Content marketing is a tactic used across industries to create awareness and educate audiences, but many organizations are still figuring out how to truly measure success.
According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2020 research, a promising 80% of respondents do use metrics to measure performance, but that number drops to 65% when asked if they have KPIs to measure performance, and even further to 43% when asked if they measure content marketing ROI.
As any marketer will tell you, the time and resources required to drive success with content marketing are significant. Production is only one piece of the puzzle—you need to consider costs related to creating the strategy, distributing and promoting the final product, and associated software as well.
Marketing teams will need to justify the resources to create high-quality content that actually moves the needle, and thus having those metrics and being able to measure against set KPIs is crucial. In this post, I’ll discuss several metrics to help your team showcase the value of content marketing and why goal setting is a critical step in this process.
1. Web Traffic by Source/Medium
For many content marketers, site traffic is a key metric come reporting time. That being said, there are a few different ways to look at traffic metrics. If you’re new to measuring content performance, use the Channel report to see where your blog traffic is coming from.
Are users reaching your content organically? Or are they being referred to your content from other sites (i.e., social)? Maybe most users navigate to your blog from a monthly email newsletter – whatever it is, understand how people actually get to your content.
You can also look more granularly at traffic metrics using the Source/Medium report in Analytics. Maybe your team has put emphasis on optimizing content for search – take a look at organic traffic compared month-over-month or year-over-year to measure success.
If the focus has instead been on social distribution of content, look at how referral traffic has improved over time and/or which channels bring the most users to your site.
- Tools to Use: Google Analytics // Other Analytics Platforms
- How to Find It: Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium and/or Channels
2. User Behavior
On their own, user behavior metrics don’t tell you much. When coupled with other metrics (such as traffic performance), however, they can provide marketers with directional insight about reader engagement and content performance.
I like to keep an eye on the following metrics in Google Analytics:
- Time on Page
- Bounce Rate
- New/Returning Visitors
Though these are unlikely to be your end-all, be-all metrics, they can (and should) be used as supporting characters to help tell your content performance story. As an example, you can determine if a blog post matches searchers’ intent based on the fact that it brings users in organically and they’re spending a significant amount of time on page to read it.
- Tools to Use: Google Analytics // Other Analytics Platforms
- How to Find It: Behavior > Overview and/or Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages
3. Impressions & CTR
Alongside traffic and user behavior, you should be tracking impressions and click-through-rate in Google Search Console. This will give you insight into whether the keywords your content is ranking for actually translate to impressions and clicks in organic search.
It’s not going to be a full picture of performance, but it can tell you whether your content is doing well (high impressions and CTR), or whether it needs to be adjusted (low impressions, low CTR, or a combination of the two). In Google Search Console, filter by a specific landing page and then review the queries associated with that page to really drill in and review an asset’s performance.
- Tools to Use: Google Search Console
- How to Find It: Performance > Search Results > Queries
4. Content Shares & Backlinks
The overarching goal of any content asset is to provide value for readers. Though no single metric can illustrate this, social shares and backlinks shed light on whether or not people are willing to share your content with their personal audiences.
Say you have a blog post that was shared over 100 times on social, or an infographic that was picked up by several industry-leading publications. These content metrics matter, especially if you have awareness-related goals.
Social Shares: See how well your content resonates with target audiences by looking at how many times it was shared on social:
- Tools to Use: BuzzSumo
- How to Find It: Search by URL (ex. Specific content asset URL or /blog/), sorted by top-shared content.
Backlinks: Measure the value of content by how often it’s linked to and referenced on other sites and sources:
- Tools to Use: SEMRush, BuzzSumo & Others
- How to Find It: Search by URL > Backlinks
5. Keyword Rankings
Make sure to keep track of core keywords and review rankings on a monthly basis. Of course, this requires keyword research to establish priority keyword targets that you’re working toward. We like to use SEMRush to track keywords for our client programs, but there are many tools out there to use.
Ranking improvements are a great way to communicate how your content program is performing, especially if there are competitive, high-value keywords that you are working toward. Showing improvements over time can get stakeholders excited about the progress and want to keep moving forward.
- Tools to Use: SEMrush, Google Search Console
- How to Find It:(SEMrush) Search by URL & (GSC) Performance > Search Results > Queries
6. Lead Generation
Last, but definitely not least – content marketers need to be looking at how many leads their content brings in. For many marketers, demonstrating that content furthers lead acquisition and/or nurturing goals is critical for securing budgets.
- Tools to Use: Google Analytics
- How to Find It: Conversions > Goals > Overview
The first step for measuring this is to set up goals in Analytics. Common conversion opportunities include demo requests, contact us submissions, and asset downloads. Teams can then use Analytics segments to determine how many conversions came in from the blog or a resource hub.
Along with the number of conversions and leads brought in via content assets, with CRM integration marketers can review the quality of those leads. Of course, bringing in a certain number of sales or marketing qualified leads will carry more weight when measuring success.
The Importance of Setting Content Marketing Goals
Your team can look at 100 different metrics related to your latest blog post, new landing page, or recent email campaign, but they don’t really matter unless you have goals to measure performance against.
When goal-setting for your content marketing program, the most important piece is to set reasonable expectations. If you had 1,000 organic visits to your blog in 2017, can you reach 10,000 organic visits in 2018 without an increase in your budget? Nothing is impossible, but let’s be realistic here…it probably won’t happen.
Focus on historical data to figure out what goals make sense given your budget and team bandwidth. Even better, set or review these goals with your executive team to make sure you’re on the same page. That way, there aren’t any surprises when it comes time for quarterly or yearly reporting.
Most B2B marketers are focused on top-of-the-funnel goals like brand awareness, education, and building credibility. But, that shouldn’t limit you—teams are also finding success with using content to generate leads, nurture subscribers, drive event attendance, and generate revenue.
Though the metrics you emphasize are wholly dependent on program goals (SEO, content marketing, or otherwise), this list should help kick-start your journey in content performance measurement.
Are there any metrics we’re missing from this list? Reach out to us on Twitter @KoMarketing — we’d love to hear them!