Setting goals — even small ones — can be scary. Still, there is no better way to keep yourself on track and measure your progress.
If you already have a content marketing plan in place, hopefully your goals have been established and are tracked on a regular basis (but if not, it’s not too late to start). If you are contemplating a content marketing approach, defining goals should be one of your first steps.
To help you on the goals/tracking/metrics journey, we gathered this list of 20 of the best tips for setting, tracking and measuring content marketing goals. Read on and take notes; there is a lot to learn, even for the savvy content marketer.
Why content marketing goals matter
1. “If a content marketing strategy leads to an increase in traffic as a byproduct of its great content, that’s wonderful. But a content marketing strategy that’s designed to directly lead to an increase in traffic is shameless self-promotion.” — John Hall for Forbes
2. “Content all by itself — even terrific content — is just content. It may be entertaining. It may be educational. It may contain the secret to world peace and fresh, minty breath, all rolled into one.But it has no magical powers. It won’t transform your business or get you where you need to go, until you add one thing … Content marketing is a meaningless exercise without business goals.” — Sonia Simone for Copyblogger
3. “Here are some goals you may want to focus on:
- Increase brand awareness.
- Drive more traffic to your website.
- Generate sales leads.
- Convert more leads into customers.
- Improve retention and drive upsell.
With each of these goals comes a different type of content marketing strategy focusing on specific audiences, leveraging different marketing channels, and communicating targeted messages. This is why it’s so critical to first figure out your goals before deciding how to reach those goals using content.” — Sarah Goliger for Content Marketing Institute
How to approach goal setting
4. “I always start with my end goal, and work backwards. Where do I ultimately want to be? What do I want to be doing? And why does it matter? Then I evaluate the tasks and skills I’ll need to reach that goal and their priority. By deciding what needs to be focused on first, second, etc., I essentially create a road map for reaching the goal I’ve set.” — Kathryn Aragon, as quoted by Chloe Mason Gray for KissMetrics
5. “Goals are essential to the completion of any strategic activity that requires the best use of resources: Goals give us purpose, destination and direction. Whether you’re setting off on a mountain climb or training for a marathon, goals and their related tactics help ensure you achieve what you set out to achieve, in the best possible conditions. Content marketing is no different. Content marketing is complex and it needs clarity of focus, buy-in from team members, and regular updates for stakeholders on how the activity is tracking toward goal. Before you set off on a new climb you need to assess your current fitness and performance and see where your weaknesses and risks lie. That is also true of content marketing. That way you can approach each new goal you set with the sort of data and quality of information that will make your goal setting SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely).” — Stephen Bateman for Idioplatform
6. “Goals are great — they help us prove how effective we are, keep us focused, and push us to be better. The thing is, though, goals are totally useless if they’re not grounded in reality. That’s why it’s critical to set SMART goals. (You’re about to find out that SMART is an acronym, but your goals should still, indeed, be “smart.”) Here’s what we mean by setting a SMART goal:
- Specific — Do set real numbers with real deadlines. Don’t say, “I want more visitors.”
- Measurable — Do make sure that you can track your goal. Don’t hide behind buzzwords like “brand engagement” or “social influence.”
- Attainable — Do work toward a goal that is challenging but possible. Don’t try to take over the world in one night.
- Realistic — Do be honest with yourself, because you know what you and your team are capable of. Don’t forget any hurdles you may have to overcome.
- Time-bound — Do give yourself a deadline. Don’t keep pushing towards a goal you might hit ‘some day.’” — Mike Lemire for HubSpot
7. “Have you ever set a goal that never seemed reachable? Making sure your content marketing goal is attainable means you have actually researched what is possible and given it some thought. Also, think about the resources being made available to you. If it’s just you slogging away, writing content, putting together lead-nurturing campaigns and all the rest, there’s only so much traction you can get. On the flip side, if you have access to a team of five… you would expect to achieve more.”— Ross Beard for ContentUp
How to track progress
8. “A good schedule to start with is measuring marketing effectiveness on a monthly basis — we’ve found that this has worked well for CMI (though we may watch some metrics weekly just to make sure monthly goals stay on track — especially for metrics we can modify quickly). Then, you will want to create a spreadsheet that documents and tracks the following:
- Your marketing goals. If you have several, it may help to put them in order of priority. (By this point, you should have agreed on goals with your management team; but if you haven’t, now is the time to get on the same page.)
- The key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll use to measure marketing effectiveness of your content.
- Your plan for gathering this performance information.
