How do you know whether your content marketing is working or not?
According to a whitepaper by Rebecca Lieb of Altimeter, measuring content marketing success is often described by marketers as “all over the board.” From the perspectives of enterprises, coming up clear metrics is subjective because of the broad range of stakeholders, including marketing, sales, and communications. There are no standardized sets of metrics that all teams converge upon naturally: for example, one team could be expecting lead generation, whereas another team could be hoping to drive deeper engagement from the same content initiative.
As Peter Drucker once said, “What gets measured gets managed.” The solution is to only measure several Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), because there is NO one-size-fits-all set of metrics. However, you’re worse off not measuring at all than not measuring properly (at least your team will get into the habit of tracking), so here are some fundamental content marketing KPIs to keep your eyes on and the principles behind them:
One prerequisite to content marketing success is ensuring people are actually consuming (e.g., reading, watching, listening to) your content. You can measure this by calculating your reach.
The most valuable metrics are pageviews and unique visitors. These two metrics have been used by advertisers and publishers since the dawn of the internet because they are most simple and representative way to measure how many people saw your content.
The reach metric comes with one caveat: optimizing just for pageviews is a poor method for measuring content marketing initiatives if you create content that is popular, but lacks relevance with your audience. Especially in B2B marketing, you must still preserve the content integrity of your brand.
When experimenting with distribution to increase reach, such as paid advertising or social media, you may also want to consider some of these KPIs that social networks look at (e.g., here are Facebook’s): impressions and clickthroughs, number of social shares — and in B2B, if your prospects shared your content. What better reason to get in touch and start a conversation?
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If you have created the world’s best content but no one is around to read it, is it valuable? Philosophy aside, let’s just make sure you never have to debate this question with your content: keep an eye on your reach through pageviews and unique visitors.
2. Brand Lift
From a more qualitative KPI focused around branding, you can measure performance in one of these primary areas of brand objectives:
- Purchase intent
Awareness can be measured through reach, but the other four points may require some deeper prodding. Companies use focus groups and surveys to measure attitudes, favorability, and preference, and you can also measure these by using social media sentiment analysis. This can be done by using free tools like Social Mention and by keeping a close eye on hashtags, Google Alerts, or through your social media agency. (For further reading on using social media to listen and gauge consumer opinions, check out Converseon’s whitepaper, Listening 2.0.)
To measure purchase intent, you can use your analytics platform to examine how far down the sales funnels visitors from your websites are going, when they arrive at your site through a content initiative. You can also use a marketing automation platform to give credit to attribute leads to specific sources of content.
3. Business Growth
In order to measure business growth, look at how much revenue is being generated through each content initiative. Depending on your business, this could be measured through lead generation, or the number of new e-mails collected within a certain timespan.
If you want a more comprehensive look at business growth created through content marketing, break down the revenue generated based on each of your content marketing efforts — was the revenue mainly through new customers or was it from increased revenue from existing customers? This will help you better understand your content initiative’s strengths and weaknesses, and whether it’s aligning to your goals (e.g., new customer acquisition vs existing custom retention?).
4. Reader Engagement
In addition to business growth, reader engagement is another KPI that will gauge whether or not your content is relevant and of high quality. Reader engagement and business growth balance out the reach KPI.
To measure reader engagement, look at metrics such as bounce rate, time spent on page, blog stickiness (average pages per visit), comments per post, and even explicit client feedback (e.g., through e-mails or blog comments).
5. Special Metrics
Your organization is unique — while it may operate using certain best practises or principles, it’s certainly not completely cut out of a cookie-cutter mould. Similarly, your content marketing KPIs should reflect this uniqueness: what aspect of your organization is this content initiative designed to help grow or improve?
Dell used to be well-known for its terrible reputation amongst consumers (have a look at what journalist Jeff Jarvis had to say about it, and how many readers that critique resonated with, several years ago). Dell knew what they had to change, and proceeded to adjust accordingly.
As the Executive Director of Online Marketing for Dell’s Large Enterprise Business Unit, Rishi Dave, highlights in this interview, Dell would look at metrics such as loyalty, brand reputation, impact on costs (for example, through customer support). These metrics are extremely customer centric and focused on retention and improving the reputation.
Dell uses a metric called the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which according to Dave, “measures the loyalty of your customer base and lets you identify opportunities for increasing your overall brand health. It also enables you to recognize how you can enhance your customers’ perceptions of (and loyalty to) your company.”
You must ask yourself, “What is your organization’s priority? What is its greatest challenge or strength, and which are you trying to improve or refine? Pick a KPI to measure this.
Don’t get caught in analysis paralysis: if your content initiative isn’t being tracked and measured using the proper KPIs, you’ll never have an idea of what needs to be improved and whether the initiative is working for your organization. Even if the metrics are not meeting performance expectations, at least you will know if your results are improving or getting worse. Having the proper metrics in place will allow you to determine the next course of action, whether it’s to cut your losses, continue on course, or tweak and optimize for more effective content marketing.
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