Essential Metrics to Measure Content Marketing Performance
Content marketing (CM) is a vital aspect of any content funnel, as most marketers will attest. The reason for that is simple.
No matter your content’s quality, your efforts will be fruitless if they fail to reach audiences.
Still, even with seemingly robust content creation and CM strategy, your overall funnel may not be meeting your expectations.
So how can you optimise your efforts and content funnel in a cost-efficient way?
Simple; you can establish essential metrics to measure content marketing performance and keep a close eye on them.
This article will look into content marketing from start to finish and establish essential metrics that help assess CM performance.
The prevalence of content marketing strategies
First, let us establish the value and prevalence of CM strategies.
We will also explore the relation between CM strategies and search engine optimisation (SEO).
Semrush’s CM statistics are an excellent starting point. Among others, consider some of their key findings:
- 84% of all respondents have a CM strategy
- However, only 11% evaluate their approach as “excellent.”
- 89% primarily rely on organic search for content distribution
Similarly, consider their findings on desirable marketer hard skills based on Monster, Indeed, and LinkedIn job listings:
- Social media: 49%
- SEO: 44%
- Strategy: 42%
Additionally, Hubspot notes that 70% of marketers are actively investing in CM.
In combination, these findings create a very robust case for CM. In essence, CM and SEO strategies and their overlapping areas ensure optimal content distribution.
Establishing the foundations
Before delving into the essential metrics to measure content marketing performance, we should explore the foundations.
As with all business endeavours, CM success hinges on the fundamentals, no less than on proper execution and monitoring.
From building a website to creating content and marketing it, there are some key factors to consider early on.
#1 Set S.M.A.R.T. goals
This tried-and-tested tenet of all business endeavours naturally applies here as well.
The S.M.A.R.T. acronym refers to the optimal characteristics your goals should have.
These characteristics help ensure that your goals are well-defined, attainable, and measurable.
Your goals need to be specific to be readily measurable. Examples of clear goals would be to “increase engagement by x%” or “increase traffic by y%”.
Goals need to both define their area of interest (engagement and traffic, respectively) and their scope.
Reaching or missing your specific goals in your specified numbers is what lets you evaluate performance.
On the subject of measurable goals, your goals need to be measurable by definition.
A perceived benefit in any area is always welcome, but perceptions are not measurable.
Instead, ensure that your goals have clear metrics to be measured against.
At the same time, your goals need to be achievable in your business context.
No CM strategy can genuinely work if its foundation is unrealistic or if its goals are unreachable.
Put differently, strategies with achievable goals have a higher chance of success precisely because they’re attainable.
Similarly, your CM goals need to remain realistic.
While being “achievable” means your business can achieve the goals you set, being “realistic” means your resources can support them.
Your workforce, budget, and infrastructure need to render your goals realistic for them to be desirable.
Finally, your goals need to be timely – or time-bound, as other interpretations of the acronym describe this attribute.
Setting specific time limitations helps twofold; for one, it ensures you can measure success over defined timetables.
Furthermore, it allows your teams to understand your vision and have specific time goals in mind.
#2 Establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
With S.M.A.R.T. goals in hand, you’ll need to identify your KPIs. In essence, these are the essential metrics to measure content marketing performance through.
In the context of CM specifically, different types of content have other KPIs.
Among many forms of content, consider the following popular types and their appropriate KPIs.
- Posts and articles: traffic and traffic sources, unique and new vs returning visitors, time on page, bounce and exit rates, and others
- Social media posts: impressions, engagement, shares and likes, conversion rates, and others
- Video content: unique views, average view duration, click-through rates (C.T.R.), engagement, comments, and others
- Pay per click (P.P.C.) campaigns: impressions, conversions, cost per click (C.P.C.), cost per lead (C.P.L.) or cost per conversion (CPCon), cost per sale (C.P.S.), and others
Thus, depending on your content types, goals, and campaign focus, you will need to identify your most valuable KPIs.
This practice will be invaluable as your CM campaign advances and produces results.
#3 Remember that quality is king
Finally, you should always remember that CM will only do so much if your content is lacking.
Of course, the opposite is equally true; inferior CM will undervalue your content.
Thus, before examining and optimising your CM strategy, it may be vital to evaluate your content strategy itself.
The tenet that “content is king” is extremely useful and applicable in both CM and SEO.
To incite engagement and provide value to your audiences, you can begin by ensuring your written content is well-researched, informative, and insightful.
Citations and references to authoritative sources are also vital and help build trust and credibility.
Finally, infographics are a great way to stand out and visually stimulate content like video.
Other factors that affect your written content’s quality include formatting, readability, and freshness.
However, those steer into SEO territory, so this article won’t delve into them for the sake of text economy.
Essential metrics to measure content marketing performance
Finally, having established a healthy foundation, let us now explore some essential metrics to measure content marketing performance.
For convenience and readability alike, we can divide those into three main groups;
- User behaviour
- User engagement
- SEO returns and revenue
Of course, all three groups will hinge on the foundations mentioned above.
#1 User behaviour
First and foremost, user behaviour provides the most fundamental, actionable metrics.
User behaviour toward your content reveals both content creation shortcomings and CM performance.
