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The single most perplexing question for anyone in content marketing is: How do I measure the effectiveness of my content marketing?

More often than not, when asked this question, marketers fall back on soft metrics like “page views” and “shares” or anecdotes about how their content is working by way of feedback from the sales team.

But, there is a better way.

Content marketing has come a long way in the past few years, and there are now definite content marketing metrics that can answer this question, along with technologies that can help to quantify the return on your content marketing investment.

The following guide provides a comprehensive overview of the analytics and metrics that will help you determine the effectiveness of your content, and ultimately how it affects revenue. I also asked over 20 experts how they measure content marketing efforts. Their answers are included throughout the post.

Content Marketing Metrics: A Framework

Looking at metrics as a whole can be an intimidating task. To make it easier to identify the content marketing metrics that are most relevant to your business, it helps to break them down into distinct categories.

Rebecca-Lieb-Photo_rev-150x150REBECCA LIEB
Digital Advertising, Media & Content Analyst, Altimeter @lieblink
“It makes no difference whatsoever what MY most important content marketing metric is – the real question is: What metric, what key performance indicator, is most important to your business? No two marketers’ objectives are exactly alike. What matters is aligning against business goals, not all the abstract things you can measure.”

To start off, I have adapted a 4-part framework proposed by Jay Baer in his eBook on this topic, and placed this into an inverted pyramid model as shown below:

If you take a look at the various types of content marketing metrics, you can answer many of your most pressing content marketing strategy questions:

  • Consumption Metrics:
    • How many people are consuming your content?
    • Which channels are they using?
    • How frequently and how in-depth is their consumption?
  • Sharing Metrics:
    • Which of your content pieces are being shared?
    • Who is sharing them?
    • How/where they are sharing?
  • Lead Metrics:
    • How is content supporting demand generation in terms of lead generation and lead nurturing? (middle-of-the-funnel)
  • Sales Metrics:
    • How is your content influencing bottom-of-the-funnel results?
    • How is your content filling the pipeline?
    • How is your content driving revenue?

In addition to Jay’s four categories, we have identified four additional types of metrics (two customer-focused and two production-focused) that provide more detail and clarity about the ROI of content marketing:

  • Retention (Subscription) Metrics:
    • How effective are you at holding your audience’s attention beyond the initial point of contact?
  • Engagement Metrics:
    • How does the intersection of your consumption and sharing metrics translate into “engagement?”
    • Does your content inspire users to take some kind of action?
    • What kind of action are they taking?
    • How frequently and consistently are they taking action?
  • Production Metrics: (to assess team and/or individual performance)
    • How is your team performing against editorial calendar deadlines and goals?
    • How long does it take your team to turn a content idea into a published piece of content?
    • How many pieces of content do you regularly publish in a given period of time?
  • Cost Metrics: (to determine return on investment – ROI)
    • What are your overall content marketing costs?
    • What are your costs per piece? Per creative resource?

Each of the above metrics can be measured across several content channels, such as websites, blogs or social media. The following framework maps the content marketing metrics (in the order they appear in the marketing and sales funnel) against content channels. Using this framework, you can get a better idea of how to measure content across all channels.

Next, we will walk through how you can compute these metrics for each part of this model.

PERFORMANCE METRICS

Consumption Metrics

As discussed earlier, consumption metrics can be used to answer the following types of questions:

  • Are people consuming my content?
  • On what channels are they consuming my content?
  • What are their content consumption behaviors and preferences?

Let’s take a look at what the different consumption metrics are by channel.

Site & Blog

For a site or blog, the most important consumption metrics are page views, unique visitors, and average time on page:

  • Page view analytics tell you how many and which of your content pages your visitors are consuming.
  • Unique visitor analytics help you get a sense for the overall size of your audience and how much of your traffic is repeat visitors.
  • Average time on page analytics give you insight into how people are consuming your content. Are they reading or viewing the content thoroughly or are they quickly skimming?

