One of the main challenges of content marketing is measuring its impact and success. What metrics to use? What are your KPI’s? This can make it difficult to create buy-in among your leadership team in the first place. But you can surely measure it. Here is a list of the 8 most important content marketing metrics you can use.
Primary success metrics
Before we begin lets make it very clear that the most important metric you have is the overall goal. Ask yourself: Why you are going to do content marketing in the first place? What is your business objective? You understand that getting Like’s on Facebook is not a business objective. If you can not answer this question its going to be hard to measure the true impact of your efforts.
In most cases the answer to the question above is going to be:
Leads: For example: how many people have landed on your content and signed up for a free webinar after which they became a customer? This is an important metric because it tells you how your content has attributed to the bottom line of your business.
Sales: This one is straight forward. How has your content helped sell your product directly? After landing on that post about 5 cheap printers, how many people have purchased one from your store? Direct impact on sales is the best way to get management buy in for your efforts.
These metrics keep your business alive, so they are always important. So be sure you think about your goal and how to measure it. The trick with content marketing is that the impact you have is not always direct. It takes time for things to start working. So be patient and make sure you get at least 6 months of data before you make any decisions.
Secundary success metrics
The secondary layer of metrics tell you the story of how people got to the primary metrics. Through these numbers you can see how your content is performing and where there are opportunities to improve.
The first group of metrics is called reach. How many people do you reach and how do you reach them.
1. Unique visits: Unique visits tells you how many individuals have viewed your content. Pretty straightforward. A basic, but very important metric.
2. Geographic location: Where do your readers come from? It is interesting to learn where your content is resonating. But also ask yourself if this is in line with your overall marketing strategy. How can you optimise your content for specific markets?
3. Device: What device are most of your visitors consuming your content on? This gives you an idea about how the content is consumed. Check out your content on that device and see if the experience is optimal (You can do that with tools like Screenfly). Is there room for improvement?
The next group of metrics are about engagement. How do your visitors interact with your content.
4. Bounce rate/ time spent on page: A bounce is when someone visits your page and leave without any further action. The time visitors spend on a page gives you an indication of how ‘deep’ they have consumed your content. In general you are aiming for a low bounce rate and a long time on page.
Please note that the nature of these 2 metrics are not perfect. Someone can be on your page for 5 minutes and leave without doing anything else. Or someone can be on your page, leave his computer for a while and continue browsing later. But in general they give you a good idea of visitor behaviour.
5. Click patterns/ heat maps/ Scroll maps: How do people go about on your site? Where do they click? Do people scroll down? This is what heat maps, scroll maps and click patterns are for. Google Analytics has a nice option that allows you to track clicks. And there are plenty of free tools that create heat maps for you. Hotjar and Crazy Egg are 2 examples. Heat maps and click patterns are a great way to see how people interact with your content. Is your call to action clearly visible? How is your navigation? Etc. This one has to be continuous. And don’t be afraid to experiment a little. Its all about learning and optimising.
6. Pageviews: Another basic metric, but very important. How many pages do people visit before leaving your site? This tells you how engaging your content really is. The higher this number the better. How do users flow through your content? Where do they drop of? All questions you can use to optimise your content experience.
7. Comments: Always remember: Someone commenting on your content (negative or positive) is someone who cares enough to take the time to write a message to you. It is a statement. They care! So always allow people to comment and take them seriously. Do this on all your channels. Not just social, but also on your blog, newsletter, emails etc. Especially negative comments because they often reveal where users are having problems with your content or products. You can learn a lot here. Engage them, listen to them and show them you care.
8. Sharing: Someone sharing your content is the ultimate confirmation your content is good. So besides making awesome content, make sure your content can be easily shared. There are plenty of plugins to make this happen. Just make sure you do. And good plugins also allow you to measure shares. So you get 2 for the price of 1.
Tools like Mention also make it very easy for you to follow where people are talking about you. It combines social media, blogs, websites and fora. Very handy, free tool that also tracks sentiment for you. Which ties into metric number 7 too.
Combine metrics for better insights
So you have all these metrics. Great. But now we have to interpret them. Individually they already tell you a story but things get really interesting when you start combining them. Here are some examples.
Geographic + bounce rate: If you see a high bounce rate in a certain country or region, this tells you the content is not resonating there. Is there a language issue? Should you use the local language instead of english?
Device + time spent: When you see the time spent on your content is very low on mobile devices something might be wrong with the way the content is presented. Compare this to desktops. Is there a significant difference? Now you can start looking for clues on how to improve the mobile experience.
Click patterns + pageviews: So you see you have a lot of unique visitors but low pageviews. You can now use the click patterns to see how easy it is to navigate your content. How easy is it to find related articles? Or they hidden at the bottom of the page?
There are numerous combinations possible. Just think about how they can work together and reveal a story to you.
Some final thoughts about measuring success
The metrics above are by no means conclusive. They give you a basic set of KPI’s so you can build and support your case for content marketing. So please feel free to add your own. Furthermore, depending on the channels you use metrics may differ. On YouTube for example you probably want to measure views, view duration and the clicks on you CTA at the end of your video. So again, it all depends on your overall strategy and channel selection.
But don’t forget: Content marketing is not a campaign. It only starts to matter over a longer period of time. You want to grow your brands reach, influence, visibility, credibility and desirability. And that takes time and sustained effort. You need to put in at least 6 months of effort before you can start to judge the results. And that is just the beginning. Then you start your improvement cycle of creating, analysing and improving.
After you have started to measure all these efforts it still is tricky to isolate the impact of your efforts on the overall results. In traditional advertising it was always a guessing game. And to a lesser extent it still is today. It is about the combination of all efforts your company makes and in the end about the bottom line. So use the above to tell your story and share your insights. Put in effort to see how you have attributed to the overall sales. But don’t stress out too much to pinpoint it exactly because you’ll never know 100%.