on January 30, 2020 (last modified on May 18, 2022) • 28 minute read
We’ve all heard the saying, “Content is king.”
However, I’d argue this is misleading.
Content without context and clear goals is a recipe for disaster.
If you are writing content for a business, you need to understand the purpose of the content, who you are writing for, and the main goals and objectives.
In this post, we surveyed 50 marketers to get a better understanding of the types of content marketing goals they set, as well as the challenges they face in their day-to-day roles.
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We found that the CEO sets the content marketing goals for more than 40% of teams.
There were 32 content marketing goals, ranging from identifying a target audience and content quantity metrics to user engagement and building strategic partnerships.
“Many content marketing teams will base success off viewability metrics (page views, sessions, and scroll-rate). However, I believe that these are soft conversions,” says William Chin-Fook of Pickfu.com. “The real conversion metric for any business should be revenue. This is why at Pickfu.com, for our blog articles, we use RPM (revenue per 1000 impressions). This accurately shows us what pages generate revenue and which ones do not.
The one positive of RPM is you can roll all of your revenue streams into one metric. So, if you do run an e-commerce store – but you also have programmatic on your site as well, you can easily calculate on a page by page basis what your revenue is, and then analyze the value of each page.
After you find your general RPMs, you’ll want to work on creating an average site RPM, which can be your baseline for all of your content pieces.”
Sean Spicer of AgileIT adds, “No matter what dials you turn or needles you move in your content marketing, you should always tie to revenue. Traffic, subscribers, leads, and deals are important, but you can be generating the wrong ones unless you tie them to revenue. I have run SEO campaigns that generated over 100 leads a day, but of those leads, none were aligned to our product. This winds up creating more work, as you then have to figure out how to qualify signups with your content.”
“Lead generation should be the goal every content marketing team/manager should set,” says Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers. “Why? Because you don’t just want to create more content, what you want is to generate more qualified and targeted leads thanks to your content. Getting traffic is one thing, but getting leads is definitely more important. If you can get more quality leads for a cheaper content cost, your content marketing team wins.”
Mayank Jha adds, “One part (of goal-identification) that often gets overlooked is qualifying the quality of the audience.
Traffic, CPA, conversions, etc. become vanity metrics when the leads acquired do not align the conversion funnel and ultimately produce a poor ROI. (That’s why) it is important to identify and set up goals that re-assesses and qualifies the audience to best align with the product offered.”
“Align your team’s goals with the company’s goals,” says Troy Frink of Medicare Plan Finder. “For most companies, that means conversions. You can produce a million pieces of content, but if that content doesn’t equate to new sales, that content is useless.
A content manager’s goal should be to consistently produce quality content that affects the company’s bottom line in a positive way.
Find out what’s working, and focus on pieces around that topic. For example, if your client is a mechanic, and your content about brake pads gets the most traffic and the most leads, develop content webs with articles about how to change brake pads, when to change brake pads, why you need brake pads, etc. Keep heading in that direction if you get leads.
Set goals for the number of leads you get in a month. Aim for a certain percentage of conversions from those leads.
You’ll know your strategy works when your conversion rate increases.”
Jeremy Cross of Corporate Events NYC adds, “The one goal almost all content marketing managers should set is for a specific quantity of qualified leads generated. My recommendation is to choose a monthly target, like 100 leads, and progress toward this goal. Qualified leads are an important metric to track because otherwise, a content team can easily get lost in less important metrics like page views or bounce rate. One exception to this goal is businesses that earn money for the quantity of traffic, for example, from ads.”
Yaniv Goldenberg of cnvrg adds, “The most important KPI for most B2B marketers should be measuring down the road, the number of SQLs that was influenced by content.”
“Every marketing department should score each type of their leads and accumulate the score each month if they’re in B2B,” says Kean Graham of MonetizeMore. “If they have a short sales cycle and are B2C, it’s still useful to score sales to gauge the chance they’ll be a return buyer.”
“One goal should be Increasing brand awareness,” says Jitendra Vaswani of Bloggersideas.com. “This is one of the crucial factors in 2020, as Google is going to give priority to the website, which has a solid brand presence. Branding is everything in 2020.”
Cierra Flythe of BoardActive adds, “This goal increases the opportunity for other marketing goals such as networking, sales, increased revenue, and more.”
Mike Falahee of Marygrove Awning Co. says, “When someone thinks about your industry, your business name should come to mine organically. This helps your business seem more stable and reliable to the consumer.”
“Instead of shooting for impressions and views, try to get more comments, likes, or shares on your content,” says Kenzi Wood of Kenzi Writes. “Views aren’t valuable, but real engagement from readers will move the needle.”