On this front, consider the following metrics.
New visitors, returning users
Measuring how much of your audience is new is an essential metric to measure content marketing performance.
At the same time, gauging how much your audience is returning users can inform you of your audience retention strategies’ efficiency.
Similarly, your traffic sources can indicate how your strategies are performing.
Organic search traffic can indicate effective SEO strategies, as your content ranks higher for your keywords of choice.
Referral traffic can tell you that your content provides enough value to incentivise audiences to share it.
Finally, paid (or inorganic) traffic can inform you how well your paid advertising efforts are performing.
Pageviews and time on page
Pageviews offer a clear understanding of how often your content is viewed.
That is a useful metric by itself, but gauging users’ time on page can help cement your content strategies themselves.
Again, CM is crucial, but so is delivering enough value for your growth to be sustainable.
Finally, bounce rates can provide insights into your content’s value.
Landing pages serve as symbolic gateways to the rest of your website, so high bounce rates can reveal shortcomings.
Having discussed user interactions, we can elaborate on another essential metric to measure content marketing performance; engagement.
From social media marketing to off-page engagement, there are many actionable metrics to note on this front.
The lifeblood of social media content, likes and shares are arguably the most fundamental engagement metric.
A small portion of those who see your content will react to it, but it’s an important figure.
Likes provide a good indication of your potential lead prospects and help measure how appealing your content is.
Similarly, shares reveal the virality of your content, as well as indicate the value it offers.
Audiences that frequently share your content may become post-sale advocates, which is a very desirable outcome.
Similarly, comments also indicate meaningful engagement.
For such platforms as Facebook, comments can indicate that community-building efforts pay off.
Be sure to check out this guide on Facebook lead gen ads and how they can grow your leads.
But even outside of social media, comments help you identify which content types, styles, and subjects incite the most engagement.
Mentions and republications
Finally, mentions and republications offer a great metric to measure online reputation.
Regardless of platform, mentions indicate successful CM efforts and help scale public perception of your brand or content.
Republications, especially by reputable sources and professionals within your field, also provide similar reassurance.
What’s more, republications also help build awareness, page trustworthiness, and credibility as a crucial part of SEO.
#3 SEO returns and final revenue
Finally, on the subject of SEO, it too offers essential metrics to measure content marketing performance.
After all, SEO is an integral part of CM, so it provides actionable insights by definition.
Final revenue metrics follow closely as well, and they too are vital.
A key distinction to make here lies in somewhat disconnecting the two.
The revenue returns of SEO itself are often unclear, in that SEO is a long-term endeavour.
However, measurable returns are indeed highly actionable, and SEO provides some concrete metrics.
Organic search engine traffic
As mentioned above, marketers value organic search engine traffic.
In essence, that’s simply because it reveals effective SEO strategies – and practical CM.
Naturally, organic search engine traffic reveals how well-optimised your content is.
At the same time, it can help reveal how much brand awareness you’ve raised if audiences seek your content.
Lead generation and conversion rates
Organic search traffic can then be juxtaposed with lead generation and conversion rates.
These are different metrics, but the latter follows the former.
All marketing strategies seek to generate leads and eventually convert and push them through your sales funnel.
Thus, high lead generation is a desirable metric to monitor, as it directly attests to your CM.
High conversion rates, in turn, can indicate engaging content that drives conversions.
Cost per acquisition (C.P.A.) and cost per conversion (CPCon)
Still, lead acquisition and conversion rates only reveal so much by themselves.
They are, by all means, desirable and attest to your efforts’ effectiveness.
However, to properly fine-tune your CM strategies, you will need to gauge their cost as well.
On this front, C.P.A. and CPCon both help pinpoint the exact cost-effectiveness of your strategies.
Ideally, the lower your C.P.A. and CPCon are, the more lucrative your strategies are.
However, it’s equally important to remember the S.M.A.R.T. acronym; it may not be realistic or achievable to have meagre costs if your current position can’t facilitate them.
As such, your C.P.A.s and CPCons will need to take your budget and initial goals into account as well.
A crucial aspect of SEO, backlinks are also an essential metric to measure content marketing performance with. In simple terms, backlinks are links to your content from other sites.
In essence, backlinks are to pages what shares are to social media posts.
They primarily come in two forms; follow, boost your page authority, and nofollow, which don’t.
However, healthy backlink strategies include both since both generate organic traffic.
What’s more, automatic backlinks from authoritative sites can attest to your content’s quality.
Thus, the amount, type, and quality of backlinks you get are also a very notable metric to consider.
Return on investment (R.O.I.)
Finally, R.O.I. is likely the most crucial metric to monitor. R.O.I. will ultimately dictate which of your efforts are the most cost-effective and inform your future budget allocations.
Some practices will take longer to reveal their true R.O.I., but it’s a metric nobody can afford to ignore.
To summarise, content marketing is an increasingly important aspect of marketing, as a wealth of research suggests.
User behaviour and engagement offer various metrics to help gauge your efforts’ performance and your content quality.
Similarly, SEO returns and final revenue figures further illuminate your campaigns’ cost-effectiveness.
With a firm grasp of all three groups’ essential metrics, you can monitor, fine-tune, and refocus your strategies.