There are a number of metrics that can be measured by the marketing department, and you wouldn’t be blamed for feeling overwhelmed every time the topic came up. Do a Google search on the subject, and suddenly you’re faced with thousands of articles telling you which metrics really matter.
And none of them talk about the same ones.
I would love to tell you to calm down, and to throw away the Xanax, but I can’t. I can’t offer you a definitive list of the only metrics that matter, because there isn’t one. There are a great number of performance indicators that can be measured, which is why there are so many different metrics; but they don’t all need to be measured simultaneously, or even by all businesses.
What metric you choose, and how often you use it, is determined by what you are trying to measure.
In this article I will examine four important metrics relating to content marketing. Are they the only content marketing metrics that matter? No, but I’d like to keep the article simple, and focused. Am I going to mention CAC, LTV, ROI, and other abbreviations? Well, why don’t you close your office door (or just plug in your headphones), cue up Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones, and read on to find out?
All-You-Can-Eat Buffet, or Salad Bar?
There’s very little sense in producing content day after day if nobody is reading it. Consumption metrics help you to determine whether your content is being consumed or not, with the results serving as a prompt to additional questions.
Primary indicators include:
If you have previously done a content audit (and kept it up-to-date), you would already have easy access to some of the information relating to traffic. Remember you aren’t measuring all website traffic here, only traffic relating to your regularly updated content. This could be your blog, a resource page, or even landing pages linked to ad campaigns. Use Google Analytics, or your preferred online tool, to look up the number of page views your content attracts.
This is a measure of pure consumption.
Later on you can look deeper by including returning versus unique visitors, bounce rate, duration of visit, and even demographics. These are not essential, but can help you gain some more insight into who is consuming your content, and how.
If the video hosting platform you’re using doesn’t even provide rudimentary analytics, it is time to consider moving to a new platform. Seriously, why aren’t you already using YouTube?
Like website traffic, you’ll be looking at pure consumption – number of views. Demographics, devices, and minutes watched will again help with some deeper insights. While you’re looking at the analytics, take note of the engagement, you’ll need that information later.
Document Views & Downloads
Does your content include presentations (SlideShare, etc.), PDF documents, eBooks and white papers? Track the number of times these have been viewed or downloaded, and for good measure, how many times any of them have been embedded on other sites (again, you will need this later).
I have used the phrase pure consumption on purpose, since the consumption metric is primarily about measuring how many people have consumed your content. This does not stop you from including a few other indicators to get a better understanding of who is consuming your content, how they are doing it, how much time they spend consuming your content, and what they do afterwards (flow).
Hey, I Thought You Might Like This
Sharing metrics are exactly what the term implies – how successful are you in getting visitors to share your content with others. This, naturally, involves measuring how often your content is linked to in tweets, or shared on other networks including Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. Likes, Favorites and +1s serve as a form of validation and not social sharing, unless they result in traffic to your content.
Google Analytics now includes a social report, which can be customized using segments or goals for advanced insights. Goals help you to track conversions, while setting up segments can help you to easily filter inbound traffic from different social networks. Creating custom segments can be very time consuming, but you can quite easily import pre-configured segments from the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery.
In the above image I have already filtered the available segments to only show those in the Social category. The Social Media Traffic solution, by Rachel W, includes all the major networks and URL shorteners (including Pinterest, even though it is not listed in the description). At the time of writing both goo.gl and buff.ly were not included, but you should be able to add these without too much effort, along with any other URL shorteners you have seen in your referrals history.
Don’t forget to include video and presentation sharing, and embeds, as hinted at in the previous step.
With my Next Magic Trick…
You may not be charging people to read your content, but you’re not just giving it away either. You’re producing content to attract visitors, with the aim of converting them to customers. Some visitors make the jump to customers without much effort, while others need a bit of nudging – they need to be converted to leads first. With lead generation metrics, what you measure, and how you do it, depends on what your industry is, and what the goal is. Possibilities include:
- Newsletter subscriptions.
- Online lead forms.
- Abandoned shopping carts.
- Member acquisition.
- Loyalty/Reward programs.
Use a combination of cookies and CTAs that link to specific landing pages, lead forms or subscription forms to allow you to track and measure lead generation to each content piece. If you also handle telephonic leads, you can use call tracking software to assign unique phone numbers to your content. Just remember that without the correct implementation, trackable phone numbers can affect your local search efforts.
This is Where You Talk About ROI, Isn’t It?
All of the above lead to sales metrics. You now know if your content is being consumed and shared, and unless you skipped the last step, you also know how many leads your content has generated. But are those consumers and/or leads turning into customers? The best way of tracking and measuring this is by using a CRM solution (SugarCRM, Salesforce, etc.) to record every lead, customer interaction and sale. Finally, add an extra layer of validation by also recording details of the content that generated the lead or sale.
One recommendation: split the LTV of a new customer between all the content they consumed before becoming a customer. If a new customer consumes five content pieces before responding to a CTA, you should divide their LTV equally among those five pieces. Not doing so can distort the value assigned to specific content, and impact on your ROI calculations.
These metrics provide the best value and insight when used together, but you may need to remind yourself of this repeatedly. It is easy, and oh so tempting, to get stuck on sales or sharing. After all, the one is all about monetary value, while the other hints at how popular we are. But all that they do, when viewed in isolation, is appeal to our ego; they don’t offer real value, nor do they give us any insight into our content marketing efforts.