How to Measure the Success of Your Content Marketing Efforts

Businesses and marketing pros are really serious about using content marketing to reach targeted customers. But, as Content Marketing Institute’s research indicates, 33 percent of B2B marketers and 41 percent of B2C marketers cited the inability to measure as a significant challenge. We asked some of them to find out how they do it.

At first, I was planning the same compilation for PR pros, but unfortunately… it is still a lot more difficult to find a PR specialist who measures anything beyond AVE. But don’t lose hope. In the digital era, when everybody needs to have proof of their work effectiveness, more and more comms people (praise the Lord) use data-driven PR software which helps their company with budgeting, pitch editing and distribution, customized monitoring and analyses reports. The playing field changed dramatically. And PR pros are going to make a lot of effort to meet these expectations. The first good step could be learning from content managers. But from whom exactly and how? Well, there are plenty of great blogs to follow (grab this ultimate list of content marketing blogs). Webinars. Conferences. And there are these nice initiatives like the recent #ContentChat hosted by Erika Heald, Chief Content Officer at Spin Sucks, that I had a pleasure to attend – full of know-how, great tips and inspiration. Here you have some of the most interesting tweets from this event:

 

After it, I decided to ask the specialists who attended this #ContentChat and a few others about content measurement.

Here is the outcome – two questions:

  • How do you measure the success of content marketing?
  • What software (if any) do you use?

and 16 experts sharing their know-how with you:

Ashley E. Stein about content marketing measurement

Ashley E. Stein, Marketing Manager at Sales Star Networks, working for brands including shrednations.com, recordnations.com, and uniformnations.com@AshleyElaineS

Measuring success of a content marketing campaign always depends on the objectives you’ve stated before starting any content building. The businesses I work with concentrate primarily on conversions as a result of the content we build. We track everything from website traffic to form fills as KPIs that ultimately help us drive revenue. One of the “softer” objectives we look at includes brand building. We do this primarily through social media and track engagements with our key audience groups. We also keep a close eye on how our content ranks organically on search engines like Google and Bing to see if our blogs are building upon the right key terms for our services.

I’ve used a variety of content marketing software ranging from Eloqua and Active Campaign for email marketing, to Hootsuite and Percolate for content management. When choosing the right content marketing software for your business, it’s important to think of how each tool communicates with one another. I suggest trying to stay with one brand family’s software tools rather than mixing and matching. You’ll have a much easier time connecting each tool into one content marketing strategy environment – making it easier to understand how everything is working together to drive ROI!

Ben Matthews about content marketing measurement

Ben Matthews, Director at Montfort, @benrmatthews

The success of content is a success for the organization, so you have to ask yourself what do you want the reader to do: Do you want them to buy your product? Contact you to enquire about your service? Donate to your charity? All content that you produce should be designed to inform, educate and ultimately influence your readers into taking some action.

Google Analytics is free and a solid beginner’s tool, but there are other tools that give you more granular breakdowns. Ideally, your content marketing tool would have analytics built in, such as tools like Hubspot and Marketo. Then, different content channels have different analytics, so you can get a good idea of how each channel is working: from email analytics to the insights that Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn give you.

Tom Caulton about content marketing measurement

Tom Caulton, Digital Marketing Executive and SEO Consultant at dijitul@TomCaulton5

I always recommend looking past “vanity metrics” such as likes, shares & page views, as they don’t necessarily mean that the piece has been successful. In my opinion, more useful metrics are the deeper ones such as:

  • Time spent on the content
  • User engagement with the piece
  • Conversions from the piece
  • Links pointing to it.

In my opinion, these are the best ways to identify what someone thought of your content. A page view doesn’t have to mean that they enjoyed it, it’s just a view, but a conversion through it, or a quality back link to it is a much stronger indicator that someone enjoyed the piece.

To measure these metrics, the main tool required is Google Analytics, while I tend to track backlinks with Majestic SEO. Buzzsumo is also a good way to see how often the post has been shared socially.

Dennis Shiao about content marketing measurement

Dennis Shiao, Content Marketing at , Organizer of @dshiao

I measure content marketing success via business impact. While page views, inbound links, social shares and time on page are important, I like to measure content marketing’s impact on leads, opportunities and closed sales.

