Whether traditional or online, marketing disciplines have always been under pressure to show a return on their activities. With the inclusion of web analytics, integration of CRM and customer intelligence, plus a myriad of systems, content marketing is the most recent marketing approach that needs to demonstrate how it’s helping the business.
Closely related to public relations, content marketing faces the same metrics challenges. Sales cannot be tied directly to PR, and an uplift on brand awareness is hard to measure except by marketing research or customer surveys.
Content marketing has an advantage over PR: the content that goes through the website, newsletters, blog and social channels can be measured.
We are all aware of McKinsey’s Consumer Decision Journey Model, and we have adapted it to all our online/offline channels, including content marketing. Choosing the right type of content might help you capture your customers in the right way. However, you need to go beyond the model and learn more about what your buyer personas look like before producing a content strategy.
Defining personas allows us to identify our customers’ needs and interests, as this is key to delivering the right content. This process can be started by looking into your analytics and dissecting your audience; understanding what existing content keeps the users on your website.
Once you have established what form your buyer personas take, you are ready to put together a content strategy and content calendars, but first, think about what you want to achieve.
Creativity alone does not deliver results. Some ideas look good on paper or screen, but people often forget to think about KPIs and metrics when planning their content. There may be significant content assets sitting on the site already, but if they are not visible then they will not be successful.
Defining Key Performance Indicators for Content Marketing
The first metric you need to think about is visits or page views. Can you benchmark what is the best current content on your site or blog? Most businesses create content with the goal of increasing visits to the site and, therefore, enhance their commercial opportunities.
Regardless of whether you are launching a content marketing campaign for SEO (for keyword rankings and/or backlinks), you need to think about how to give the content visibility.
Natural Search Results
If it is organic visibility that you are looking for, the content needs to be based on not only the consumer needs or interests, but potentially on those keywords that will make the content rank for that information when searched.
If you want to push your content in the meantime, since SEO is not something that works as fast as paid search or email marketing, you need to use other channels to promote it.
Use your content to create social posts that will link back to your site. Most businesses have great social communities and engagement, but forget to bring people back to the website or blog as they spend more time sharing third party content.
Different to paid search where the goal is mainly leads or sales, content amplification aims to increase the exposure of your content by touching new audiences. By using specific content platforms that can serve your content to major traffic websites, you can increase not only visits and page views but also social shares. If you do not have a large social following, this is the best method to not only make your content available but to increase your social communities if you do it via social advertising.
Besides creating backlinks that increase the SEO value of your website, outreaching to third party sites with high traffic and social presence can provide you with referral traffic that can be measured. If you are outreaching only with the idea of getting a link, if there is no traffic then this should be ok, but if you are expecting social referrals or website referrals you need to pick your target sites more carefully. This scenario also applies to online PR. Media outlets might provide a link to your content (blog, site, landing page, infographic), but this does not mean you will get a high amount of traffic from it.
2. Time on site
Time on site measures content engagement. If people stay long enough and then continue to navigate your website, then it means that the content has “delivered” and is meeting the needs and interests of the user. You can set a benchmark by looking at your most successful pages (except the homepage), or take the time to read the content in detail.
On the other hand, if a visitor only stays for a few seconds, this can indicate that the title of the social post or context of the link has been good as click bait, but then it has not proved to meet the expectations of the user.
3. Bounce Rate
Bounce rate is a metric that is closely related to time on site. If people land on your content and it is not what they were expecting, they will “bounce” or exit almost immediately. Businesses trading online should already know what the bounce rate should be for their industry. Commonly, an e-commerce site should be under 30%, though B2B can be higher due to the nature of their offering. Regarding content, we should aim to achieve a bounce rate of under 70%. Bounce rates of 80-99% are a clear indicator that the content is not only failing to grab attention and engagement, but could also reveal that we have targeted the wrong audience. Social and media outlet referrals tend to have a high bounce rate. People might want to click to read more, but if they are using a mobile device and the content does not display correctly or are only browsing quickly and your content is too long they will leave faster than if they had found the content organically.
4. Social Shares
Another sign that your content is resonating with the target audience is the social shares. It is important that your website has clear social share buttons for your content or blog, as this will facilitate the process. Focus on those networks relevant to your audience. A piece of content should have at least eight shares as a minimum. If your content has less than this or none, then check your website, the location of your social shares and the length of your content. You can use free social share tools or get specific tools to measure mentions, hashtags and other activities.
If your content marketing campaign has a social element to it, make sure you are using the right keywords, hashtags and the like, so you can measure the social impressions.
If you are making additional efforts to promote your content though amplification, outreach or online PR, include the number of shares from these sources. You can include the figures in your content marketing report as a sign that third party audiences have shared the content.
This key performance indicator applies to SEO campaigns. You can also measure the links that have been acquired naturally by people placing or sharing your content elsewhere. Using tools like Majestic SEO you can go over the links that have been obtained by a particular URL of your content, whether they were part of a link campaign, online PR campaign or naturally obtained.
The use of conversion as a KPI for a content marketing strategy will depend on if there is a clear lead generation or acquisition objective behind your campaign. If after staying some time on the site a user then goes and performs an action, like buying or downloading additional information or submitting a form, this is a great result as it means the content has also been commercially successful.
7. Online Marketing Metrics
With paid media being the online marketing approach that provides more accurate metrics, you can look into measuring impressions (social or from your publications), clicks, visits or views versus your content marketing investment to see the type of return you are getting. Cost per follower, cost per click, CPM (cost per thousand impressions), and cost per view are all metrics that not only online marketers but chief marketing officers and other members of senior management are familiar with when reporting to the board.
Putting It All Together
You can establish minimum benchmarks using the KPIs outlined above so you can then measure your performance over time and see what is working best for your business and make adjustments where needed.
A report based on these metrics can help you report on ROI for your content marketing campaigns if you use similar metrics than other channels.
Contact us today to find out more about how our specialists can help your business benefit from results driven content marketing campaigns.