How to Measure Your Content Marketing Effort & Track Its Success
Here at DivvyHQ, we talk a lot about the value that content marketing can bring to your business. You’ve bought into the idea and have spent a hefty amount of time and money on identifying your target customers, discovering what keeps them up at night, and creating content that solves those problems. Before the CEO calls you in to justify your spend, you need to learn how to measure content marketing and its benefits to your business.
We’re here to help. It’s not rocket science, but you need to know a few things about what to look for when you measure the results of your campaigns and track their success.
Revisit Your Business Goals
To measure the value of your content campaigns, you first need to look (and re-look) at your corporate business goals. The ultimate objective, of course, is to drive ROI for your company. That means that your content needs to convert more of your audience into paying customers, while cutting marketing costs in the process.
That only happens when everyone on your marketing team is always on the same page. Content marketing, like charity, begins at home. Everyone involved with your content needs to understand what’s going on at all times — and associate it with the mission and vision of your company. Let me explain…
Please tell me you’ve seen “Plains, Trains & Automobiles.” If so, you’ll surely recall the part when Del Griffith (John Candy) gets nabbed for speeding due to a melted speedometer. Don’t worry if you haven’t seen the whole movie — I think you’ll agree the following scene holds up on its own:
To help illustrate the role dashboards play in content marketing measurement, I thought it’d be fun to imagine a similar conversation between a CMO and a content marketing manager.
Content marketing manager: Top of the morning, boss!
CMO: What the hell are you looking at here?
Manager: It’s our Twitter data. We had a small follower abandonment issue last night, but we caught it in the nick of time.
CMO: Do you have any idea if we’re experiencing a similar problem on other social networks?
Manager: Oddly enough I was just getting around to that. You see, our social data lives in six different places, making it difficult to tell with any degree of efficiency exactly just how well we’re doing in any one channel, or collectively for that matter.
CMO: My sources say performance is down across the board: Email, SEO, paid, website…
Manager: (bewildered whistle) Across the board, huh? Uh, yeah I could buy that. Sure, I guess you’d know better than me, especially since I haven’t had time to log in and check out the performance for any of those.
CMO: Do you honestly feel this measurement system is a safe way to assure we’ll meet our business goals?
Manager: No I do not. I really don’t. Our data is everywhere. We don’t have time to look at it, let alone analyze it. Channel goals don’t roll up to program KPIs and our various functions have no idea what the others are doing, or achieving. We have a thousand one-off reports scattered throughout Google Drive. It’s not pretty to look at. And it’s not getting us where we want to go.
CMO: You have no idea what’s happening this month.
Manager: No, we lost sight of that.
CMO: None of your data sources are integrated.
Manager: No, not a one. However we’re still cranking out a ton of content, funny as that may seem.
If any part of the above conversation could plausibly occur at your company, it’s time to simplify your content marketing measurement system.
Similar to simplifying your content marketing strategy, there are a bunch of benefits to kicking complexity from content measurement. For most teams, the following three top the list:
- Allows everyone to focus on what’s most important
- Saves time and frustration
- Increases role clarity and cohesion
Dive into the Content Metrics that Matter
Start with a look at your content analytics over the past year. Numbers that you should keep an eye out for are those that lead people further down the sales funnel, such as:
- Clickthrough rates
- Web traffic, both organic and referral
- Time on page
- Email and social shares
- Newsletter subscription conversions
- Ebook or white paper downloads
- Signups for free trials or consultations
- Sales conversions, upsells, and repeat sales
Pay attention to the percentage of each metric that leads to the next step along the funnel, and the average percentage of each metric that ultimately leads to a sale. These key performance indicators (KPIs) are the ones that you need to look at over the course of the year to ensure you stay on track to hit your goals.
Add up Your Expenses
Content production expenses for an enterprise content team include employee salaries and benefits, payments to freelance and other outsourced content creators, the costs of maintaining your website, email expenses, and of course, your content marketing platform. Then, subtract them from your revenue to calculate your ROI.