Ollie Smith of Card Accounts says, “Customers want to buy from a person and not a business, so giving your business a ‘personality’ in its interactions and tracking engagement can lead to a big increase in interest and sales.”
“One should prioritize the tracking of engagement rates over sales rates first because what they tell you is how well you know your customer,” adds Vanessa McIntosh of Woo with Words. “That you know what’s wrong for them, and how you can make it right.
Open rates: Do they read your subject lines and preview text and open up to hear what you have to say because you’re talking to them in their language?
Click through rates: Are you speaking to their problem and have built enough like, know and trust that they are called to action to click through to your product/service offer through which you provide the solution?”
“One goal that isn’t measured a lot is how many shares your content receives,” says Seb Brantigan of Brantigan Enterprises. “If your content is widely shared, this is a great metric to measure that tells you if your content has really left a lasting impact or not.”
Toni JV of JVT Media adds, “User engagement is a vastly important marketing goal because it ensures that you’re creating content that people actually care about, and content that adds value to their lives. Not only that but when you focus on engagement, you’re also making your brand a ton stronger.
In the long term, this will increase your conversions, increase your brand awareness, etc.
Moreover, it’s not about the number of views you get; it’s about if your content added value to people’s lives and thus helps you get to your goals with content marketing.
Would you rather get a million views and leave it at that, or get 40 views and have 1 person contact you for a 10 thousand dollar deal?
Other metrics are vastly important too, but I find user engagement to be the most important one.”
“Building trust with your audience is key,” says Paige Arnof-Fenn of Mavens & Moguls. “When you create useful, interesting, and valuable content, your audience learns they can trust you, which sets a strong foundation for a long term relationship and keeps them coming back for more.”
Roman Zhyvitski of IT HUBBY Gesellschaft für Internettechnologie- und Softwareentwicklung mbH adds, “Offering help and building long-lasting relationships with the audience without offering them your services upon the first encounter. Customers that trust you are more likely to buy from you again, and thus can generate you much more income than the new ones.”
Sam Olmsted of Content Optimism says, “Whether you’re trying to make a sale, book an appointment, or get a download, the content has to be worth reading and engaging. In a “pure” content marketing campaign, you may just want to educate your audience and provide strong content that builds your site’s authority. In this case, the ONE goal every content marketing team should set is Scroll Depth inside Google Analytics. Examining scroll depth allows you to understand how much of your content was read by your audience and where they dropped off on your page. When you’re creating content that is meant to be read and not just meant to entice a user to take any action, scroll depth and time on page are really the best indicators of whether or not that information was taken in by the reader.”
Andrew Ruditser of Maxburst says, “One goal every content marketing team/manager should set is finding out who their target audience is to help build their brand awareness. It is very important that you focus on a specific group of people’s interests while creating content. If your audience is too broad, you might be wasting time and money marketing to people who have no interest in your product/company and what you are promoting. The internet and social media are huge in the world today. Pay attention to who follows you on social media and who engages with your website. What time of the day do they engage, how old are they, where are they located, are they men or women, etc. This can help you see what kind of audience is most interested in your brand, which will give you a better idea of what kind of content you should promote.”
Raj Vardhman of GoRemotely adds, “Advertising to a broad and random audience rarely gives good results. For that reason, it is much better to select a group of people that may potentially benefit from your business. Now, the selected audience is not always set in stone, and it should be revised frequently. The beginning of the year is a great time to evaluate the achieved results and potentially change your marketing strategy.”
“You want your business growing on a consistent basis, and for that to happen, acquiring new customers should be the top goal,” says Simon Nowak of 3 Credit Scores. “Utilizing backlinks and social media are a couple of great ways to achieve it.”
Tarun Jain of Distill says, “As we heavily focus on content for our growth, I know it’s a heavy investment in terms of paying the writers, time, and efforts to market it. While the ‘Returns’ here is subjective and depends on each company’s goal – for us, it was to increase backlinks.”
Eric Mellmer of prolinerangehoods.com adds, “Set a weekly goal to send outreach emails for backlinks. Link building is vital to growing the scope of your website, and throughout that process, you may develop long-lasting, beneficial relationships with companies that you wouldn’t have met otherwise. As you accumulate backlinks, people who otherwise may not see your site will see it on others’ platforms. Sending these outreach emails will make your business more well-known.”
“The blog posts you’re writing don’t matter unless they are driving people to your website,” says Claire Shaner of ZooWho Personal CRM. “Content marketers can use Google Search Console to track how many clicks each blog post is getting from Google search results. In addition to tracking an overall number of clicks, it’s important to set goals for the number of keywords you want to rank for and the average target rank for your keywords.”
