How to use curation analytics to improve your documentation

by Mark Fidelman

How do you know if your online documentation is meeting the needs of the end users foryour products and services? For most of the world’s corporations the answer is we don’t.

Hang on, what do you mean? We have Google Analytics!

True, but does Google Analytics tell you the search keywords and phrases that your customers are searching for and not finding? Does it tell you if the content is solving the needs of your customers? Does it tell you when your documentation was last updated?

No it doesn’t.

What is curation analytics?

Curation analytics is like having a research department endlessly analyze every word of your documentation in order to make it easier to improve your content.

It consists of tools like ratings and reviews, tools that analyze search terms, tools that tell you exactly when an article was last updated and reports that tell you if an article is meeting the needs of the consumer.

It’s actually a simple equation, that the diagram below illustrates:

In practice, curation analytics is similar to your car’s dashboard but for content instead. These content dashboards display information about the health of your documentation.

Why should I care?

Perhaps thousands of people are visiting your site every day. Maybe millions are. But they could all be dissatisfied with your documentation. How do you know?

Let’s assume some people are buying your product or service because of a single tutorial in your documentation that clearly illustrates how easy it is to set up. Unfortunately it’s buried in the documentation and is hard to find. In fact it’s on page 5 of your search results.

How much more product can you sell if the tutorial was curated to the front page?

In another scenario, users are finding the solutions to their problems but the content is not satisfactory. Perhaps it doesn’t address all of the needs of the user or is slightly off topic and only addresses a fraction of the user’s issue. Frustrated, they call your customer service department. According to Forrester, this action results in a $5.50 to $50 expense to the organization.

Is the squeeze worth the juice?

Of course it is.

Can you imagine how valuable you’ll become to an organization by reporting that your documentation content has increased the sales of the company by 25% and decreased support costs by 20%? That instead of guessing how valuable your documentation is to your customers you’ll know in real time?

So how do I obtain curation analytics

Typically I do not insert commercials within guest posts but frankly MindTouch (disclosure: I work for the company) is the only company currently offering the content analytical tools and reports. There are more companies that have announced support for curation analytics, but as of the date of this article, no other companies have released a solution.

What technical communication managers need to know

Most technical communicators will welcome the ability to deliver higher quality content to their readers. Moreover, the ability to curate the best content to the front page based on search context is a powerful capability that improves customer satisfaction and reduces support costs.

Yet tools to help curate content are just starting to emerge. They will improve documentation and make it more strategic. Managers will no longer have to rely on a lengthy process to find and update old content or wonder how effective their content is to their readers. They will have insightful reports that help them understand what and where to display their best content based on a search term.

Auditing your content is a first step, but it takes more than that. It takes a strategic approach to documentation that includes curation. It also involves a never ending process of improvement by observing how readers are consuming your content.

Have the guts to add this level of transparency to your documentation. Sure you’ll expose some weaknesses, but what’s the alternative? Are you always going to be seen as non-strategic? Why settle for obscurity? If you do, that’s a waste.

About the author: Mark Fidelman is currently EVP Sales of MindTouch. Before joining MindTouch, Mark led global sales efforts as an Executive Vice President for a publicly traded company, headed sales efforts for a technology division of AT Kearney and EDS, and served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for a Singapore based corporation. You can read Mark thoughts about content strategy and social media on Twitter.

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