An effective content marketing strategy can be the very lifeblood of your business. With a robust game plan for the creation, publication and distribution of useful, insightful, engaging and relevant content, you will be able to build meaningful and lasting relationships with hundreds if not thousands of prospects and customers, and start driving them down your sales funnel.
Content marketing also enables you to position your brand as an authoritative thought leader within your niche, and provide added value and insight to your targets and existing customers.
But – how do you evaluate the success of your content marketing activity? How do you know if what you’re doing is working and netting you the best possible results?
Content Marketing Metrics
There are concrete and specific metrics that you should be analysing regularly that will show you just how well your content is performing.
This data is crucial for your ongoing content marketing efforts, for only by objectively assessing precisely what’s working and what isn’t will you able to improve your strategy going forward. Put simply, if, when consulting your metrics, you’re not achieving the results you want or were expecting, you need to be experimenting with new tactics to bolster your strategy.
The latest report from the Content Marketing Institute – ‘Content Marketing in the UK: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends’ – reveals that there is a roughly equal split between organisations that use content marketing as to whether or not they feel they are measuring the “right things” when evaluating their efforts. 43% of respondents said their organisation does an excellent, very good, or good job in terms of aligning metrics with content marketing goals; however, another 40% said they do a fair or poor job.
(Image source: contentmarketinginstitute.com)
By measuring the successes and failures of your content you will be able to continuously adjust your tactics for creation, delivery, and distribution, and optimise all paths towards customer conversion.
There are, however, quite literally dozens of different metrics that you can track to measure the effectiveness of your content marketing campaigns. Not all of them are useful, however, as some are simply vanity metrics that are more distracting than valuable.
Below, we’ve highlighted the most valuable metrics for measuring content marketing success.
Traffic, User Behaviour, and Engagement
We’ve bundled traffic, user behaviour, and engagement into one for the simple reason that, although these all do have value to a certain extent, when any of them are taken in isolation, they have a tendency to become merely vanity metrics that indicate very little about the overall success of the marketing function.
For instance, let’s say you publish a blog post on your website. It’s a good post, and generated, say, 50 retweets on Twitter and 500 page views over the course of a week. This might seem like a pretty successful piece of content marketing.
However, retweets and page views, though great indicators of brand awareness, don’t equate to leads generated, nor indeed actual sales made.
Wanna hear a joke? It’s about the modern tech startup business model, and it goes like this: 5,000 people walk into a bar. Nobody buys a drink. The owners declare the bar a lavish success.
It’s a good joke because it highlights the problem with vanity metrics. 500 – or even 5,000 – page views (people walking into a bar) don’t mean anything unless someone actually buys something.
However, the joke is a little bit disingenuous because there is of course value in measuring how many people have a read one of your blog posts, and indeed how many people have felt compelled to share it on Twitter or any other social network. These are your ToFu (top-of-the-funnel) metrics – and no leads can be generated in the middle of the funnel, nor sales made at the bottom of the funnel, unless you first manage to attract prospective targets into the top of it. What the joke highlights, however, is the danger of focussing your measurement strategy on ToFU metrics alone, and equating traffic and retweets with content marketing success.
To be clear – traffic, user behaviour, and engagement are important metrics to measure, because they enable everything that comes afterward, i.e. lead generation and conversion. So, you do need to be keeping a sharp eye on these figures, for they will tell you which of your content assets are successfully moving prospects down the marketing and sales funnel towards an eventual purchase – and which ones are falling short of the mark.
As to which metrics to track – the below infographic from SEMrush lays them out clearly. Track these metrics and you will be able to tell which of your ToFu content marketing tactics are working, and which aren’t. With this knowledge, you will be able to adjust your tactics accordingly.
(Image source: semrush.com)
Not everyone who comes to your website to read your blog could be described as a genuine sales lead – which is indeed why web traffic can be a meaningless metric when taken in isolation. True, much like you don’t make sales without leads, you don’t generate leads without first generating traffic, but in terms of importance to your bottom line, lead generation is where you should be focussing your measurement strategy ahead of traffic, retweets, and engagement.
A lead is someone who has done more than simply read a blog post on your website, but rather has made a clear indication that they may be interested in making a purchase.
This indication may be given in a number of ways, such as repeat visits to your product pages, or by downloading a piece of gated content in return for contact information.
What you must remember is that the whole point of any content marketing strategy is to turn anonymous visitors into leads, leads into customers, and customers into brand advocates. Lead generation, therefore, is of crucial importance to measuring the success of your content marketing campaigns, for it indicates the first meaningful step towards converting random website visitors into paying patrons.
So, what metrics should you be measuring?
Well, it will depend on your overarching content marketing strategy, but what you are looking for is the numbers that tell you how many contacts you have captured. You will most likely be capturing contact information by producing email newsletters, subscription forms for your blog posts, and lead capture forms for your gated content. (See our previous post ‘How to Use Gated Content to Generate Leads’ for a detailed explanation of lead generation.)
One of the best ways to track lead generation metrics is to set up Goals in Google Analytics. Helpfully, Google provides a short video explaining exactly how Goals work.
(Video source: youtube.com)
With Goals, you will be able to determine precisely how many leads you are generating from content marketing. If you find that you are successfully generating tons of website traffic and social shares, but are falling short when it comes to actual conversions, this will indicate immediately that your content marketing efforts are not succeeding in moving prospects down the marketing and sales funnel – they are all getting stuck at the top.
If this is happening, you need to alter your focus so that you are concentrating more on generating leads from traffic, as opposed to just the traffic itself.
Return on Investment (ROI)
Not all website visitors become leads, and not all leads become paying customers. Nonetheless, ultimately, it is your sales figures that will determine the success of your content marketing efforts.
Arguably, sales metrics are the most important metric of all to track, for it is only here that the true merit of your marketing function can be meaningfully measured – and it should be measured in terms of ROI (return on investment).
(Image source: semrush.com)
Surprisingly, only 45% of UK organisations measure content marketing ROI, according to the Content Marketing Institute. Those who do not cited the top two reasons as “we need an easier way to do this” (41%) and “no formal justification required”, which indicates that companies are either struggling to calculate ROI (a further 18% said they don’t know how it’s done), or are simply embarking on content marketing for content marketing’s sake.
(Image source: contentmarketinginstitute.com)
Content marketing ROI is a percentage that expresses how much revenue your organisation gained from content marketing in comparison to what it spent creating and distributing the content.
It’s worked out by using the following formula: Return minus investment, divided by investment, expressed as a percentage.
So, for example, if you spend £500 on a content marketing campaign and it generates £2,000 in sales, your content marketing ROI is 300%.
- £2,000 – £500 = £1,500
- £1,500 / £500 = 3
- 3 x 100% = 300%
You can see why this is important – if you’re spending more on producing content than you’re earning from it, then you will be left with a negative percentage, i.e. your content marketing efforts are running at a loss.
So, work out how you’re spending each month on content marketing. The overall figure will be a sum of any salaries you pay in-house marketing staff, any outsourcing costs, the costs of any equipment or software you use (such as CRM systems, graphics software, video making hardware, and video editing software), and advertising costs.
Once you know your ongoing costs, you will be able to work out whether your content marketing in its current state is profitable, or whether you will need to up your game.
Over to You
Don’t get blinded by vanity metrics. The true success of content marketing is realised at the bottom of the funnel, not the top. While it’s true that you need to make sure your ToFu efforts are feeding into your MoFu efforts, ultimately, it’s revenue and ROI that counts.