Are You Tracking These Content Marketing Metrics?
Content marketing is a powerful element of any marketer’s toolbox. But without the ability to track the results each piece yields, it’s difficult to prove its worth to senior management.
To determine where content marketing experts place their focus, I asked twenty marketing experts to share their top four content marketing metrics (Note: Link is to fifty-three metrics). What was surprising about the results was the number of respondents who referenced Jay Baer’s four categories of content marketing metrics.
1. In my new book, Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is about Help not Hype, I actually talk about the four categories of content marketing metrics. They are: consumption metrics, sharing metrics, lead generation metrics, and sales metrics. Of course, sales metrics are the most important. Did your content generate dollars is the question we all ultimately want to answer. But it’s not always simple to tell that story mathematically. Conversely, the metrics that are most often overvalued are sharing metrics. Indeed, it’s great that your content got a lot of tweets or +1s and so forth, but we tend to care a LOT about those data points because they are public, and out there for everyone to see. Ultimately, you can’t pay your rent with shares. Hopefully, those shares generate leads and sales, but that happens on a non-linear basis, typically. Which is to say that shares are (hopefully) a means to an end, not an end unto themselves. Remember, unless you’re selling ads, you’re in the action business, not the eyeballs business. Jay Baer of Convince and Convert and author of Youtility.
2. Google “content marketing metrics” and you get a gazillion hits – and they all mention what you might call the Fab Four – Consumption, Lead Generation, Sharing, and Sales. Ok, those are the obvious ones. And yes, very important. You want your content read, shared, piquing interest, and driving sales. So, I’m not going to talk about them. But what about community? Can community even be classed as a ‘metric’? I think it can. I’m a bit tangential that way – bear with me. Community, in my opinion, is the very base on which the Fab Four sits. And I’m not just talking just about big numbers – big numbers don’t necessarily equal higher metrics. You might have a large number of followers but have done next to nothing to engage with them and build loyalty. They actually don’t give a hoot about you, might never read or share your content, and don’t drive leads or sales. While your great content and snazzy content marketing strategy might draw impressive likes or sign up figures, those numbers potentially mean nothing. Meanwhile, a strong, engaged, personally invested community brings honest opinions (with which you can judge the quality of your content), spirited debates (inspiring increased social sharing and consumption), friendship (leading to higher personal recommendations and referrals) and diehard dedication (leading to more sales). Community should be the force that drives all other metrics. Lindsay Bell of Spin Sucks.
3. I have only one: caring. You can define that at the surface level of entertainment, or at a deeper level of truly changing someone’s life. I also like this because it forces us to look beyond some basic metric such as “bounce rate” or “% of returning visitors.” You can use these to provide context or signals, but often need to dig MUCH deeper and combine a wide variety of qualitative and quantitative data. And of course: you have to TALK to those you serve. Dan Blank of We Grow Media.
4. We look at ROI (conversion of our visitors to sales), engagement (time spent, bounce rate), percentage of traffic from early stage search, and we rank content based on its ability to deliver “unique visitors.” Michael Brenner of SAP and the B2B Insider blog.
5. The key content marketing metrics depend on the objective of your strategy. Without knowing this, it’s difficult to assess your progress. Your goals should be as specific as possible to enable you to select the appropriate metrics easily. In general, these metrics should revolve around the following five categories:
- Brand impact
- Sales &/or lead generation
It’s interesting that many of the respondents in this list never considered costs or expense, a critical factor for determining the relative value of your campaign. Heidi Cohen of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
6. I think Jay Baer’s four content marketing metrics model of consumption metrics (traffic and open rate metrics), sharing metrics (retweets, likes and forwards), lead metrics (leads generated in your marketing automation system), and sales metrics (deals won in your CRM). However, this model omits a fifth type of metric which is perhaps the most important in growing an audience, subscription metrics (email subscribers, feed subscribers, social media followers). Pawan Deshpande of Curata.
7. Our main measurements are very likely different from brand to brand. Beyond the obvious “increase transactions,” brands usually have very different desired outcomes. One piece of content marketing may be developed with the intent of creating immediate transactions, and thus that piece is going to be weighed against the flow of transactions. Another piece might be part of a larger campaign to affect consumer awareness or associations – an intention to impact the larger brand equity. And another piece may be created with the intent of providing lift to a larger comprehensive marketing effort.
