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Content Marketing | Oct 15
Jessica Greene on March 21, 2019 (last modified on July 19, 2019) • 23 minute read
To prove your content is driving results for your company or clients, you track all of the go-to metrics for measuring content success highlighted here in our recent report.
In this latest report, more than 60% of marketers ranked “leads” as the most important KPI for measuring the success of their content marketing program.
And while these metrics paint a picture of how your content marketing efforts are succeeding overall, they don’t always give you the granular data you need to discover what specific content, campaigns, channels, and efforts are most effective in driving value.
But improving—writing better content, focusing on the right channels, and keeping visitors coming back for more—requires tracking more granular pieces of data.
To uncover some of the more unique content marketing metrics, we asked 39 marketers to share their thoughts on the most overlooked metrics and KPIs for measuring content.
The results: 22 unique metrics you can track to measure and prove ROI when the go-to metrics don’t provide as much detail as you need, plus a list of metrics that help you continuously improve an already-successful content marketing operation.
If you’re tracking traffic but aren’t sure how to translate that into generated revenue, tracking leads but aren’t sure how many of those leads turn into sales, or tracking conversions but aren’t sure how often the catalyst for those conversions was content, these metrics may help.
“Our clients often ask how to calculate the ROI of organic traffic,” says Anna Wolf of SuperScript Marketing. “We do this in two ways.”
“First, we calculate what it would cost to drive the same amount of traffic using paid search; we multiply the average PPC of traffic-driving keywords by the number of organic clicks.”
“Second, we work with clients to place a value on content-driven conversions (for example, registering for the site).”
“Using simple math, if—on average—10% of site registrants go on to buy the product for $1,000, the value of each registrant is $100. Multiply that by the number of organic clicks that ultimately led to a site registration, and there’s your ROI.”
Editor’s note: Get a handle on how organic traffic behaves on your website with this free Google Analytics dashboard.
“Given that our content marketing campaigns include a wide variety of tactics—including distribution of free content, paid traffic acquisition, social media, and link building—we like to look at Assisted Conversions in Google Analytics as an interesting way to track our activity,” says Kris Hughes of ProjectManager.com.
“Assisted Conversions show us which channel(s) typically lead to trial signups of our software immediately after being visited (i.e. an assist). The closer the value of the medium is to 0, the more likely it is on average to lead to an assisted conversion.”
“Anything around 0.2-0.4 is doing a great job of leading to conversions after visits. Along these lines, organic search traffic at 0.32 is our best-assisted converter. People who visit one of our articles from search are the most likely to then sign up for a free trial.”
“This KPI flies under the radar typically—especially if your focus is on direct conversions and not seeing how a conversion took place—but nonetheless is very valuable and a unique way to measure and evaluate each of the mediums within your overall content marketing strategy,” Hughes says.
Helpjuice’s Josh Brown agrees: “Assisted Conversions give you a better picture of how well your content helps support customers through the customer journey by showing how specific pages led customers to ultimately convert.”
“For example, a user might land on your website by finding a particular piece of content via Google and then bounce. Two days later they land on your website again from social media. Finally, they come back the next week—this time directly—and convert.”
“With an assisted conversion model, each of these two pieces of content gets partial credit for the final conversion (up to 90 days).”
“This is especially important as content is meant to target and support leads throughout the funnel; a lot of times it can be hard to quantify the value of top-of-funnel content if only using a last-click view of conversions.”
“This all allows content efforts to be tied to ROI more easily than some other important—but soft—content marketing metrics like brand awareness,” Brown says.
“There are obviously many factors here, but a strategic approach to content marketing plots content along the buyer’s journey. If you have high-quality content that builds trust along the way, you should be able to reduce the time to sale.”
“Tracking this requires sales team members to catalog when the first contact occurs, as well as tracking the average time to sale across the organization.”
“Content marketing draws its core success principles from a basic philosophy of public relations, which is all about reputation,” says Ben Van Loon. “Measuring this starts with sentiment: knowing how your customers feel about your content and your products.”
