How To Measure Your Content Marketing Efforts: Complete Guide

We know that content marketing is extremely effective, but can we really measure its impact directly?

Why yes, yes we can! So why are so many marketers and agencies unable to do so?

Because it’s a stressful and time-consuming task. Not to mention people are extremely lazy.

It’s typical even for large agencies to use guesswork over hard data. In fact, according to a study done by Contently:

90% of marketers out there are unsure whether or not their key content metrics are effective in measuring business results.

Contently

I find that absolutely ridiculous. Content marketing has taken over the digital marketing world, yet only 10% of us are confident in our ability to measure what we’re actually doing?

It’s crucial that we know whether or not our content is resonating with the target audience, and whether or not it’s actually helping our business.

Some vanity metrics do matter, such as:

  • Views
  • Likes
  • Shares
  • Comments

But these metrics alone don’t tell us whether or not our content had any real impact on our audience (or our bottom line).

You may be wondering, how is measuring our content marketing efforts any different than measuring our advertising and direct marketing campaigns?

I like to put content marketing in a completely different category than other types of marketing. It’s the only form of marketing where we are pushing content out to various platforms without having to pay, and without asking the audience to buy anything.

Giving Not Selling

We’re essentially giving something away for free. I split everything up into two things, advertising and publishing. As content marketers we are publishers. We own all of the media we distribute, and we have full control over everything.

We control the message itself, how often the message is displayed to our audience, and the tone of voice behind the message. That means we need to be thinking long and hard about what we’re actually trying to accomplish with each piece of content we create.

Even though we aren’t selling people anything with our content, this is how modern day brands are bringing in new customers and satisfying their existing ones.

People don’t like being disrupted with pop-ups or annoying display ads. What people do like, is searching for something in Google, and clicking on an exceptional piece of content that quickly solves their problem.

Has a pop-up advertisement ever supplied you with even a shred of value?

That means our biggest challenge, after actually creating and distributing our content, is determining whether or not it’s accomplishing our goals.

Introduction To Measuring Content

Since content marketers and publishers have so much in common, we need to look at the things publishers and editors are measuring.

  • Pageviews – are people looking at our content?
  • Time spent on page – are people actually consuming the content on the page?
  • Top content – what content is most popular?
  • Number of subscribers – do people crave more content from us?
  • Comments – what are people saying about it?

These are the things publishers look at to determine the success of their content. As content marketers, we’ll need to measure all of these and then some.

But why?

Because content marketing is still a form of marketing, we’re still trying to achieve something with each piece of content we put out. Publishers often times are writing on a topic without any real goals behind it.

Determining what we’re trying to achieve with each piece of content is actually one of the hardest parts of the entire process. Even big brands such as Coca-Cola, Toyota, Mcdonalds, etc. are using soft metrics to determine the success of their campaigns.

They listen to each channel and use various tools to see how often people are mentioning something related to their campaigns. To determine whether or not these mentions were good or bad, they use sentiment analysis.

While sentiment analysis is quite complicated, it boils down to determining the emotional tone or feeling behind people’s words. It allows us to determine the attitude, opinions, and emotions of people mentioning our brand.

This involves substantially less hard data than other forms of measurement, however, it can be quite effective for figuring out how well your brand messaging is resonating with the audience. This form of measuring is quite expensive and is most often seen being used by large brands.

The reason measuring content marketing can be difficult, is because it’s completely up to us to figure out what we want to measure, how we’re going to measure it, and most importantly, why we want to measure it.

There are a ton of vanity metrics people use that don’t correlate to what they’re actually trying to do, such as likes. Let’s say an automotive marketing agency offers a PDF download that details how car dealerships can use social media to increase brand engagement.

How do they determine whether or not the person downloading is actually a qualified lead?

They might say that a person needs to be either the CEO or Vice President of the dealership in order to be classed as a qualified lead. Or, maybe they only consider people who were referred by existing customers to be a lead.

See how up in the air this whole content measuring thing is? We have to set clear guidelines for what we think to be the best metrics at each stage of the buyer journey.

Measuring content marketing makes measuring SEO look like a piece of cake. In SEO, everything is quite tangible, we look at traffic, our keyword rankings, where people are finding us, what terms people are actually using to find us, and some on-page factors.

Measuring content effectiveness isn’t quite so easy. Something we certainly want to track is our lead/sale acquisition cost. If we know how much it costs to acquire a new lead, as well as a new sale, we can figure out what sort of returns a content piece is bringing in on our investment.

There are a lot of ways in which content can decrease our total cost to acquire a new lead. If we have great educational content being put out about our product, prospects are far less likely to need help from a real employee. This saves both time and money.

time is money

We could also allocate a portion of our print and TV advertising towards content marketing. According to a study done by Demand Metric:

“Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads.

Demand Metric

Print and TV advertising aren’t quite dead, but they have both become significantly less effective over the past few years. Unlike a TV commercial, content marketing allows us to set a dollar value to each KPI we’re measuring.

For example, let’s say we’re running an e-commerce website that sells tennis equipment.