Each of these statistics is easily available via Google Analytics or a similar web analytics tool.

sherrySHERRY LAMOREAUX
Writer/Editor, Act-On @SherryActOn
“I have different metrics for different channels. For the blog, I keep track of unique users and page views, and I’m more concerned about trend than absolute numbers. I like to track which posts and topics generate the most interest; we’re always interested in what people want to read. For our downloadable assets such as white papers and eBooks, particularly the high-value ones we gate, the numbers that really matter are conversions and closed sales. If an asset is working well, we’ll keep it gated. If it’s not generating results, we’ll un-gate it. We also track linking domains.”

Assets

For assets, such as downloadable PDFs of white papers or eBooks, you can get a good idea of content consumption by simply keeping track of how many times an eBook has been downloaded.

For gated content — or content locked behind a landing page — you can measure form completions; in other words, how many times someone fills out the form preceding the content completely and with valid information.

Rob YoegelROB YOEGEL
VP of Marketing, Gaggle @RobYoegel
“The most success I’ve had is looking at conversion metrics (downloads/registrations) and website traffic (blog posts) from traffic sources. Either in aggregate (i.e., social vs. search. vs. direct) or by a specific website, campaign, etc. By analyzing the source of conversions/traffic, you can better understand what content resonates and what audiences are valuable to the business, assuming you can track them through to a sale.”

Marketing automation systems such as Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot, and Act-On each include a feature to measure form completions. However, accurately measuring actual downloads — while arguably more important because it encompasses both gated and ungated content — is more difficult for two technical reasons:

  1. Marketing Automation does not track asset views. Most assets, specifically PDFs, are not tracked as lead activities. Furthermore, you cannot place a munchkin or tracking code on such files, so they are invisible to both marketing automation and web trackers such as Google Analytics.

  2. Form bypasses are excluded. You may assume that everyone downloading an asset has completed a form already. In reality, a significant percentage of visitors may be bypassing the form, particularly if it is indexed by a search engine.

For example, Marketo can, but does not, tell search engines not to index gated assets and they often end up showing up in search results. The screenshot above has a Google search results page for “The Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing”. The landing page shows up second, but the direct link to the PDF shows up first.

Therefore to track assets, you will have to either:

    • Use a flash based PDF viewer like Zmags. These types of viewers include design and publishing tools as well as tracking features that give marketers insight into download data and can also track reader eye movements to create viewing heat maps, etc.
    • Rely on softer indicators such as form completions for the landing page, page views on the post-form completion thank you page, or click-throughs on the email that links to your asset after form completion.
Social Media

Unfortunately, there isn’t a completely accurate way to measure how many people viewed a particular social media post. Some social platforms and third-party management tools provide “reach” or “impression” stats that attempt to measure how many people were potentially exposed to your content, but just because a piece of content could have been seen doesn’t mean it was seen. Things move fast on social media feeds, content shelf life is short and many posts go unseen by the majority of users.

You can, however, measure how many people clicked a link within a social media post, which serves as a fairly accurate measure of consumption. The easiest way to measure click-throughs is a link-shortening tool with analytics capabilities such as bit.ly.

Emails

Because you cannot embed analytics trackers in emails, you cannot get a true measure of content consumption. In lieu of actual consumption data, you can look at open rates and click-throughs. Both metrics are commonly reported in marketing automation platforms (Eloqua, Marketo, Pardot, Act-On, etc.) and email marketing platforms (MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc.).

Warning! It’s important to consider open rates and click-throughs only as proxies for consumption. There are several limitations to bear in mind:

  • Open rates record an open when a hidden image in an email is loaded. Many email clients will not load images for spam protection. For this reason, open rates are consistently underreported. They can also make image-heavy emails (such as infographics) appear to perform better than others because they entice the recipient to load images, even though the content is not necessarily more appealing.

  • Click-Through rates only reflect the number of clicks on an embedded link. While this data can help you understand which calls-to-action are most appealing to your readers, many recipients receive value by consuming email content even if they don’t click any links. If your emails include the full text of your articles, for example, your click-through rates will likely be underreporting consumption since the reader will be able to consume your content without leaving the email.

barry feldmanBARRY FELDMAN
Founder, Feldman Creative @FeldmanCreative
“I’ve been operating with the mantra ‘the money is in the list’ for a year or more, so my top priority for measurement is the growth of my email list. Beneath each of my posts (and also in the blog page sidebars) are email opt-in forms. Now, I should say that many visitors are there to read my posts because they’re already on my email list; however, for a big picture metric of how my content performs both for “pull” and on-site, I look at my email list. I call an email opt-in a conversion.”