“You can assess this both quantitatively and qualitatively through various social media monitoring tools, as well as determining the overall tonality of sentiment using your gut instinct as a content marketer.”
Lightbulb Media’s Lewis Kemp agrees: “The vast majority of brands we help completely overlook the importance of social listening. Some aren’t aware of it at all.”
“If you want to know what your customers truly think of your business, you need to be monitoring what they say to their friends/followers in their own social circles.”
“It’s such a valuable marketing tool that allows to you directly address the successes or failures of your current offerings—and drastically increase your customer sentiment and brand advocacy,” Kemp says.
“Even if we’re creating top-of-the-funnel content, at some point, we want some of these people to become customers,” says ServiceRocket’s Bill Cushard. “And we know anecdotally that many do. But more content marketers should track the contribution that content makes to the sales pipeline.”
“Using the campaign feature in most marketing automation tools and/or CRMs, marketers can track how content like ebooks and webinars contribute to a sales opportunity being created.”
“We found for our company during a roughly two-year period, webinars alone contributed to 14% of the total pipeline. We don’t think the webinars were the only thing making that 14%, but we did believe from the data that the webinars were the major piece.”
Cushard also recommends tracking direct sales: “not sales of your company’s products, but marketing assets that make money.”
“Marketing can make money directly through things like workshops, courses, and other events. Our marketing team has earned direct bookings from in-person workshops, training courses (both in-person and virtual), and conferences.”
“We haven’t made much money: mid-to-low five figures with no profit margin. But if the cliche is right that we should make content so good that it’s worth paying for, then why not charge for it?”
Being able to accurately measure the ROI of your content marketing efforts is key to retaining your job/budget/clients. So obviously, that should be your highest priority when deciding which content marketing metrics to track initially.
But once you have those reports down, it’s good to take a step back and look for new ways to improve upon what’s already working. Could your content be of higher quality? Is it attracting qualified visitors? Are you focusing the right percentage of your time on the channels that provide the biggest bang for your buck?
By tracking more granular metrics, you can answer those questions, gaining insight into which content, channels, and strategies generate the most success, and letting you focus more of your effort on the activities that deliver results.
To improve your content and campaigns, track these metrics.
“Quality is the most important—and most often-overlooked—content marketing metric,” says Chas Cooper of Rising Star Reviews.
ExpertSure’s Ollie Smith agrees: “The most overlooked KPI/metric for me is ease of customer journey, and content quality plays a vital role in that.”
But “quality” is hard to define. It can be subjective, which makes it hard to measure. Still, our respondents offered several suggestions for measuring content quality objectively.
Cooper recommends measuring quality based on how well a piece of content converts visitors to the next stage of the customer journey:
“For example, if you write blog content, perhaps the next step you want your readers to take is to sign up for your email list. In that case, measure your content quality based on your conversion rate from blog traffic to email signups.”
Blake Hawksworth of Creditplus agrees: “One of our priorities is measuring CTA conversion rates. CTA conversion rates are usually a good indicator of whether content is relevant, engaging, and persuasive.”
Imaginaire Digital’s Charlie Worrall recommends measuring quality based on average time on page:
“Let’s say that you’ve created a blog post that takes an average of ten minutes to read, but your average time on page for that particular piece of content is only one minute. This indicates that your readers aren’t actually reading.”
“This could be for a number of reasons: the content might be poorly written, or the advice you’re giving has too much jargon. Whatever the reason, this metric will tell you how long people are spending on your content and whether it’s actually an engaging piece,” Worrall says.
LyntonWeb’s Jennifer Lux agrees and says time on page is also important for organic search rankings: “While so much of SEO remains a mystery, what we know for sure is that Google takes into account the user experience and value of your content by using time on page as one of the components in its algorithm.”
Von Mack Agency’s Abby Sanders argues that shares are a good measure of content quality:
“While content marketing carries a lot of benefits for your website, you’re ultimately trying to write content that real people care about. And if someone shares your content from their own personal profile, it shows that they are willing to organically share your brand with their personal contacts.”
