The challenge with Content Marketing is it’s just not that straightforward to measure. How do you know whether those 10 blog articles delivered a new customer or not? Has any of that Tweeting and Linking led to any cold hard cash?
Measurement can be an issue for Content Marketers. Businesses are spending more time and money on content than ever before so the Powers That Be want to know how all this effort adds to the bottom line.
They want reassurance that it’s worth the investment. Fortunately, there are lots of ways that marketers can track Content Marketing effectiveness. It’s just a question of choosing which of the available measures are the most important for your business.
Do the groundwork first
The right building blocks
First off, decide what you’re trying to achieve. Get a Content Marketing Strategy in place that is aligned to business objectives over the long term. You need some clearly defined objectives for your content marketing activity so that you can determine the most important measures of success. There’s no need to over complicate your metrics either. Focus on the 3 or 4 factors that are most important to the business. Brand awareness? Leads? Sales? Find the right metric for your objective. Don’t drown in data.
Content Marketing takes time so set your expectations accordingly. It’s an ongoing process of building visibility, relationships, influence and desirability for your business. A slow and steady climb, rather than a sprint to the top. There is a misnomer that because it’s quick and easy to create content, the results should be equally quick. Not so. Give people time to respond to your activity.
Guide your audience
Remember that all of your content should have a clear Call To Action. What do you want the reader or participant to do? An obvious call to action will give you an obvious way of measuring. For example, a ‘subscribe here’, ‘download this’ or ‘find out more’ type of link in online content will allow you to track the number of clicks directly and easily.
Sort out your tool belt
You can’t monitor effectiveness if you don’t have the right tools. For example, Google Analytics, a social media monitoring tool (like Buffer or Hootsuite), a customer database. You don’t have to go crazy with data, but aim to have a couple of analytical tools at hand that will show you both the numbers of people responding and who they are. You can then map this data back to your sales database.
Different companies will use different measures depending on their Content Marketing objectives.
Try these common measures for size:
#1 How many eyeballs?
Followers, Likes, Page Views, Favourites.
How many people are looking at your content and your brand? On their own these are fairly weak measures because a large following of the wrong people will not generate the results you want. However, a basic early indication that you’re attracting some interest.
#2 How much sharing?
Retweets, Inbound Links, Shares, Brand Mentions, Referrals.
How widely is your content being spread and by how many people? This is an indication of how engaging it is and how useful your audience are finding it. It’s also an indication of your brand influence.
#3 What are they saying?
How many direct contacts have you had with your audience and what are they saying? What is the most popular article? These are not measures of commercial success, but learning about your audience and having a conversation with them will give you valuable insight and help you to improve future marketing activity.
#4 How are you ranking?
Track how your website is ranked for the search terms that are most important to your business. Good content helps with search engine visibility, so track any improvements in your search engine rank against your content activity to look for correlations.
#5 How engaging is your content?
Top viewed pages, Session length, Bounce rates (aka, how quickly someone visits then leaves your site).
Which are your most popular landing pages? How long do visitors spend on your site? Do they go on to view other pages? The longer a person spends on your site, the deeper their engagement is likely to be and the greater their likelihood of buying from you. If you’re getting a lot of page views but no sales, then something about your content isn’t working effectively.
#6 How many Leads?
Website visitors. Email subscriptions. Registrations. Contact forms.
If you’ve given a clear Call To Action in your content then you should be able to map this directly to responses. Also, ask people where they first heard about you or what prompted them to get in touch.
#7 How many sales?
Map your content activity against your sales uplift over a 9-12 month period and look for a correlation. (Bear in mind, other factors will also influence this – more on that in a moment). Or, even better, with the right analytics tools, you’ll be able to know for sure that Mr Smith who first followed you on Twitter in January, eventually went on to make a purchase worth £X in June.
A cautionary note
Content Marketing can and should be measured. But, as with all other marketing activity, don’t forget the other factors that can influence effectiveness such as seasonality, world or cultural events, even the weather. Results are best looked at year on year to smooth out any external influences.
Since any given customer will have seen multiple pieces of content before they respond or buy, you will never be 100% accurate with your findings. You could (and many do!) argue for hours over whether it was social media, or SEO, or email, or an advert that generated the sale. The truth is, it was probably a combination of all of the above. Content Marketing is a long-game, like brand building or reputation management, so set your expectations and choose your metrics accordingly.
P.S Need some inspiration for your content marketing? Check out these 4 ways to generate good content