You can’t measure success until you’ve defined it. Content development is directly linked to the goals in your marketing strategy. But how do you know if you’re meeting those goals? Say your goal is to increase traffic to your site. At what point can you say you’ve achieved that goal?

Defining Success

The answer is that every goal should be contextualized to include measurable milestones so that you can clearly see whether or not you’ve been successful. If your basic ambition is to increase traffic to your site, work into that goal one or more milestones that establish a timetable and measurable benchmarks. Articulate your goals so that they are clearly established and make them as specific as possible. So, a goal of “increase traffic to our site” could be better stated: “Show a 50 percent increase in traffic to our ‘Contact Us’ page in six months.” This restated goal specifies what area of your site you’ll focus on, it gives a firm, measurable definition of what level of increase you’re looking to achieve, and it establishes a date at which you will be able to determine the success.

Content Marketing Measurement

Measure Progress

Using web analytics, you can measure the return on your objectives. What are web analytics? According to the Web Analytics Association, web analytics are defined as “the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of Internet data for the purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage.” By using web analytics, you can get detailed metrics behind user activity on your site and other pages.

On-site analytics measure user activity as they engage your website. They track users’ paths through your content, revealing what is important to their experiences and identifying areas where you could bring forward the content you want to emphasize. Using tools such as Google Analytics, you can get huge amounts of metrics back on the activity on your site. You can identify which keyword searches are leading to visits per page and, ultimately, conversion. Using these tools to develop your onsite analytics, you’ll be better equipped to make milestones for future content because you’ll know exactly what you can measure.

By developing web forms on your site, you can drive the analytics with precision to gather metrics on user behavior. By tracking user interactions with forms, you can identify who’s using your content, what kind of people are converting, what they want from your products and services, and a host of other possibilities.

Establishing a Baseline

By establishing a web analytics program for your business, you can determine if you are meeting your goals, what content works, and what needs improvement. Measurement always begins with establishing a baseline benchmark from your current analytics. Establishing a baseline is generally not difficult, especially if you’ve been monitoring the analytic data already. From the baseline, establish a goal and a timeline for achieving the goal. Generate your content and run the analytics according to your timetable.

Here are some examples of objectives and some practical analytics you can run to measure success:

  • Let’s imagine a company will be launching a new blog and they want to get the word out and drive traffic there. In this case, because it’s new, the baseline is zero traffic. After a set period of time, say six months, they can check back to see how their promotion efforts have been working. From web analytics, you have hard data on the number of visitors and the number of subscribers to the blog.
  • For web copy, you can use Google Analytics to check bounce rate on the traffic for that content page to see how visitors are behaving. Are they staying and engaging, continuing through your site, or are they bouncing? Are they converting by purchasing, or filling out your web form? The answer will shape future web copy and help you improve it to meet your goals.
  • If your goal is to increase branding, an excellent measuring tool would be share of voice. Use tools like, and to get baseline metrics on how your product or brand name is getting mentioned around the web. They will give you a rating, the sentiment, and the number of mentions, which you can compare against your competitors’. Essentially, this will show you if the majority of people are talking about you or your competitor. After you’ve established a content plan to address your branding, set a goal period — this time, maybe a year. At the end of the period, run the share-of-voice report and check how your brand is trending. If you see your share of voice increase, or your positive mentions go up, then you’re seeing good results that you can then start to attribute to your content efforts.
  • An excellent way to benchmark success for a content page is by measuring how many quality backlinks it is getting. There are a number of tools available for measuring backlinks. One such tool is Open Site Explorer from SEOMoz. Just enter the URL for the content page and see how many backlinks you have. Track these metrics over a specified time to see if the number goes up.

Web analytics will give you a vision for future content development. All content you develop should work toward a measurable goal. By using analytics to both establish your goal and measure your efforts, you can be smart about each new effort, which will actually free you up to follow bold, creative ideas with confidence.

Take What You Have Learned and Adapt

But it’s not about trial and error. It’s about trial and testing. It’s not exactly science, but you shouldn’t have to take a shotgun approach, either. It’s far more efficient to take rifle shots. In other words, you can generate targeted content that has been informed by experience and research. Through measurement, you can hone in on the kinds of content that have historically worked for you and for your competitors. You have the ability to use analytics to adapt your content toward what is likely to work and not waste time producing content that doesn’t have a chance at success.

Who has a great example of making tweaks to your content based on your analytics that really improved your results?

Note: the above is excerpted from my book Accelerate! Grow Your Business Through the Convergence of Search, Social & Content Marketing. It is a 250 page, step-by-step guide that any organization can follow to kick their content marketing strategy into high gear.