Now that you have that number, it’s time to look to the future for ways to increase it over the coming year. Chances are, there are areas you could shore up to boost that figure by the end of the year.
Improve Your Content KPIs
That’s what you can take to the front office. However, there are more key metrics other than sales that you need to track with content analytics, at least for your own reference. These metrics might not result in sales right away, but they have proven to produce bottom-line results in the long run.
One of the best ways to find areas of improvement is by looking at how your content has performed in boosting your KPIs.
- Clickthrough rates: Look at how your landing pages, email newsletters, meta descriptions, snippets, social media posts, guest blog posts, and press releases have performed in driving clickthroughs. Look for ways to make these digital assets more appealing to your top-of-the-funnel segment. Analyze your customer data to ensure that your content addresses their pain points, interests, and needs.
- Web traffic, both organic and referral: Look for ways to optimize your content for search, concentrating on mobile, since nearly 60 percent of all web searches occur on mobile devices. Whether it’s looking for guest posting opportunities or simply creating value for your audience through more in-depth content, use your content to position your company as the go-to source for information and advice in your industry. With all these factors working in your favor, you should see your content rise in search results for your products and services.
- Pageviews: Encourage social shares to boost the number of new views. To entice your audience to read more of your content while they’re on your website, include links to related content with short, compelling descriptions.
- Time on page: Make your blog posts and other owned digital assets easy to read by including subheadings, visuals, and bullet points. Videos should be easy to understand and fun to watch. The easier you make it for people to read and watch your content, the more likely they will stay on the page until the end.
- Email and social shares: Always include share buttons with a short call-to-action to motivate people to share your articles, posts, and videos.
- Newsletter subscription conversions: On every blog post, include an invitation to subscribe. Provide a short explanation about how becoming a subscriber can benefit them.
- Ebook or white paper downloads: Blog posts and articles in your email newsletter can pique your audience’s interest in a topic. Use that interest to entice them to get a deeper grasp of the topic with an invitation to download a related white paper or ebook.
- Signups for free trials or consultations: Bottom-of-the funnel content should always include a call to action that invites qualified leads to contact you for more information or a free trial. Nothing drives sales better than hearing and experiencing what your products and services can do for your prospects.
- Sales conversions, upsells, and repeat sales: B2C companies can include links to purchase their products and services within the text of their posts. Both B2B and B2C companies should engage in storytelling that shows what their products can do for customers. In fact, B2B organizations can personalize content for key decision-makers, ensuring it addresses their specific concerns. This content strategy, called account-based marketing, is an excellent tactic to drive sales among your top prospects.
Some other secondary content metrics that you can measure are:
- Search results for your target keywords and brand name
- Onsite engagement
- Social media engagement
- Quality of leads
- Brand authority
Then, as the year goes by, keep a close eye on your key metrics. Tweak your underperformers and amplify the reach of your best-performing content in another form to reach new customer segments.
These metrics often vary in importance by type of content and goals – and by what numbers are critical for your business. For example, your e-book or white paper won’t spike search results since it’s gated content – something that’s not readily available to people who simply search online. People must submit at least their email address to get it.
But quality leads and sales? That’s the pot of gold at the end of that rainbow.
On the other hand, search engine rankings is a must-measure metric for a blog post, as is website traffic. When you post links to that post on social media (and we recommend that you always do), you’ll want to measure the post’s social engagement as well to see how many people clicked through to your website from each social media platform.
Example from DivvyHQ Analytics
If you have a newsletter or mailing list (and you should), measure your blog posts’ effectiveness by tracking the new subscribers they generate, as the Content Marketing Institute advises. Newsletters have an incredibly high ROI – $38 for each dollar you invest – so they need to be an essential component of your content strategy.
The trick in getting it right is not to measure all the key performance indicators (KPIs) for every campaign – unless they all are relevant for your goals – but rather to measure the ones that are important to you and your business, as Brad Wikstrom points out.