We know exactly what each tennis racket costs, how many people visit the site, the average number of people who actually convert and purchase a racket, the number of people who drop out of the sales funnel, etc.

So let’s say this brand puts out 10 great pieces of content in a single month. They set their KPI’s and determine that these 10 pieces of content helped them sell an additional 200 rackets for the month.

They know exactly what they spent on the content, and they know exactly what each sale is worth to them. If they make $30 profit per racket, then they grossed an extra $6,000 from these new sales. If they spent $3,000 on the content, they can attribute their new content to bringing in $3,000 in total profit.

Now, the content will certainly bring the company more value than direct sales. Aside from direct profit from new sales, they receive brand recognition and subscribers, customers and prospects get educated on their products, and they receive recurring business.

Leads generated may not be ready to buy just yet, but they might at some point in the future. As long as we know the sales conversion rates on each lead, we can also define how much money each lead is worth to us.

While the numbers you get may not be 100% accurate, they’re close, and they set a good framework for us to decide what we should be spending on content.

Choosing The Right Metrics

Look at this list I created, it details the most common metrics people are measuring within content marketing:

Lets dothings together 1

Make sure to analyze these metrics alongside important data from Google Analytics.

First, we need to look at where, and how people are consuming our content.

Location – Using the location tab can improve your content creation process. In the screenshot below, we see that the majority of traffic is coming from the United States. With that information, I know to reach out to influencers within the US for content collaborations, guest posts, interviews, quotes, etc.

the sparks between us will 1

Source / Medium – In this tab, we can see the channels people are using to consume your content. This allows us to custom-tailor content for each channel that is performing well.

the sparks between us will

Mobile – See how many users are using a mobile device instead of a computer. This lets us know whether or not to create long-form content, or content that is a bit more mobile-friendly. I find that if my user base largely favors mobile, infographics and video work best.

the sparks between us will 2

These are considered consumption metrics. They only tell us how people are consuming our content, not how they’re engaging with it. That’s where engagement metrics come into play.

  • Average Time On Page – It’s important to know whether or not people are actually consuming our content all the way through. If users are leaving within a few seconds of landing on the page, we know there’s an issue from the beginning. Some audiences have a much shorter attention span, this metric will help you identify the content length your audience prefers.
  • Pages / Session – Pages per session is another great metric for determining whether or not users are being engaged by your content. If users are checking out multiple pieces of content on your blog instead of one, we know they’re probably getting value out of whatever you’re offering.
  • New vs. Returning Visitors – This tell us how many people regularly consume our content, as well as how many first time visitors we receive.
  • Referral Traffic – See who is sharing and linking to your content. We can find out which communities our content is resonating with, and which blog owners feel our content is link-worthy.

Google Analytics provides us more than enough data, we don’t need to go buying expensive data intelligence software until we truly need it.

We can also break up our metrics based on business objectives. Here’s a great roadmap for putting your metrics into different segments:

the sparks between us will 3

Metrics tracked for REACH:

  • Unique visits
  • % audience reach
  • New visitors
  • Page views per new visitor
  • New followers

Metrics tracked for NURTURE:

  • Time spent on page
  • Video completion rate
  • Social actions per visitor
  • Cost per action
  • Brand consideration
  • Brand advocacy
  • % return visitors
  • Open rates

Metrics tracked for ACQUIRE:

  • Form completions
  • New subscriptions
  • Lead volume
  • Lead quality
  • Cost per lead
  • Sales generated per lead
  • Conversion rate

Metrics tracked for SALES:

  • Cost to acquire a customer versus the lifetime value of a customer
  • Lead quality improvement
  • Customer retention rate

Categorizing our metrics by business objective allows us to measure business impact directly. Think about the many different types of metrics we went over, it’s up to you to decide what’s worth measuring for your specific content goals.

It’s All About Video

As you probably know already, video content has taken over the marketing world, especially in the past year. The problem is, people spend more time thinking about the video content they want to create than actually creating it.

People may feel limited by their lack of equipment or training, but the best way to improve is to simply start shooting and uploading videos, they don’t have to be anywhere near perfect.

According to this report by Vidyard:

“82% of b2b marketers reported having success with video marketing campaigns”

Vidyard

Do you think the same holds true for written content?

Not even close. Video is currently underpriced and underutilized. In 2017 alone, we’ll see a huge shift towards people and brands creating new video content.

But how do we really define success when using video in our marketing strategy? Do we look at the same metrics as our written content?

In order to measure the true value of your video marketing efforts, there are some very specific metrics we need to be looking at.

1) Play Rate

Play rate is an extremely important metric, it refers to the number of visitors that click play on our video.

Let’s say we upload a video training series to our website. We spent a lot of time and money creating the series, but after a week on the website, it’s gotten only a couple of views.

We now have all this exceptional video content that no one is even watching. So, how do we get people to actually press play on our videos?

I’m gonna give you a couple of simple techniques to use here, but be sure to experiment as every audience is different.

