Measuring the success of content marketing

Content Marketing is hard work. Coming up with ideas, turning them into content and publishing it takes a lot of time and effort, it is a big commitment.

So you will want to know if it is working and to gain insight into how to improve its performance, and that requires measurement. Without assessing the true effectiveness of your content marketing strategy, the whole exercise becomes a giant leap of faith with no commercial basis.

Why measure content marketing

There are two broad reasons to measure the activity generated by content marketing:

1. To improve the effectiveness of the content. By identifying which content people find most engaging and the channels that are most effective at disseminating it.

2. To assess if your ultimate business goals are being achieved. By measuring the response in terms of macro conversions attributable to your content.

Improving the effectiveness of the content

At an operational level it is important to identify the content that becomes most widely read or viewed and also to understand the effectiveness of each distribution channel for disseminating the content. Tying this information in with your business goals (see below) will provide a basis for improving the effectiveness of your content management strategy.

Which metrics you use to measure engagement and reach will vary according to your situation.

For a website this could involve measuring:

  • Unique visitors, new visitors, number of visits
  • Pages visited, posts viewed, videos watched, pages per visits, time on site, time on page
  • Referral traffic
  • Subscribers that sign up for your email or exchange their email address in return for downloading a brochure.

Social media provide their own metrics such as:

  • Facebook: views, likes, comments and shares
  • Twitter: followers, retweets and mentions in tweets
  • LinkedIn: views, likes, comments and shares
  • You Tube: views, likes, dislikes, comments, shares, channel subscribers
  • Google +: +1’s, shares and comments

These are not business goals they are micro conversions: measures of engagement and distribution that drill down to specific channels and individual content. On their own they are measures of popularity and not business success.

Assessing the effectiveness of your content marketing

These are your business goals or macro conversions; typically they include generating leads and sales.

Establishing the links between your content and your macro conversions is rarely easy.

A video may have gone viral and been seen by hundreds of thousands of people but that is no guarantee that any of them will buy your product and, short of asking each customer, there may be no sure way to tell. Conversely a customer may read a blog article, pick up the phone and place an order without you ever knowing the article was responsible in the first place.

Linking content marketing success to defined business goals

How you tie in your content to your goals will depend on the nature of your business and the content produced: is it b2c or b2b? Does it involve a long decision making process? Is it totally online or do you have shops and show rooms that people visit? And the nature of your content: whether it is YouTube videos, podcasts, tweets, photos or blogs and articles.

The aim is to collect sufficient data to demonstrate the relationship between your content marketing and business goals.

Typically content marketing material includes a link back to a website. So a good starting point for most is to develop a comprehensive campaign-tagging program that uniquely identifies each piece of content and its distribution channel. It will then be clearly recorded when someone visits the website using a link from that content. For content that doesn’t permit this then vanity URLs or dedicated landing pages can be used.

Alongside this make sure you have conversion goals for the capture of prospects, qualified leads and sales.

This will build up a body of data about content marketing generated website activity, that will tie directly to macro conversions.

Total accuracy is unlikely, but with planning you will be able to build a broad picture of content related activity across the website and social media and use this to identify correlations with your business goals.

Putting a £ value on your content marketing

It is important to quantify macro conversions in monetary terms, doing so allows you to assess the value that the content you are producing is generating for the business. Quantifying the cost of producing the content management will then demonstrate if it is worthwhile.

Use the data to inform your judgement

It is important not to look at the data in isolation.

When reviewing the performance of your content marketing always ask the question: “Does what it is telling me fit in with the big picture of what is going on in the business?”

Whether the answer to this is yes or no, you then need to understand why.

That is where the true insights are.