Do you know how your content marketing is performing? Better yet, can you prove it? What about your content marketing ROI? Why are you creating content in the first place?
For your content marketing efforts to be successful, you must have clear goals and effective strategies. Once your plan is in place, you need to document it and measure your results to know if your efforts are working.
According to Semrush, 84% of businesses have a content marketing strategy, but only 11% think they have an excellent one.
Audience research, content scheduling, and content repurposing are all building blocks that need to stack up correctly. Once you manage to get everything aligned, the results will begin to show. But where will they show? And how will you track them?
Even though content marketing has been around for quite some time, some businesses – especially smaller ones – have trouble grasping that content marketing results rarely show as macro-conversions.
In the end, content marketing contributes significantly to the final step (a new sale or lead). But there are other equally important, more revealing, and useful metrics to help you measure your CM efforts to determine how exactly it’s helping your business.
Using the right metrics will help you identify poor-performing content that can be improved. It will also empower you to pinpoint your best-performing content. Data analytics can help you to find the perfect “recipe” for content creation and marketing. Then just rinse and repeat the process to achieve content marketing success.
- Before you can set goals and track the right KPIs, you need to understand your “why” in depth.
- Your ultimate content marketing objective is to increase your brand’s share of conversation online.
- There are five particular metrics your content team needs to track regularly to measure success.
- Once you understand the different metric categories and their functions, you can use them as KPIs to effectively track your efforts.
What are Your Objectives and KPIs for Content Marketing?
Before you decide which marketing metrics to track, every member of your marketing team (and your client if you’re an agency) should understand the objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) of every content campaign.
This is different from the overarching “how do you measure content marketing ROI?” question (which we answer near the end of this article). Identifying your primary objectives and KPIs is an essential step in determining which metrics to use to track your content marketing efforts.
This question comes after you’ve built the business case, convinced your business or client of the potential ROI, and gained the approval and funds to start building your content marketing program. You might need to start at a more basic level of explaining what content marketing really is.
To pinpoint your objectives and then identify your primary KPIs for measuring your performance, start with your “why.”
Know Your Brand’s Higher Purpose
I know this sounds like I am not answering the question, but stay with me here.
To understand how to set the objectives and KPIs for your content marketing, you need to have a deep understanding of why your business exists.
Simon Sinek profoundly explains this premise in his famous Ted Talk: Start with Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Action. He explains, “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.”
So your business needs first to understand why you do what you do – your higher purpose – before you can define your objectives and key performance indicators. There is a top-level objective that you need to determine based on your business purpose and your marketing goals overall.
Increase Your “Share of Conversation”
I have spoken about share of conversation (or share of voice) a little bit before. The concept starts with a fundamental belief that marketing is a conversation. It includes any form of measurable brand awareness, including online mentions, website traffic, and PPC.
In a nutshell, it shows you how popular your brand is compared to your competition. In other words, it helps you understand your position in the market.
You can go out and start up a conversation online, but it can be more powerful to join other relevant discussions already taking place. Ultimately, the goal is to lead them.
This is partly why content marketing is so essential. The ultimate objective of content marketing is to increase your brand’s share of conversation.
What’s the topic of conversation your brand should lead? You’ll know the answer once you understand your brand’s higher purpose.
Share of conversation is also a customer-centric goal. It forces you to think bigger than your business and focus on providing value to your target audience with content around your topic.
You can measure this by defining “share of conversation” as the percentage of brand mentions around the topic you want your brand associated with. Begin by measuring what share of that conversation (social + online) your business commands. Then seek to grow that share.
5 Content Marketing Success Metrics to Start Tracking
Once you have a fair idea of your content marketing’s “why,” you can dive into the following metrics that any content marketer worth their salt should be monitoring closely.
Traffic is the lifeblood of online content. If nobody is landing on your website, it doesn’t matter how amazing your blog posts are – nobody will read them, so they won’t be doing you any good.
If you want to strip it back to basics, traffic is one metric that you must measure. In a way it is a measure of the strength of your brand, but in a way that has some value (over the esoteric nature of “brand.”)
Of course, you can split this traffic up into different categories. In Google Analytics, the metrics you want to be looking at are:
Users – the total number of unique visitors to your page
Pageviews – the total number of times a page on your site has been viewed
Unique pageviews – If a single user has viewed your page multiple times, these visits are combined into one pageview to calculate this metric.
