Businesses spend a lot of time, money, and energy creating content for their brand. In fact, according the Content Marketing Institute, marketers spend on average 25% of their budgets on content marketing.
A smart business understands that content can serve a number of purposes:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): The more content and pages you add to your website regularly, the better it will perform in search rankings. The main idea behind this is that the more content you have and the effort you put into growing that body of content, the more relevant you become.
- Thought Leadership: When it comes to creating new content for your website, the ultimate end goal isn’t to just churn out a set number of words and tack on an image in the hopes that someone may read it. You want people to see you as a leader and an expert on whatever service or product you provide. Your content keeps you at the top of the mind of current or prospective customers so that when the time comes to make a purchase, they’ll remember you.
- Sales: If you have a website, you are selling something. So while it’s important to put that call-to-action in wherever you can on the site (or offsite if you’re using sponsored posts and remarketing), it’s even more important to create content that supports your product or service, directly and indirectly. Your site needs to be as effective as any salesperson you have in the field.
When it comes to content marketing, it’s crucial to define your goals and strategy very carefully. Once you understand the purpose of your content, it’s time to define those goals.
Successful businesses know that a system of goals and defining metrics are needed in order to gauge their marketing success. The key here is to start with the very broad and work down to more specific goals.
- The business goal is the overarching company agenda that defines all other team and individual goals in the company.
- The business objectives are the company-wide achievements that help businesses obtain the main goal.
- The key performance indicators (or KPIs) are the parameters you use to gauge the effectiveness of your efforts in achieving those goals.
- The targets are the specific quantity or percentage numbers that determine whether you have failed or met your KPIs and, consequently, goals.
The metric most important to content marketing is the KPI. This is a metric that guides you in understanding how well your content is performing, who your audience is, and predicting how they will react to your content.
Do keep in mind that KPIs are not the same as your business objectives. They are quantifiable, specific statistics that help measure the success of your content. Your business objectives, on the other hand, are more about the resulting conversions from your marketing efforts.
Assuming your company already has clearly defined business objectives, KPIs are your next target. The selection of these should not be taken lightly. There are a lot of options to consider and it’s easy to get overwhelmed or distracted by ones that would seem helpful, but don’t really paint the big picture all that well for your purposes.
When it comes to marketing content and then gauging its effectiveness as it relates to your business objectives, remember this: You want to follow the data points that show where you’re gaining customers (and not just where you’re gaining passive views).
As for the selection of your KPIs, there are different types to consider.
- Consumption: These are the most basic of the KPIs and they’re the ones with which you’re probably the most familiar. In general, these enumerate how many people are “consuming” (or viewing and possibly reading) your content. It’s a good place to start, especially if you want to make sure you’re getting the right amount of traffic to your content.
- Engagement: The next level of interaction with your content is engagement. This could be in the form of sharing, liking, or responding to your content. Again, this type of metric is great to use when you want to make sure people are paying attention to your content. However, it’s important to remember that a passive like or share does not necessarily end in a sale, so these numbers should be used in conjunction with other information to interpret the bigger picture.
- Conversion: While you may be tempted to put all your KPI tracking into the conversion bag, remember that it’s still important to get a good baseline for all your activity. That being said, conversion metrics are the most important ones to keep on your radar, as they’ll inform you about the action taken on your content—filling in the form below it, signing up for more information, or perhaps even making a purchase.
Keep in mind that, like with all of the other goal defining exercises your business goes through, selecting KPIs needs to make sense for your marketing goals. While the business is concerned with delivering the end product to the consumer and making a profit, marketing is concerned with finding those consumers, creating content specifically targeting those consumers, and then converting them.
In the end, it’s all about finding and converting that new business, so your metrics need to reflect how successful your efforts are towards that goal.
Finding a balance is always a good thing. A mixed bag of KPI trackers is the way to go.
Before jumping into selecting your KPIs, consider questions like these so you can start to see the big picture of why you are doing this in the first place:
- Were there any particular keywords that proved more popular with helping people find your content?