  • Include human pictures within your thumbnails. If you can, include a smiling human. This reinforces the viewer’s’ feelings of joy and bliss.
  • The width of your video should be between 401 pixels and 600 pixels. This is the sweet spot, using this range will result in the highest possible play rate for your videos.
  • Keep your focus above the fold. By placing videos above the fold, it makes it easy for the audience to find and hit the play button. The more accessible your video is to visitors, the higher the play rate will be.
  • Customize your colors. Always customize the color of your player and play button to match your branding. Using the default colors is a great way to look just like everyone else, we want to stand out and make the video look like it’s a piece of our brand.

By being mindful of these things, we can increase our play rate without much effort.

2) Watch Rate

Watch rate can also be referred to as engagement rate. It tells us to what extent a viewer consumed our video content. Did they watch 5 seconds of it, or the whole thing?

After watching a video,

“64% of users are more likely to buy a product online”

Hubpsot

As long as we can get people to actually watch our video content, we can increase sales for our products.

This percentage also correlates to people who actually enjoyed a video and saw value in it, not those who just clicked play.

Focus on keeping viewers engaged with your videos, not just getting them to click play.

There are a million reasons why someone might stop your video before it’s finished.

By following just a few simple steps, we can increase the chance that people will watch our video all the way through.

  • Match video content with page content. When you don’t properly align the message of your video with the content on your page, viewers might get thrown off. Take some time and think about how the video relates to the content on the page. It should integrate seamlessly with your written content and even help tell the overall story.
  • Offer narration in multiple languages. Even though English is widely used throughout business, viewers sitting at home may have completely different expectations. The folks at Tubular Insight found that people will watch a video for much longer if it’s in their native language. They recommend offering a voiceover in multiple languages and using the geolocation of a visitor to serve the page in their native language. This is a great technique that is guaranteed to improve your watch rate.
  • Experiment with the length of your videos. People often wonder how long their videos should be. It’s impossible to say as everyone’s content is different. I like to go by the notion of ‘less is more’ here, I don’t wanna give someone the chance to get bored, in turn making them click away from my content. All we can do here is test various lengths and see how they perform with our audience. For each version you make, check the drop off graph and see how many people make it to the very end of the video.

Treat video just as you would any other content type when it comes to experimenting.

That means multiple rounds of A/B tests should occur to see what’s really resonating with your audience.

3) Conversion Rate

When a user completes an intended action, we call it a conversion. Our actual conversion rate refers to the percentage of people that complete one of our intended actions. This could be a contact form submit, new subscription to your channel, confirmed trial download, etc.

To prove the effectiveness of our video content, it must be clear what type of leads or conversions we’re looking for. If we haven’t properly defined our video’s objectives, we don’t know what to track as a new lead.

Once we know what we’re looking for, we can include a CTA (call-to-action) at the end of our video.

There’s a few things we should keep in mind when choosing a CTA for our video.

  • Be extremely direct. The worst thing you can do is beat around the bush with your CTA text. You don’t want users wondering what they should do next, make it clear for them.
  • Make sure the offer is relevant. We must correctly align our offer with the video content the person just watched. If our video shows off our software, and we want people to sign up for a free trial, our CTA would say something like “Get My Free Trial” or “Free Trial Sign-Up”.
  • Stand out whenever possible. Differentiating yourself is important. People see a million CTA’s every day that all look the same. Think about your audience’s’ problems and try to cater the CTA text towards it.
  • Use action words. By using direct, actionable language, we let users know exactly where we want them to go.
  • Keep it short and sweet. We want the transition from users clicking on our CTA, to them following through with it, to be completely seamless. The more natural it feels going through your sales funnel, the more likely a user is to convert. Use short text, 10-15 words maximum.

Creating perfect CTA won’t happen using guesswork, we’ll need to test multiple CTA variations, see how users react, and adjust accordingly.

Bringing It All Together

Making sure our content is aligned with our business goals should the top priority. We can attribute each content type to a different business goal, have a look at the list I’ve created below:

Screen Shot 2016 12 30 at 2.38.19 PM

We should always choose the type of content we create based off of our goals for the campaign. As long as we know how much each goal is worth to us, we can determine the value of our content in 3 easy steps:

  1. Identify our large goals (macro-conversions) and a few smaller ones (micro-conversions).
  2. Determine the total value of each goal.
  3. Add up the value of all goals achieved through a single piece of content.

The resulting number is the total value brought in so far by that content piece.

Don’t forget to set up goal tracking in you Google Analytics dashboard as well. This will make it easy to see which pages are converting well, and where you might need to make some changes.

If you’re still looking for an easier way to track your content, you may want to look into the NewsCred content measuring tool.

It’s made with the sole purpose of tracking content performance. When you’re doing things at scale, having a platform like this can really help keep things organized.

You now have everything you need to begin measuring the success of your content, so get to work!

Remember:

  1. Figure out what you want to achieve
  2. Choose metrics that are aligned with your goal
  3. Track chosen metrics in Google Analytics (or another tool)
  4. Analyze the data and make content revisions

Have questions or insights about the topic? Make sure to leave a comment below!