Are Your Content Marketing Metrics Telling You the Whole Story?

Content marketers live and die by the numbers. Ever since Madison Avenue icon David Ogilvy took his fellow colleagues to task over their lack of research, agencies have been scrambling to keep tabs on the numbers. Are the numbers your team follows the right ones, though? Do your content marketing metrics tell you the whole story?

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s Sarah Mitchell, probably not. As she points out, “too many marketers…rely on the same metrics regardless of…purpose.”

She’s right on target with that observation. Here are some ways to teach your team how to choose the right metrics to measure success for each campaign.

Align Your Metrics with Each Campaign–and Your Business Goals

Part of the disconnect, says Mitchell, is that some analytics tools provide a standard output. That output becomes the standard by which CMOs and other C-suite bottom-line watchers judge the success of a campaign. That standard, however, for many campaigns, is not the one that delivers the results you want.

When you adjust the metrics you measure to fit your overall business goals–you can better assess which metrics help you achieve your objectives for each campaign. As David Ogilvy once put it, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”

For instance, as Mitchell points out, impressions, reach, page views, session length, and engagement might not be the numbers you need to watch—no matter how popular they are. No matter how many times someone comes to your website, downloads your latest e-book, and leafs through all the pages on your site, it does your business no good unless the browser becomes a buyer.

Study Successful Companies’ Content Marketing Metrics

Ogilvy’s principle applies to social media, too. Take Progressive Insurance’s insanely popular “Flo” videos. It doesn’t matter how many times people watch their humorous ads on YouTube or share them with their friends. What matters is that their message connects—and drives sales.

Progressive’s campaign’s success depends on three factors: execution, clarity, and conformity. What the heck does that mean? Glad you asked…

Execution: Get humor right and you’ll get people to let down their guard and listen to the message. Get it wrong, and you’ll lose customers, as candy-maker Mars discovered with their Snickers video that touted toxic masculinity.

Clarity: When the message is clear, people will buy your product. Though couched in humor, Progressive consistently pumps out content that tells customers that buying their insurance will be fun, save them money, and provide the same coverage as more expensive policies.

Conformity: If the product’s quality matches what the message promises, you’ll retain your customers and win more through word of mouth. Don’t let your content overpromise—and word-of-mouth advertising will ride your content’s coattails to generate more sales.

That’s why when they measure their success, Progressive’s content marketing team doesn’t look at the views and shares—or even the sentiment scores. They look at the bottom line. You should, too.

Look at Specific Content Marketing Metrics that Can Drive Your Bottom Line

Now that you know that your ultimate metric is moving the needle on your bottom line, look at what metrics successful content marketers, like Mitchell and others, have emphasized as they evaluate their content marketing strategy.

Campaign-Specific Factors

Focusing on the bottom line, says Mitchell, means you’ll need to measure those factors that directly impact your bottom line from each campaign.

  • Sales data for each campaign
  • Number of new customers each campaign brings in

content marketing metrics example
Example: DivvyHQ’s Easy-as-Pie Guide to Content Planning (eBook) – 20 new customers attributed

Overall Content Strategy Factors

When you measure the sales and new customers you generate from each campaign, you can point to other metrics that reflect the cumulative effect your content strategy has produced over time. These metrics, too, are important to watch on a long-term basis:

  • Reduction in customer acquisition costs: If you can show that an increase in your content marketing has reduced the cost it takes to acquire a customer, that’s an excellent indicator that your content strategy is a success.
  • Customer loyalty: When you retain more customers after you’ve improved your content strategy, it’s a key indicator of customer trust, built through informative, actionable content your customers can use to better their lives and their businesses.
  • Average lifetime value per customer: As you increase your trust factor through content that delivers value to your customers, your chances to upsell or cross-sell increase, raising your customers’ average lifetime value.
  • Organic traffic ROI: Databox’s Jessica Greene points out that measuring your organic traffic’s ROI is an excellent way to compare your content marketing strategy against the ROI you would generate if you used only paid search.

Predictive Factors

As our good friend Andy Crestodina and others show, there are several content metrics that—if improved–can predict increases in sales and new customers.

  • The lead-generating power of headlines, topics, and subject lines: Use beta testing to discover which attract more qualified traffic to your website.
  • Leads generated through each piece of content: Focus particularly on email newsletter subscribers, who are the leads most likely to make a purchase.
  • Ease of navigation on your website: This metric is important since your leads must be able to find what they need quickly, or you risk losing them.
  • Conversion rates from the company blog overall and by article: These rates predict interest in your products, services, and your expertise.
  • Post- and page-specific traffic: Dive deeply into the numbers—not only the content itself but where the traffic came from, such as social media, shares, or online ads.
  • Page-specific bounce rates: You want to retain your prospects’ interest with the content on each page, not lose them.
  • Click-through rate: Click-through rates indicate which headlines perform best. Headlines, in turn, drive the initial interest that drives a prospect further down the funnel.
  • Email open rates: This is another way to test headlines and subject lines to see which ones draw attention from more qualified prospects.
  • Invitations to contribute to the industry conversation: Building authority in your industry creates trust—and trust is one of the number one drivers of sales. Whether it’s as a speaker for industry events or to write a guest post for a company’s blog, these invitations demonstrate your content’s ability to position you as a thought leader.

Before You Measure, Set a Baseline

Finally, before you begin to measure and analyze all this data with content analytics, you need to learn what your numbers are when you begin, as Divvy’s own Tony Stillwell points out. That way, you can see how far effective content planning can take you.

Set a Timeline for Results

As you plan your content calendar, Stillwell advises, set a timeline to measure each campaign’s effectiveness. At the end of each year—or even each quarter—measure your overall content strategy’s effectiveness.

With a comprehensive content marketing platform, you don’t need a team of analysts by your side to get the whole picture. With a robust platform at your service, you can monitor these critical content marketing metrics and set your content marketing strategy on fire. If you would like to discover more about how you can grow your business through effective content planning, get in touch with us today.