As an example of the challenges we face in assessing the value of content marketing, consider one of the best examples of great content marketing, Dove. It would be wonderful if we could be privy to the impact on sales: Unilever has reported a healthy increase in the past quarter, but most of the increase has been from emerging markets. We don’t know, and can’t see, what the underlying sales trends are to really comprehend the impact without being behind the scenes and knee-deep in the data. It’s possible that sales may not be the best indicator of success for Unilever – the marketing team there might be working to shift perception of the brand, which can only be measured in marketing studies – all of which would be top secret to outsiders. Ric Dragon of Dragon Search and Author of Social Marketology.
8. If I set aside the difficult task of connecting actual Content Marketing activity to new business and then assume relationship building isn’t easily quantifiable, I focus on the site whose cause I’m trying to forward. Smart numbers worthy of tracking and perpetually aiming to improve would be traffic, conversion, time on site, and page views. I suppose all the while, I’m thinking “get stickier.” For my own site, I tend to obsess over the sources of the traffic because having a grasp of where new eyeballs are coming from helps me better understand where my advice, ideas, opinions—and style—are resonating with the audience (or not). Barry Feldman author of The Plan to Grow Your Business with Effective Online Marketing, a free e-book.
9. Probably the most important way to measure content marketing, yet hardest to quantify is engagement. Engagement comes in various ways, depending in part on the channels used. So, I’d look at the following metrics:
- Shares: RT’s, likes and shares are good starting points to measure engagement.
- Consumption: page views, average time spent, bounce rates, etc
- Conversions: for campaigns where there is a specific goal (registration, purchase, etc), the ultimate metric is conversions.
- Sentiment/brand awareness: this is probably the most difficult to measure or to attribute to a specific campaign, but for large brands, media monitoring may allow them to measure how sentiment is changing or brands or products gaining mention on various social media platforms and other public forums. Barry Graubert of Content Matters.
10. Today with a minimum of Google analytics, a good Social Media management tool and good community feedback you can easily get started with monitoring and analyzing your content for effectiveness.
Because metrics, goals and definitions vary from company to company and campaign to campaign, I like to keep my metrics simplistic. I find that these four always guide me in the right direction for collecting the data needed to make decisions.
- Who did your content reach
- What did they share it
- When did they find it
- Where did they share it
By using a combination of my Personas, Google Analytics, WP stat plug-ins, a good Social Media management tool you can fairly easily define goals and gain the insight needed to understand how content is performing. Kelly Hungerford of Paper.li
12. Here are my choices for the top four content marketing metrics (with an added honorable mention.)
- Open/clickthrough rate – measures the general appeal of the topic and the effectiveness of the headline-writing.
- Lead conversion rate – extent to which the idea of the content (at least as expressed in the landing page or promotional copy) appealed enough for the reader to offer their contact information in exchange for it.
- Share rate – extent to which the content was regarded as appealing or valuable enough to share with others.
- Sales conversion rate – the extent to which content was either a predictor of or assistive in creating an actual sale.
- Honorable mention: repeat rate — that is, the % of people who come back for a second dose of content within, say, 2 weeks. When someone comes back to a source for more content, it is a reflection of trust and a positive first experience with that source’s content.) Michael Kolowich of KnowledgeVision.
13. I would say four critical metrics would be
- traffic to a specific piece of content
- bounce rate
- conversion rates and
- how often it is shared in social media.
I would probably put them in that order of importance too. Without traffic, the other three measurements become a moot point. Once you have the traffic, was it engaged or did it bounce from the page? If they stayed on the page, did it lead to a conversion for your business? Each of those three steps can be evaluated for improvements so that you can keep refining your efforts to give you the best ROI. I added social sharing as a fourth indicator, but in my mind it is a distant fourth. After all if you are killing it with the first three metrics, how obsessed do you need to be with social signals? Besides, not every piece of content is inherently sharable. For example, do I really need to share with the world that I just purchased three new dress shirts? Or that I was researching high-risk driver’s insurance? Arnie Kuenn of Vertical Measures and author of Accelerate.