“It’s a strong indicator that you’re writing the type of content that will earn followers, site visits, and brand advocates long-term,” Sanders says.
And Stephen Jeske of MarketMuse recommends using MarketMuse to evaluate content quality:
“Content marketing is infinitely more difficult when the quality of content is sub-standard. I use a combination of two metrics to ensure every piece of content is of the highest quality: MarketMuse Content Score and word count.”
“For any given focus topic, MarketMuse generates a model. Contained within that representation are numerous subtopics and their relationship to the main theme, including data concerning their distribution within the content.”
“MarketMuse analyzes your content, compares it to the model and assigns a score. In-depth content that offers detailed coverage of relevant subtopics receives a higher total score than shallow pages that inadequately address the subject.”
“Every topic has a target content score and word count (based on an analysis of the top 20 ranking pages for that topic). I’m looking to meet these scores to ensure our content covers the subject adequately in both depth and breadth. Here’s how:”
“I recommend tracking new relationships,” says RobertsonComm’s Scott Robertson.
“Marketing is the relationships business, so we must measure relationships. And if we do that, we’re less likely to do annoying things—excessive retargeting, publishing blog posts that are not interesting or useful to our audience, spam, sponsored posts, awful emails—that will destroy relationships, too.”
Ironpaper’s Brian Casey offers a method for tracking new contacts and relationships: “We categorize all of our blog CTAs as a singular HubSpot campaign to monitor how our blogs are driving new leads as the initial touch point.”
“By using blogging as a campaign, you have access to more metrics than you would just by looking at the analyze tab on blogs. You have access to metrics such as ‘New Contacts (First Touch)’ and ‘Influenced Contacts.’”
“These two metrics allow you to look at the business value of content marketing and determine how effective your blogging strategy is in creating new contacts.”
“One of the most important metrics to know is the lifetime value (LTV) of a customer,” says Allan Luu of Sure Systems. “This is how you are able to dictate whether or not a campaign is profitable, and it also gives you the dollar value of leads, opt-ins, a social media follower, etc. to help quantify your marketing efforts.”
“In my experience, people don’t have this data, and they don’t go back to try and figure out exactly how much a client or customer is worth to them. And people often times are just spending money blindly online without ever knowing whether it’s profitable or not.”
“If Facebook is your main social media channel, I recommend using the Facebook Analytics tool in Business Manager,” says AdEspresso’s Paul Fairbrother.
“You can then build funnels. For example, do people that engage with your posts go on to become a lead or a sale? If they do, focus on engagement at the top of the funnel. If they don’t, build other funnels in Facebook Analytics until you find what activities have the most influence on the conversion rate.”
“For example, using Facebook Analytics, one e-commerce client found that users searching on their website resulted in high purchase values, so they decided to make the search box more prominent.”
Several of our respondents recommended tracking on-site actions using a heatmap.
“Many bloggers like to include senseless CTAs to drive users from articles to landing/pricing pages and get them into the sales pipeline ASAP,” says Smallpdf’s Hung Nguyen.
“However, if you create a heatmap and test out the behaviors of users on your pages, you’ll often find that these CTAs distract from the focus of the content and the value it generates for users.”
“Work on warming up to users/leads before trying to pitch them with your product,” Nguyen says.
SERPwatch’s Josh Wardini says heatmaps are also important for site landing pages: “Your goal should always be to keep your leads looking around your site by offering strategically placed content on your landing page which will lead to another page on your site.”
“To find out where to place different pieces of content, use a heatmap. Track what parts of your landing page leads are spending more time on, and use that to your advantage.”
“Having a heatmap record every session can give you a ton of insight about your content,” says Kevin Peguero of Astro Pak. “Where are they scrolling, what are they reading, what do they highlight when they read? If you watch 100 recorded sessions, you will begin to see correlations that you can act on to improve your content.”