You can use the raw data from these metrics to get a rough idea of the amount of traffic coming to individual pages on your site. You can also break down the data to see where your traffic is coming from (geographically and how they found your site online) and the type of device they used to view your site.
This information can be useful to know for your future content strategy. For example, if you target U.S. customers primarily, but you’re getting a significant amount of traffic from the U.K., you can tailor future content to your U.K. visitors. Or, if a large proportion of your traffic is coming from one of your social media channels, you can tailor your content based on your social media followers’ data.
So people are visiting your site and reading your blog – excellent. But what else are they doing when they’ve finished reading? Are they clicking your links and reading more? Are they signing up for your newsletter? Completing an e-commerce transaction?
For B2B brands, the ultimate conversion is leads or even direct sales. Few buyers will move from not knowing who you are to buying directly from a fantastic article. So, B2B brands should track all the way down the buyer journey from lighter conversions like subscriptions or click-throughs to deeper conversions like offer registrations.
It’s up to you what counts as a conversion. In some cases, the goal of your content might be to make a physical sale, while in others, it just might be to raise awareness of your brand and increase your authority. If this is the case, you might want to focus more on social shares and engagement metrics.
However, if your blog is primarily a sales tool, you’re going to want to track how many sales it generates. You can do this after activating ecommerce in Google Analytics by viewing the page value of all your content under the behavior section.
This will give you the average revenue that each page has generated when users have gone directly to make a purchase or complete another goal you’ve set.
Sometimes the amount of traffic your content gets is more a measure of how effective you are at getting people to click your links, rather than how good your content is.
To really find out if people are engaging with your content, you’ll need to track how long they’re spending on your site and how many pages they’re visiting in each session.
Obviously, the goal is to keep them on your site as long as possible so they can read more of your content (unless, of course, you want to funnel them to a sales page as quickly as possible.)
You can see this information under Audience Overview in Google Analytics. Here, as well as seeing your total number of sessions and visitors, you can see the average number of pages per session, the average session duration, and your bounce rate.
Ideally, for content that’s designed to be read, you want a high number of pages per session, a long average session duration (depending on the length of your content), and a low bounce rate.
Another effective way to measure your content engagement is to see how well it performs on social media.
While there are various metrics you can track here, the most important is how many times your content has been shared on multiple social networks. A share shows that others are finding your content valuable.
This information isn’t available in Google Analytics, but if you have social share buttons on each piece of content, they will show you how many times that content has been shared on each platform.
BuzzSumo is another tool for tracking social media shares and is an easy way to identify the top-performing content on your site quickly.
You can also track the amount of traffic you’re getting from social platforms, which is another good way of measuring engagement. More clicks from social media mean that more people are sharing and interacting with your content. You can find this information under Acquisition > Social > Network Referrals in Google Analytics.
4. SEO Performance
Not all your traffic will come from social media. You must be getting plenty of visitors from search too. You can track the proportion of your site visits that come from search in Google Analytics, but this doesn’t give you much insight into whether your site is performing well in search engines or not.
Instead, you’ll need to measure your SEO performance. There are a few different metrics you can track here. SERP ranking is probably the most important one – this is your page’s position in the search engine results for a particular keyword phrase.
Rankings aren’t static and tend to fluctuate a little, but when you’re tracking your ranking over time, you want to see it either static (if you’re already in a good spot) or improving, which shows you are gaining trust and authority.
You can use Google Search Console to identify the terms you’re ranking for and keep an eye on how your ranking changes over time.
Better SEO will lead to higher traffic numbers, more leads, and hopefully more sales and conversions. And better SEO starts with great content. (See our coverage of Google’s own report that specifically calls this out.)
Authority is not quite as easy to measure as most of the other metrics, but it’s still important to try to increase your authority over time.
High authority will not only improve your SEO, meaning you get more search traffic, but it will also help to build your brand, increase trust, and improve your conversion rate.
Moz has its own authority metrics that you can use as a rough guide for how Google might judge your page and site’s authority. These DA (domain authority) and PA (page authority) scores range from 1 to 100, with higher scores corresponding to greater authority.
There’s no definitive answer on what’s a “good” DA and PA to aim for – you basically just want a higher score than your competitors.
