Content and SEO are equally as important… But which do you start with? We asked 60+ experts to share the strategy they prioritize—and why.
Content Marketing | Jun 25
Elise Dopson on February 25, 2020 (last modified on April 22, 2021) • 13 minute read
Whenever KPIs around content marketing success is shared or reported on, they’re typically followed up with, “yeah, but how can we attribute sales to this?”
This is when things can get tricky.
We’ve already discovered that marketers find it difficult to track the ROI of their content strategy.
While increases in organic traffic are great, the way you truly connect the dots for reporting on the ROI of your content marketing efforts is by measuring its influence on lead generation and sales?
So where do you start?
So, we asked 40 experts to share the lead generation metrics they’re using to determine how well their content marketing is performing. Here’s what they said:
*Editor’s note: Get a better understanding of how your blog is performing with our Blog Quality Metrics template. It pulls data from your Google Analytics account to show your most important content marketing metrics all in one place:
“One of the best ways to know if your content is really performing well is to take a holistic look at the user throughout your entire funnel,” says Sam Rexford of ChillReptile. “They’ll never get to your bottom-of-funnel content if they don’t engage all the way through.”
“You can get a million email leads, but if they don’t engage with the content they’re downloading, and don’t come back to engage with the next piece of content in your funnel, they’ll never convert.”
“Marketers need to take a step back from watching clicks, impressions and leads, and start trying to get a top-level understanding of how the funnel is performing in order to start plugging the leaks,” Rexford continues.
Hung Nguyen of Smallpdf explains: “Before they fill out the contact form on your landing page, look at how far down the page they’re scrolling, the time spent on the page, the places they click, and how often they bounce back to the page before actually “converting.” That should give you plenty of ideas to polish up your funnels.”
Sean Hayes of Hausera agrees: “Keeping an eye on your business’s on-site engagement can provide powerful insights into how well your content is connecting with your target audience.”
“If your business’s site can maintain low bounce rates with high levels of engagement, it could be a sign of how well your content is funneling leads. By considering onsite engagement when looking at content marketing campaigns, marketers can get a better idea of whether their content is compelling enough to get users interested and keep them coming back.”
Plus, Toni JV of JVT Media adds: “If you notice that one of your posts did extremely well in terms of engagement, you want to immediately hop on that post and figure out what made it work so well. Then you simply use that same format and apply it to your other posts, and you keep refining your approach.”
Your page’s exit rate is the percentage of readers who leave your site on that particular URL.
Find it in Google Analytics by heading to Behavior > Site Content > Exit pages:
Rob Sanders says the Socially Found team track this lead gen metric because it “shows how often visitors are ending their session, or actually leave the site, after viewing that particular content on that page.”
“This can provide some further insight into how effective the article is to giving the reader a reason to either take action (CTA) or if they are engaged enough, continue reading through the website.”
“All content pages should provide options for the visitor to assist with them remaining on the site, as well as having them take the action you desire (sign up, download, etc.),” Sanders adds.
“There are tons of metrics you can track, all of which offer useful insight into your content’s performance, but we find that time on page is the best indicator of how our content is hitting with our readers,” says Evenbound‘s Mackenzie Deater.
“You might be getting a ton of traffic from a blog post that’s ranking well, but if your time on page is less than a minute, your readers probably aren’t getting much from it.”
Deater continues: “The purpose of content marketing is to draw in traffic, certainly. But it doesn’t do you much good if those new leads and prospects don’t stick around to read your content or become leads. Time on page shows you how well your content is actually working for your readers.”
For comparison, the average time on page for a blog post is around 3-5 minutes:
“The biggest metric for [ClydeBank Media] is list opt-ins,” says John Donnachie. “Our content is a lead generation tool first and a sales tool second. All of our other content metrics such as views, bounces, page actions, etc. support our main metric and main goal of list opt-ins.”
Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers argues that this is crucial because “once your visitors have given their email addresses, you know that they’re interested in what you do and become leads. You can now re-target them by sending helpful emails without being too salesy.”