“One of the most overlooked content marketing metrics is lead to conversion rate,” says Chloe Bennet of Academized.
“Marketers often overlook this metric because they consider their job done as soon as they pass a lead on to sales. But if you want to have a successful campaign, you should strive to track this metric as well.”
“If none of your leads converted, can you really say that your campaign was successful? Some of the blame can be passed on to the sales team, but they can’t do much if the lead wasn’t ready to convert.”
Most marketing automation and CRM tools offer a lead scoring feature, and Perryn Olson of My IT believes it’s just as helpful for marketing as it is for sales.
“You can individualize a buyer’s journey with lead scores by determining where they’re at in the decision-making process. Additionally, you can pinpoint which prospects are most likely to buy so your sales team can focus their time appropriately.”
“We track a metric we call ‘addressable returning visitors,” says Chris Mechanic of WebMechanix. “For us, addressable means U.S.-based visitors who visit key product and service pages.”
“You can track this metric in Google Analytics by building an advanced custom segment. The reason this is important is that it demonstrates the extent to which you can take top-of-funnel blog readers and move them deeper down in the funnel—and the extent to which you can keep them coming back to your site.”
“Location is one of the most basic metrics we often overlook,” says Ajay Prasad of GMR Web Team.
“It’s important to track because the quality of your content must be aligned with the geographical, environmental, cultural, and habitual uniqueness of the location(s) from where most of your traffic is coming.”
“Page Value is a built-in metric in Google Analytics that measures the transaction value or goal value divided by the unique pageviews of the content,” says Joonas Jukkara of SEOSEON Europe S.L. “In other words, it gives you the average value of a page that a user visited before making a purchase or contacting you.”
“For a non-e-commerce business, you just need to remember to define your contact form as a Google Analytics goal and give it a numerical value. This value can be calculated as an average deal value times your average lead conversion rate.”
“Page Value can be accessed through Google Analytics > Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. Remember to filter out all product, category, cashier, and tag pages so that you’re only looking at the effectiveness of blog pages or other informational pages.”
“I would benchmark this against the Page Value presented on product pages. This gives you an idea of how profitable it is to drive traffic (paid or organic) into a product/service page compared to other content.”
“Monitoring attribution lets you understand which channels assisted in the consumption of your content so you can create content with those channels in mind,” Ajay Prasad says.
Roger West’s Diane Callihan agrees that tracking attribution is key:
“In today’s omnichannel era, we have a wide range of content marketing channels—paid search, display, retargeting, social media, email campaigns, in-store promotions, direct mail, and more. And you may be simultaneously running different campaigns across those channels.”
“When you finally get a lead or a sale, what campaign/channel do you attribute it to? The answer may not be as easy as it seems, but it’s important to find out.”
“Exit rate is definitely an underutilized metric,” says Commusoft’s Cristina Maria. “It shows you the percentage of people who entered your website via one page and left directly after reading it.”
“When you build a content strategy, you need to build it around multiple pieces of content, all connected by a topic. This ensures that visitors who reach your site spend as much time as possible there.”
“And sure, time on page covers that, but it can be a bit deceiving as that particular piece of content might simply be longer than others or more difficult to follow.”
“A low exit rate proves that the related content or your CTAs were successful in taking the reader to a different page, giving you more points of interaction which can be used to qualify them further,” Maria says.
Ajay Prasad agrees: “Almost everyone cares about what pages are driving the most traffic, but very few people track where users are exiting the site. Identifying which pages are dropping off most users is an opportunity to learn what pages need to be revised.”
“Google rankings are some of the most informative and crucial KPIs for content marketing,” says Niles Koenigsberg of FiG Advertising + Marketing. “If you’re not checking your Google rankings consistently, you’re missing out on huge opportunities to improve your digital marketing efforts.”
“Checking your Google rankings shows you how your content compares to other websites and how your content shows up in search queries, which will help you understand how searchers may view and interact with your content.”
