When it comes to content marketing, we always hear the phrase “content is king”. But repeating empty one-liners certainly doesn’t make us successful content strategists. We need to understand the data that allows us to quantify our content marketing efforts. After all, you don't want to be throwing things at a wall and seeing what sticks – you want to take a smart approach to measuring content's impact.
So how do you measure success? How do you know your content marketing is working for you and your brand?
First, let’s review what makes valuable content
1) Communicates a brand's message
Whether you’re a more laid-back or hardcore corporate brand, content gives your brand a personality. People give more trust to those companies that speak to them on a personal level. Content should be conversational among your target audience, offer opinions and advice, and respond to questions or requests -- all of which help users relate to your brand’s content.
2) Attracts both people and search engines
Content should be high-quality to draw in people and optimized for search engines to rank for relevant keywords. Take a look at our post: Content Marketing 101 to take a deeper dive into writing for both people and search engines.
3) Establishes authority in your niche
Through posting regular, high-value articles, videos, graphics, ebooks and more, you’ll grow your authority within the market. As potential clients want to view you as an expert in your niche, you’ll want to develop a reputation as a trustworthy source of relevant information.
4) Builds a loyal audience
By responding to your audience (e.g. identifying and improving high-performing content via a data tool like Google Analytics) you can pinpoint and adapt to what they’re looking for. In this way, useful and informative content can help develop a more loyal following behind your brand.
While these are undoubtedly easy to present and talk about, they don’t offer much insight into tangible data that calculates ROI. We need to find out which specific metrics we need to measure in order to understand what’s effective, and what’s simply not working.
Content Marketing isn’t for the impatient
The first thing that you need to understand about content marketing is that it’s a long term strategy. It’s different from many forms of online marketing in that it doesn’t deliver ROI right away. It may take a few weeks up to a few months just to have a high-performing piece of content (not that this should discourage you). Incorporating key measurements will help you determine certain criteria for proper--and successful--content management.
Four Content Metrics to Pay Attention To
Content should not be judged on one metric, rather it should be an array of metrics that are important to the company and their specific objectives. Let’s go through four of these types of metrics that every brand should focus on.
Content Metric 1: Consumption
Consumption metrics reveal the most basic measurements that we can glean from a piece of content. Measurements such as total visits, unique visits, time-on-page, frequency, session length, new user percentage, bounce rate and many more account for consumption metrics. These measurements are great at providing high-level insights on things like readership and interest in a certain piece of content, which could be all a company head wants to see, but it doesn’t give us the bottom line: it doesn’t give us a dollar sign.
Content Metric 2: Sharing
Sharing metrics are mainly braggadocious, and doesn’t necessarily impact your ROI, since sharing something is so easy - A person can simply press a retweet button without ever going to your site. There’s also a lot of debate on whether or not social shares actually help your SEO.
There’s no doubt that sharing content through social increases traffic (or traffic opportunities), but you can’t truly determine the dollar value of a retweet vs. a Facebook like, or Instagram comment, etc. A way you can make sharing metrics valuable is through filtering your referral traffic. For example, if you’re dedicating a lot of time to making Pinterest-oriented content, such as DIY projects for a home store, if you’re receiving 20% of your traffic from Pinterest referrals, that’s a path you’d want to continue down.
Let’s see how we can use this idea within analytics to understand referral traffic with custom URLs.
Step 1 - Set up new campaign in Google Analytics.
Step 2 - Add utm_source parameter, identifying the referral source that’s sending you traffic.
Step 3 - Monitor your campaign in the Standard and Custom Reporting tabs.
Another way to monitor all referral traffic is to click into “Users Flow” and select “Source” from the drop down. This should give you a good idea which of your social mediums are working in your favor, and which ones are not.
Content Metric 3: Lead Generation
This is where tangible ROI can start to be measured for your content marketing efforts. The best way to determine positive lead generation from content is to set up a form at the end of an article, implement a delayed pop-over or encourage people to click into a form from a call-to-action (CTA) button.
Use forms carefully. Don’t spam the reader with information they’re not looking for. If you’re worried about bounce rate, delay a pop-over for 60 seconds (or whatever your time-on-page metric is telling you), or wait until the user is half-way or three-fourths down the page. You might even block a piece of content until a user has given certain information to your brand (although this should be left to the final content funnel stages).
There are a few ways to track leads from a particular piece of content
- Track how many people went directly to the lead form immediately after consumption by analyzing user flow.
- Track the originating source of the user through referral traffic.
- Set up cookies to track visitors on your site and indicate which pages they visited prior to consuming your content. This can even help track visits that are weeks apart from one another.
Content Metric 4: Sales
This is where you determine the real dollar value of your content. To do this, you need to understand how to track a visitor from first visit all the way to the closing sale. Again, setting up campaigns and tracking user flows is imperative. What content is working hardest for you? That could be anything from video tutorials, content hubs, blog posts, charts, infographics and anything else. Once you can figure out the content that’s getting visitors to become a lead - and finally a sale - you can train your strategy to focus more on content that’s proven effective.