I can see it in your eyes, you’ve been reading this issue of Logic + Magic, and have caught the content marketing bug. You are armed with a brilliant strategy, tactics, and a drive to paint the world with content. Before embarking on your crusade, allow me a few minutes of your time to assist in the development of a plan for measuring the success of your efforts. The most awe-inspiring content won’t mean a thing to your client if you cannot provide some measure of its success.
It’s best to start this process at the beginning, allow the content objective to inform measurement. All metrics should provide measurement of the content objective. Thus, if the goal of your campaign is awareness you would measure consumption of the content and not necessarily sales or lead generation.
In addition, the metric should be actionable, providing findings that shape future strategy and tactics. In a lead generation campaign, a 300% increase in traffic to the website might seem like a great story; but how does that measure the goal of the campaign (conversions) and does it provide any actionable insight? Perhaps more meaningful would be an A/B test in which the contact form was 3 items shorter for half of the audience and remained the same for the other half of visitors. Thus, if the group with the shorter form converted 40% more often, you have a finding that is both actionable and relevant to the goal of the campaign.
Finally, borrowing generously from LEAP, “Measure Less. Matter More.” I am as guilty as anyone at collecting metrics for the sake of collecting metrics. The wealth of data at our disposal, and ease of access, is both a blessing and a curse. While I find the navigation path of mobile users from Vermont as interesting as the next guy, there is something to be said for brevity. The performance of a singular key performance indicator can provide a more relevant and meaningful story than dozens of vanity metrics.
Content Marketing Measurement Funnel
Having explained the fundamentals, let’s discuss some of the more common content objectives and associated metrics.
LEAP suggests content marketing metrics break down as follows:
According to the 2015 B2B Content Marketing Trends – North America report from Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs, 84% of B2B marketers surveyed cited brand awareness as their primary goal for content marketing. The primary objective of an awareness campaign is to build familiarity or knowledge of a particular brand, product, or service. The most precise method of measurement would be to conduct a pre and post-campaign deployment awareness assessment of the target audience. Given the cost and difficulty of eliciting response data from the target audience, the more approachable strategy is to measure content consumption.
Some awareness key performance indicators:
- Page views
- Time on page
- Video plays
- Unique visitors
- Number of times blog post viewed
- Content downloads (whitepapers, Infographics)
- Email open rate
- Social media reach
Engagement is measured by audience interaction with published content. Key performance indicators fall into three distinct categories:
- Amplification is the act of sharing content and can be measured by metrics such as retweets, post sharing, or shared links to content. This is an indicator that people are finding the content interesting and worthy of being shared within their own networks.
- Applause is the shared approval of content through likes (Facebook), +1s (Google), and favorites (Twitter and Instagram). This is an indicator that people are agreeing with you and giving your content a vote of confidence.
- Conversation is audience dialogue with content and is measured through comments and mentions (Twitter). This is a key performance indicator, as comments and mentions are much harder to come by and not fueled by easy-to-use buttons!
- Conversion. The goal of a conversion campaign is the completion of a specified user behavior such as a purchase, lead generation form, or communication opt-in (newsletter sign-up). Shareable content or landing pages are a great tool for driving visitors toward a conversion point. Key metrics include the number of goal conversions, direct or indirect revenue, and the conversion rate.
What are brands measuring?
According to a 2015 PulsePoint study, the top three content marketing success metrics are social engagements, followed by time on page and impressions.
However, an Ascend2 2015 report shows something different when asking – what are the most useful metrics for measuring content marketing performance? Conversion rate came in at number one with 50%, followed by Quality of Leads and Website Traffic at 45% and 42%, respectively.
Having determined the key performance metrics and collected performance data, the final step is to determine whether the campaign was successful. This is the part of the article where you may expect me to provide a series of best practice figures, to which you can compare your own outcome data. Unfortunately, there is no table or cutoff value that determines a successful number of likes, conversion rate, or views. “But Timothy, I just googled “what is a good conversion rate” and found over 3 million results.” That’s true but in my opinion, best practice standards are overused and often misinterpreted.
Consider bounce rate. Best practice standards would suggest that a bounce rate of more than 70% is considered poor and a bounce rate of less than 40% is excellent. But what about the take-out restaurant with the phone number on the home page. A bounced visit does not indicate a failure but could rather indicate the visitor found what they wanted on the landing page and left the site to convert (e.g. ordering a meal).
The expectation of success should not come from “best practice” but should be set by the stakeholders; benchmarked against previous efforts and industry standards. The caveat being that simply measuring against previous efforts can be misleading, as there is no built-in control for extraneous circumstances. Understand the climate in which you are making comparisons. Be aware of seasonal trends and the circumstances of both data points (e.g. the year-over-year comparison that is invalidated by the Shark Tank appearance that occurred one year ago).
Each case is different and success is different for each client. And with that, go forth and share your content with the world. Just remember to take some time to align the content objectives with actionable metrics and when in doubt, “Measure Less. Matter More.”