Feeds

Feed consumption statistics (primarily views and click-throughs) are measured by wrapping your feed URLs with those provided by FeedBurner or FeedBlitz.

But, if you wrap your feed URLs now with an analytics provided one, they will only measure feed consumption for readers who subscribe to your feed after you have added the tracking URL. The consumption behavior of readers who subscribed to your original, untracked feed will not be captured.

Retention Metrics

Retention metrics give you the ability to track how well you are able to hold onto your audience after a visit. They can answer the following types of questions:

  • How many people are coming back to consume other content?
  • How often are they coming back to consume other content?
  • How many people are subscribing to receive future content updates?

Comparing consumption and retention metrics will help you understand whether your content is inspiring your audience to keep in touch and expand their relationship with your brand.

Let’s look at measuring retention on each online channel.

Site & Blog

For a site such as a topic-specific microsite or a blog, you can measure blog retention by tracking the following metrics in a tool like Google Analytics:

  • Percentage of Returning vs. New Visitors. It’s good to have a healthy mix of both returning and new visitors. If your returning visitors percentage is very low, this means you are attracting a lot of new visitors, but few of them are being retained and are not coming back. On the other hand, if your traffic primarily consists of returning visitors, then you are doing an excellent job of retaining traffic, but may not be doing a great job of attracting new people into the fold.

  • Bounce Rate. Bounce rates don’t measure retention across visit sessions, unlike percentage of returning visitors. But, they do measure retention within a single visit. It’s entirely possible to have a low bounce rate, but still be unable to attract the visitor back to your site for another session, or vice-versa — so it’s important to optimize for both independently.

    Note: When it comes to content curation analytics, it’s important to note that unlike created content, curated content does not live on your site or blog. For this reason, the associated bounce rate can be inflated because you are intentionally bouncing visitors to a third-party site where they can consume the original content.

  • Number of Visits & Days since Last Visit. One of the less common statistics to keep an eye on in Google analytics is the number of visits, and how long it has been since their last visit. To track this, log into Google Analytics, click on Audience then Behavior, then Frequency & Recency as shown below.

Now you can toggle between Count of Sessions (how many times they visited) and Days Since Last Session (how long its been since they came back) under distribution, as shown below.

If your site is like most others out there, you may notice that the vast majority of visitors only came once, which is very normal. To better analyze your results for returning visitors, add a segment and just filter by returning visitors (see below).

Assets

For assets, there’s no easy way of tracking retention directly, so we will just skip this.

Social Media

For social media, the primary means of retaining a visitor is receiving a “follow” from them, so they can continue to get updates and hopefully come back to your site. To track followership growth over time, there are a many services that you can use such as Twitter Counter. In addition, if you run a Facebook Page, you can use the internal analytics tools to report on audience growth.

Email

You can track retention of existing email list subscribers by keeping an eye on unsubscribes and opt-outs. Similarly, you will want to track new subscribers to see if you can grow your list at the same time.

You can also combine these two metrics to see if you have a leaky bucket by looking at your list size week over week. Are you losing more subscribers than you are gaining? If your opt-outs exceeded your weekly new visitors, you are in trouble, and may need to have more engaging content in your emails, or reduce the frequency of your emails.

Robert Rose PicROBERT ROSE
Chief Strategist, CMI @Robert_Rose
“Understanding how you are drawing in your different influencer and buyer personas toward a common content marketing mission is perhaps the most important first goal of any approach – and will give you a great early indicator of future success. So, mostly that looks like a registered or “known subscriber” metric – and also provides some indication of “quality of audience” as well.”

Feeds

Similar to emails, you can measure the number of feed subscribers to gauge retention. This can be done using a feed analytics tool like FeedBurner or FeedBlitz.

