In our Content Marketing Relay series, we have looked at planning and strategy, creation and optimization, and your distribution plan. Today, we’re going to bring it all home by exploring performance and measurement.
Performance and measurement of content, and your online presence in general, is something we have talked about quite a bit on our blog over the years. It is what we do, after all. But no matter how many times we’ve written about it, we still find it is a leading challenge for many marketers.
In the context of content marketing, performance and measurement needs to examine a lot more than just likes and page views. These are just vanity metrics – which you can learn more about here – and while they are still relevant, they simply don’t give you enough data to inform your strategy or properly measure ROI. Instead, your content marketing performance reporting should look at a number of data points used to identify trends and insights both at the individual content and broader campaign levels.
Reviewing performance of individual pieces of content.
Looking at the metrics around a specific piece of content can help you to understand if the content is performing well or not, regardless of whether or not it is part of a larger campaign. Even if the larger campaign is highly successful this did not mean each piece of content within it will be.
Also, examining individual pieces of content gives you the ability to compare each piece by content type, which may help you recognize larger trends. For instance, you might find a new video is not getting as much engagement as a blog post on the same topic, but maybe the video is getting more engagement than other videos your company has produced.
With marketing technology, the number of data points you can collect around a piece of content is vast, but here are a few we find most vital.
Engagement by Content Piece
This metric looks specifically at how many times your audience has clicked through to see a particular piece of content, across multiple channels. By using a smart URL system, you can compare the unique clicks from every on-site and off-site channel, including all social networks, in one dashboard, giving you a very clear picture of which ones are driving the most engagement. Reviewing the overall engagement data of each piece also enables you to compare individual content to see how each blog post, video, press release, etc., stacks up to your average numbers.
Duration of Time on Content Piece
For some, this might be looped in with the vanity metrics, or at least, considered a basic data point everyone has been glancing at in Google Analytics for years. However, we believe there is real value in paying attention to this metric. How long a person spends on an individual piece of content (as opposed to your site as a whole) can reflect how engaged they were with your content. Regardless of whether or not they take further action on the site, a long length of time spent with your content could be a sign your audience is finding value and relevance there.
Conversions from a Specific Content Piece
In order to track conversion rates from a specific piece of content, you will have to follow the rule of “no stranded content,” meaning a link or CTA in your content leads to another page, which ultimately leads to a point of conversion. This could be gated content, such as a white paper or worksheet, or it could be a path to purchase. The most effective way to do this is to set up full conversion paths to highlight the desired path and gauge how many visitors follow it. In order to measure the ROI, you will need to assign a value to the conversion within your analytics or smart URL system.
On our own blog here at gShift, we use call-to-action prompts within our blogs to promote related downloadable pieces of content, such as the banner promoting our Content Optimization Checklist you can find below. We then use a kontextURL (smart URL) to track the number of clicks specifically from this blog post, versus the other 3 posts in the series. By doing this, we can see the direct impact this post has had on the visits and downloads of the checklist.
Reporting on overall content campaigns.
While looking at the performance of individual content pieces encourages you to dive deep within the numbers, reporting on your overall content campaign forces you to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. It can be difficult to truly inform your strategy in terms of what topics are resonating best with your audience from just one blog post. Looking at a campaign as a whole enables you to identify trends with larger data samples to back up your hypotheses.
For instance, even if one individual blog post didn’t perform well, if the overall campaign received excellent engagement numbers, the topic still likely resonated with your audience. Perhaps the one blog post simply missed the mark or was hindered by other factors such as timing or length.
When it comes to the campaign level, there are a few different metrics you can look at to gauge performance.
If you use a marketing automation platform (and you really should), reviewing the number of new contacts created from a campaign can be a great indicator on how well the campaign is performing. With systems such as Pardot or HubSpot, you can use a campaign tracking code to mark all pages as part of a campaign, regardless of whether or not those pages have conversion points (sales forms, content downloads, etc.) on them. This tracking code can see the total number of visitors your campaign has attracted, and more importantly, how many took action on your site. You will, however, also want to track actions taken off of your website, which is where smart URLs come in.
Engagement by Campaign
As outlined above for individual pieces of content, you can review your campaign to look at the over
all click engagement received via each channel. For this, you will need to use a smart URL tracking system and have tagged all of the content within a campaign with a unique content tag for each channel being used. This will enable you to see which channels performed best when looking at all of the content in the campaign collectively, which may tell a different story than a single piece.
Identifying Topic Trends
Back in our post about planning and strategy, we talked a lot about finding topics you feel will resonate with your audience. However, even if you feel you have identified relevant and valuable discussion points, you won’t truly be able to tell if your audience finds it valuable until you see the numbers. One of the best ways to measure this is to mark or tag your content based on a specific topic or type, and then run a report to show engagement comparatively between those variables.
For instance, if you are a food brand and you build your content strategy to include the topics of healthy recipes, healthy living tips, and fitness tutorials, you can tag each blog post or video with the corresponding topic tag, then run a report to see which of the three types of content is being consumed the most by your audience. You can then use this data to increase or decrease the volume or frequency of content in specific areas accordingly.
Measuring content performance for what matters
At the end of the day, we as marketers need to wade through the hoards of data available to us and figure out which metrics are most meaningful to inform our future strategies. Rather than get caught up with fancy big numbers, which may not reflect anything tangible, you should focus on the analytics which help you to identify what is and is not working in line with your strategy, so you can be fluid and proactive with your next steps.