James Pollard says the team at The Advisor Coach also tracks this lead generation metric: “I’ve found that content marketing leads to higher quality email subscribers because your content serves as a way of building trust, credibility, and rapport.”
“In other words, people who have read several of your articles or watched a few of your videos know that you’re the “real deal”, while someone clicking from a paid ad may have never heard of you.”
Kyle Golding says that for The Golding Group, “conversion rate is the only metric that matters.”
“Audience attention is just the beginning of the marketing process, but ultimately worthless without conversion. Economic viability comes from transactions, which don’t happen without conversion. ROI is also based on conversion rate vs. cost. The success of marketing efforts is proven and measured in the conversion rate.”
SyncShow‘s Jasz Joseph agrees: “Getting blog views is good, but it is even better if you can show the blog is generating quality leads.”
Josh Barney explains what that looks like for Einstein Marketer: “Every post is paired with an appropriate lead magnet which appears as an exit pop-up.”
“From here, I’m able to see which content (and more specifically which topics/categories) generates the highest conversion of visitors to leads. When I have the answer, we scale our efforts, promoting the best performing with a wider distribution.”
Mention‘s Sandra Chung adds: “Whether it’s a blog post or a downloadable piece of gated content we always track if the piece led to a conversion in the form of an email sign up or a demo request. As our team is responsible for bringing in a certain number of qualified leads per month (MQLs), this is the metric that we’re the most interested in.”
You can also “look at the contact conversions that come from organic traffic”–something recommended by Matt Slaymaker of Folsom Creative: “Isolating on the organic channel allows us to focus on the channel most affected by content marketing, and to monitor the progress in conversions that we see there.”
Priscilla Neto shares how they track this for Mashmetrics: “I would use a tag and a trigger on the Google Tag Manager to be able to set a goal on my Google Analytics. And then I would use Goal Completions metric within Google Analytics, for example.”
“The lead generation metric I’m most interested in is the number of truly qualified leads that make it to a sales conversion – and then have a high Customer Lifetime Value,” says Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré.
“That means that the content is helping to attract and convert right-fit clients who are able and likely to become successful customers.”
“Content marketing should act as a sieve – educating qualified leads and nurturing them towards conversions, and effectively ‘turning off’ undesirable clients. This is what I’d call a “conversion content” approach, where you’re aware that each piece of content you produce is really a lead generation engine.”
DeMeré adds: “Do this right, and the right-fit clients will be primed and ready to love you through your content.”
Jeremy Cross of Team Building San Francisco agrees: “The primary metric we track for lead generation is the lead qualification rate — legitimate potential buyers that have a budget to work with us.”
“Previously, we would source leads from a wide variety of platforms and efforts, including SEO, Facebook Ads, social media and others. As we’ve become more advanced with our data tracking, we prioritize those channels that consistently deliver higher quality leads to our team.”
Cross continues: “For new content, if the lead qualification rate is below our average, then we revisit the content or remove lead forms from it so that our sales team only works with the best leads.”
ThinkFuel Marketing also use a similar metric, according to Kevin D’Arcy: “For us, the most important metric to track is whether the content directly created a sales qualified lead or influenced the creation of a sales qualified lead (meaning the lead had previously consumed the content before becoming an SQL).”
“The reason we do this is to validate that our content is attracting and converting the RIGHT type of visitors and prospects. Traffic is great, marketing qualified leads are great too, but if they don’t transition into SQLs then they weren’t the right type of people.”
Blake Sutton of Electrical Knowledge thinks: “At every stage of your funnel, it’s important to track the total time to conversion so you can get a clear picture of the length of your sales cycle.”
“Elongated sales funnels or checkout processes will deter customers and lead to reduced sales. Studies have shown 56% of online shoppers abandon their cart because of a confusing or frustrating checkout process.”
“To track time to conversion, simply divide the total time spent by all your visitors before they complete your defined conversion goal with the total number of leads,” Sutton continues.
