the content unhelpful and quickly seek information elsewhere?

The analytics alone couldn’t tell the whole story for the Society. What’s more, as the Society thought more about their goals for smokers or their loved ones, they realized reaching a lot of people (e.g., high page views) was important, but having an impact on people’s efforts to quit smoking was even more important. Analytics alone couldn’t tell them much about how the content influenced smokers and other visitors.

So, the Society started to take a close look at other data, including perception and sentiment data from their own survey and ContentWRX. A complete picture started to emerge, and the Society realized that the quitting smoking content was falling short of their goals. (Learn more about the Society’s approach to content intelligence here.)

2. It Makes Decisions About Your Content Easier

If you have a clear understanding of why people do what they do with your content, you can more easily make changes to optimize, improve, or address problems. For example, the open source leader Red Hat assembled a content index and scoring method that factors in a variety of data, not just analytics. True to their transparent culture, the leaders of this initiative—Leigh Blaylock and Jared Whitehead—closely involved content stakeholders from product and marketing teams along the way. This scoring convinced a company of 10,000 enthusiastic professionals to go on a “content diet” and archive content that simply wasn’t having the right impact.

Content Diet by Red Hat
Content Diet slide from Red Hat’s 2016 CMWorld presentation


I find it amazing they managed to avoid hassles such as ugly cries and gladiator-style battles as people let go of their attachment to unhealthy content habits. But that’s the power of having a complete set of useful data, including content sentiment and perception data, to understand your content’s impact.

Let’s talk more about sentiment and perception data and impact.

3. It’s the Best Way to Understand Impact on Many Goals

Content works very hard. It supports goals focused on what your customers do, such as buying garden tools. (See our Q + A with Erin Everhart at The Home Depot for some great examples.)  It’s also the main way to impact goals focused on what your customers think, such as:

  • Improving or changing how customers view your brand.
  • Gaining or strengthening your customers’ trust and loyalty.
  • Raising awareness and visibility with customers in new markets or regions.
  • Positioning your organization as an expert adviser or source of useful knowledge.

You can’t know confidently whether you’ve had an impact on those goals if you don’t have content sentiment and perception data.

We recently worked with a member association to create a content intelligence system. Part of that system is a dashboard for each of their content products, including blogs, a magazine, and a journal. The overarching goal for these products is to keep members happy—member satisfaction—so that they stay members. So, we pulled together key analytics KPIs from tools such as Adobe Analytics and Atypon, and content sentiment KPIs from ContentWRX. The association found the sentiment data so useful that our main contact, let’s call him Dave, asked, “Could you move this data to the top of the dashboard?”

What?! Content sentiment data at the top? First? Front and center?

“YAS!” I thought, trying to contain my urge to tackle Dave with a bear hug.

Sample Content Sentiment Dashboard
Top section of a content intelligence dashboard that includes content sentiment data to understand impact on member satisfaction.


(For ideas about what data to pull together for your content, check out our Content KPI Matrix (premium content).)

So if you have content sentiment and perception data, don’t look down your nose at it. Welcome that data wholeheartedly into your content strategy and content marketing planning. If you don’t have it or aren’t sure, seek it out now, starting with these four content checklists, including the Evaluating Content Effectiveness checklist. If you give this data some love, you will be rewarded with better quality and more actionable content insight.

The Author

Colleen Jones is the founder and CEO of Content Science, a growing content intelligence and strategy company based in Atlanta GA. Content Science owns Content Science Review, Content Science Academy, and the content effectiveness software ContentWRX.  Colleen regularly consults with executives and practitioners to improve their strategy and processes for content. She shares insights and guidance from her experience regularly on Content Science Review, at events around the world, and in highly rated books such as Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content.

Follow Colleen on Twitter at @leenjones or on LinkedIn.

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