Content marketing is one of the most effective strategies for any business young or old. In fact, an estimated 80 percent of businesses use content marketing in some way in order to grow their brand.
Even though content marketing is extremely popular, a survey found that 70 percent of marketers lacked consistency in their content strategy or were unable to integrate their content strategy into their business effectively.
A possible reason for this is that content marketing can be difficult to measure. In fact, one of the most common questions when it comes to content marketing is – “How do I measure the effectiveness of my content marketing strategy?”
Most marketers would tell you to look at things like page views and shares on social media, however this is really only part of the picture. These soft metrics don’t really help you to make effective changes or develop a better strategy.
Content marketing has come a long way in recent years, and as it continues to grow in popularity more and more analytical tools should appear on the market, but until then, we have made a list of the top metrics that you need to focus on.
This list is one of the most comprehensive out there and will help you to-
- Determine the actual effectiveness of your content
- Discover ways to improve your content
- Improve your return on investment
- Discover how your content marketing strategies are affecting sales
- Determine how your audience is responding to your content
Understanding your metrics inside and out can help you to build a more effective strategy and can help you to produce better content. Over time, you will also be able to determine the metrics that are most crucial to your business so you can break down things into distinct categories.
According to Rebecca Lieb, a Media and Content Analyst from Altimeter-
“It makes no difference whatsoever what my most important content marketing metric is- the real question is: what metric, what key performance indicator is the most important to your business. No two marketers’ objectives are exactly alike. What matters is aligning against business goals, not all the abstract things you can measure.”
Remember, all business are different so when you can understand your metrics and analytics like a pro, that is when you can determine the most important performance indicator for your business.
The Types of Content Marketing Metrics
There are 8 types of content marketing metrics:
- Consumption metrics (Google Analytics, traffic)
- Sharing metrics (Social Media shares, likes, retweets)
- Lead metrics (Leads generated)
- Sales metrics (Deals, CRM)
- Retention metrics (subscriptions, repeat customers)
- Engagement metrics (actions)
- Production metrics (assessing your team)
- Cost metrics (return on investment)
Of these 8 metrics, Consumption, Retention, Sharing, Engagement, Lead and Sales metrics can all be viewed as Performance Based Metrics, whereas Production and Cost metrics can be viewed as Operational Metrics.
Now that you have an understanding of the different types of metrics and their categories, here is how to analyse them simply and effectively.
Consumption metrics can be used to answer questions like-
- Is my content being read?
- How is my audience finding my content?
- How is my content received by my audience – ie. what are their consumption behaviours?
You can then break down these questions for each different platform.
Blog or Website
The most important metrics to view here include:
- Page views: how many people are visiting your individual content pages
- Unique visitors: the size of your audience and how many new vs. return visitors that you have
- Average Time on Site: will give you insight into how long people spend reading your content
By following these metrics it will help you to focus more on the trends compared to actual statistics. It will also help you to keep track of which topics are drawing the most attention and generating the most interest.
The best way to keep track of how successful your downloadable PDF’s or e-books are doing is to track how often they are downloaded.
For gated white papers, you can also measure the number of sign ups or emails that you receive. There are many marketing automation systems that can help to track this to help ensure that you have accurate results.
If you don’t have the budget to install a marketing automation system, you can also track how many views you get to the “Thank You” page after they have downloaded your white paper.
Measuring analytics on social media is probably the hardest thing to do. This is because there is no accurate way to measure how many people have viewed a particular post.
Some platforms will let you know the number of people that you have “reached”, however it is not often clear how many people actually read your content. After all, just because your content was on their feed, doesn’t mean that they actually even noticed it.
The best way to track analytics on social media is to measure how many people click on your posts. You can do this by using special URL’s that can be tracked like bit.ly.
This will allow you to accurately determine which links are being clicked and consumed by your readers.
The best consumption metrics to track when it comes to email campaigns include open rates and click through rates.
Both of these metrics are commonly tracked through your email platform, such as MailChimp or Aweber, however it is also important to understand what these metrics actually mean.
Open rates and click-through rates also have limitations. For example, open rates record when an email is loaded, but not necessarily read.
Click through rates can also be misleading as they may not fully reflect exactly how your content is being consumed. For example, if you offer half an article and a link to read the full one, your readers may be consuming your content but not actually clicking through.
For many businesses, email marketing is where they make their best return on investment, so tracking emails effectively can really help along with the process.