“The rankings can also highlight other keywords that can boost your rankings and make your content more visible to your target audiences. Once you include those extra keywords in your content, it becomes far easier for your content to be found by more people, thus widening your reach and improving your visibility,” Koenigsberg says.
Storage Vault’s Kraig Martin agrees: “Tracking the organic SERP positions of your content is essential when it comes to determining if it’s performing well and if your content marketing is having the right effect. It’s surprising how many marketers don’t check this key metric.”
“Your search rankings can be tracked in Google Search Console where you can see how many impressions and clicks are generated by certain keywords on your site, as well as where your site ranks for those keywords,” says Melis Sawerschel of She Is Rebel.
Another piece of data that’s available in Google Search Console that’s important to track: which keywords your content/site is ranking for. “The most overlooked metric seems to be the number of keywords that start ranking in Google for any piece of content—or for the whole blog/site in general,” says ContentFly’s Annika Helendi.
“Knowing what queries your content is ranking for and what pages are ranking is the best way to develop new content that will actually draw eyeballs from Google searches,” says Tim White of People.ai.
“Everyone knows that mobile optimization plays an important role in content marketing,” Ajay Prasad says, “yet very few people actually optimize their content for a better mobile experience.”
“Measuring mobile entrances lets you learn what percentage of your total users entered a particular page on your website using a mobile device.”
“Bounce rate is really important to the overall health of the website in the eyes of search engines. If people just read a single piece of content and then leave your website—even after spending 10 minutes reading it and maybe even sharing it on social media—your bounce rate takes a hit.”
“It’s important to encourage visitors to read more articles or move to some other section of your website,” Mishra says.
Knowmad’s Markelle Harden agrees: “If the majority of your content marketing budget is spent on the strategy, creation, and publication of content, shouldn’t you know if a high volume of your traffic is bouncing as fast as they land on the page?”
“Although bounce rate varies according to industry and user intent, it’s important to know when a new piece of content isn’t getting any engagement, especially if it’s ranking well and you’ve invested a lot of resources and time in the creation process.”
“A high bounce rate can signal a more significant problem that can harm the entire website: slow website speed. Or perhaps the content on the page doesn’t match user intent.”
“Whatever the reason, your new blog posts, articles, and resources deserve a bounce rate analysis every month. The best way to gain leads through content marketing is to identify what is not working and go from there,” Harden says.
“Your bounce rate determines whether or not the content on your site is sufficient,” Mercedes-Benz of Naperville’s Laura Gonzalez says. “If your bounce rate is too high, then you might need to take a look at your website to see what’s driving traffic away.”
“Is your content outdated? Is there not enough information on your landing pages? Your bounce rate can give you insight into the performance of your website.”
However, measuring your bounce rate is sometimes only helpful in context.
For example, Iconic Genius’ James Marques says it’s important to measure frequency: “The more you know about how many times your content is being seen by the same people, the quicker you can change it up and keep people engaged.”
So if you have a high bounce rate and a high frequency, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your content is poor or underperforming. It might mean that you have repeat visitors who come to view your new content every time you publish.
“When you look at a KPI on its own, you only get one side of the story,” Tate Olson says. “When you look at them in pairs, you get a full picture.”
“For example, if you have a lot of traffic but low conversions, you can deduce that maybe your call-to-action isn’t strong enough, or maybe your ad copy needs to be revised.”
“Often, we find that clients focus on metrics like bounce rate and session time because they found a list somewhere of ‘important marketing metrics,’” says Oxygen’s Laurent Ross. “But they don’t really understand the situational value of these metrics.”
“For example, it’s possible to have a high-performance page that funnels visitors into leads efficiently with a high conversion rate but a low session time. If you’re looking at session time in isolation, that seems bad, but in this case, lower session time is better,” Ross says.
If you decide to start tracking any of these new metrics, just make sure that you consider each metric in a broader context. Sometimes, it’s not enough to measure a single metric alone; you may need to track multiple metrics to get an accurate picture of what the data means.
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