Are you using the right metrics to measure the success of your content marketing? Columnist Khalid Saleh outlines what you should be focusing on to understand the ROI of your campaign.over the years
There’s an old maxim in management science: “If you can measure it, you can improve it.”
This applies to content marketing, as well. Without measuring the performance of your content, you can’t really tell whether your marketing efforts are actually successful or not.
To fully measure the success of your content marketing, you need metrics that help you track conversions and long-term ROI (return on investment) of your content.
In this post, I’ll show you exactly what metrics you need to track at what stage of a marketing campaign.
A simple framework for measuring content success
One of the first things you should understand about content marketing metrics is that not all metrics are equally useful in every stage of your content life cycle.
For example, when you’re starting out a brand-new campaign, you don’t really have the traffic numbers to track ROI or test for click-through rates. At this stage, you’ll see far better results by focusing on traffic generation, rather than measuring engagement or conversion rates.
The right thing to do is to break down each campaign into separate phases and track different metrics for each phase. This way, you’ll end up with three distinct phases:
Phase 1: Traffic generation
Phase 2: Engagement
Phase 3: Conversion
Let’s take a look at each of these phases in more detail.
Phase 1: Measuring traffic
When you’re starting a new content marketing campaign, your traffic is likely very limited. At this stage, you should focus on getting as much traffic to your site as possible. Once you’ve got people coming to your site, you can start tracking their engagement and conversion rates.
The most important metrics in this stage are:
This is arguably the most important number in this stage — the number of (unique) visitors coming to your site. This tells you exactly whether your marketing efforts are working (or not). Obviously, the higher this number, the better.
This metric tells you how many total pages people visit on your site. While important (particularly for media companies), it can be misleading — site design, traffic source, and even your industry have a big effect on page views. Measure it, but don’t make big decisions based on this number. (Focus on unique visitors instead.)
Good SEO (search engine optimization) is the byproduct of any successful content marketing campaign, and to get good SEO, you need plenty of backlinks. Tracking the number of websites linking to your site gives you a good measure of your content distribution efforts. In most cases, the higher this number, the better your search engine rankings.
Source of traffic
Measure from what source your users are coming to your website. Is it just search? Could they also be visiting from a referral source or maybe one of your social media platforms?
Once you have figured out your top sources, promote your content accordingly.
For example, if you are getting most the traffic from Twitter, that means your followers are getting engaged with your content. Your next step should be to post content more in lines with attracting Twitter users only.
This first phase usually lasts one to three months, or until you’ve built up a library of content and attracted some traffic.
Phase 2: Measuring engagement
Once you have some good traffic, it’s time to engage with your users regularly and turn them into “readers,” not just visitors.
For this, you need to track engagement metrics, such as:
Bounce rate is defined as “the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page.”
If this bounce rate percentage is going down, your readers are engaging more with your content. Don’t expect the bounce rate to decrease overnight. It is a slow process of analyzing and distributing the right content for more engagement.
What is an acceptable bounce rate, you may ask?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to it. Bounce rate varies by industry and content type. Generally speaking, a bounce rate in the range of 26 to 40 percent is excellent for content-focused sites, while anything between 41 and 55 percent is roughly average.
New vs. returning visitors
This metric is self-explanatory. It tracks the number of people coming back to your site vs. fresh visitors.
People coming back to your site is a good thing. It shows that your content is engaging and useful.
Time spent on website
This is a measure of how much time users are spending on your website. If they’re spending a lot of time, it usually means that you have content they like.
You could also dig in deeper and find out on what pages users are spending the most time on. If your users are spending a lot of time on any specific page type, it would be a good idea to make more such content.
Shares by content type
Monitor what type of content your users are sharing from your website. It could be infographics, images, gifs, long posts or short posts.
People only share content willingly when they really like it. Keep track of what type is getting the most shares and publish more content of that kind.
Number of comments
A comment represents a much bigger commitment than a share or a “like.” People comment on articles only if they’ve been moved considerably by the content or find it particularly useful.
Measuring the number of incoming comments is a great way to track your content engagement. Plus, by inviting users to share their stories or ideas, you open up a public discussion. This is crucial if you want to build a community.
Phase 2 could last for three to six months in your content marketing campaign.
Phase 3: Measuring conversions
Now that you have returning readers who love your content, it’s time to turn them into leads and customers.
Your focus in this phase should be to measure the efficiency of your content in turning the readers into leads. Here are the metrics that will help:
When users fill out your opt-in form, it is a clear indication they want to stay updated with your content. That is a solid lead for you that could potentially convert into a paying customer in the future.
Monitor the rate at which you are getting leads from your opt-in forms. Ask yourself which content most opt-ins are coming from. Compare the ratio of engaged users to the opt-in users.
If you are generating relevant traffic and have high engagement with users, your opt-in rates could be close to 30 percent.
Click-through rate is defined as “the proportion of visitors to a web page who follow a hypertext link to a particular site.”
These hypertext links could be any call to action that you want your users to click on.
For example, if you have an article on “content marketing secrets” with a lead magnet at the bottom, you need to measure the click-through rate to the lead magnet download page.
Number of leads
This is a simple metric tracking the total number of incoming leads from inbound sources.
Of course, simply getting leads is not enough; you also need to measure their quality. And need to weed out leads from bots. Use a tool like LeadiD to automatically discard bot-filled leads.
This is arguably the most important metric, and also the hardest to measure.
ROI is easy to understand. It’s the total revenue generated through content marketing vs. total investment in content creation and distribution.
To do this, you need to have two things:
The LTV (Lifetime Value) of each customer
A way to track your customer’s journey.
If you already have a CRM (customer relationship management system), you should be able to track your customer journey. This will help you figure out what content helped you make the final sale. Knowing your customer LTV, on the other hand, will help you calculate the actual returns from each sale.
Measuring the success of your content marketing is crucial if your goal is to get more traffic and make more sales. At the same time, it is important to measure the right metrics at the right stage.
Focus on tracking traffic when you’re just starting out a new campaign. Once you’ve got the visitor numbers up, starting tracking your content engagement rate.
Finally, once you’ve got readers engaging with your content regularly, you can focus on tracking conversion rates and figuring out the ROI of your campaign.