How do we measure content marketing performance?
Everybody now accepts that content marketing plays a central role in driving business success but when it comes to measuring that success, the situation is much less certain.
How do you judge the success of your content marketing campaigns? Is it the number of page views you get? How about the number of social media shares? Or do you only take account of changes in sales figures?
Establishing your campaign goals
Before you can even begin isolating relevant metrics, you have to be clear about your campaign goals. This will ensure that you are only measuring those changes which are most likely to be directly attributable to the campaign content.
Examples of campaign goals might include:
- Customer growth/retention
- Improving search engine rankings
- Increasing sales of a specific product
- Lead generation
- Raising brand awareness
Choosing an analytics tool
There are many analytics tools now available for generating insights from data.
For most website owners, the free Google Analytics (GA) service is a good place to start due to its power and flexibility and there is some specific information on accessing GA metrics throughout this article.
Although the information was correct at the time of writing, be aware that GA does alter its layout and functions frequently so you may need to play around to find the metrics you need.
Depending on your campaign goals, you might find that another analytics service or a social media and SEO tool (e.g. Buzzsumo) more closely fits your needs.
6 categories of metric for content marketing
To avoid analysis paralysis and simplify performance measurement, metrics can be divided between 6 broad categories:
Consumption metrics cover the number of people accessing your content, the volume of content they consume and their behaviour (e.g. are they deep reading or skimming?)
When you log in to GA, this information can be found on the 'Pages Report.' This link is on the default 'What pages do your users visit?' widget. It can also be found by clicking on the Behaviour/Site Content/All Pages sidebar menus.
Relevant GA metrics include:
Pageviews. The raw number of visits to a page in the defined period.
Unique Pageviews. As above but discounting repeat visits in the same session. By dividing the two you can work out the proportion of unique visitors.
Avg. Time on Page. This reveals whether people are reading or watching through your entire content or just glancing at it before moving on
To analyse specific pages of content, enter the last part of the url in the search box. Alternatively, columns can be ordered by clicking the header. You can alter the date ranges at the top of the page and different periods can be compared by checking the box.
Growth and retention:
Retention metrics enable you to track how many visitors return to your site after their first visit. The 'How well do you retain users?' widget in the default GA dashboard provides a link to a 'Cohort Analysis Report' which is also available by following the Audience/Cohort Analysis menu links.
This report displays the percentage of visitors returning in the days, weeks or months following their first visit. If a high percentage of visitors return to your site, you are doing a good job in retaining their interest.
On your Audience Overview page, you can also compare the proportion of new users with the overall number of users which is displayed as a pie chart by default.
Remember to include metrics from other channels you are targeting. For example, you might want to track Facebook likes, Twitter followers and subscribers to your mailing list.
Engagement metrics are similar to consumption and retention metrics but give a clearer indication of how connected to your content your visitors are.
Social media is designed for engagement so tracking the number of comments and reactions is a good way of measuring this.
In terms of onsite content, the picture is a bit more complex but there are two GA metrics, both found on your Audience Overview page, that are relevant to engagement levels:
Pages/session. A rise in this number in response to your content campaign suggests your viewers are exploring your site in depth and are therefore more invested in your brand.
Avg. Session Duration. Also known as dwell time, this measures the amount of time the typical user spends on your website which again indicates involvement. This metric is also thought to be influential in search engine page ranking.
Whether they engage with it or not, when visitors read your content and share it, you have succeeded in creating content they relate with. Content shares and retweets contribute to brand awareness goals and can be measured via social media tools (e.g. Buzzsumo). If you are only interested in one social media platform (e.g. Facebook or Twitter), you can try out the analytics tools provided with it.
If you want to measure the effect your onsite content is having on lead generation, you will need to set up Goals in the Conversions section of GA. When adding a new goal,you will see a number of templates in addition to a custom option.
With GA Goals, you can monitor user behaviour for specific actions and visits to pages or combinations of pages. By tying this in with your content, lead magnets and 'Thank You' page, you can track how many people are following your expected route towards becoming a lead.
SalesForce Campaign Tracking is another popular tool for recording metrics like the number of leads earned from each piece of content, the number of content pieces consumed per conversion and the number of existing leads interacting with your content.
If you have set up a content campaign to stimulate product or service sales,you will mainly be interested in the change (hopefully an increase!) in revenue created.
Staying with GA goals, you can measure sales by using one of three 'Revenue' templates or creating your own. In either case, you will need to allocate monetary values to certain actions which will then enable you to track your revenue. This can then be fed into a standard ROI equation.
When calculating content marketing ROI, remember to include all content production and distribution costs (salaries, assets, PPC, etc.).
To summarise: effective measurement of content campaign performance can be achieved by clarifying your campaign goals, deciding which category of metric is relevant to those goals and then using Google Analytics and other tools to access and track the data you need.
Topic: Online marketing