“Establish and grow loyalty with customers,” says Jane Prizer of Hausera. “Of course, acquiring new customers is an obvious goal, but I feel the potential for an increase in new customer acquisition is highly contingent on both brand awareness and the willingness for existing customers to remain loyal to said brand.”
“In short, I believe content marketing managers should primarily focus on setting goals for a rise in returning visitors to the site,” says Kasia Kowalska of Contentki. “This is because it allows you to look at your content strategy from a higher level. Measuring the volume of visitors separately for each content piece can be misleading and won’t help you verify if you’re acing your overall content marketing efforts.”
“Every content marketing team needs to set the goal of a number of high-quality pieces of content they’re going to publish weekly, monthly, and annually,” says Brian Robben of Robben Media. “You can’t control backlinks, page views, or sales generated from content. But your team can control its content production. That’s why this must be tracked above all since it’s a leading metric that will cause an increase in other goals like traffic and revenue.”
“Timeliness matters for search engines, so it should always be of concern to content marketers as well,” says Stephen Taylor of WISER Systems, Inc. ”There are plenty of other goals to set–conversions, dwell time with content, search rankings, etc.–but it’s surprising how often marketers fail to set dates to complete key content.”
Eric N. Allen of Border West Marketing adds, “The most important goal with content marketing is to keep a schedule. This includes not only deadlines for specific articles, but continued production. Successful websites are the products of the content they contain. Continually adding to it on a preset schedule helps achieve goals faster and with more precision.”
Jason Yau of CanvasPeople adds, “Have a shared direction and stick to it. Content that seems scattered will lose the attention of your intended audience. Stick to the plan and trust the process.
“As a content writer and frequent content reader, I hate when I’m searching for an answer to a question only to find content that has a 9 paragraph intro with silly details only to find the answer to the question (if I’m lucky) is in the last paragraph,” says Dan Martin of Linkasaur.us. “Don’t bury the lead, tell the people what they want to know right away, and the interested people are then happy to read more details about the topic.”
“Every content marketing team should set a goal to take time out, building a repository of content marketing ideas/clips/images/memes to have on hand,” says Vickens Moscova of Moscova Enterprises.“This is a good idea for those days when it seems hard to put new engaging content together. You will have a treasure trove of usable content for use on those rainy days.”
“Spend at least half of your time promoting your content,” says Jeff Green of Green Thoughts Consulting. “Most people hit the nail on the head with the content but just going to the next piece or simply promote it in 30 minutes. Just like a great piece of content, promotion needs to be taken very seriously.”
Elisa Doucette of Craft Your Content says, “Time saved; if a content marketing team is producing the content for a brand, who was doing it before? Is their time now freed up for other focuses? Is the team continuing to streamline, so they are investing solid time and energy, but working more productively to get content up and out? The time metric is one that should always be improving, and with it, the quality of the work created (in other words, you don’t want less time but a lower quality of content.)”
“A good overall goal is to increase your domain authority,” says Nicole Wolfe of TopSpot Internet Marketing. “By increasing your domain authority, you are demonstrating that your content is not only valuable to your customers but valuable overall.”
“A low bounce rate for top-of-the-funnel pages,” says Cristina Maria of Commusoft. “It’s quite specific, but that’s what goals should be like: measurable. A low bounce rate on these pages means that your content marketing strategy has a narrative, and the audience is responding positively to it while getting qualified at the same time. Following the “story” behind inbound links can offer great insight into what’s working and what’s not – and all that by simply watching this often-overlooked metric.”
“One important content marketing goal is to network with at least 10 new companies every month,” says Andrea Loubier of Mailbird. “In doing so, you continue to put your name out there, as well as make invaluable connections. If you do this every month, then you can constantly build your network, which can not only help with your content marketing goals but with brand awareness.”
Aqsa Tabassam of Brandnic.com adds, “It goes without saying that the partnerships bring together the different skill sets of people to achieve a common shared goal. In our digital marketing agency, we aimed from the first day to pull not only customers but the potential strategic partners for our client’s business. The answer to why this goal is simple, that it expand the client base of business.”
“Our content is always geared towards getting more traffic to our website,” says Dorian Reeves of SH1FT. “It’s part of our efficient inbound marketing strategy that concentrates on getting leads through our expertise, so if articles are bringing traffic, we’re on the right track.”
Catherine Way of Prime Plus Mortgages adds, “While conversion goals can fluctuate per company, marketers need to know how large their audience is and where they come from. This can show marketers how to optimize their content and get more eyes on their pages.”