8 Categories of Content Marketing Metrics and KPIs
Metrics such as links to your content, mentions of your brand on social media, and media coverage are all indications that your authority and brand presence is growing. While these specific scores can be a handy thing to keep track of, there are other impactful or campaign-specific ways of tracking your real-world authority.
If you’re aware of the following categories of metrics and their functions, using them as key performance indicators (KPIs) can help you put in place a more effective tracking system that works for your business. Here are some of them:
1. Consumption Metrics
Consumption metrics tell you how many people view and consume your content and how much time they’re spending delving in.
- Pageviews: Use this metric to gauge which pieces of your content are the most engaging. Focus on those types of content in the future.
- Unique visitors: This metric allows you to estimate your audience’s overall size and how many of them are repeat visitors.
- Average time on page: Is your content engaging? If this metric is relatively high, then you’re doing fine. But if your visitors are simply skimming through the content, it is not very engaging, and you should put some serious work into it.
- Behavior flow: Diving into Google Analytics, behavior flow will help you understand how a user navigates through your website. The chart shows where a user lands on the site, navigates through various pages, and exits. This can help you identify and optimize the drop off points for user retention.
2. Website Engagement Metrics
You want your audience and website visitors to engage with your content. The higher your engagement metrics, the more interested your followers are in what you have to offer.
- Inbound links: The number of sites referring to your site will help you earn higher domain authority. Your goal is to assess the number of links earned for a particular content piece. Tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, and Moz allow you to evaluate the number (and quality) of links that refer to your site and create more link building opportunities. Find out the page with the top links to create similar pieces in the future, improve rankings, and search visibility.
- Session duration: Every person who visits your site counts as one session. Session duration measures the amount of time one user spends on your site, regardless of the number of pages they view.
- Page depth: This metric, also called “pages per session,” gives you an average number of pages someone will click when visiting your site.
- Click-through rate (CTR): Each button or link on your website has a CTR – the ratio of clicks to views. Higher CTRs mean higher engagement.
3. Retention Metrics
Retention metrics tell you how well your website retains visitors.
- Return rate: Return rate allows you to see how many new vs. how many return visitors you’re getting. You will have a different approach to those two groups, but it is important to have a healthy mix.
- Pages per visit: How many people click on your page, exploring it before leaving? This metric shows you how engaging and valuable the bulk of your content is, and not just the piece that led the audience to your page.
- Bounce rate: Your website bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who leave your site after viewing the first page. In general, the lower the bounce rate, the better. This means that users tend to spend more time on your site. Identify the content with a higher bounce rate to repurpose or update it.
4. Social Metrics
Social media is another great channel for gleaning valuable insights from followers, leads, and customers.
- Follower count: Be on top of your social media and always know how large your social media following is. This metric allows you to follow your social media audience growth over time as well.
- Social media shares and likes: How is your content fairing on social media? Does any of it have any potential of going viral, or are all your efforts falling on deaf ears, and you’re not getting any likes or share? Find out by diligently tracking all shares, retweets, pins, and so on. There are plenty of tools you can use to set up sharing buttons to help you know the number of shares of a content piece across social networks. Take your best-performing content to set benchmarks to understand the audience’s expectations.
- Comments: Social media comments are an accurate measure of engagement. Keep track of them to know how people respond to what you have to say and maybe get ideas for additional content that might get more traction.
5. Content Production Metrics
These metrics will help inform future content creation choices.
- Time spent on content creation: Tracking the time spent creating compelling content will help you hone your CM strategy. You can decide whether to hire freelance writers so that you can focus on other marketing activities or take content creation in-house with a team of writers. Finding out the time going in will come in handy to assess the efficiency of content creators.
- Performance over time: The article you published got over 100 shares during the first week. So after a month, how is it going? Is it still raking in some audience? Has your content been created for any event or specific purpose? Do you a drop in engagement or shares after a week? Identify the content to start with maximizing the value for each of them.
6. Email Metrics
Analyzing email metrics will help you improve engagement and decrease recipient dissatisfaction.
- Email open rate: When sending out email blasts and newsletters, it is essential to know how many of them reached your intended prospect. This metric gives you a lot of information about which type of content you should focus on and what times in the day work the best.
- Click-through rate (CTR): Your email CTR is the percentage of recipients who clicked on at least one link in your email out of the total number of emails delivered.