I use DNN’s CMS (Evoq), combined with Google Analytics. I set up Goals in Google Analytics, so I can see which content results in conversions (i.e. leads). I then look at Marketo and Salesforce to see opportunities and closed deals that can be attributed to the same content.

Lucia Fontaina about content marketing measurement
Lucia Fontaina, Content Manager @luciafontaina

For me, the most important thing in measuring the success of content marketing is engagement, and I always try to focus on quality over quantity. High reach is always a positive, but I’m more interested in likes, shares, post clicks and comments. This has far more value in terms of customer loyalty, sales and lead generations – and really, I just want to share and create content that people love!

To measure these metrics, I find that built-in analytics dashboards (e.g. Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, Buffer Analytics) do the job.

Rachel

Rachel Moffett, Creator of Define Your Hustle, Express Writers Social Media Specialist, @redheadrachel

In order to measure the success of your content marketing efforts, you need to have set goals for yourself first. Without setting goals for the content you create, how can you expect to measure and know whether or not you achieved your desired results? Set goals for each piece of content you create, whether it’s to increase traffic, build brand awareness, or to land clients and customers for your business.

Then, track your metrics. Measure traffic to your website, conversions, and most importantly: engagement. You don’t necessarily need fancy tools to do this. You can measure results with Google Analytics and your social media scheduler if they provide analytics

Christine Buske about content marketing measurement

Christine Buske, Ph.D. Bench2Business@christine_phd

Content marketing serves a specific purpose. A business is trying to either generate leads, and/or convert sales. Success is different for each business – for a jewelry store, selling the physical product will be considered a success. For someone with a consulting business, perhaps gaining a lead that in the future will hire them for services can be a success (but not money exchanged now).

To measure success you first need to define what that actually means for your specific business. Once you know that and you’ve created the appropriate calls to action in your content, you can start measuring. I keep it pretty straightforward and use Google Analytics, but tag specific content to get granular results. For example, if I am sending a reader to a third party site with content I created, I might set up an intermediate link that captures that external click and automatically forwards to the correct URL. This allows me to track that as a success (as defined earlier for my specific use case). Keeping in mind that “success” per definition will be subjective, you can set certain targets. For example, you want 20% of your business to be generated from your content. Measuring the number of people who go from your content to making a purchase or taking the required action on your website is how you would track that success.

Farzana Baduel about content marketing measurement

Farzana Baduel, CEO of Curzon PR@FarzanaBaduel

It’s important to know what you’re measuring. Content marketing has become exponentially popular in recent years, despite being in its infancy compared to more traditional forms of communication. This uncertainty can make creating a confident strategy challenging, but it’s far from impossible.

You will need to choose the tactics that will be best for implementing your ideal outcome, and this will need to be agreed on as a team. Keep in mind that different types of content marketing will yield different types of results.

Using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely) framework will help you identify these goals. Once the team has agreed on what to achieve, it will be easier to decide on a strategy for measuring the progress of the content.

The success of the content marketing will depend on the goals agreed upon by the team. It could be to increase brand awareness, convert leads or encourage customer loyalty. Generally, measuring ROI (return on investment) will reflect the success of the strategy, and this can be especially effective if the end goal is to drive sales. Compare how much it costs to produce the email campaigns, blog posts and any other marketing material against the number of sales that were generated as a result. Using the sales funnel will help you keep track of this conversion.

HubSpot’s Content Optimization System makes our marketing more efficient. We produce a mass of blog posts and web copy, and HubSpot cuts out the need to run marketing material through an IT developer. It’s a great investment for catering to our primary focus, which is to produce copy that is incomparable in terms of quality.

Google Analytics also provides the capability to generate data that can track how much attention a piece of content receives, how many people actually read and engage with the material, and how many of those readers followed the call to action. There is an abundance of software available to help you analyze the data generated by your content marketing, so Google Analytics most certainly is not the only option. However, it’s an uncomplicated software to use and generates data that can be used to clearly identify new ways of developing content.