14. There are as many metrics as there are goals in content marketing – there’s no one “right” metric. That said, there are more popular metrics, such as ones that track the ROI of content marketing (e.g. sales, leads generated). Brand metrics may involve brand favorability or trust. Social amplification of a message is often important for marketers who are working to spread messages. Personally, the one metric I have a problem with is “engagement.” I so rarely know what, exactly, that term refers to. Rebecca Lieb of Altimeter and Author of Content Marketing and The Truth About Search Engine Optimization.
15. Here are my top four content marketing metrics:
- Month over month growth in organic website traffic, leads, and opportunities. A fantastic way to measure the success of your content marketing effors is to start by tracking to see if people are finding your website by means other than paid promotion or direct brand awareness (e.g. typing in your URL or searching your brand names). You can then track how much of that traffic turns into leads, and whether those leads turn into pipeline and revenue. This is a great way to show that all the content marketing is actually impacting the bottom line.
- Social engagement, not just reach. Social engagement becomes even more important as prospective buyers use and learn on social sites more than email (a process Marketo refers to as “seed nurturing”). Facebook reports on engaged users with the “People Talking About This” metric and other tools such as Feedburner show similar metrics for engagement, not just reach.
- Lead generation by content, channel, and initiative. Beyond core organic traffic and leads, track lead generation by content asset and source. The idea here is to determine what sources are driving the most traffic, what kinds of content drive the most leads and ultimately the most revenue. Measuring all this requires the ability to create landing pages and tracking codes for each asset, a capability provided by most marketing automation solutions.
- Percent of leads with an inbound original source. With inbound marketing and content marketing, you’ll find that people first discover and engage with your brand via inbound channels, but they may not convert on that first visit, or even the second or third or more. When they do actually convert, they are likely get to your site using a different method such as direct URL entry. That’s why it’s so important to know the “original source” of your leads – not the source of the visit that caused them to convert, but the source that caused them to first become aware of you. At Marketo, we find that a whopping 40% of our customers first met us by engaging with one of our content assets. Jason Miller of Marketo.
16. My four essential content marketing metrics are: the number of social shares, traffic driven, emails addresses collected, and any direct conversions. Neil Patel of Kiss Metrics.
17. There are four types of metrics – Sharing Metrics, Consumption Metrics, Lead Metrics and Sales Metrics. Sales metrics are the most important, but outside of that, the metric of choice depends on the overall content marketing objective. For example, if we know that our email subscribers spend more money than non-subscriber, subscriber signups and opt-outs are critical. If brand awareness is a goal, then search engine optimization rankings are key. If lead quality is the goal, then monitoring lead-to-close ratios are important. There is no silver bullet with content marketing measurement. Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute and Author of Managing Content Marketing and Get Content Get Customers.
18. My top four content marketing metrics include:
- Awareness: Do people know about us and can they recall what we do or make
- Interactions: (Because engagement is overused) Does my audience interact with my content in the form of online actions, comments, etc.?
- Conversions: Does my audience leave me their email address or other pieces of information that start a business relationship? Do take actions that turn them into brand advocates?
- ROI: Are all these efforts generating the desired result? Are we saving money, creating or increasing revenue? Is the needle moving on the business?. Nate Riggs
19. If my goal is awareness, I prioritize views, shares, comments and likes, all of which also positively impact search ranking. If my goal is to drive conversions, I’d also look at broader engagement metrics and completion of calls to action. Jake Sorofman of Gartner.
20. I suppose the top four metrics to watch depend a little on the size of your content marketing group. Right now, we are really focusing on page rank. We’ve done a lot of research to find our strongest search terms and then optimized a page for each of the big ones. To move that needle, we are creating conversations across the web and pushing people back to the optimized pages. Pageviews and time on page are important, but conversions are what count: How many times did you get a reader to click through from your blog to a registration page. How many registrants actually watched the webinar and for how long? How many of those viewers bought something from you? You can translate those metrics to cash. Waynette Tubbs of SAS.
To prove how effective your content marketing is, it’s critical to track your results. Understand that forms of content and/or different goals may require that you adjust your metrics.
How do you define content curation? Please add your thoughts to the comments below.
NOTE: All book links are affiliate links. Also, the bolding is mine.
I'll be there along with 200 other speakers from around the world.
Register today. Use my code: to save $100.
- Are you a content marketing rock star?
- 20 Ways to get your content marketing discovered
- Content Marketing Checklist
Photo Credit: Heidi Cohen (c) 2013 Permission granted under Creative Commons. Use requires link to this article.