- Were there any social media platforms or other websites that performed better in terms of referral traffic?
- Have you studied these statistics for at least six to nine months to get a solid picture of what is happening with your content marketing efforts? Is there a correlation between the sales numbers and the increase in new visitors to your content?
- Is the engagement of your content increasing from month to month? (i.e. decreased bounce rates, increased pages per visit, increased time on site, increased interactions and shares on social media)
- Do you have clearly established calls-to-action (CTAs) on your website? Do you know how to measure your conversions from those CTAs?
A lot of these are very general questions that you may have quick and easy answers for now, but it’s worth taking a deeper look into what it all really means. It can be difficult trying to truly capture what it happening with your content marketing efforts, but establishing a number of KPIs from varying sources should help clear up that oversized picture quite a bit.
Here are some examples of KPIs that work well for content marketers, regardless of whether you’re just starting or have been doing this for a while:
Number of New Visitors
Some industries rely on returning customers. It’s a sign of loyalty as well as the true value of the product they’re delivering to have people keep coming back. What a lot of people in business tend to forget though is that, without new customers, there can’t be any real growth. You must always be appealing to a newer, bigger audience—especially once you’ve done a deep dive into your analytics to see who is the most interested. Keep this number on your radar and make sure to frame it against the whole picture (total number of visitors, percentage of new visitors versus returning, etc.)
Average Page Views per User
Usually this metric is viewed in conjunction with the bounce rate and average time on site, but on its own this one can be telling enough. You need to make sure to filter out anything that isn’t custom content you’ve created for your marketing purposes.
Then you can narrow in on how these pieces did overall in terms of drumming up interest past the initial landing page the visitors found. You can figure out a lot based on the average amount of content consumed. Does it look like they had more interest in sticking around and reading more when landing on your infographics first or on your blogs? Were there any specific topics that didn’t work well with this audience?
Percentage of Those Who Clicked on the CTA
It’s not always a best practice to insert a call-to-action into the end of your content—especially when trying to establish yourself as an educational thought leader and not as a salesperson—but there are times when it does make sense.
Keeping track of the number of people who read your blog (or at least clicked on it) and then who clicked on or filled out your CTA shows the amount of interest you’re generating with your content. (Remember that not every CTA needs to be a sale; it just needs to get people to take the steps to get more information on your product or service before they return to make the purchase later on.)
While it’s important to gauge the amount of interactions you’re receiving with your content, it’s just as important to review what is giving you the most success and further target that area. In the case of traffic sources, this will give you insight into which websites are driving visitors (and potential leads) to your content.
If you can figure out where you are the most popular and which of those leads are giving you quality traffic (traffic that results in multiple pages viewed, longer stays on site, lower bounce rates, and click-throughs on your CTAs), then you can use that information for all future campaigns.
Number of Actions on [Social Media Platform]
The choice of social media platforms you share your content on will depend on 1) the type of company you are, 2) the type of content you are sharing, and 3) your audience.
Not all platforms work for all audiences or content types, so this is something you’ll have to carefully consider before moving forward with a social media program. Even once you’ve begun, there’s always going to be room to modify your plan based on when and where your audience proves to be the most receptive. For now though, keep a close eye on the number of actions taken on your content.
Likes/favorites are nice to have, but it’s more important to see an interaction—a comment, a share, a click-through on your links. If you want to get an even better look at what’s going on with this, take it one step further and calculate the rate of engagement by dividing the number of actions against the number of posts you have to share every month to get them.
Did you know that the average content conversion rate is slightly above than 2%? Keeping a good handle on your KPIs is going to help you beat those odds. Keep in mind that what you’re observing are numbers that represent the behavior of your potential consumers. You need to find a way to translate those numbers over to your future content creation process.
From this point on, it’s no longer going to be about creating really interesting content to share with your customers, but to create content that will drive them to take action.