Aleksandra Prejs about content marketing measurement

Aleksandra Prejs, Content Marketing Manager – Team Leader, Netguru@aprejs

At Netguru, we measure our content marketing process by carefully observing our funnel: from the initial contact of a potential client with our brand to the final decision stage. We use draw.io to create schemes of all the funnels. Each element of the funnel has its owner and its own KPIs. This applies both to sales and recruitment funnels. Of course, we do care about the popularity of the content among our key business personas. We are aware, however, that the group we target our content to is very limited, so the reach itself won’t be our asset. Our goal is to convince the visitors drawn to our webpage that we are a valuable partner.

Then, we try to convert them into marketing qualified leads (which means people who are “interested in us”), and later into sales qualified leads (which means people who are “interested in doing business with us”). Some of the latter will eventually become our clients, but the decision-making process is usually very long and has a lot of intermediate mini decisions at each key stage. We take care to assist our potential clients at every stage of this process by suggesting relevant content and answering potential questions even before they formulate them.

We measure a number of indicators: clicks, openings, conversion rates at all stages of the funnel, ROI per channel, etc. To achieve that, we use many tools, starting from the usual ones such as Google Analytics, to the analytic parts of other tools such (Hubspot, Perfect Audience) to our custom solution aggregating data from all the channels.

Jason Web about content marketing measurement

Jason Webb, copywriter & bloger@JasonLWebb

For me, my three favorite pieces of data are unique visitors, the bounce rate and time on page. Unique visitors, as you well know, really gives you an idea of how many people you’re reaching. As part of that, I also like to keep an eye on the geography. Are we hitting relevant people in our markets? Second, the bounce rate. This one’s tricky. If people are coming to your content from an outside source, reading it and then leaving, that’s good, right? Yes, and no. Ideally, you’d be able to see where they’re clicking to. Maybe the content they landed on wasn’t exactly what they wanted, but maybe you have something else that does resonate with them. Finally, time on page. No one wants to see 10-second page visits. You want something that keeps the person engaged and reading. Now, there are others, but these are my favorite three to watch.

I’ve used Google Analytics and Siteimprove to track KPIs for content. I prefer Google only because it’s a little more accessible, but Siteimprove does have some nice features.

Erika Heald about content marketing measurement

Erika Heald, Chief Content Officer, Spin Sucks@SFerika

I measure the success of my content marketing activities by their contribution to business goals. I do this primarily through using Google Analytics, integrated with marketing automation and CRM platforms. I prefer to use a multi-touch attribution model which gives weighted credit to all the content that helped move a lead through the funnel to a sale.

Stephanie Parks about content marketing measurement

Stephanie Parks, passionate about socialmedia and socialmediamarketing, @S_WatersParks

Measuring the success of content marketing is fluid, just like the medium itself. As your goals change, so will your perception of success and how you measure. Most importantly, you should always start with a strong marketing plan. You can’t measure success if you have no concept of where you started or where you are going.

There is a plethora of software options available to aid in creating, posting, and measuring content. Since my niche in B2B marketing for a plastics manufacturer is small, and I am the sole person creating and posting content, I love using Hootsuite to manage content and track metrics. I can use their free version which comes with a small number of free reports. It gives me everything that I need in one place, and it’s incredibly easy to use.

Cameron Conaway about content marketing measurement

Cameron Conaway, investigative journalist and Top 50 content marketing influencer, @CameronConaway

The conversation around measuring content marketing success usually remains at the bookends. On one end, we analyze the typical success metrics of each individual piece of content. On the other, we assess how the overall content marketing effort is impacting the company’s revenue or reputation. But we must go between the bookends to accurately measure content marketing success. Tools like Prowly—an all-in-one way to remain data-driven and design-focused while streamlining brand communication efforts—offer content marketers a way to do this. Aside from SumoMe, ahrefs, Google Analytics and a few other tools, I also find immense value in reader responses. If your content is valuable, they’ll tell you. If it’s not, is it really worth marketing?

Iliyana Stareva about content marketing measurement

Iliyana Stareva, Principal I Channel Consultant at , blogger & writer on inbound PR, inbound marketing & agency business, @IliyanaStareva

The only way to measure the success of content marketing is by having very clear goals and setting them up before you even begin doing content marketing. Only then will you be able to correctly plan activities and timelines so that your content marketing efforts are worth it. So ask yourself: Do you want more traffic? How much more per month or by the end of the year? Or maybe you want more leads and customers? How many per month? When you know this, you can determine how many blog posts, ebooks, social media engagements, etc. you are going to really need.