“Every content marketing team/manager should set a goal for the number of sales generated directly from organic content marketing,” says Rachel Pedersen of The Viral Touch. “The point of content marketing (on the backend at least) is to actually create an ROI.”
“The one goal every content manager should set is to create content that is written towards user intent as opposed to just keywords that a user might search,” says Sonya Gankina of seoplus+. “Understand the entire customer journey and step into the shoes of your customer base. Ensure content is valuable, actually answers the audience’s questions, and is not optimized just for search engines.”
“One goal every content marketing team or manager should set is to create content that consumers not only interact with but drives them to make a purchase,” says Martina Tinong of J. Simms Events and Marketing. “Creative content piques consumers’ interests and increases the odds of consumers making a purchase. You can measure how well your content entices consumers to make a purchase by keeping track of its conversion rate with a marketing dashboard software, or the rate of which consumers to a website/page to make a purchase after viewing content. A team leader should set or approve content marketing goals. How frequently content marketing goals change is dependent on the brand, product, or service the content is created for. A beauty brand may want weekly goals to give them a sense of how fast their products sell while a car dealership would set monthly goals for car sales.”
Joris Brabant of Apicbase adds, “By looking at the content that influenced deals, we also get a much better way of how content is consumed throughout the sales funnel instead of just looking at pieces that bring in leads. We can also see, at which point additional data points allow us to segment the content consumer and send more targeted content.”
“Conversions are a must-have goal because it doesn’t always have to mean a purchase,” says Andie Levine of Slice Communications. “Depending on your company’s business model, a conversion could be a contact form download or set up a demo. There are different conversions for each step of the funnel, and it’s important to understand them.”
“Every content marketing team should make it a goal to update at least 10% of blog posts on a website every month,” says David Sandy. “This ensures that evergreen content stays up to date and remains relevant. In addition, Google favors fresh content, which means that by updating content regularly with a set goal will allow for rankings to be maintained and grow over time.”
“Find out what their problems are, what bugs them, what scares them,” says Kenny Trinh of Netbooknews. ”You could do this by reading the blog comments, by email replies, Q & A sessions, or you can go on a deep dive using Google Analytics. Then, once you’ve found their problems, offer solutions. Help them fix those pesky problems.
As you focus on solving your audience’s problems, your audience will learn to trust and depend on you for solutions to their dilemmas, which will improve brand loyalty and customer engagement. This will also be your guide on creating future content for your website.”
“One goal that every content marketing team/manager should set is to post every day,” says Caroline of carolines-music.com. “Even if you don’t want to post on your Instagram feed every day, at least do 1-3 stories.
This is so vital because:
1. It helps algorithms; social platforms will more likely push out the content of accounts that are updated frequently.
2. Posting every day is a friendly reminder that your company exists.
3. It keeps your followers engaged and interested.”
“Every content marketing team/manager should maximize the visibility of their infographics,” says Avinash Chandra of BrandLoom Consulting. “This, when done through all the distribution channels, increases the readability 30 times more than regular blog posts. This would make sure your content is optimized and is likely to get more hits.”
Will Craig of LeaseFetcher adds,
“Constantly read and listen to podcasts – If you work in a fast-paced industry, you’ll know that things change constantly. Reading relevant content and listening to industry podcasts can inspire you to create interesting, useful, and valuable content for your audience. If you continue to create consistent, relevant content, your audience will soon realize that they can trust you.
At LeaseFetcher, we believe that content marketing goals should be set by the individual writing the content. We have a number of processes and guidelines that provide inspiration for creating high-quality content, but at the end-of-the-day, it is up to the individual to channel their inner creative spark.”
It is one thing to set and measure your content marketing goals. It is a whole another thing to make sure you are communicating the value and ROI of what you are doing. This is where many of the content marketers we surveyed struggled.
In fact, according to our survey, we found that more than 40% of content marketing teams change their goals (or create new ones) each quarter.
With shifting goals and priorities, this can come with some unique challenges. In this section, we’re taking a closer look at some of the main challenges content marketing teams face.
Tracking and communicating the ROI of your efforts is fundamentally the most important and also the hardest to get right.
“The most important content marketing goal (conversions) to achieve is also the most difficult,” says Frank.
Taylor adds, “In-content conversions are always challenging to achieve, whether it’s to submit a form, click a simple CTA, or something else altogether.”
“While we can set up analytics, tracking, and more, I know it isn’t the full picture,” says Doucette. “Often, with content marketing, it is more about the building of knowing, liking, and trusting a brand to make a purchase. So a trigger event isn’t always a good indicator of the effectiveness of the marketing results from content, only the sales justifications.”
