Producing great content as part of a well-defined content marketing plan first requires consideration of your desired end-results and formulating an overall content strategy. Pinpointing goals for your content is a great first step that will inform the direction, purpose and voice of your content. Before you get rolling, however, it’s also important to be clear on how you will measure and evaluate the performance of the content you and your team produces. We sat down with content marketing pros Emily Neie, Jeff Raymond and Christa Tuttle from Launch Marketing to explore four questions on measuring content marketing.

1. What does ROI mean when it comes to B2B content marketing?

Jeff: When it comes to content marketing, the return aspect can mean different things depending on the organization. For example, “return on investment” could be viewed in terms of conversions (completing a desired action) as a result of engaging with a certain piece of content. Similarly, one may measure “initial lead source” for Won Opportunities and determine which content teed up that outcome. As an organization, you need to define what that return looks like for you. However, the challenge for marketing is that it’s often not just one piece of content that weighs in on that return. The return may include a white paper, a blog post, case study, and other touchpoints along the way. While it’s difficult to allocate weight to each of those elements, there are tools, such as multi-attribution tools, that can help in that regard.

Christa: On the investment side of your ROI, it can also include measuring in dollars the time it takes to create your content. You can look at it in two ways: the amount of time it takes to develop the content and the amount of money it takes to evangelize the content and get it out there. When you use both of those aspects, you can get a quantifiable number. But it’s important to remember that you need to frame it in line with your organization’s goals, whether it be traffic, leads generated by the content or however your organization decides to measure return.

Emily: Another important part of the ROI of content is the amplifier effect and how far that content can get you. For instance, if you’re investing “x” hours or “x” dollars to create that piece of content, do you have a strategy in place to then leverage that original content piece to create other components of the campaign quickly? Does this piece of content lend itself to being leveraged across multiple platforms or are there easy tweaks you can make to integrate that piece of content or build off the content in a way that multiplies the investment you put into it? From the time investment standpoint, does it enable you to create additional content more easily and in a way that’s palatable to other platforms and to other customer segments?

2. What are some ways that organizations can measure content marketing effectiveness or ROI?

Emily: At the beginning, this will mean being very conscientious about tracking how much time you’re spending on various content efforts and who is creating the content. Often, pieces of content can seem to appear out of nowhere and people aren’t really sure where they came from or who created it and what their process was. You don’t want to start considering your content marketing success just because your team produces three blogs every week. It’s more important to recognize if creating a blog three times a week is consuming 50% of team members productive hours, then that might mean you’re not actually getting that big of a return on your blog content and you’re taking up too much of an essential team members time.

Jeff: You can also measure content marketing categorically. For instance, measuring how much blog traffic your site is receiving. You can then even take a higher-level look, evaluating everyone that comes to your site and applying a lead score to them. Then you can do some rough extrapolations to say how much website traffic your blog is contributing and how that traffic translates to closed business.

Christa: Tools like Google Analytics can help your team see the specific posts that people are engaging with the most. You’ll want to do this because often it’s not about a certain type of content, such as if it’s a white paper versus if it’s a blog, but what topic the content is focused on that matters. There are a lot of lenses you can put to your content and there’s certainly a lot of testing you can do as well to help boost your ROI.

3. How can organizations apply what they learn from measuring their content marketing efforts?

Jeff: Testing allows you to form hypotheses out of your content findings, which can be a fun part of your content marketing efforts. You can conduct simple A/B tests to see how you can get higher conversions, open rates, and similar KPIs. One of the simplest and most common A/B tests is email subject lines, which can determine if people are going to engage with one type of messaging more than another type of messaging. When you apply changes after performing these tests, even a 1% open rate increase, if you used on a big email list, can mean $10,000 or $100,000 profit, depending on the scale of your company. Finding those little edits and tweaks and applying them can be incredibly meaningful.

Emily: Measuring content marketing efforts can also be really helpful in understanding how to best fill your content journey for people, or how people are actually going to get to certain pieces of content, such as through your site, your social platforms or email. It’s important to learn which blog posts are performing the best, so you can then say that maybe those blog posts need to include a call to action to download a relevant white paper that requires someone to fill out a form. Since the contact has already received something that’s valuable to them, you can use that to continue to push them down their content journey. And again, you can really measure this effectively with Google Analytics, page traffic, email open rates, etc.

Christa: To build on that, if you have a webinar that you’ve run and then you create additional resources to go along with that webinar or resources that drive to a webinar, just being able to track that path using the right tools showing how people actually got two different gated assets is extremely useful and saves you valuable time. Ultimately, the ratio of return on your investment is going to go in a positive direction, thanks to being able to automate or use tools that make content creation a smoother process.

4. What are some of the mistakes that organizations make when it comes to content marketing?

Jeff: Serving up the wrong types of content at the wrong points in a buyer’s journey is one mistake. If you have somebody that’s top of the funnel and you serve them a deep dive white paper or case study, then off the bat that’s not the right strategy. A case study is more commonly part of the person’s evaluation stage when you want to add credibility. With someone who’s top of the funnel, providing them with something that’s much more digestible, like a blog post or infographic is usually the way to go.

Christa: Another mistake can be a lack of discipline or regularity in making sure that you’re applying SEO best practices or really validating the right type of thematic content or the thematic direction of your content with what your predefined personas want to hear from you. Organizations can also struggle to produce a reliable cadence of content. They may have more peaks and valleys or bursts of content activity, including periods of radio silence where there’s no content at all. Whereas, a constant presence and continual stream of content going out is going to be much more impactful.

Emily: Organizations will often have a kind of squirrel mentality to their content production. They may recognize they need a blog and then mobilize the entire team to turn out a large number of blog posts in a month. There’s a tendency to get a little panicked that they’re behind, so they sprint rather than plan out how they’re going to run the content marathon. If you approach a company as a source of information and learning and see that they haven’t posted anything in a year, that can be a red flag. It’s important to take the time to really step back from the initial excitement or the initial energy of creating white papers, eBooks, webinars or the next big thing and realize what is actually realistic to invest time and money in for both right now and for the long-term.

Jeff: Also, investing too much time and money into one avenue at a time may prevent you from being able to see how that avenue works over a longer period of time. That’s why it’s important for organizations looking to introduce a new form of content marketing or try something new should think about how it will compliment and interact with what they’re already doing. Typically, doing a few things extremely well beats doing more things at just an average level.

Christa: A lot of mistakes can really be attributed to not having a well thought out or well-articulated content strategy. Content strategy focuses on the broader question of “What do we want to achieve with our content?” Many of the issues with content marketing can often be traced back to not having a sound content strategy that everyone was on board with in the first place. It’s important to remember that content marketing isn’t a magical cure all for fixing marketing or sales issues. It’s part of a much larger integrated approach to your marketing strategy and requires knowledge of other aspects outside of content marketing.