As for the software, I use HubSpot because it allows me to set my goals, run all my activities and then measure them in a single tool to know what works well or what needs to be optimized and improved.

Maria Wachal about content marketing measurement

Maria Wachal, Head of Content at FreshMail@wachal_maria

In order to measure your content success, you first need to ask yourself WHY you publish your content in the first place. If you know “your why” – your purpose – you can start to measure your results. I recommend watching the video of comedian Michael Jr. I found recently on the Content Marketing Institute website. This short stand-up makes an important statement for content marketers:

If you know why you’re doing something, you’re moving towards your purpose, and you can measure where you are on your way to success. For example at FreshMail, the purpose of content creation is to connect with our target audiences and build relationships which drive profitable behaviors.

On a daily basis, we crunch our purpose into smaller goals based on actual needs. We measure the success of our content pieces based on these predefined goals. Sometimes it is brand exposure, sometimes it’s getting a new subscriber or downloading an ebook, and finally, it’s the goal of converting a free user into a paid version of our email marketing software. When we separate different metrics e.g.: unique page views, time on page, social shares and conversions from the ultimate metric like getting a new customer, we can derive how our piece of content is performing.

There might be situations when the lines get blurred, and it’s hard to say which single piece of content really worked for a particular objective. That’s why whenever it is possible and doesn’t feel pushy, we make sure that we’re giving our visitors an option to join our mailing list and stay with us. Using the email channel we are capitalizing our organic traffic and we can get to know the needs of our subscribers better and continue to feed them with more valuable content. The content an individual really wants to read and the content that educates them toward becoming a power user or a better marketer.

We are tracking our goals in Google Analytics, and we assign a monetary value to our goals. When it comes to engagement and social response, we combine native social analytics, Brand24, the CoSchedule app and WordPress Plugins in order to make sure that we have gathered all the relevant data. This is the moment when Google Spreadsheet comes in. Putting together all the above allows us to perform a prospective analysis in order to ask some important questions and not to rely on single metrics only.

If our readers are also on our mailing list, thanks to the integration of Google Analytics with FreshMail, we can obtain behavioral data on our subscribers. The integration removes the anonymity of the data on a single email address and helps us build user-personas which are later targeted with timely and highly personalized content.

Luke Hughes about content marketing measurement

Luke Hughes, Founder, Origym Centre of Excellence LTD, @OrigymCOE

Content marketing can be very difficult to measure and it often has many entrepreneurs wondering if it really makes a difference. Or is worth the time that it takes. Firstly you need to know what is worth measuring, for instance, traffic, followers, likes on posts are all things that do not equal return of income and thus not something that actually needs to be measured We are in an era where everything should be analyzed and scrutinized, but the only thing that makes a difference is if sales are increased.

Many entrepreneurs and employers who are trying to justify the reason why content marketing works, need the right tools to be able to show their time investment that content marketing is worthwhile. For instance things like AHREFs or Google analytics although great tools they do not show return of income, they show traffic.

At Origym we apply a unique code to a visitors IP address, when they fill out any of our forms with a cookie tracker on it, this allows us to measure whether or not they have bought as a consequence of content marketing. This cookie places a unique invisible tag on that potential customer and allows us as the business owner to identify the customer if they return to the site or if they buy right there and then. The reporting on our CRM allows us to distinguish if return of income and time investment has been made and we can do this for all our content marketing posts to determine if one post was more successful than another. The marketing tool we use is hubspot as it allows us as to see the difference between blog articles, social media ones, links and keywords amongst other attributes. This is incredibly valuable information as I can see what pages my customers are engaging with, view which keywords you utilised to find that blog post for example and how long you stayed on each page to determine a value of that page.

Every business that blogs or produces valued content needs this tool and needs to ensure that they know what their organic content marketing efforts produce. Hopefully you have found that creating content marketing and measuring simply traffic is not enough for your business to justify sustaining its content marketing levels and how important this really is.

 

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