How to Measure Content Marketing Success

How to Measure Content Marketing Success
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. But alongside thoughts of what the heck to get your brother-in-law, no doubt visions of bounce rates dance in your head. Because it’s also the time of year when all marketers are asked to gather the data and report back.
It’s a tricky time for content marketers in particular. At the core of all content marketing, regardless of specific strategies and tactics, is relationship building. That can feel hard to track, since numbers can feel cold, concrete and far from human.
Measuring the relationships you’ve built is a little trickier than simply looking at traffic and likes and time spent on page (and much of that data rings a little hollow on its own anyway).
This problem becomes even more of an issue if your content marketing plan has only been in place for a short time. It’s not a game of overnight success, although of course we all wish it could be.

“Content marketing success takes time. Just because you develop a couple of really great articles or blog posts or videos doesn’t mean you’ll convert a lead to a sales opportunity tomorrow. Give it enough time to make a difference. For example, if your sales cycle is typically 9 months, deploying a content marketing pilot across one quarter will not demonstrate the results the program can achieve. Content marketing is not a campaign with a start and stop date.” –Ardath Albee

Despite how much we agree with this (and oh boy, do we ever), we know that being armed only with the argument that it takes time to build relationships might not make you feel prepared to defend your content marketing plan once the C-suite is all gathered ‘round the conference table.

Start your data review as you did your content marketing plan: with GOALS

Whether you’re in charge of reporting your content marketing results to a boardroom packed with people or simply reviewing for your own knowledge, understanding what data to look at is the first and most important step.

“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

As you start to gather data, stay focused on what matters. Look back at the goals you defined when you first laid out your content marketing plan (hopefully, this document is readily accessible because you’ve been looking at it all along). Now you can focus your year-end review on the data that actually helps you determine if you’ve met your goals.

Measure only the data that matters

Ignoring the traditional metrics (gasp! pageviews might not matter) in favor of a new set of data can be uncomfortable at first. Heidi Cohen lays out an extraordinarily helpful list of content marketing metrics segmented by goal. This is not just one big long list of metrics because the data that matters depends what you set out to accomplish. She, too, echoes the goals-first approach to content marketing analysis:

“Start by determining your business and marketing goals for your content marketing. Then select the metrics that are most effective to track your progress towards achieving these goals.” –Heidi Cohen

If you’re looking for another way to approach your analytics, Jay Baer’s approach to content marketing measurement involves metrics from four segments: consumption, sharing, lead generation and sales, each of which answers a key question. Instead of getting hung up on what the numbers mean, his straightforward questions provide a focus—and make it clear why the numbers matter.

“If you know the answers to all four of those key questions, you have a holistic content marketing measurement system that will help you efficiently and effectively judge content pieces and archetypes.”- Jay Baer

Once you’ve taken a clear look at the data, you can honestly answer the ultimate question: “Is this content marketing approach successful?” Then you can head into an even more successful year knowing you’re on the right track, or make adjustments to get there.
That seemingly cold, all-too-scientific data can help you create warm and fuzzies with your audience— once you know what data to look at. Content marketing takes a different approach than traditional marketing, so is it any surprise that it also turns the traditional marketing analytics approach on its head, too?
We hope the data you uncover has you celebrating a year of content marketing success—and energizes your approach in the year to come. If the numbers have left you feeling down, we can help. Contact us to discuss your 2015 content marketing plan.


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