According to Barry Feldman from Feldman Creative-
“…my top priority for measurement is the growth of my email list. Beneath each of my posts (and also in the blog page sidebars) are email opt-in forms…..for a big picture metric of how my content performs both for “pull” and on-site, I look at my email list. I call an email opt-in conversion.”
Retention metrics allow you to track how well you can hold on to your audience after they visit your website or blog. Retention metrics allow you to understand-
- How many people are coming back to your site to read other content
- How often people are coming back
- How many people are subscribing to your content to receive updates
When you compare consumption metrics with retention metrics it helps you to get a broader understanding of whether your content is resonating with your audience and how effective it is at generating sales, engagement or leads.
When you compare consumption and retention metrics it also allows you to get in touch with your audience and better understand their needs and desires.
Here is how to track retention metrics on each different platform-
Website and Blog
The most beneficial metrics to target on your blog when it comes to retention include-
- Percentage of Returning Vs. New Visitors: this allows you to determine how many new people are being drawn to your site and how your existing readers are also responding to your content.
- Bounce Rate: this measures retention in a single visit but doesn’t necessarily measure retention across visit sessions, which is why you need to also look at the number of returning visitors.
- Frequency and Recency: this allows you to track the number of visits and how long it has been since their last visit. This helps you to determine how often people are checking in with your site.
By looking at these three metrics you can have a better understanding of how you are retaining your audience and what improvements you can make to keep your audience engaged and interested in coming back for more.
The best way to measure retention through social media is how many followers you have. This is not 100 percent accurate however, as just because someone is following you, doesn’t mean that they are actually reading your content.
Many social media sites will also offer an analytics feature that can help you to monitor audience growth and how many followers are signing up or leaving your page on a daily basis.
The best way to track retention on your email list is to look at how many of your subscribers are leaving or unsubscribing from your list. You can also look at the number of subscribers you have in total vs. the number of them leaving to see if you can get a better understanding as to what is drawing them in and what is causing them to leave.
You may also want to track your subscribers over a week long period to see if you are losing more subscribers than you are gaining.
People share your content when it reflects a value they identify with or when they find it entertaining or useful in some way.
Sharing is a valuable metric as it shows how interested your audience are in what you have to say and how much they resonate with your message and philosophy.
Here is how to track retention metrics on each different platform-
Website and Blog
The best way to track shares to and from your website and blog is to look at the individual shares across your various social media platforms.
You can use a tool like SharedCount or even Buffer to help manage your metrics all in one place, but many social media plugins also come with share analytics that you can use.
The tracking for shares on social media is the same as for your website and blog. The best way is to look at the number of shares your content is getting on each individual platform.
Shares can be powerful and are probably the most effective goal when it comes to social media marketing.
People are likely to forward emails rather than share them on social media, however tracking email forwards is very difficult to do.
The best way around this is to include a “Forward” button on your email, as this will allow you to track the number of people actually using it. While it may not give a completely accurate portrayal of how your email is being shared, it will help you to gain some idea.
Engagement metrics are often viewed as being the most important. When you view engagement metrics alongside consumption and retention metrics, it also helps you to get a bigger picture idea of your content marketing and how it is really performing.
When you can earn high engagement rates from your audience, often your consumption and retention rates will also be higher.
Here is how to track engagement metrics on each different platform-
Website and Blog
Looking at your comments on your blog is a great way to determine how engaged your audience is.
According to Neil Patel from Quick Sprout-
“The one metric I really look at is comments per post. It tells me how engaged an audience is. No matter how much traffic you have, if you can’t cultivate an engaged audience you won’t be able to convert those visitors into customers.”
Another way to track engagement on your website or blog is to look at the average session duration.
This will help you to know how long a visitor is spending on your site. From this, you can assume that those who spend a longer period of time on your site are more engaged than those who leave after a few seconds.
Page Depth is also another metric to track and can show you how many pieces of content the average reader is looking at per session.
Just like your website and blog, tracking engagement on social media comes down to comments, but also Likes, Retweets, Mentions and use of your branded hashtags.
Any activity with your content on social media can prove to be engagement however, it also depends on what people are saying about your content as well.
For example, it is important to not just track engagement but also how people are responding to your content. Are they blown away with what you are saying? Or are they indifferent about it? The more enthusiastic your readers seem, the more engaged they are likely to be.
It can be difficult to monitor this closely, however you can search to see how many “mentions” you have received and read through a handful of your comments across various social media channels for a pretty decent idea.