Sharing Metrics

People share content because it is useful, entertaining, and/or informational. They only share content if its quality reflects well on them, so if your content is earning shares that’s an excellent indication that you are producing the kind of content your audience wants.

Site & Blog, Assets and Social

When it comes to tracking sharing metrics for sites, blogs, assets and social posts, the metrics to keep track of are all pretty similar.

The key metric to track here is Social Media Shares. Using a tool like SharedCount, you can get a unified and consolidated statistic on the number of shares across all the networks, regardless of whether the user shared directly via the social media channel, liked or retweeted someone else’s post using a share button on your content, or used a meta-sharing tool like Buffer.

HeidiCohenHEIDI COHEN
Chief Content Officer, Actionable Marketing Guide @HeidiCohen
“Content marketing success metrics must be tracked back to your specific business goals. Each goal often requires a series of smaller steps and objectives that contribute to romancing your prospects into ultimately purchasing from your organization. Due to the complexity of today’s marketing and the number of potential buyer paths, don’t rush to attribute sales entirely to the last platform touched. Platforms such as social media may contribute to your results but not yield quantifiable contributions. Where appropriate, incorporate a call-to-action to aid tracking.”

Email

If you receive great content in an email newsletter and want to share it, what do you do? More often than not, you forward the email to someone and write a note up top. Unfortunately, such forwards cannot be tracked or measured.

What can be tracked are emails that are forwarded — not natively through an email client — but by clicking on a forward-to-a-friend button or link embedded in an email. However, even though some marketers wishfully include these in emails, they are rarely used by recipients. As a result, for all intent and purposes, sharing over email is not measurable.

Feeds

Since users don’t typically share feeds, sharing metrics don’t apply to this channel.

Engagement Metrics

BethkanterBETH KANTER
Social Media Expert, @kanter
“The most important metric for me is the number of speaking engagements or training projects that I get hired to do, but leading up to that I have to look at how my content is engaging audiences and reach.”

Engagement metrics are closely related to consumption and retention metrics, but they are also slightly distinct. Here are a few things you may want to track when it comes to engagement:

neil patelNEIL PATEL
Founder, Quick Sprout @neilpatel
“The one metric I really look at is comments per post. It tells me how engaged an audience is. No matter how much traffic you have, if you can’t cultivate an engaged audience you won’t be able to convert those visitors into customers.”

Session Duration. Session duration lets you know how long a visitor stays on your site during a given visit across multiple pages. Others call this dwell time. To measure this, log into Google Analytics. Then go to Audience, then Behavior, then Engagement.

Page Depth. This shows you how many pages your visitors are visiting per session. Are they just reading one piece of content and then leaving? Or are they very interested and consuming several pieces of content ? You can find this information in the same view in Google Analytics by clicking on the Page Depth link.

larry kimLARRY KIM
Founder/CTO, WordStream @larrykim
“One important new metric I started tracking recently for content marketing is reader feedback. For example, are you getting fan mail from people who are blown away by your content? Are your readers reaching out to you to connect on LinkedIn? How enthusiastically positive are your press pick-ups? There’s a lot of content out there and so it’s important that your content stand out from the rest – these types of reader sentiment metrics can give you an indication if you are succeeding or not.”

Comments & Social Media Chatter. Many people consider comments to be an important metric of engagement. Lately though, others have contested this assumption saying that most conversations don’t happen onsite. Rather, those discussions take place on social media channels. Regardless, to get a handle on engagement, it’s good to count reactions and interactions with your content whether its through comments or on discussions on social media.

Lead Metrics

Lead metrics help you track and measure middle-of-the-funnel activities in a way that enables you to attribute leads in your marketing automation system to specific pieces of content.

DharmeshDHARMESH SHAH
Founder/CTO, HubSpot @dharmesh
“The most important metric for us in measuring the success of our content efforts is number of qualified leads. We make considerable investment in content creation — particularly our blog, which represents a major component of our overall inbound marketing. The most important result of those efforts is qualified leads that we can then pass along to our sales team. We’ve found that the cost for leads generated through our content efforts are lower and the quality is generally higher than our paid channels, so we continue to increase our investments in this area.”

