Content marketing, once totally obscure, is a hot topic thanks to the emphasis on fresh, high-quality content in Google’s ranking algorithm. The image above, courtesy of Captora, shows B2B (blue) and B2C (gray) firms use of content marketing to drive brand awareness, generate leads, acquire new customers, and become thought leaders in their industry.

What’s been missing from the conversation about content marketing is a deep concern for monitoring content marketing analytics to make better decisions to support these multiple goals. In an earlier post, I discussed some critical metrics that should comprise a comprehensive content marketing analytics dashboard.

Discussing content marketing analytics brings a number of questions to the fore:

  1. Does content marketing work?
  2. Which metrics (ROI, engagement, sentiment, …) are most important to measure?
  3. Which pieces of content generate the best return?
  4. Why does some content outperform others?
  5. How do I optimize my content marketing?

Content marketing analytics: Does it work?

Yes, don’t believe me? Check out these facts from Kapost.

The bigger question is, “does content marketing work for YOU?”

And, to answer that question you need content marketing analytics. Which leads us to the next question.

Content marketing analytics: What to measure?

Deciding WHAT to measure when putting together your content marketing analytics program depends largely on your goals. But, remember, content marketing is a slow burn, not a forest fire, so it takes a long time to see change. If you only measure the ROI of your content marketing program, you’re likely missing the major impact of content marketing and likely making bad decisions based on measuring the wrong things.

As part of content marketing analytics, you need to gather metrics for top of funnel activities (awareness, sentiment) not just bottom of the funnel — conversion. Taking a step back, you also need to evaluate how your target market consumes your content — using metrics such as: visits, time on site, frequency of visits, and bounce rates, which suggest your content is effectively driving visitors to your site.

You’ll also want to track amplification metrics, which come from engagement with your content: likes, shares, RT, re-Pins, comments, etc. Each engagement activity brings your brand to the attention of each engaged user’s social graph.

Cost savings is a useful metric because social media marketing and content marketing often reduce other costs such as customer service and reduce the marketing costs of retention.

Take a look at this post from the Content Marketing Institute for more ideas of metrics that make sense in evaluating your content marketing efforts.

Content marketing analytics: What pieces of content work best?

You’ll also want to break down your content marketing analytics to identify success factors on individual social networks and what’s working for you on each platform. A word of caution:

Don’t assume because a tactic works for everyone else, it’ll work for you

I always experiment when I first take over community management for a new client and periodically test what I think I know about how each client’s community will respond. For instance, large images and videos perform best on Facebook according to all the experts. But, for 1 particular client, smaller images perform better based on parallel tests of posts. So, don’t just do whatever the latest guru tells you — figure out what works best in your community.

Experiment with different times of day and days of the week for posts. Experiment with different titles and images. For instance, experts recommend using a question mark in your title (see the infographic below), but that’s not always what works best. Numbers (lists) also work well for titles.

Finally, check which keywords perform best. I like to run a short, inexpensive adwords campaign because you get a much better idea of how your keywords perform versus trying to figure out which keywords work best from Google Analytics, especially since they’ve removed keywords from the analysis.

While much of traditional SEO is passé, keywords and other SEO metrics still impact the performance of your content marketing efforts.

Content marketing analytics: Why does some content outperform others?

Sometimes it’s just impossible to figure out why some content outperforms others. Why some content goes viral is often unknown and unknowable. That’s because content marketing analytics such as virality aren’t linear, but based on chaos theory, sometimes known as the butterfly effect. Viral marketing results when you get massive amplification of your content and it’s mainly an effect of building good communities that support engagement, which is outside strict notions of content marketing.

Interacting with influencers is an important differentiator in whether content goes viral. Build good relationships with influencers can have a dramatic, if unpredictable, effect on the performance of a particular post — something in that post just hit a hot button for a particular influencer.

If you’ve got everything in place to optimize your content marketing, then just accept the gift when some content goes viral and don’t obsess over it. Of course, things can go the other way around. For instance, Sons of Maxwell, a band, suffered a damaged guitar when it flew United. When United didn’t offer compensation, the band wrote a song that’s been viewed 14 million times on YouTube. So, sometimes the best content marketing comes BEFORE such a disaster in the form of offline content marketing, especially when dealing with potentially influential social media users.

And, train employees to be more sensitive on social media. For instance, a RyanAir spokesman denounced a disgruntled blogger by calling him an idiot. The blogshere and social media responded very negatively, as might be imagined.

Content marketing analytics: How to optimize your content marketing?

By developing a comprehensive content marketing analytics program, of course. What doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get effort. So, put together a comprehensive plan for monitoring your performance, your competitors results, and outside mentions of your brand to ward of potential problems.

Here’s a strategy you should use when putting together your content marketing analytics plan:

  1. Set goals
  2. Determine KPI’s based on goals and other metrics
  3. Listen and track performance and compare to competition over time
  4. Break down performance by social network and individual post
  5. Monitor costs, especially decrease in costs of other marketing efforts
  6. Create hypotheses around performance variances
  7. Create split tests on these hypotheses to determine which explain variance
  8. Analyze results and make recommendations to optimize performance
  9. Ensure results are translated into appropriate actions ; ie. changes to the editorial calendar

Your turn

Did I make you think about changes to your content marketing analytics plan or convince you to start one?

Do you have a different strategy to support content marketing analytics in your firm?

Please share your ideas and feedback.

Now, enjoy the infographic below for more information on creating a content marketing analytics plan.