The rest of the company has one question and only one question for the marketing department: “What are you doing to help our bottom line?” Answering that question used to be easier for the department. The marketers could say, “We created this magazine and newspaper ad campaign. Our sales were here before the campaign; our sales are here now.” Even though back in the simple days of outbound marketing, answering the “what are you doing for the bottom line” question did certainly involve some guesswork and hypothesizing, nonetheless there were a limited number of marketing channels and it was relatively easy to determine if a particular marketing campaign worked or didn’t work. Sales either went up after an ad campaign or they didn’t, end of story.

Today, marketing is an increasingly complex art with a nearly infinite number of marketing channels. Now that the savvy marketing department’s emphasis has shifted from simple outbound ad campaigns to the much more complicated process of inbound content marketing, being able to clearly measure and define a given piece of content’s beneficial results is a much more dizzying task. It’s dizzying, but it’s not impossible. Let’s break down, in a systematic way, how content marketers can and should measure the effectiveness of their inbound marketing efforts.

The Most Profitable Route Between Two Points Isn’t Always a Straight Line

Marketers and non-marketers alike both understand that business is all about the sales funnel. Most people in the company, however, will be principally focused on making that last pinch point in the funnel — the sale — wider and wider.

Marketers, especially content marketers, have to start with a different paradigm. While of course marketers should also care about how many prospects make it all the way through the sales funnel and end up purchasing a product or a service, the goal of any given piece of content is not necessarily a new sale or a new lead. The goal of any given piece of content is to move the prospect from point A to point B somewhere within the sales funnel, but the “point A” and the “point B” will be different for different pieces of content. Therefore, content marketers shouldn’t be asking the question, “How does this piece of content move the prospect to the sale?” but “How does this piece of content move the prospect further down the funnel?”

Takeaway point: If you make the goal of every piece of content a new sale or a new lead, you will frustrate both yourself as a marketer and the rest of your company. Instead, re-frame how you think about content in order to start creating content that will move prospects one step at a time towards the finish line.

Once You Ask the Right Questions, You Can Better Measure Your Content’s Effectiveness

Following from the point above, it’s important to understand that each piece of content should fit into a point on the sales funnel and move the future customer to the next point. When you determine where the content fits within the sales funnel, you’ll have a more specific way of measuring its effectiveness.

For example, you might create a video whose marketing goal is brand awareness. In this case, you would measure the effectiveness of the video not by how many people come to your website and click “Buy Now” but how many people view the video and share it with their friends. By contrast, an email that does focus on a “Buy Now” call to action shouldn’t be judged successful by a high number of email opens but with a high number of purchases stemming from the email.

Takeaway point: Identify the steps of your sales funnel. Once you’ve done that, create different types of content designed to move prospects through each step of that funnel. Measure the effectiveness of individual content not against overall sales but against metrics specific to the step you want your prospects to reach through that particular piece of content.

Where to Start with Measuring the Efficacy of Content

The holy grail in content marketing, regardless of where a piece of content falls within the funnel, is always going to be virality. You always want to be looking at the number of shares, likes, +1s, and views that a given piece of content generates. To measure virality, you want to know two main things:

  1. How many people are consuming the content?
  2. How many people are sharing or talking about the content?

Measure the first point with numbers of views, page opens, downloads, etc. These numbers can easily be recorded with tools like Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and your YouTube channel’s statistics.

Measure the second point by recording the number of shares, likes, +1s, and comments the content is getting. Instead of trying to count the content’s reach by hand, use tools and services like Levisto to watch its spread and to keep an ear to the ground with Mention for social chatter about your brand, product, or service.

Your best content will score high on both of these points. While a lot of people consuming the content might mean you’ve done a good job pushing the content out there, it’s only the very best content that leads to a high number of shares and social chatter. Low shares and social chatter mean that you need to work harder at making your content compelling.

Takeaway point: No matter where a piece of content falls within the sales funnel, how many times it’s been consumed and shared are always going to be key measurements of whether or not it’s doing its job.

Record Data and Tweak Your Tactics

You can only respond to content marketing measurements effectively when you record data over a long period of time, compare content pieces that have similar goals, and then tweak your tactics accordingly.

For example, if you create an ebook you’re giving away for free as a lead generation tool, you can only judge how effective that ebook really is when you record how many new emails you get from its squeeze page over a period of time and then compare those numbers to how well other lead generation content you’ve created is doing. You might think the ebook is the best, most value-oriented piece of content your marketing department has ever created, until you look at the actual numbers and realize that the ebook is creating new leads at a rate of 5 percent, whereas a blog post with a “join our email list” call to action embedded within it is generating new leads at a rate of 8 percent. Your conclusion? Either figure out what went wrong with your ebook or else make a decision to invest more time writing great blog posts and less time on ebooks.

Try not to compare apples with oranges. The best way to measure the effectiveness of one blog post designed to create brand awareness, for example, is to measure it against another blog post designed to create brand awareness.

Takeaway point: Content marketers must be nimble and be prepared to adjust their content strategies and tactics according to the feedback that their data is giving them. To respond effectively, however, requires recording data and comparing different pieces of content that share the same marketing goals over the long-term.


To make your content marketing more effective, more repeatable, and more measurable, follow these three steps:

  1. Recognize that in content marketing, different pieces of content will have different marketing goals. Don’t apply the “Did this increase sales?” goal to every piece of content; instead, ask specific questions about what the content is trying to achieve and measure it accordingly.
  2. Start measuring your success by using analytics services and tools to answer to the most basic questions about your content: How many people are seeing it and how much do they like it?
  3. To really get a clear picture of the results of your content marketing efforts, it’s important that you track data over a long period of time, that you only compare content against other pieces of content that have similar goals, and that you adjust your content marketing strategies and tactics according to what your data is telling you.

By diligently following these three steps, marketing departments will be able to answer the rest of the companies questions succinctly and confidently, regardless of how many marketing channels they’re using as part of their inbound content marketing strategy.

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