If your company is looking into getting an app, for instance, tracking mobile conversions might be an indication of how many of your target customers use mobile as their preferred way to interact with your company. Paid keyword performance, Wikstrom points out, can also help your team identify top-performing keywords that you can prioritize in your content planning.
Repurpose Top Performers to Multiply Your Success
Once you have identified your top content performers using your chosen KPIs for content measurement, it’s time to multiply their reach by repurposing them. Turn a top-performing blog post into a video, or a great video into a step-by-step guide. Then, track that content’s performance as well.
Above all, keep your eyes on the prize. When you’ve chosen what KPIs are important to your business, don’t get sidetracked by the “KPI of the week” mentality and then drown in a flood of numbers, as Michael Brenner points out.
Collaborate with Other Departments and Within Your Own Team
Content collaboration is one of the best ways to come up with creative, value-enhancing content. Brainstorming among your in-house teams can help provide outside-the-box ideas that can freshen older content and serve as the foundation for conversion-driving new content. Get them excited about boosting your numbers and keep them informed about your progress during the year. In fact, providing some of your top producers with access to your analytics can help motivate them to go above and beyond their call of duty in both the quantity and quality of their work.
Picking your subject matter experts’ brains for technical details can provide a wealth of information that can make your content appeal to decision-makers within your prospects’ executive suite. Additionally, checking in with your sales and customer support team can help you address your prospects’ concerns with content that answers their questions and clears away objections.
Calculate Your Content ROI
Bottom line, the metric that matters most to your C-suite is your content marketing ROI, as OptInMonster’s Jacinda Santora points out. After all, revenue is the fuel that funds your business – and ROI is the mathematical relationship between the revenue that your efforts produced versus your expenses.
“I knew there would be math involved,” I can hear you say. Hear me out. Do not click away. It’s that important.
How to Calculate the ROI of Your Content: It’s simpler to calculate than you think. All because the number-crunchers have already figured out a simple formula that will make calculating your ROI easy-peasy.
First, find out what it costs your company to produce your content.
- If you used an in-house team, calculate their salaries and benefits.
- If you outsourced your content production to an agency or to freelancers, jot down their fees.
- Look into the cost of any artwork you used, whether stock images or from your own design team.
- If you needed to purchase equipment or software, such as video equipment or online grammar checkers, note that.
Next, look at your content distribution and automation costs. If you’ve invested in a content marketing platform to save time and money, write down the monthly or yearly cost, depending upon the period you want to measure. If you paid for Google or social media ads to promote your content, that expense, too, applies.
Now, add up the revenue your content brought in. In some cases, calculating revenue is easy. If a piece of content links to a sales page in its call to action, adding up the sales from that page is fairly straightforward.
However, if your content is linked to an e-book or white paper download, there are a few more steps to follow the money.
Look at all the prospects that downloaded the paper. If any of them bought a product or service after reading the long-form content, enter that amount.
However, in marketing to other businesses (B2B campaigns), there are often a few more steps. After reading a piece of content, a decision-maker might request a meeting with your sales team. After that meeting, she might want a follow-up meeting with the entire C-suite or another group of decision-makers.
That’s the point at which I remind you that siloed departments are so yesterday.
If your marketing team and sales teams have a central location (CRM, marketing automation platform, etc.) where they can track, monitor and share information about the results of those meetings, you can better track results for both departments. And, while I’m at it, consider bringing in your other teams – especially subject matter experts – to demonstrate your company’s mastery of its field. That’s a huge differentiator in B2B marketing and sales – and it’s so easy to do when you collaborate on content.
Finally, calculate your ROI percentage. Subtract your investment from your revenue. Divide the answer by your investment. Express the answer as a percentage – and you’re done.
Success, of course, is when you earn more than you spend on content production. Simple, right? You can even use a calculator.
Keep Cutting Your Costs
Get more out of your content investment: Look for ways to increase the mileage you get out of every piece of content. That might include repurposing each piece of content several times, updating, and republishing your evergreen content (be sure to include a notation in the title that you’ve updated it, along with the year you update it).
