Content is all the rage these days, as marketing, public relations, social media and advertising continue to converge, cross-pollinate and ultimately collaborate to cut through the noise.
As a result, the question isn’t: “Do we need to be thinking about a content strategy?” But, rather: “How do we strategically create content that we can then measure, evaluate and use to empower our brand?”
According to one of my favorite compatriots, analyst Rebecca Lieb, “measuring content effectiveness remains the single most daunting task facing content marketers.” And as anyone who spends any amount of time in the content world knows, creating intriguing content using a custom WordPress template is no longer enough. Not even close.
Rather, continuous evaluation and evolution of your strategy is just as, if not more, important than the actual content you publish.
It’s one thing to critique what did and didn’t work within a piece of content. But it’s another to take those critiques, apply critical thought and walk away with a clear understanding of what you’re going to do next to make your strategy stronger and better. To create a self-perpetuating ecosystem of content opportunity, content marketers must also apply critical thought based on industry knowledge in order to fuel optimization and decision-making. Here are three important considerations.
1. Decide what to measure.
In an eBook co-authored by digital marketing advisor Jay Baer and the Content Marketing Institute, Baer suggested that there are four types of metrics to consider when measuring the effectiveness of your content:
Consumption metrics: How many people viewed, downloaded or listened to this content?
Sharing metrics: How resonant was this content, and how often was it shared with others?
Lead metrics: How often did content consumption result in a lead?
Sales metrics: Did your company actually make any money because of this content?
Sophisticated content-marketing strategies measure a bit from all of these metric buckets, but the weight you assign to each depends on the circumstances of your business. For instance, newly launched brands (think: any startup, age 1 to 5 years of age) may find consumption and sharing metrics highly valuable as they build their respective customer bases from the ground up and strive to build trust.
Fully baked companies (think: Apple, Target, Adobe, Nike) with wide brand recognition may find consumption and sharing metrics less important, compared to lead and sales metrics, given that they’ve already invested in developing their audiences.
It’s all about identifying what’s important to you right now, but it should all essentially ladder back to the goal of converting (or whatever key performance indicator -- KPI --equates to for you). As Baer advised, “The goal isn’t to be good at content. The goal is to be good at business because of content.”
2. Break down your evaluations into short- and long-term cycles.
Just as with PR, oftentimes you won’t see the results of content marketing until later. A potential customer isn’t likely to download your insights report, then subscribe to your software service later that day. The relationship must be built over time; so go some of the following unique challenges of content marketing measurement:
Short-term: consumption and sharing metrics. Measure what you can today, and let those findings inform your reactive content funnel. For example, let's say your listicle post titled “10 Ways Millennials Shop Differently Than Their Parents” gets 100 likes within the first hour after you tweet it. You then make a few sound observations on why the post performed well, working into your editorial mix more listicles and topics with headlines that compare generational behavior.
Long-term: lead and sales metrics. Make a point, monthly or quarterly, to look at the bigger picture and evaluate your content from a zoomed-out view. Did that same article about millennials that did so well with consumption and sharing metrics also result in leads and conversions? What about it appealed to your audience? Did the fact that thought leadership articles covering marketing to millennials are on the rise affect your post’s popularity?
Figure out your short- and long-term evaluation cadences, and adjust as needed, depending on the types of content you’re sharing and the topics you’re covering.
3. Empower your decision-making.
Hospitality company Marriott has invested in the development of its own media division, complete with a media-buying agency, which, at a moment's notice, promotes content that is performing well. But the reality is that not every company is equipped with its own in-house newsroom. You can, however, aim to function like a real newsroom by reacting quickly to trending topics and letting your analytical skills continually empower your pen.
Not only is it your job as a content marketer to be reactive and analytical, but you also need to place your stories within the greater context of what’s happening within your industry. Sometimes, that means seeing trends before your readers do, and predicting them appropriately. Context is everything, and connecting the dots between what types of content are performing well and what’s happening in your space will give you editorial super powers.
Finally, don’t ignore underperforming content. Online marketer Adam Rowles suggests comparing less-than-stellar content with your more successful content, then editing it and publishing it again. In an article about kickass content strategy he wrote, “Quite regularly, I will amend some content and re-publish it across all my social networks --generally with a better outcome than before.”
These tips are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to tracking your content’s success, but they're a solid start to figuring out where you may need to improve or fine-tune. If content is king, and distribution is queen . . . I’d say that measurement is their very knowledgable, fact-loving advisory board.
Are you listening?