Campaign Tracking

The easiest do-it-yourself means of associating content with leads is to set up campaign tracking in Salesforce and your Marketing Automation platform. The process can be initially complex, but it’s certainly possible and the insights you gain will be worth your while.

A campaign is an object in Salesforce that stripes across Lead objects, Contact objects, and Opportunity objects. First, for each piece of content, you create a campaign in Salesforce. Then, when a particular marketing event occurs (for example opening a newsletter, reading a blog post, or downloading an asset), you can then have your marketing automation system associate the record of the lead with a campaign representing the activity performed.

The following image should help you visualize the process:

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 12.28.34 PM.png

There are three powerful attributes of campaign tracking that help with content attribution:

  • Persistence. Once a lead is attributed to a campaign, the campaign mapping will follow the lead even as the lead gets converted to other objects lower in the funnel such as a contact or opportunity. This lets you not only track how many leads were generated by a piece, but also if these leads resulted in further actions.

  • Multiple Attribution. More than one campaign can be associated with a lead record, which let’s multiple pieces of content get credit under a multi-touch attribution model (more details on what this is later).

  • Time Stamping. The lead-campaign association is time stamped so you can now replay content consumption. For example, you can now ascertain what was the last piece of content a lead consumed prior to converting to an opportunity.

arnieARNIE KUENN
President, Vertical Measures @ArnieK
“Without a doubt, the most important metric is lead conversions.”

If you use Marketo, here’s a guide to setting up campaign tracking:

Jason-Miller-photo-150x150JASON MILLER
Senior Manager of Content & Social, LinkedIn @JasonMillerCA

“At the end of the day why are we doing this? The answer is for more leads. If the leads that are coming into your pipeline are more qualified based on the engagement with your content and are closer to buying, then your content strategy is working.”

Campaign Reporting

Once you have implemented campaign tracking, you can then generate reports or use a Salesforce plugin like Full Circle CRM to analyze your campaigns.

The types of questions you can now answer include:

  • How many new leads were generated from a given piece of content?
  • How many existing leads in my database were touched by a particular piece of content?
  • Which pieces of content helped convert leads lower into the funnel the most?
  • In which areas of the funnel do we not have sufficient content?

marcus sheridanMARCUS SHERIDAN
Founder, The Sales Lion @TheSalesLion
“For me, the most important metric is # of pages read per lead. Why? Quick answer:

In 2012, my swimming pool company compared the leads on the site (both had filled out contact forms) that had bought a pool vs. the ones that ended up not buying. As we looked at the analytics comparing these 2 groups, we found that when leads viewed 30 or more pages of the website before our initial sales appointment they would buy 80% of the time, an astronomical number in the industry.

I firmly believe every business has their own “content tipping point” when it comes to leads converting to customers, which is exactly why today I help all of my clients attempt to learn what their tipping point is and how they can help their leads reach said metric to dramatically impact the sales process.”

Sales Metrics

Untitled3DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT
Online Marketing Strategist, @dmscott

“How’s sales? Ultimately content marketing drives sales success.”

If you have set up campaign tracking properly in your CRM as described in the previous section, the campaign associations will also apply to opportunity objects enabling you to generate many other powerful sales reports.

content-marketing-sales-metrics

By picking one choice from each column in the chart above, you can calculate some helpful sales metrics including:

$ of Pipeline Opportunities Influenced. This tells you how much of the sales pipeline has been influenced by consuming one or more of your pieces of content. You can report on this metric for a single piece of content, over several pieces of content in a content marketing pyramid, or for all content across the board.

Untitled4MIKE VOLPE
CMO, HubSpot @mvolpe
“Revenue. And anyone that says you can’t attribute new customers and revenue down to a single piece of content, like a blog article, is doing it wrong.”

$ of Revenue Influenced. In a similar manner, this number tells you the dollar amount of revenue closed where a contact associated with that opportunity consumed one or more pieces of content prior to the deal closing.

Untitled5DOUG KESSLER
Creative Director/Co-Founder, Velocity @dougkessler

“Revenue has to be the mother of all metrics. It’s what we’re here for, right?”

