Getting started with content marketing metrics

Profile picture for user barb.mosher By Barb Mosher Zinck October 21, 2015
Summary:
Ready to start measuring the effectiveness of your content marketing? The number of potential metrics is dizzying - here's some tips for doing it right.

woman-measuring-scales
If I told you there were over 100 different metrics to measure the effectiveness of your content marketing would you believe me? Would you freak out because right now you are only tracking five metrics, maybe ten?

The truth is, I didn’t count them all. There may be 100, there may only be 30. I’m actually kind of scared to write them all down and count them because, really, who has time to track them all and actually do something with them?

According to the latest CMI Content Marketing Benchmarks report, 57% list measuring content marketing effectiveness as a top challenge and 52% say it’s challenging to measure ROI.

It is challenging. But it is necessary.

A discussion on content marketing effectiveness is different from a discussion on content marketing ROI. For now, let’s focus on effectiveness.

So what exactly do you measure? What metrics will tell you that your content is resonating with the right audience? What metrics will tell you that your content marketing efforts are paying off? The answer is - it depends.

Aligning business goals to your content marketing

Before you can set about defining the metrics you need, you need to understand what your goals are for your content marketing strategy. You may have more than one goal, and your strategy should lay out how you plan to achieve each goal.

For example, most organizations starting out with content marketing are thinking about brand awareness. So the goal might be to create content that attracts attention to your brand, or the people who work for your brand (and as a side result, your brand gets noticed).

Another business goal is to generate x% more qualified leads. Not just any leads, but leads that have the most potential to convert to actual customers.

Here are a few other high level goals you might want to achieve with your content marketing:

  • Conversion
  • Increasing engagement or loyalty
  • Decreasing support costs
  • Improving customer service
  • Getting known as a thought leader in your industry

With all goals, you need to be SMART - Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, Time-related.

Once you have your goal(s) clearly outlined, you can start to think about the metrics you need to track.

6 types of content marketing metrics

Jay Baer defined four key types of metrics for content marketing back in 2012. These are:

  • Consumption - how much your content is viewed
  • Sharing - how much your content is shared
  • Lead Generation - how many leads you generate from your content
  • Sales - how many actual sales can be traced back to your content

Curata CEO, Pawan Deshpande, recently added four additional categories, two of which are operations-focused, and we won’t mention here. But the two that are important to this conversation include:

  • Engagement - how much are users interacting with your content (commenting, discussing on social media, how long are they reading a content asset, and so)
  • Retention - how many visitors stay past the initial content asset, how many come back for more content, sign-up for newsletters, RSS feeds, social accounts and so on.

These different categories don’t necessarily align with specific goals, but they help you understand the different types of metrics you can use to plug into your metric tracking. For example, measuring brand awareness could use metrics from Consumption, Sharing, and Engagement.

Content marketing metrics at a glance

Each of the six categories mentioned above can have many different metrics. You don’t have to use them all. Pick a number that you can realistically track and track them regularly. Some metrics are easy to track and provide a baseline understanding of performance. Others require more advanced tools or deeper analysis. Sometimes you might need to play with a metric to see if it provides value.

Here are just a few of the metrics you can track, broken down by category:

Consumption

  • Visits to your website
  • Unique visits to the website
  • Page views for the website
  • Downloads of a content asset
  • Click-through rates in emails, newsletters, landing pages, social media
  • Open rates on emails

Sharing

  • Shares of an asset across your social media channels (and channels you don’t currently use)
  • Referrers (who’s referring people to your content)
  • Click-through rates from social
  • Inbound links

Engagement

  • Bounce Rate (website)
  • Comments
  • Total Shares
  • Avg Session Length
  • Time on Site
  • Subscriptions (newsletters, RSS feeds)
  • Unsubscribes
  • Registrations (for content)
  • Sentiment analysis

Retention

  • Return Visits
  • Followers on social accounts
  • Pages Viewed (website)
  • Subscriptions (newsletters, RSS feeds)
  • Sentiment analysis

Lead Generation

  • CTA click-through rates
  • Completion of forms for content/more info
  • Keyword ranking (how high you rank for particular keywords that lead people to your content)
  • Social comments
  • Campaign performance (using Google Analytics, or marketing automation)

Sales

  • Pipeline
  • Conversion rates
  • Sales
  • Lead quality

Why sales metrics lead the pack

In the CMI content marketing benchmarks, the top three metrics used are sales and conversion focused:

  • Sales Lead Quality - 87%
  • Sales - 84%
  • Higher Conversion Rates - 71%

Part of the reason we see sales and conversion metrics at the top is because content marketing is becoming mainstream. Some organizations have been doing content marketing for a while, and have moved past the basic reason content marketing became popular - brand awareness.

These organizations want more value of out their content marketing efforts and see that lead generation and sales can be directly attributed to content. Organizations want to know that the time and effort they are investing in content is paying off in terms of new customers, and growth of current customers.

The metrics that track Consumption and Sharing are still on many marketers' lists to measure, but they are table stakes. You monitor them to ensure your content is still resonating, but unless you are focused only on brand awareness, you’ll need deeper metrics.

Putting your metrics plan in place

Here’s the deal - you know what your business goals are, you’ve mapped your content strategy and content assets to your goals. You’ve identified the metrics you need to track. Now what?

Get the right tools to track the metrics. It’s likely not one tool, but some combination tools that will provide you the data. If you can’t have every tool you need, focus on the most important ones first. Google Analytics can tell you a lot, and it’s cheap (in fact free). Marketing automation software can also provide a great deal of the metrics you’ll want to track.

Some metrics you can track manually. But try not to spend all your time tracking the metrics. And don’t just put them in a pretty report. That’s where many stop.

One metric does not paint the whole picture.The insights you get from looking at the metrics as whole help you understand the effectiveness of your content assets and your content strategy.

Final Thoughts

Marketers new to content marketing, or new to measuring the effectiveness of content marketing are often told to focus on things like brand awareness and simple lead generation first. I do think you need to have these elements of a content strategy in place, but I don’t think you necessarily need to start here.

Limited budgets and resources mean you can only do so much. Think about what you need to achieve through a content marketing strategy and consider starting with more complex activities. Start small, adjust as you figure out what’s working and what isn’t, and grow your efforts as you need to.

You may produce positive results quickly and gain greater support from management in terms of funding to do more content marketing.

The biggest takeaway I want you to have from this is that you do need to track the effectiveness of your strategy, and you can’t track everything. Define your goals, create the plan, identify the metrics that show how your plan is working and adjust as necessary (both the plan and metrics).

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