You’ve optimized your website for SEO, crafted an informative blog and started using social media channels and backlinks to drive traffic to your site. But now come the real questions—are these efforts paying off? Is your content marketing working? Or are there some adjustments that need to be made?
The ultimate end-goal of any marketing strategy is to increase sales and revenue (or at least generate leads). And while measuring whether or not your sales are going up is fairly simple, it’s not always easy to determine how your content marketing has contributed (or failed to contribute) to those numbers and other specific goals. With this in mind, here are a few important metrics that can help determine whether your content marketing efforts are being effective, as well as some tips to improve their effectiveness.
On-Site Consumption Metrics
Every good content marketing strategy involves both on-site and off-site efforts. And thankfully, there are several consumption metrics that can determine whether your on-site efforts (namely, of writing useful, engaging and SEO-optimized copy and producing a blog) are having the desired effect.
First and foremost are the number of page views and the average time spent on each page by your site’s visitors. If your website content is engaging and well-written, it stands to reason that these numbers will increase. This is not only important for creating a quality user experience, but also for the way Google views your site’s content. If the first page that customers visit doesn’t contain any useful information to gain their interest, it’s quite likely that they will click away from your site after only a few seconds.
This in turn increases your site’s bounce rate—and as Google analytics catches wind of this, your site’s SEO ranking is likely to fall as it is flagged for being of low quality. And the farther your site falls in search results, the less new customers that will find it, and the more digital business your site stands to lose.
If your site is experiencing a high bounce rate as well as few page views or minimal time spent on your pages by Web users, chances are that your site’s copy and layout could use some evaluation and re-tooling. For blogs, this first requires the creation of well-thought-out, researched articles that help establish you as an expert in your industry. This may take more time to write, but it will certainly keep visitors engaged with your content as you provide useful information and tools through a blog.
The inclusion of links and easily navigable menus can also increase the number of page views. Be sure that a blog’s format makes it easy for users to click on links to other posts without having to go through several confusing menu options (and include links to other posts and pages within your content). These tactics can increase the number of page views and the amount of time spent on each page, improving the overall quality and usefulness of your site while simultaneously improving its search rankings.
Third-Party Site Metrics
Of course, a good content marketing strategy isn’t only focused on making sure your website’s pages are well-crafted. Whether it be inbound clicks from articles that were picked up from public relations pitches or other efforts to create backlinks, the effectiveness of these efforts should also be measured.
But how is this to be done? Typically, any piece of content that is published on a reputable third-party site will generate what Denis Pinsky of Forbes refers to as buzz and impact—even without your first-party efforts to promote the content.
Simply stated, “buzz” includes marketing signals that indicate the content is gaining traction and reaching a wide audience—primarily, shares on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media platforms. These shares increase the potential audience of your post, but they don’t always necessarily lead to more clicks and downloads.
Generating what Pinsky refers to as “impact” is more important because it reflects more direct engagement with the content or associated brand. This includes comments, views and the generation of valuable backlinks. Generally speaking, quality content yields each of these (especially valuable backlinks) as online audiences recognize the content as being a reliable source of information.
The best way to achieve these results? Have a sound public relations strategy in place to pitch your content and links to high-quality publications. Whether it’s pitching a link from your blog to an industry influencer to share or cite, or pitching an original article (that includes a link to your own site) to a reputable publisher, these efforts require some sound public relations savvy.
Whether you’re connecting with influencers through comments on their articles or interaction on Twitter and other social media platforms, these initial endeavors are important to building a relationship. Citing an influencer in your own content (generating buzz and impact for that individual) will also greatly increase your chances of having him or her accept your future pitch.
These efforts will ultimately pay off when your content is able to generate quality backlinks that are shared across the Web, building your company’s SEO ranking while also bringing in new audiences (and hopefully, new customers) to your site.
Often, however, the reach (and overall success) of your content marketing will depend greatly on your own measurable social media efforts, in addition to the previously mentioned public relations tactics. After all, Facebook and Twitter are especially good at providing detailed analytics regarding the performance of your posts—but some metrics are more valuable than others.
Having a Facebook post reach thousands of users may seem like an impressive feat, but the simple truth is that without actual engagement it doesn’t mean anything (especially since on Facebook, a person can be counted as “reached” without actually paying any attention to the post whatsoever). Many companies fall into the trap of becoming so focused on having a large reach with social media posts that they fail to more fully analyze the other results to see if anyone is actually interacting with the posts.
Quite simply, the most effective posts will generate measurable engagement—likes, comments, shares and especially link clicks. At the very least, these metrics indicate that someone read your post and felt that its content was useful, worth sharing with others or engaging enough to motivate a closer look at your website—while reach only means that Facebook placed the story in a user’s newsfeed.
Thanks to the social media analytics tools provided by Facebook, Twitter and third-party applications, you can quickly determine which types of posts produce the best engagement that drive users to your Web content. And if your social media posts aren’t generating any clicks or other forms of engagement, they’re not providing any boost to your content marketing efforts.
Many factors can influence the success of your social media efforts to boost overall content marketing strategy. Even something as simple as the time of day that you post can have a significant impact on engagement, and it’s no surprise that several studies have been conducted to determine the ideal posting time for social media.
Current general consensus is that early afternoon (generally between 1 and 3 P.M.) is the best time to post on Facebook, while noon is best for Twitter. But just because the general consensus says early afternoon is best doesn’t mean that it will be the most effective time to reach your audience. Take advantage of tools such as Facebook’s Insights feature, which can show the time of day when most of your audience is online. Don’t be afraid to use this data to experiment to find a better posting time for your content.
Of course, there’s much more to creating a successful post than posting at the right time. Utilizing engaging images, as well as honing in on your copy and hashtag usage are essential to creating engaging posts that will drive more traffic to your content and ultimately increase its ROI. Compare and contrast your most and least successful posts, and use the conclusions that you gain from these analyses to further refine your social media copy.
Sales and Leads
At the end of the day, however, the most important measure of content marketing’s success is its ability to generate leads and sales. Be it through actual purchases conducted on your site, an increase in store traffic, or even something as simple as subscribing to an e-mail listing, these actions are generally what is considered the most important element by any content marketer worth his salt (or any client, for that matter).
So how can the success of these efforts be measured?
Convince and Convert notes that using a browser cookie can be an effective method of determining how many users fill out a lead form or make a purchase after viewing or downloading a piece of content on your site—“even if there is a 30 or 60-day interval between those events.” It is also possible to measure how many users fill out lead or sales information “immediately after consuming your content.”
These measurements allow you to determine the actual ROI of the content that is housed on your site. For example, if a customer read an article and then watched a video on your site prior to making a $5,000 purchase, each of those content pieces essentially contributed $2,500 in sales.
Ideally, the content that is published on your site will help guide consumers to make a purchase, subscribe to e-mail notifications or fill out lead forms. If your content isn’t getting looked at, or isn’t leading to these results, then it’s probably a good idea to take a look at the quality of the content you’re producing and how you’re promoting it.
Of course, even quality content can fail to generate sales, but this can be easily remedied. When producing content for your website, be sure to include links to other relevant pages on your site and always include a call to action to provide further incentive for consumers to take action. Be it as simple as “click here to learn more” or supplying a phone number or e-mail address at the bottom of a blog post, these calls to action are often the necessary element to encourage consumers to take the next step—and turn your content marketing into a successful part of your overall marketing strategy.