Tracking leads is like tracking the bridge between the visitor and the customer. By having an understanding of this “middle of the funnel” point, it can allow you to convert more of your visitors into leads and more of your leads into customers.
Lead metrics are therefore, extremely important to understand and can drastically affect your return on investment and number of sales.
According to Dharmesh Shah from HubSpot-
“The most important metric for us in measuring the success of our content efforts is the number of qualified leads. We make considerable investment in content creation, particularly on our blog, which represents a major component of our overall inbound marketing. The most important result of those efforts is qualified leads that we can then pass along to our sales team.”
Shah makes a good point- so much money is spent on content marketing that it is imperative that actionable results do materialise.
Instead of tracking lead metrics across each individual platform, they are tracked instead across campaigns.
Here is what to look for:
- How many leads were generated from any given piece of content?
- How many pages did that reader have to visit before turning into a lead?
- Which content type or article does better at converting leads?
- How keenly does the lead follow through to the next step?
The best and easiest way to track how many leads are being generated from your content is to set up software like Salesforce to help you monitor the analytics. Once you have this step up, you will want to monitor what causes the lead to sign up and how the lead makes use of the opportunities that are offered.
If you don’t have Marketing Automation available for this process, another way to determine your leads is to create a specific landing page and track the sign ups and opt-ins through the specific landing page. You can also create unique URL’s to more effectively track where your leads are coming from.
Leads are important and are in fact probably the number one reason why you started your content strategy in the first place. If you have leads that appear to be coming from your content, it is a good sign, if you don’t, then it may be time to return to the drawing board.
Sales and lead metrics go hand in hand. If you have lead tracking set up using marketing automation tools, you will also likely be able to track how many of those leads turn into customers.
Other things that you may want to look for when it comes to sales metrics include-
- How your content has influenced a sale: this can be tracked by looking at the sales funnel and determining which landing pages are yielding the highest conversion rates.
- How your content has influenced how much they purchase: this can also be tracked by looking at your sales funnel and determining which landing pages yielded the most expensive sales.
Revenue is another important metric when it comes to content marketing and is truly why most brands create content in the first place. By understanding the metrics behind it and investing in the appropriate software, you can help to grow your revenue and your business.
These help you to determine the performance of your content production operation. In order to analyse these metrics you have to look at-
- The time it takes you to curate content: this starts with the time it takes to generate the idea to the time it takes to publish
- Content production: this involves looking at how much content your company produces on a weekly or monthly basis
The most important production metric to track however, is the number of days between posts and the number of average days since your last visit.
When you look at your retention and production metrics side by side, you can have a better understanding if your site is producing too much content or too little content.
If you find that you are producing too much content, you may want to have more days between your posts, whereas if you find that your readers are returning more frequently than you are writing, you may want to amp up the number of content pieces you publish.
Cost metrics help you to track production efficiency and also cover the financial output of your content marketing. This will help you to determine whether your content strategy is delivering a positive return on your investment or not.
In order to track cost metrics, it is important to look at:
- Production costs per post: how much it costs you to produce one post
- Distribution costs per post: how much it costs you to market your post across different platforms including ads
It is important to understand that your content marketing strategy doesn’t necessarily need to make a positive ROI if it serving another goal for your brand, however it is important to know how much your strategy is costing you.
In order to determine your ROI, you need to take the total cost of each post and put it up against the total cost of revenue generated.
As Ryan Skinner from the Velocity Partners points out-
“Of one thing you can be certain in content marketing: your first efforts will almost definitely be your worst. And your current efforts will be eclipsed by later efforts. Everyone improves. What sets great programs apart from mediocre ones: the rate of improvement.”
Content Marketing is one of the main strategies for most businesses, so understanding its effectiveness is imperative for success.
Here is a brief summary of the different analytics to observe across the 8 types of metrics:
- Page Views
- Unique Visitors
- Average time on Site/Page
- Email Opens
- Email Clicks
- Downloads or Form Completions
- Return rate
- Bounce rate
- Pages per visit
- Unsubscribers from email lists
- Followers on social media
- Social media shares
- Social media likes
- Email forwards
- Session duration length
- Page depth/ number of pages per session
- New leads generated
- Funnel conversion rates
- Sales per page
- Revenue generated per page
- Time to publish
- Content output
- Content creation vs. returning visitors
- Production costs
- Distribution costs
Are you ready to analyse your content?