Saving time is another easy way to reduce expenses. Although, like most enterprise content teams, you’re probably strapped for time with a full-to-the-brim content calendar, you can streamline the content creation process when you have a single platform to store, schedule, collaborate on, create, publish, automate, measure, and analyze all your content.
With such a system, you’ll never wonder, “Where is that case study about how our flagship product cut our customer’s production costs in half?” You’ll be able to retrieve it, measure how it performed, and repurpose it for a presentation for a new prospect.
(DivvyHQ is that kind of platform. With a single place to conduct all your business, you’ll have more time to create more revenue-driving content. If this solution sounds like something that can make your life easier, it’s easy to give it a try for FREE.)
How to Simplify Your Content Marketing Measurement System
Content program KPIs are fundamental. Hundreds of marketing metrics tell us everything from the percentage of viewers who shared a video to how much it costs to secure a click in a single channel. Unless we prioritize only the most important metrics, we find ourselves beholden to all of them. That’s confusing, and worse, leads to misguided decisions.
For example, a SaaS marketer might look to dozens of metrics for insight, but when it comes to making a decision, she can turn to her program KPIs and ask:
- How will this decision affect the amount of sales qualified leads my team generates?
- How will this decision affect our cost per sales qualified lead?
- How will this decision help my sales team close a higher percentage of those leads?
I disagree with those who say vanity metrics should rarely enter the conversation. Taken with the proper perspective and prioritization, these metrics can be incredibly useful. Establishing your KPIs is what gives vanity metrics their much-needed perspective.
Centralize Your Content Marketing Insights
How’s your data going to tell a story if your insightful anecdotes are nowhere near each other? It won’t. Not without some serious aggregation anyway.
We’re two decades into the twenty-first century — there are tools for that.
Ideally, you can avoid yet another tool with yet another login by pulling all your content marketing measurement and analytics into a tool you already use. You’ll be floored to learn that my personal favorite is the pre-configured yet customizable content analytics feature that comes standard with DivvyHQ. (In all seriousness, this feature has been an analytical boon to our clients and ourselves, hence the admittedly gratuitous video below.)
There are other tools, of course. Whether you use Divvy’s or someone else’s, the important thing is to verify that it’s easy to use, easy to access and easy to understand. Otherwise it won’t get used. Then what’s the point?
Make it Easy for Each Role to Measure Their Contribution
To get the job done right, a crane operator needs an entirely different (and hopefully not melted) set of gauges than a drilling rig operator. The same goes for content marketing roles. A dashboard that’s designed for everyone can’t possibly serve any one person all that well.
In addition to program KPIs and goals, you’ll want to establish channel KPIs that feed up to program goals. This way, each team member can see how their hard work contributes to the program’s success.
As an example, Divvy team members can view every dashboard (below) to track what’s going on with the program. The specialized dashboards come in handy for role-based goal monitoring and decision making.
Build Analytics into Your Content Planning Process
Are you allotting hard, scheduled time for team members to analyze data and make recommendations? If not, what message do you send about its importance?
We all know content teams are busy. If analysis isn’t part of the regularly scheduled programming, it will almost certainly get cast aside in favor of more urgent (but less important) production priorities. It’s also wise to review data as a team on the regular. Check this off your list by adding data review to your content planning meeting agenda.
Get the Boss off Your Back
Healthier performance figures almost always lead to fewer check-ins from the C-Suite. Chiseling out a goal to demonstrably improve an antiquated measurement and optimization system is a logical place to start. A content team could accomplish this goal in a matter of weeks, and it’s entirely reasonable to believe this process should lead to a stronger sense of purpose.
With analytics now centralized and accessible, you won’t need to stop everything to create a report every time an executive has a head scratcher. The dashboard tells an on-demand story for you:
Content marketing manager: Top of the morning, boss!
CMO: Just saw the dashboard. That new thought leadership campaign caught on fire!
Try simple on for size. Check out DivvyHQ with your team, before you buy, to make sure I’m not full of beans when I call it the easiest-to-use content planning tool for busy teams. Schedule your two-week trial here.