Use these free content marketing dashboard examples to track your content marketing ROI.
“One content marketing goal I’ve found harder to achieve is generating qualified leads,” says Ruditser. That is why my team and plan specific strategies to help us achieve this goal.”
Flythe adds, “Reaching the right people to push through the sales process is a difficult task for the SaaS market. We are developing new content distribution strategies for this very goal in the upcoming 2020 first quarter.”
“Attribution,” says Woods. “We need to see the fruits of our content efforts, but so often it can be hard to document lead touchpoints. It requires a robust CRM and pixel tracking that I just haven’t had the resources to implement yet.”
“If you are using Content Marketing as a way to overcome buyers’ objections, it can be tough to understand the objections that keep customers from buying, and then think about creative ways to resolve those objections in content,” says Arnof-Fenn. “It is much easier to build awareness, trust, and leverage content for lead generation in my experience.”
“Working our way up to the top of search engines,” says Nowak. “It’s an extremely competitive aspect of modern business.”
Shaner says, “As we’re a startup business (and thus a new and small website), it’s hard to get clicks to blog posts because our domain rating is still small.”
Cross adds, “The hardest goal for us to achieve has been page views. With many websites, a single post or several posts can generate 50% or more of traffic. A short variance or downturn in traffic to these posts can easily wipe out gains from your other efforts — if you are only focused on traffic generated.”
“One content marketing goal we’ve found hardest to achieve is product description optimization,” says Olmsted. “Many times, adding more content to a page helps it appear higher on Google. However, with product descriptions, too much content can lead to poor user experience. There’s a fine balance between what is helpful to Google and what is helpful to the shopper.”
Prizer says, “Despite it being relatively low-risk to market content (compared to marketing actual product/merchandise), there is still a natural pressure that arises from feeling like new content has to be released at a constant rate.”
JV adds, “Sometimes it’s hard to keep coming up with new content over and over again, especially because you don’t want to overdo content similar to what you’ve already done. Keeping up the volume and user interest can be difficult.”
“Converting content leads to product signups is a real challenge,” says Kowalska. “You never know whether the prospects visiting a given webpage actually need your solution (they might already have a similar product and are just looking for inspiration on how to use it). Equally so, you can’t evaluate what stage of the funnel they’re at and if they’re ready to purchase from you.
“Finding your site baseline RPM,” says Chin-Fook. “It’s very difficult because tracking revenue by page can be very tedious.
“The one content marketing goal that I’ve found hardest to achieve has been striking a balance between educational and informative posts that bring real value and entertainment to the user,” says Gankina. “Finding that fine line is crucial not to sound overly promotional and to secure the loyalty of your customers and followers.”
Goldenberg adds, “Creating one piece of content that does everything well: organic traffic, backlinks, engagement on the blog, engagement on social, etc. That’s why I usually tend to focus on one clear goal for each piece of content.”
“It’s difficult to truly be able to integrate content with other marketing channels without sacrificing the best of the content itself,” says Wolfe. “For instance, you can write an amazing piece of content, but once it’s been optimized for SEO, social media, or some other channel, you can often end up losing the heart of the piece itself.”
“Getting your content shared enough times is difficult,” says Brantigan. “A lot of people with a social media account will only share something valuable on their timeline or with friends. So making your content in-depth and well explained will make it more valuable in your readers’ eyes.”
Loubier adds, “It can be highly difficult to break into sites with an already-established network, who may not be too fond of expanding.”
“Find the main questions and problems of the target audience, and the ability to understand how exactly they search for it,” says Zhyvitski. “The keywords they use, the websites they use to find the answer, and the main factors that make them believe one person/company/website and not the other.”
“Having a shared voice among multiple people,” says Yau. “Each person does have there own style and creativity, but having these voices be close enough is a challenge.”
Vaswani adds, “I would say the biggest challenge in content marketing is to maintain content consistency.”
The content marketing industry moves fast. Staying on top of trends was a challenge that many content marketers cited in our survey.
For example, Tabassam says, “Our content strategy is driven by users’ trend. We follow them and mold our goals accordingly.”
“With each new project, we set a broad timeline of what we want to achieve and determine the best ways to make that happen,” says Allen. “Goals differ greatly for each individual project. Some require much more technical research. Some are in extremely competitive industries. Each aspect needs to be carefully analyzed to determine the best approach for success.”
In order to be successful with your content marketing efforts, you need to be great at setting, measuring and communicating your goals (and progress) to not only your manager and team but also to the entire company. In addition, when you experience a setback or identify a new challenge, you need to be willing to experiment and come up with new ways to tackle the problem. That’s what separates the good content marketers from the exceptional ones.
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