- Who will be responsible for collecting and reporting this data.” — Cathy McPhillips for Content Marketing Institute
9. “Once you’ve […] created content that you think will drive the desired actions, you can start measuring the efficacy of your content program. Content cannot be measured with a single metric, because no one data point can successfully or satisfactorily tell you whether your program is working.” — Jay Baer for Convince and Convert
10. “One of the best ways to track all of this information is by setting up a free account with Google Analytics. A powerful tool, Google Analytics will allow you to monitor your website(s) and analyze a huge amount of data at both the aggregate and individual page level. That way you can find out how specific pieces of content are performing, as well as the overall performance of your content marketing efforts. Signing up is easy and takes just a few minutes. Within a matter of days, Google Analytics will have collected enough data to allow you to start analyzing trends and looking for new insights.” — Kevin Cain for Content Marketing Institute
11. “How you measure the quality and success [of your content] depends on what your goals are. So I’m throwing it back to you with that classic marketing answer which applies to any marketing related question: it depends. But what you have to do is develop a set of metrics around your content that are tied to KPIs: Key Performance Indicators. So is your content meant to raise awareness of your product or service? To sell your product or service? To increase lead generation? To lessen calls to the customer service department? I can’t tell you what your goals are, but once you tell me what those goals are I can help you create ways to benchmark your content in order to determine if it’s meeting those goals.”— Rebecca Lieb for Marketo
What metrics to measure
12. “To begin measuring the efficacy of your content marketing, I would recommend the following:
- Start small. You don’t need to measure everything all at once. Rather than flying blind, start measuring something that’s easy for you and work from there.
- Focus on TOFU first. The top of the funnel is often the easiest place to get metrics. For example, sharing and consumption metrics don’t require marketing automation or a CRM tool.
- Go broad, then deep. It’s easier to get coverage over all your channels for a class of metrics such as retention or consumption, rather than going deep and trying to map a whole customer journey down to revenue.
- Count consistency. For your metrics to really pay off, much like your content production, it’s necessary to generate metrics for your content over a period of time, not just for a one-off of your newest content. By doing so, you can identify which older content is evergreen, and what may be underperforming and should be retired or reworked.”— Pawan Deshpande for Content Marketing Institute
13. “There is no point generating high-quality content if nobody is viewing it! By measuring the number of unique visitors your site receives and tracking this metric over time, you’ll be able to determine whether or not your marketing campaigns are working. That said, be careful not to put too much stock in this metric. I come across lots of business owners who live and die by their number of unique visitors, but the truth is that raw traffic counts aren’t nearly as important as what those readers do once they land on your site.” — Aaron Agius for JeffBullas.com
14. “A metric that allows you to better understand whether your content is resonating with your online audience is the amount of quality social interactions each piece of content garners. By monitoring the gross amount of tweets, retweets, likes, shares, comments, mentions, and more, your business will be able to understand what content was well received, on what platforms and by what users.” — Brian Honigman for SumAll
15. “I have different metrics for different channels. For the blog, I keep track of unique users and page views, and I’m more concerned about trend than absolute numbers. I like to track which posts and topics generate the most interest; we’re always interested in what people want to read. For our downloadable assets such as white papers and eBooks, particularly the high-value ones we gate, the numbers that really matter are conversions and closed sales. If an asset is working well, we’ll keep it gated. If it’s not generating results, we’ll un-gate it. We also track linking domains.” — Sherry Lamoreaux as quoted by Larry Kim for Wordstream
16. “The most success I’ve had is looking at conversion metrics (downloads/registrations) and website traffic (blog posts) from traffic sources. Either in aggregate (i.e., social vs. search. vs. direct) or by a specific website, campaign, etc. By analyzing the source of conversions/traffic, you can better understand what content resonates and what audiences are valuable to the business, assuming you can track them through to a sale.” — Rob Yoegel as quoted by Pawan Deshpande for Curata
17. “Getting your target readers to check out your content once isn’t enough; that’s a one night stand, not a relationship. The long-term strategy is to keep them coming back and turn engaged readers into loyal readers. This is where the “returning readers” metric comes in. How many of your readers come back? More importantly, how do they behave differently from your single-visit readers? Unlike visitors or pageviews, which often reflect a disproportionate amount of new visitors, looking at the amount of returning readers and their behavior can help you focus on how to acquire and retain them. This retention is crucial.” — Celine Roque for Contently
18. “Engagement metrics are a good barometer for how valuable your audience feels your content is. Users will share and spread your original content if they feel like it’s worth it. A high number of engagement shows a content piece was successfully elicited a response either by being entertaining, relevant, or emotional to users. However, engagement metrics should be tracked with a grain of salt. A piece of content that renders high engagement, does not guarantee it’s rendering new business.” — Jean Spencer for Kapost
19. “The only reason to execute a content marketing program is to drive business outcomes. And those outcomes come in the form of actions taken by the readers you are attracting. And while they may not be direct sales conversion, they should be conversions from one stage of the buying process to another. Some common conversion metrics:
- Newsletter Subscriptions
- Registrations to gated content
- Clicks to your “Buy Now” button (or “chat now” or “call now”)
- Leads from your track-able 1-800 number
- Visits and conversions on other landing pages” — Michael Brenner for B2B Marketing Insider
20. “Revenue has to be the mother of all metrics. It’s what we’re here for, right?” — Doug Kessler, as quoted by Larry Kim on Social Media Today
For more insight into goal setting and measurement, read How to Measure Content Marketing Success.
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