$ of Pipeline Opportunities Generated. Using a first-touch attribution model, you can tally up the total dollar amount of all opportunities where the first touch of the lead associated with the opportunity was a piece of content that your team created. If that’s confusing, think of it as reporting on the amount of sales that you ultimately generated because the prospect found you initially through your content.

Untitled6JEFF ROHRS
VP of Marketing Insights, ExactTarget @jkrohrs

“As with any marketing activity, the number one metric we should be paying attention to is how does it positively impact sales. Whether directly or by influence and loyalty, content marketers must deliver measurable value to the organization.”

$ of Pipeline Revenue Generated. This is very similar to the prior metric but it’s filtered to only opportunities that were ultimately won. This is often considered the ultimate metric, because it’s counting dollars at the bottom of the funnel that were actually marketing-generated — and that cannot be easily gamed or fudged.

Untitled7IAN CLEARY
Founder, Razor Social @IanCleary

“My most important metric for my content marketing success is revenue generated. My path to revenue is driving relevant traffic to my site, building an email subscriber database and then converting the email subscribers. For example, I run webinars where I invite email subscribers and then make sales on the webinars. My other key metric is my email conversion rate and I measure my conversions rates from social media channels, social advertising, referrals, organic and direct traffic.”

Percentages. For each of the above, you can also generate percentage variants of these metrics to show the impact of marketing on sales. If you are trying to justify the existence of your content marketing team, these types of statistics can go a long way. Here’s a few percentages that you can report on:

  • % of Pipeline / Revenue Influenced by Content
  • $ of Pipeline / Revenue Generated by Content

lee-odden-2013-150x150LEE ODDEN
CEO, TopRank Online Marketing @leeodden

“While all marketing roads must eventually lead to revenue, the single most important metric for content marketing success is the one that measures the goal you’re after. It would be easy to say that goal is customer acquisition, sales, revenue or profit. But content marketing programs can deliver results on a variety of objectives that create value for a business. For example, using content marketing to grow thought leadership can increase unsolicited media inquiries. Coverage in industry publications citing your company’s expertise can affect both brand perception as well as sales.”

OPERATIONAL METRICS

Production Metrics

Production metrics are wholly different from the other metrics that we’ve covered in this post. Rather than measuring the performance of your content, they measure the performance of your content production operation. Here are some ones that come to mind that you may want to measure:

Time to Publish. How long does it take your team to transform a content idea to a live published piece of content? This metric is similar to measuring the length of a sales cycle for a lead, and captures the velocity of your content marketing team.

To track this, keep a column on your editorial calendar for when the idea was first conceived, and another for when the idea was ultimately published. You calculate this by taking the difference of the two dates.

Untitled8CHRISTOPHER STELLA
Senior Marketing Director, Siegel+Gale @CStella

“One of the most critical metrics at this early stage of our content marketing program is employee participation. Because we are a professional services organization, content creation needs to be a team sport—our subject matter experts must publish their unique points of view to differentiate our brand in a competitive space.This year, approximately 40% of our employees have contributed original content to our blog, and many more have published articles. That number is growing. Seeing so many colleagues eagerly join our bench of content creators is both exciting from a cultural perspective, and critical to our firm’s success.”

Content Throughput. You can measure how many pieces of content or words you are publishing in a given period of time. Or for a single writer, you can measure how much content they are producing in a given period of time. For stats like these on a blog specifically, you can try a WordPress plugin such as WordStats.

Content Backlog. You can also compare one metric against the other. For example, to get a sense of whether you are backlogged in producing content, you can compute the Average Number of Days between Posts (a production metric) divided by the Average Days Since Last Visit (a retention metric).

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 10.46.04 AM

If this number is greater than one, you are producing content quicker than your average visitor is able to consume it. If the number is less than one, then that means your visitors are hungry for more content and you are not producing enough content often enough. If you are at approximately 1, then you are producing content at the right velocity.

