If you ever want to make a marketer nervous, ask them how effective their content marketing is.
Even I would sweat a little if you asked me that question.
It’s not because I don’t know the answer, or where to look to find the answer, it’s just because the process of answering the question can be a little complex.
I could throw any manner of numbers out at you, but some of them are just vanity metrics and most are meaningless without also talking about the benchmarks, past performance and the goals that I’m reaching for.
Because metrics can be broken down into different categories, it’s important to not focus on one specific metric – like saying a blog post got X number of shares. In many cases we’re talking about a lot of metrics as they apply to campaigns as well as the entire content marketing strategy.
The categories you’d group content metrics into are as follows:
- Consumption metrics – How many people are consuming your content, what channels are they using and what’s the frequency of the consumption?
- Sharing metrics – What is being shared, who is doing the sharing, how are they sharing it and how often does sharing take place?
- Lead metrics – How is the content supporting demand generation as well as lead nurturing for people lingering in the middle of the funnel?
- Sales metrics – How is the content influencing bottom of the funnel people, how does the content fuel the funnel and cycle people into the top of the funnel, and how is the content driving revenue?
There are a lot of individual metrics within those categories. Let me break it down into the top metrics that you need to be watching when gauging the effectiveness of your content.
1. How long are they engaging with your content?
This is an important metric to watch because it’s one of the strongest indicators of engagement with your content. You don’t want to look at the average time on site; you want to look at the time on site specific to your content for each campaign in relation to your funnel.
According to HubSpot, more than 50% of website visitors spend less than 15 seconds on a website. That’s rarely enough time to secure a lead.
Track your time on page for each piece of content to find out how you can tweak it. If you compare it to pages on your site that do very well, then you can find ways to improve that content to keep visitors engaged for a longer period.
Conversely, if you find that people are spending more time on a given piece of content, but you’re getting very little follow through, you can test out different calls to action and other conversion elements to improve that.
Chartbeat found that “visitors who read an article for three minutes returned twice as often as those who read for one minute.” They also found that a higher engagement time also lead to better brand recall.
That’s two more reasons to keep your engagement time up on your content.
2. How often do they come back?
Unless you sell a one-and-done product, you’ve likely got a business model that relies on repeat business and relationship nurturing.
Earning return visitors and keeping them coming back is every bit as important (if not more so) than feeding new leads into your funnel. When you see a low rate of return, that means your top of funnel content isn’t effectively moving them into the engagement state, the middle of the funnel.
You need to improve your content to make your audience believe you’re a trusted authority. You also need to make sure that the content you’re producing provides significant value.
Make it irresistible and they’ll keep coming back to you.
If they don’t return, they can’t convert.
3. Are they sticking around?
Bounce rates are typically considered to be a vanity metric, but that doesn’t mean you leave it off your list of things to track. It’s an important metric for content. A higher bounce rate means people are exiting your site without engaging you further.
People aren’t really interested in what you have to offer, right?
That might not always be the case. Sometimes it means they found exactly the answer they were looking for and had no need (in their mind) for going forward.
Track your bounce rate on a per-page basis to see how it changes from content to content. If a page, or series of content pieces within a campaign, are showing higher bounce rates – then find out how to improve the quality or relevancy of your content to keep them around.
You should also consider your calls to action. What you’re using might be positioned wrong, or tweaked and improved, in order to get more conversions from a particular piece of content.
4. How does the volume of leads look?
Your total leads are one indicator of success from any given content campaign or piece of content. Leads are the source of revenue. I like to think of it as food – it’s the lifeblood of your business. Watch this metric by tracking the number of leads that are generated from completions that you receive, free trials, opt-ins, etc.
If you’re not getting a lot of leads from a particular piece of content, like in your blog, then evaluate its use and placement. Is it mapped to the right phase of your sales funnel? Perhaps the content is better suited as a middle of the funnel nurture piece rather than a lead generation piece.
5. What are your views per landing page?
Overall site traffic might make you feel warm inside but it’s a vanity metric that doesn’t provide much actionable insight. Instead, pay closer attention to the traffic that is funneled to your landing pages.
It’s on those landing pages where your audience is taking a desired action and your content is typically directing your visitors to those landing pages.
This is why you measure not just overall views and traffic for your site, but also landing pageviews to ensure that the right visitors are getting to the right landing pages.
6. Are you watching your referral sources?
There are two different referral sources that you want to look at in your content marketing metrics.
The first is your external referral sources. You can check this while you’re looking at the metrics for your content as well as your landing pages. Look into the websites that are sending traffic your way. This provides tremendous insight into which channels you should be leveraging to build referral traffic.
If you’re doing a lot of offsite content marketing, this can help you track the effectiveness of certain topics or content pieces as well as the most effective types of content in a broader strategy.
Shutdown ineffective efforts while boosting those that bring you a lot of referral traffic.
The other referral sources are those from within your site. Find out which pages are driving the most traffic and conversions to your landing pages. You can modify those that are under-performing while identifying the types of content (and topics) that are driving the most referrals.
7. Are people engaging with you in your content?
Reader comments might seem like a strange metric to track for content performance, but it’s one of the metrics I pay the most attention to. It gives me a rough idea about how my visitors are engaging with my content, how they’re reacting to it, how they feel about the topic and about my perspective on that topic.
8. How long are you holding their attention?
Virtually every business needs to nurture the relationship with a customer, and many of us do this through subscriptions. Once you have the email address for a visitor, you have every opportunity to continue engaging with them and warming them to the idea of doing business with you.
Retention metrics are critical, as they tell you how effective you are at holding your audience’s attention beyond the initial point of contact. This can be viewed in a couple ways.
First, check your reporting within your email suite to look at unsubscribe and spam metrics vs. sign ups. You also want to look at click through and open rates to make sure those numbers aren’t dropping over the course of drip campaigns.
For your website and landing pages, watch your campaign metrics. You can use UTM parameters in links within your emails to monitor how much traffic your retention marketing is driving vs. the number of people signing up and opening your emails.
If your middle-of-the-funnel engagement and retention strategy is coming up short, then look at how you can adjust your content to form better, stronger relationships with your prospects.
9. How many people are sharing your content?
In 2014, Shareaholic released a report stating that more than 30% of website traffic is driven by social media. Keep an eye on your share metrics to monitor what kind of traction you’re getting from recently published content as well as long-standing content you’ve posted for evergreen traffic.
You want to not only measure overall social shares, but also the number of shares each piece of content is getting and the number of visitors that arrived on your landing pages (or site) from content being shared.
This metric helps you identify which content is most popular among your audience. It also provides great insight into which social platforms your audience is using most to find and engage with your content.
Keep in mind that lower counts doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem with a topic or the content itself.
You should evaluate your strategy for content promotion, the tools you’re using to promote it, the channels, as well as the time in which you’re promoting your content.
Even those metrics that appear to be vanity metrics play a part in calculating your conversions and ROI.
Without traffic, shares and expanding the reach of your content you’ll never be able to scale the volume of conversions. If you’re not tracking a variety of metrics for your content and your campaigns, it will be extremely difficult to fully understand the acquisition cost of leads and the ROI of individual content campaigns.
Which metrics do you currently use to track the performance of your content?