Content marketing is known for being challenging in the “measuring ROI” department. While it’s fairly straightforward to measure the traffic that’s generated from a paid search campaign or attribute leads to a particular social media ad, translating content marketing metrics into an accurate measure of value is not so easy.
There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, it’s difficult to trace sales, leads, or even traffic back to an individual piece of content. Not all of us are simple ecommerce stores that can cleanly count sales that come directly from people clicking links in blog posts. Usually, people interact with multiple pieces of content before making a purchase, regardless of where the actual purchase takes place.
Content may also create leads and drive conversions indirectly by:
- Raising your brand profile
- Nurturing customers towards a sale over several pieces of content and a longer time frame
- Improving trust and building relationships with current customers so they buy more
- Boosting your SEO so your site authority and ranking positions improve.
Digging a bit deeper… There’s obvious value in raising your brand profile. However, you can run into gray areas when you try to factor that value into your ROI analysis. Blog content, for example, that assists in driving conversions is valuable, but you likely don’t have a clear way of knowing which blog post can be attributed to a sale and how much value it brought.
In addition, content marketing initiatives don’t typically have a defined end date like PPC or display ads. A piece of content you produce today could keep generating leads for you for the next decade or longer.
With these challenges in measuring the effectiveness of content, it’s no wonder that some marketers don’t even attempt it. Research by the Content Marketing Institute shows that only 49% of B2B marketers measure the ROI of their content marketing.
However, as you can clearly see from the above graphic, measuring content performance is key to content marketing success. Only 22% of the least successful marketers measure their content ROI, compared to 72% of the most successful.
So challenges aside, if you’re not currently tracking and measuring the results of your content marketing initiatives, you should start doing so as soon as possible. Implementing a content analytics platform not only helps you to measure ROI and justify content marketing investment, but it also gives you insight into your best and worst performing content so you can improve your strategy going forward.
Not sure where to start? There are dozens of content marketing metrics you can track but, if your time and resources are limited, it’s a good idea to consider these seven to get started.
Let’s start with the volume metric that is probably the easiest to measure. Looking at your traffic figures for every page on your site will enable you to see your most popular content immediately.
Low traffic levels don’t necessarily mean poor-quality content, but it’s definitely an indication that you need to work on your content promotion.
By looking at your traffic statistics in analytics software, you can also see exactly where your web visitors are coming from, which can be helpful when deciding which channels to use for future content promotion.
2. Time on Site
Content marketing isn’t just about getting traffic to your site. It’s also about getting web visitors engaged, planting the seeds of trust, and getting their permission to continue engaging with them in the future.
You can find this information in Google Analytics as “Average session duration”. The longer that people spend on your site, the more you’re able to validate the quality of the experience you are creating with your content.
The number of pages per session is another useful and related metric to have a look at. Ideally, this should be greater than one and the higher this number, the better. This means visitors have taken the time to explore your site further than the original entry page.
3. Links from Third Parties
Remember, content isn’t only valuable if it leads to a direct conversion. Good content attracts links to your site, which improves its SEO profile so you appear higher up in search results.
A higher place in the SERPs means more traffic to your site, more people reading your content, more conversions, and better brand visibility.
You can see links to each of your individual content assets in Google Search Console. While not every link is shown in Search Console, Google says only the ones that aren’t relevant are excluded. However, if you want to see all your backlinks, there are several third-party tools available such as Moz Link Explorer and Ahrefs Backlink Checker.
4. Social Shares
Similar to links, social shares help to boost your SEO and are a helpful indication of which content assets are resonating with your audience.
Shares are more important than likes because they bring more exposure to your content and brand, but likes are still a useful way of seeing your most popular content at a glance.
Most social media platforms have their own analytics systems so you can keep track of how many times your content has been shared and who exactly is sharing it. This information is useful for getting a clearer idea of who your audience is so you can produce more content to appeal to them at a later date.
People have various motivations for sharing content as you can see in this data collated by The New York Times:
By tapping into these human motivations for sharing on social media, you can create more shareable content that reaches more people.
5. Click-through Rate
It may be the case that not all of your content is intended to drive some sort of “conversion” action. Perhaps you’re just referencing other resources in a blog post or email. These link clicks still have value and tell us that recipients are engaged. Measuring the click-through rate is an important way of judging performance.
If your content has a low click-through rate, then you’ll need to look into the reasons why. It might be that the content is low-quality overall (in which case the time spent on page and other engagement figures will be low) or you might just need to create more compelling CTAs.
6. Conversion Rate
Along with the click-through rate, it’s important to look at the actual number of conversions (“goals” in Google Analytics) that are being generated via your content. Are users just clicking through to your sales page or online store and disappearing again, or are you actually being successful in turning these leads into conversions?
When conversions are your goal, your content can play an important part in moving leads through your conversion funnel, so creating content designed to optimize those conversions is essential.
7. Assisted Conversions
The concept of an assisted conversion has been around for decades and as the digital marketing community has evolved, attribution models have emerged to help us close the loop on marketing ROI.
In the blog context, an individual blog post often acts as an entry point for a website visitor. If your blog publishing frequency is high, or you’ve been blogging for a long time, your site may have thousands of these front doors. Upon entrance, your website analytics starts tracking all of the visitor’s movements through your site within a website “session”. If at some point during their session the visitor converts or completes one of your goals, the blog post that started their journey should get an “assist”.
Those posts with the most assists win!
Goal Setting to Improve Content Performance
As mentioned previously, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to possible content marketing metrics to track.
The actual metrics that are important for you will depend on your goals for each piece of content and what you hope to achieve from your content marketing efforts as a whole.
Is each piece of content carefully crafted to move each user through the buying funnel and hopefully lead to a sale? Conversion rate might be your most important metric. Want to boost your brand reputation and trust? Links, social shares, time on site, and other engagement metrics are all meaningful data points to measure and track.
Once you’ve collected measurable data from your content, you can use this data as a yardstick to make improvements. Experiment with optimizing your CTAs and see how it affects your click-through rate. Try out different content formats and see which ones keep visitors on your site for longer.
When you have a clear idea of how your current content is performing, you can set measurable and achievable goals for your future content production. This ensures continual improvement and keeps your content strategy from becoming stagnant.
As part of our content marketing platform, DivvyHQ provides a robust, turnkey content analytics offering to help you track and report on your content performance. We’d love an opportunity to help you improve in this arena, so feel free to request an analytics demo anytime.