Content marketing has traveled light years since its inception. We know it works, which is why our budgets for it are growing so rapidly. In fact, the most effective content marketers report allocating 46 percent of their budgets to this type of marketing. Yet, many marketers are still struggling with something very important.

What’s the best method for proving results?

Only 21 percent of B2B marketers report that they are successful in measuring content marketing. But where is the best place to start when there are no generally accepted standards on this topic?

content marketing

Start with a goal: Where are you headed?

Every content marketing campaign should start with a single question: What do we want to accomplish? Without the answer to this question, you could end up like the famous scene from “Alice in Wonderland,” where Alice asks:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”

“I don’t much care where.”

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

Brand awareness, traffic or generating more leads — regardless of your goal, it’s important to define these items first. Then you can dive into effectively measuring each item. Here are a few tips for getting started.

1. Measure brand awareness

Maybe your goal is to generate more brand awareness. You want to capture attention, get people excited about what your brand is doing, and spread the news about your products and services. As a part of this campaign, you may create blog posts, videos, eBooks, and other interesting pieces of content. But after creating all this great content, how do you know whether all your hard work is generating results?

A couple of metrics to watch are social shares and views from your partnership audience. You can also attach a dollar value to your efforts. For example, let’s say you use Facebook or Twitter to promote the content. At the end of your campaign, calculate your reach. Use their advertising tools to see how much you would have spent to generate similar exposure. Then you can say, “We would have spent X dollars to achieve similar results.”

2. Aim for higher traffic

Are your content marketing efforts more top-of-funnel focused, geared for lead generation? Maybe you want to capture more website or blog traffic by showing visitors value, so you can then lead them into the marketing funnel, where they give you permission to market to them. At that point, depending on the length of your sales cycle, you can begin offering more mid-funnel content designed to deepen their engagement with you.

web traffic

But it all begins at the top of the funnel. Perhaps you’re publishing high-quality blog posts with a call to action that drives visitors to download a free gated resource. If this is your plan, here are a few items to measure.

  • Total visits per month to page. You can also calculate the percentage of return visitors and conversation rates for any calls to action that you include on the pages.
  • Time spent on site. How much time are visitors spending on the site? Track this over time so you know what your unique highs and lows are, for which pages. If the number for a page is high, it shows positive results and an engaged audience. Google Analytics is another useful tool for learning more about your visitors, tracking click patterns and understanding what is working — and what isn’t.
  • Assigning a dollar value to results. Let’s say you create a series of blog posts to generate brand awareness. To assign a specific dollar value and calculate ROI, look at which keywords are driving traffic using the Google Search Console, formerly known as Webmaster Tools, and drilling down to Search Traffic and down to Search Analytics. Then visit Google Analytics. View the “CPC value,” which tells you the cost of paying for those specific keywords to drive traffic. Simply multiply the CPC by the number of organic search visitors and you will understand what you would have spent if you had used paid forms of traffic.

3. Generate more leads

Leads are the lifeblood of a company. There are many different types of assets that generate leads — e.g., eBooks, white papers, and videos. But many marketers aren’t measuring anything beyond downloads. So what else should you be measuring?

get more leads

Let’s say you publish a high-quality 15-page eBook that solves a complex problem that your target audience is facing. Or you create something simpler – like a checklist or access to a free or trial version of software. If it’s valuable enough, you should gate access in exchange for an email address.

For measurement, you could:

  • Tally up the total number of leads generated or landing page conversion rates. And then…
  • Calculate the potential value of each lead.

For example, let’s say you know that the average value of a lead is $500 (lead value = value of sale/number of leads it took to get that sale). If you generate 150 leads from the eBook, then it has created value of $75,000. Let’s say the cost to produce the asset was $10,000. You could then take the net gain of $65,000 and divide it by the total cost to get the ROI. In this example, 65k divided by 10k = 6.5, so your ROI is 6.5 to 1, or 650%. (Not bad!)

4. Upsell clients

Maybe you have a segment of clients that entered the sales funnel by purchasing a low-cost offer (often known as a “tripwire”). But now you’d like to upsell them on a higher-value product or service.

Your content marketing plan may include creating free tutorial videos for the product they already have or a free eBook about an issue that’s a challenge in their industry. But regardless of which asset you select, what’s the best method for measuring ROI?

Start with calculating the revenue from the upsell. How many existing clients are agreeing to the upsell, and what is the value of each increase? You can then use this number to calculate the ROI.

Note that if the asset you’re using to upsell is being used elsewhere in the funnel, you could decide to assign part of its costs to each separate revenue stream.

5. Customize goals, to prove results

There is no “one-size-fits-all” formula that magically reveals content marketing results. Each company’s goals are different and unique based on size, budget and resources.

But when you determine goals up front and match each goal to the right metrics, it’s much easier to understand – and prove – success on each content asset that you produce.

Have we missed anything? What other metrics do you think content marketers should be measuring, and why?

It’s all about the leads. It’s true. B2B marketers spend their day focused on generating enough of them to fill their sales funnel. But that’s not always an easy task. So how do today’s marketers fill the funnel? They use content marketing. Download, “Attraction 101: Content Marketing” to learn the different ways you can use content to generate top-of-funnel leads.