How to Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals for your Content Marketing This Year

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
– Yogi Berra

Now, I’m a football gal myself, but I can appreciate Yogi’s wisdom, accidental though it may have been.

There’s a reason why we keep coming back to sports as a metaphor: In content marketing as in sports, if we’re going to win, we have to know what our goals are, what it takes to get there … and if we’re not getting there, what we need to do to get back on track.

As I’ve shared before, I absolutely abhor New Year’s resolutions. Not only do they not work; they set us up for failure and make us feel even worse than before we set the danged things. But goals are another matter. A well-crafted goal can energize our teams, help us prioritize our activities, and guide us in making the adjustments we need to win.

Plus, they’re kinda fun.

“Shoot for the moon, and if you miss, you will still be among the stars.” – Les Brown

So, what goes into a good content marketing goal? There’s a reason why we keep seeing the S.M.A.R.T. acronym when it comes to goal setting: because it’s pretty darn, well, smart.

So as you set your content marketing goals for this year, make sure they meet the S.M.A.R.T. criteria:


Say goodbye to wishy-washy goals like “get more exposure” or “grow our audience.” They’re so vague that we have no idea if or when we’ve achieved them.

Think about each component of your content marketing strategy and set specific goals for each. Examples:

  • “Grow our email list by …”
  • “Increase our blog traffic by …”
  • “Increase downloads of our e-book by …”


If you’ve ever run a road race, you probably appreciate those mile markers as much as I do: Mile 1, Mile 2, Mile 3, etc. They let me know precisely how far I’ve come and how far I have to go to get to the finish line.

This attribute ties in very nicely with the first: specific goals must also be measurable. We have to be able to look at that target number on any given day and realize how far we still have to go. If we get through June and realize we’re only 10 percent of the way to an annual goal, it’s time for a serious overhaul … and isn’t it better to know that in June than in December?

By the way, that measurement doesn’t have to be a count: it can also be a percentage or measurement against a benchmark. Examples:

  • “Grow our email list by 50 percent.”
  • “Increase our blog traffic by 10,000 visits per month.”
  • “Reach 5,000 downloads of our e-book.”


Every goal has to be tied to action: specific tasks to put on your to-do list and follow up to make sure they get done.

Every football team has what’s called a “two-minute drill” to be executed if they’re trailing at the two-minute warning: a set of actions designed to get in as many plays as possible while making the most of clock-stopping opportunities to pull off a touchdown — without giving the other team enough time to score. It’s an intricate strategy that orchestrates scores of specific actions, with not an ounce of effort wasted.

As content marketers, we need to be just as strategic.

This is where we address the “how” (action) behind the “what” (your goal). Examples:

  • “Create one new lead-generating content asset each month to grow our email list.”
  • “Review our SEO keyword strategy in January and revise as needed to maximize blog traffic.”
  • “Advertise our e-book on LinkedIn to a targeted audience.”


The “R” in S.M.A.R.T. is what saves us from the caveat to which too many New Year’s resolutionaries fall prey: trying to achieve the unachievable.

Yes, we all need to shoot for the stars. We all need big dreams. But this is not the time for dreaming. When it comes to goals, we need to ensure that they are within our reach — but still require a stretch.

Now, this is where a lot of marketers get that “deer in the headlights” look: How do we know what’s realistic? Go back and look at last year’s numbers. What’s your average monthly blog traffic? Your average growth in your email list? Once you have those measurements, gather your team and discuss how you can stretch yourselves within a realistic range.


So you’ve taken the time to create goals that are specific, measurable, actionable, and realistic … goals that you commit to achieving “one day.”

[cue game-show buzzer] Sorry, hon. Your goals need to have a deadline — a finish line from whence you can look back and see how you did.

“Without a deadline, baby, I wouldn’t do nothing.” – Duke Ellington (tweet this)

I recommend having monthly, quarterly, and annual goals in your plan; some teams go so far as to have weekly goals. The exact time frame doesn’t matter as much as committing to an end date and sticking to it, no takesy-backsies.


  • “Grow our email list by 20 percent by the end of the first quarter.”
  • “Increase our blog traffic by 10,000 visits in February.”
  • “Reach 5,000 downloads of our e-book by year end.”

OK, team, time to break the huddle and hit the playing field: Let’s all commit to setting and achieving goals that meet the S.M.A.R.T. criteria so we can all win big this.

Ready? 1-2-3 SMART!

Your Turn: How do you make sure your goals meet the S.M.A.R.T. criteria?