“It’s easy to go overboard with elongated sales funnels. The time to conversion is a great pulse-check of your sales funnels, making sure they’re not getting too bloated. By reducing the number of touchpoints in your funnels, you’ll be able to reduce your time-to-conversion metric.”
“Done right, this will help you generate more conversions and amplify your content marketing efforts.”
Tasia Duske says the team at ScavBoss “used to more rigorously track lead volume, qualification rate, close rate, and average deal size. We found that each of these metrics could vary widely depending note only on the content but also the source of traffic.”
That’s why they switched to focusing on revenue generated: “If content results in actual revenue for our business then it is a strong indication that it is successful.”
In fact, this is the most popular lead generation metric used to track the ROI of a content marketing strategy:
Jacob Landis-Eigsti adds: “It takes some work to track direct sales and revenue, but it is possible.”
“We use a link tracker with a Facebook Pixel connected. This lets us track link clicks and see users’ behavior once they click a link. We also encourage messages directly on social media platforms and make a number of sales via messenger or inbox. We can directly see the ROI on all of the efforts this way.”
When we asked Directive what they use to measure lead generation, Brendan Hufford said: “Ultimately, we end up looking at CPA”–the dollar amount you’ve spent to get that customer.
“While content marketing does have really valuable secondary goals around awareness and link building, we’re looking at the cost of the campaign versus the value it generated for the company or client. With a smart attribution model, you can better track the ROI of content marketing efforts.”
Sophie Mann also says that for Encite International, “before any campaign is turned on we have a clear CPL goal and tracking set up to track what is working and what is not.”
David Walter of Electrician Mentor adds: “This is the gold standard when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of a campaign. When you boil it down to this cost per lead metric, it allows you to easily compare the value of content marketing to other marketing such as Google and Facebook Ads.”
“Instead of going for something obvious on this one, I’m going to say I’m a big fan of Hellobar for one simple reason: it allows me to track my call to action impressions, clicks, and split test the performance of call to actions directly on my blog posts,” writes James Parsons of Content Powered.
“One of my primary KPIs for my content is to improve sales and exposure to my products, so call to actions on my blog posts are extremely important. After all, if all of my visitors land on my content and then leave my site immediately afterward, then those are wasted opportunities.”
Do you know where people go before or after reading a piece of content? This is a navigation summary–something Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media thinks “is key for tracking content performance.”
“If you don’t know where people go from the content, you don’t know how well it’s performing, how well it’s guiding visitors deeper, how well it’s getting visitors closer to the conversion. Are they leaving immediately? Are they going somewhere irrelevant? Are they clicking on the calls to action?”
Crestodina explains: “If you don’t check the navigation summary for a given page, you don’t know how well it’s performing against your goals …unless you have a one-page website, which would be totally crazy.”
“For every piece of content we publish, we measure how much it contributes to the sales pipeline and how much business it generates for the company. We call it marketing sourced pipeline,” says Markletic‘s Ricky Wolff.
“Another key metric is the influence a piece of content had on the sales pipeline. We call this marketing influenced pipeline. Certain pieces of content might directly contribute to won deals but many times pieces of content will influence an existing sales cycle.”
*Editor’s note: Do you know many people are in your pipeline? Track how many leads pass through your sales funnel with this Pipeline Performance dashboard, which also shows how many website visitors get in contact with you:
When measuring lead generation, Hannah Stevenson of UK Linkology recommends to “check your backlink profile and look for organic links. In content marketing, the aim is to showcase your firm’s expertise and put time and effort into quality content that readers find valuable.”
“Organic links prove that your content is making an impact and that it’s useful as a point of reference for other content creators. The more organic links it gets in the first few days or weeks of being posted, the better.”
“With content marketing being the lifeblood of today’s marketing strategy, it’s really important to monitor the effectiveness of each piece of content we create,” CORFORGE‘s Eric Melillo says.
And as Anna Tolette of Synthesio summarizes: “At the end of the day, brand awareness is great, but what will really show performance is new inbound leads, opportunities, and (fingers crossed!) ROI.”
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