- Conversion rate: The percentage of people who took the desired action (like purchasing a monthly subscription) out of the total number of emails delivered gives you your email conversion rate.
- Asset downloads: Track form completions and gated content for a measurable ROI. Digging down every individual asset can help you determine how successful it was. Leverage marketing automation tools like Marketo to assess the impact made to adjust the marketing efforts.
- Email-subscriber churn rate: Email churn rate refers to the number of unsubscribers from the content you send over as emails. As you try to increase the number of email subscribers, watch out for every user who unsubscribes.
Source: Campaign Monitor
7. Cost Metrics
Don’t forget to keep track of how much your content marketing program is costing your business, so you can determine how effective your overall efforts are.
- Cost per content piece: Calculate the cost per piece by tracking the invoices sent by freelancers. For tracking the internal expenses, you need to sum up the salaries, benefits, and other overhead costs, which might get a little harder to analyze. If you are resource-constrained, consider the pros and cons of outsourcing vs. in-house content creation. Finding the cost per piece is useful for planning for allocating the future content budget.
- Distribution costs: Amplification of content is essential to ensure it reaches grabs more eyeballs. Keeping track of this metric is necessary to know about the expenses done on promoting it across networks like social media and ad networks.
8. Sales Metrics
Your sales metrics show you how your content marketing efforts directly impact your sales funnel and revenue.
- Leads generated: How does content support lead generation through the funnel? Decoding this metric will help you attribute new leads to content pieces. Your marketing automation tool, combined with your CRM, will tell you how many new leads you’ve gained that touched base with a particular piece of content you’ve published and how they went on to interact with your brand, on which platforms.
- Lead quality/score: While you may feel lucky to generate leads with your content offering, you shouldn’t neglect leads’ quality. As considerable time and investment are made in creating content, the lead quality is an important metric.
- Existing leads influenced: How many of the existing leads engaged with your content, and which content? This will help you understand how many times, on average, your leads need to touch base with you before converting.
- Funnel conversion rate: Of course, you want to know which content helps you push prospects further down your funnel, all the way down to the do phase.
- Pipeline generated: Use the first touch attribution method to calculate the dollar value of every opportunity that you can pinpoint to a specific piece of content.
- Revenue influenced: And at the end, you can see how much of your revenue comes from buyers that started their purchase path by coming into contact with your content or have interacted with your content in any phase.
Of course, there are more metrics that you might find useful, depending on the type of industry you’re in.
How to Measure Content Marketing ROI
Follow this simple five-step process to calculate your content marketing ROI.
- Step 1: How much did you spend on content creation? Include tools and software, employee salaries, and outsourcing costs.
- Step 2: How much did you spend to distribute your content? Include paid advertising, social media advertising, and tools and software costs.
- Step 3: Add up your expenses to determine the cost to produce your content. This is your total investment.
- Step 4: Add all the sales that resulted from your content. This is your return.
- Step 5: Calculate your content marketing ROI using the formula below.
The Need for Balance
Understanding user behavior is no easy feat. There’s no silver bullet. But with actionable metrics in place, you’ll begin moving in the right direction. Continually adopting metrics that help explain why specific content gets shared is mandatory if you want to survive in the competitive digital world.
That said, keep in mind that it’s easy to “game” these metrics if you only focus on one. Many publishers perform tricks to game their metrics.
You can always buy reach. You can also drive up pageviews by adding page breaks to your content, creating slideshows with multiple pages, and forcing your visitors to click through. You can force every visitor to some conversion action by over-promoting offers. Or you can refuse to add links that send visitors off your page, even when citing research or another person’s idea.
You can…but should you?
These approaches almost always impact the user experience and dilute or even damage your brand value in the process.
I recommend looking at balancing the importance of every metric so you’re rewarding the right behavior. When conducting tests of content marketing designs, content types, or topics, take a holistic look at every area to ensure you aren’t sacrificing too much of the overall picture.
Strategy + Quality + Consistency = Content Marketing Success
MIG’s Content Builder Services package will help you develop an effective strategy, implement it to hit your goals, and track important KPIs.
We will create quality, optimized content for you to publish on your website consistently. We’ll also promote your content for higher visibility and track your ROI, so you know exactly how it’s performing.
Learn more about our Weekly Blog Content Services.