Untitled9RYAN SKINNER
Account Director, Velocity Partners @rskin11

“Of one thing you can be certain in content marketing: Your first efforts will almost definitely be your worst. And your current efforts will be eclipsed by later efforts. Everyone improves. What sets great programs apart from mediocre ones: the rate of improvement.” (www.velocitypartners.co.uk/our-blog/content-marketing-measurement-one-metric/)

Cost Metrics

Like production metrics, cost metrics track production efficiency, but they look exclusively at the financial costs of content marketing, or the “I” — investment in ROI. Here are a few good places to start:

Production Costs per Post. If you are using freelancers to write content, it should be easy to track the cost per post based on their invoices. It gets harder to account for this if you are tracking full time internal resources.

Distribution Costs per Post. Many people assume that content distribution is free — but with more and more content online, distributing it is getting expensive, sometimes even more expensive than the cost of producing the content in the first place. Here are some distribution costs to consider:

  • Social Media Promotion. Time and equivalent pay spent on promoting your content.
  • Influencer Marketing. After you have created your content, you may be outreaching to influencers to notice your post. All of this has a cost that can be accounted for.
  • Native Advertising. If you are using native advertising networks like Outbrain or Taboola, these costs should be factored in as well.

ROI Metrics

Last up are my favorite class of metrics: the holy grail — ROI metrics. These combine different classes of the aforementioned metrics. The range of variations is broad, but here are a few that you may want to consider.

Return on Investment. For each piece of content x in Campaign C, take the $ amount of Revenue generated (a sales metric) by Content x and divide it by the ($ Production Cost for x + $ Distribution Cost for x) (a production metric). If the ratio is greater than 1, then your content was profitable from a sales perspective. You can similarly compute this for a single piece of content, or all your content marketing.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 11.05.23 AM

Alternatively, C can represent all content produced by a particular writer and the calculation will give you the ROI for that individual content contributor. If his or her ratio is less than 1, you may not want to have them on your team. Take that with a grain of salt though, since there are a lot of other variables that influence revenue.

Untitled10JIM LENSKOLD
President, Lenskold Group @jimlenskold
“Average Value per Customer. The power of content marketing goes far beyond generating leads. It is critical to measure the increase in the Average Value per Customer to reflect content marketing’s effectiveness in educating buyers and differentiating the brand in order to increase purchase volume and earn long-term loyalty. This additional profit margin generated helps to justify the ROI of higher-cost content that truly improves the quality of the lead and the customer relationship.”

Pipeline Influence per Word per Writer. For all content produced by a given writer denoted as W, sum over the total pipeline influence for each piece of content x divided by the word count of x. Now you get a metric in the units of pipeline dollars per word. Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 11.08.59 AM

This is useful because some content writing services charge by the word. If you find that their pipeline influence is less than their cost per word, it may be time to try another service provider.

Untitled12CYRUS SHEPARD
Content Astronaut, Moz @CyrusShepard
“Because it’s hard to choose a single measurement of content performance, we actually invented a score called 1Metric which combines several different factors into a single number. You can configure it different ways, but our 1Metric combines traffic, social shares and link data into an algorithmic score between 1-100. By focusing on a single number, we eliminate outliers and gain a much more clear picture of our content success metrics. We’re testing this internally and may release a public version soon. Here’s a screenshot:

Where to Go From Here

Set up a “dream dashboard” that includes all the metrics you hope to eventually measure and start by implementing the ones at the top of the funnel (retention, engagement) and work down. Once all metrics are consistently measured, you can create the following changes to content marketing operations:

  • Incentivize your team. Your content marketing team, right down to individual writers, can be held accountable for achieving not only a certain level of content output, but also a certain level of content performance.
  • Diagnose & Troubleshoot. Content marketing metrics let you effectively diagnose when things don’t go as planned. For example, if you your data tells you that content is effective at the top of the funnel, but isn’t producing high quality opportunities at the bottom of the funnel, this may indicate that you need better calls-to-action.
  • Create alignment between divisions. If there is a singular focus on one ROI-based content marketing metric — particularly if team members are compensated on it — walls between different functions will suddenly come down and teams will find new and more effective

For further instructions and a deeper dive into my framework, download the full eBook: The Comprehensive Guide to Content Marketing Metrics & Analytics below.

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