You’ve spent hours writing, rewriting, editing and tweaking. It’s been a struggle, but it’s almost perfect. You review it one last time, catching any stray typos or misplaced pronouns.
Finally, it’s ready.
You hit "Publish."
And you wait …
If you’re like most marketers, you’re waiting for some sign that says your content is “working.” Unfortunately, though, most marketers suffer from two major roadblocks when it comes to understanding whether or not their content efforts are paying off.
1. They don’t have the infrastructure in place to measure the right data.
2. They don’t know what the “right data” might be.
Like any aspect of marketing, your content must have defined objectives that align with the goals of the organization. Once these are clear, defining your “success metrics” and evaluating content performance becomes less daunting, provided you have the right tools in place. So, what are your goals?
Since goals largely depend on the business's overall marketing and organizational goals, they vary. Are you a small-to-medium business or a larger company? A bricks-and-mortar outfit or web-based? Are you an ecommerce company or a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution? Are you early-stage or mature?
While I’m usually the first to advocate the importance of understanding your “content marketing ROI,” remember to view this through the lens of your objectives as a company. For example, if your only objective is brand awareness, then attaching a dollar figure to your ROI is more difficult (although, there are still ways to measure increases in brand affinity and awareness).
But whatever your goals (e.g., to generate leads, drive purchases, increase awareness or some combination of the above), your first step should be the creation and distribution of exceptional content. Content that resonates with your audience (an audience that you have explicitly defined) and provokes action (based on your overall objectives) is what you want.
What does writing “really great” content mean?
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “the technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience -- with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” All in all, this is a pretty great definition. But let’s take it a step further: How do you craft content that is not only valuable and relevant, but also compelling? Content that keeps them coming back for more?
Ann Handley writes that in order to achieve this, your content needs to be “useful, inspired, and pathologically empathetic to the needs of the people you are trying to reach.”
As the popularity of content marketing continues to explode, and speculation about content shock rises, it’s more important than ever to take care in creating content that is compelling and well-crafted in order to cut through the noise.
How do you know if you’ve created exceptional content?
Here’s where we get to the nitty gritty of measuring content performance. Again, it depends on your goals. For many companies, the objective is to drive growth by creating content at each stage of the buyer journey, ultimately turning a visitor into a customer. Here are two main "buckets" for looking at your content marketing performance:
1. Engagement metrics
2. Growth metrics
Depending on your goals, you might focus more on one than the other. You might also focus on a specific metric within one bucket more than on another. But beyond knowing which data to track, you also need the right tools to monitor your metrics and translate them into actionable knowledge.
Engagement metrics are a great way to gauge how your content resonates with people, whether you’re attracting the right audience and whether your distribution plan is effective. Criteria include:
- Page views
- Time on site
- Pages per visit
- Social shares
- Bounce rate
While these can be valuable indicators (and increasing them might be the first step to higher growth metrics), marketers often focus too much on engagement metrics and not the growth metrics that shed light on your overall content ROI.
In contrast to engagement metrics, growth metrics are more directly related to your bottom line, customer growth, etc. Again, depending on your model and goals, you’ll want to pick a few key measures that make sense for you. These might include (but aren't limited to):
- Call to action (CTA) conversions (a new lead, a purchase or even a new subscriber, depending on your goals)
- Form submissions (perhaps they’re subscribing or opting into an ebook or white paper)
- Visitor-to-lead conversion rate
- Lead-to-customer conversion rate
- “Assists” (did your content eventually lead to a conversion?)
And if you’re in the ecommerce space, you might add:
- Visitor-to-purchase conversion rate
- Repeat purchases that result from your content marketing
Now that you know what to measure, putting it together to optimize your funnel is key. For example, here’s what a simple funnel might look like at Uberflip for one of our webinars.
Visit Blog Post > Click Webinar CTA > Submit Form on Webinar Landing Page > Attend Webinar
If my end goal was simply webinar registrants, I could stop here. But I can also take it a step further to see the impact on growth.
Visit Blog Post > Click Webinar CTA > Submit Form on Webinar Landing Page > Attend Webinar > Become a Qualified Led > Become a Customer
While our end goal is to get more quality leads for our sales team, the webinar registration is a “micro conversion” -- an essential step in the overall process. If this step doesn’t deliver, the overall performance is affected. Understanding the conversion rates at each stage of this funnel helps us optimize the process so we can maximize the end goal.
The right tools
While there’s no shortage of tools that will give you data, being able to identify the right data, interpret it, combine it with qualitative insights and feedback and turn it into something actionable can be tough.
By knowing your goals, setting up the right systems and understanding the meaning behind the numbers, you can get what you need to set benchmarks and improve your content marketing.
Here are a few tools to help you get started, many of which we use regularly at Uberflip to help us make better, data-driven decisions when it comes to content marketing.
If you don’t have Google Analytics (GA) installed, you’re at a serious disadvantage. This is a great way to analyze where your traffic is coming from, and to ascertain engagement metrics, like page views and sessions (formerly called “visits”). You can also analyze behavior flow to see where people go next. And, if you’ve got GA well-integrated, you can set up events, to measure things like purchases, CTA conversions, etc.
At Uberflip, one of the metrics we use daily is Content Score via our content marketing software. Content Score lets us see what content is performing best. The score is based on specific variables like page views, social shares, leads generated, assists, etc.
While we can dig into each of these metrics separately, Content Score tells us what’s performing well at the moment and has done so over recent months. This insight helps us improve content creation and distribution by focusing on high-converting content, ultimately driving more leads for our sales team.
BuzzSumo does many things, from helping you discover what content is trending, to finding influencers about a specific topic. It’s also a great way to grab a quick view of your top-performing content across the most popular social media networks. Simply type in your domain, and it’s all at your fingertips.
Pro tip: You can do the same search for a competitor’s domain and topics to see how you’re ranking in comparison.
Buffer is a social media scheduling tool which includes analytics that, in contrast to BuzzSumo’s social overview, let you do a deep dive into which content is resonating within each social channel and see how many clicks your shares are getting.
What are people clicking on? What do they mark as "favorites"? Retweet? Having an in-depth understanding of what’s resonating via social media will give you better insight into how you can improve your engagement metrics when it comes to your content efforts.
Marketing automation platforms
It’s no secret that marketing automation is hot. From HubSpot to Marketo to Act-On to Infusionsoft (and the list goes on and on), most marketing automation tools can give you deep insight into how your content is working on an individual level and within various segments of your audience. Set up properly, marketing automation is also a great way to help determine your overall content ROI and link content consumed to actual customers gained.
Pro tip: There’s a serious risk of wasting time and money if your marketing automation isn’t well-implemented. Take the time to develop a strategy and integrate your MA tool properly.
Other factors that affect performance
While the quality of your content is probably the most important factor in determining success, other factors can have a major impact on overall performance. For example, the content experience (the design of the user interface and overall experience) is an often-ignored but potentially game-changing factor. This can include anything from the content's look and feel, the inclusion and placement of calls to action and the question of whether the experience is optimized for mobile devices.
Content marketing is a long-term initiative that requires you to make informed decisions at every stage of the process. That’s why it’s important to understand how to read the signs in order to steer your content marketing in the right direction. But, like anything else, clarity of purpose sits at the heart of the matter. So, begin by articulating your goals and then work through the rest.