Content Marketing Metrics: How to test your content analytics

1st April 2021

Any team would benefit from implementing a strong content marketing metrics model to increase the governance over their content output and optimise its performance over time.

This data-driven approach to content production allows marketing teams to demonstrate the impact of their content on the business results. 

Why measure your content effectiveness?

Digital marketers can use content marketing metrics and KPIs not only to justify content creation, but to optimise, improve and, in certain cases, remove specific content assets. 

Demonstrating the ROI of content can certainly help content teams to prove out their value to business stakeholders.

Both are completely different business needs which would require different metrics and processes in place to ensure not only that the correct metrics are being monitored, but also that the insights gathered from these metrics are being acted upon.

Besides business needs, you also need to account for user needs. What are your users trying to do on your website or app? Finding this out can be tricky. Analytics can give you hints of what they do or don’t do with your content, but if you can, organize some user interviews to understand their needs more comprehensively. You may find, for example, whether your users need social proof in the form of client logos, testimonials or reviews, or a clear plan comparison to better understand your pricing.

Should you use quantitative or qualitative metrics?

It’s tempting to fall into the trap of focusing only on quantitative metrics to evaluate your content. These kinds of metrics are usually easier to obtain. They look good on a dashboard, and you can monitor trends and compare periods to ensure you’re moving in the right direction. Most metrics you’ll use will be quantitative metrics.

But you should also use qualitative metrics in your dashboards and reports to evaluate other KPIs which are not easily measured by quantitative metrics. For example, how consistent is the content you’re producing? Are you using a limited vocabulary to define the terms relevant to your market, or is every writer using their own conventions?

You can use a qualitative content marketing metrics to determine how well the content aligns with the voice and tone or the style guide of your brand, or to get more specific insights on the relevancy of your content or how well the content is empowering users to complete their tasks on your site.

A qualitative analysis will help you as well to detect gaps in your content when placing your content in a customer journey map. Categorise your content by the stage of the customer journey they cover, so you can plan your content creation to cover the existing gaps or to reinforce certain stages to support business needs.

Content Marketing: Testing and optimisation framework

To evaluate your content, it is useful to design a framework you can apply consistently to your content assets. We propose to follow these stages in order to develop a solid content marketing metrics process:

  • Define your content objectives. It can be a business goal or user need. Most likely user needs are related to a business goal, but it’s useful to differentiate between the two for perspective. 
  • Choose the KPIs for each goal. Identify the relevant KPIs that will allow you to track your success against your content objectives. 
  • Identify what kind of data you’d need to measure your KPIs. One common issue to analytic frameworks is falling into the temptation of gathering all possible data sources available, without looking first which one would be relevant or useful to answer the kind of questions we want to monitor. Gathering only the relevant data to those KPIs will allow you to simplify your work and deliver accurate analysis in less time. 
  • Prepare, clean and visualise the data. Data by itself tell us little. If you know that in April 40 people downloaded an ebook from your site, is that a good number? You need context for that. Compare the results to other ebooks, downloads over time, downloads per traffic source or correlate downloads per email address (Gmail or other free email providers vs corporate address) to estimate lead quality. There are a few ways you can combine and compare data to analyse and refine the data to get at the bottom of what you need to answer. 
  • Extract insights, not numbers. A common mistake in analysis and reports is to just leave the data as-is. A proper dashboard needs to include more than just nice graphics and data tables. It needs explanations and insights. Why is this metric lower this month? What changed? What can we learn? Besides providing answers to these questions that will arise in the data, there are two key elements that will make your report stand out: actions and business impact. Propose actions you can implement to fix or reinforce a trend and state the possible business impacts of those actions. When presenting this to managers and executives they will see you as proactive and will be able to better understand and prioritise actions based on the overall business strategy.

So, to summarize: Identify your goals, set up KPIs for each goal, gather and analyze the data related to each KPI, and finally, extract insights from the data, with recommended actions and probable impact of those actions.

Be aware that different pieces of content will perform better or worse against certain goals depending on the stage they are in the customer journey. If you evaluate your content solely against conversion metrics you’ll see that your educational content underperforms a targeted landing page. Assigning the right goals to different pieces of content is critical to properly optimise your content assets.

Content Success: What to measure for acquisition, engagement and conversion

We’re going to look at the most common content marketing metrics you will use to measure the effectiveness of your website content. Of course, the metric is dependent on the goal you’ve defined for your analysis. But most business needs will fall into three categories: traffic acquisition, user engagement and conversions. To track these, you’ll need a web analytics tool like Google Analytics or Fathom. Other scenarios like app usage require different metrics and other analytics tools.

Content marketing metrics for measuring traffic acquisition

Using content marketing metrics for acquisition marketing is a good way of measuring data.

Why are you creating content if not for people to read, watch, hear it? Traffic acquisition is one of the key reasons you create content. High-quality, targeted content increases the discoverability of your site by the right people. If you have set up goals and KPIs that are related to traffic acquisition here are some metrics you could use to measure your success:

Unique visitors
This metric measures the number of people who access your content in a given time period. It’s great to monitor your audience size. 

New and returning users
Your analytics tool can tell you which of your visitors is new, and which has visited your site before. Having the right balance is key. You want to capture a new audience for your site, but if they’re not coming back for more, it may mean your content is not engaging enough.

Traffic sources
This metric is very useful to understand where your users are coming from. You can see if your SEO efforts are paying off, or measure the effectiveness of your Adwords or email campaigns. But you’d want to combine this information with engagement and conversion metrics to see not just where your users are coming from, but where your top users are coming from. That difference can have a great effect on your business if you optimise for traffic quality instead of traffic volume.

Organic traffic and keyword rankings
Search engines should be one of your key traffic channels. Increasing the discoverability of your content on key stages where users are looking for it will result in higher engagement from quality traffic, as long as your content matches their search intent. You can monitor the amount of traffic you get from search engines on your web analytics tool. For keyword rankings, you can use Google Search Console, as well as other, more advanced tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs.

Content marketing metrics for measuring user engagement

A user engaging with social media marketing and content.

You’d do well to look beyond how many people access your content, to see how your audience is consuming it and interacting with it. To evaluate engagement, you’ll have to get a complete picture and gather engagement on your content distribution channels as well, like email or social media.

Page views and pages per session
With page views, you’ll measure the number of times a content asset has been accessed. A single visitor may browse the same page several times. In contrast, the metric pages per session looks at how many pages on average your visitors are browsing. 

Time on page
This metric is closely related to pages per session, as it measures how much time people spend on your site on average. Long-form content will require users to spend more time on each page. Same with longer browsing sessions with multiple pages per session. 

Bounce rate
When people leave your site without browsing more pages beyond the one they used to reach your site, they bounce. Some pages will naturally have a high bounce rate. Transactional landing pages, for example, restrict navigational links to focus on the call to action. In this case, a high bounce rate could be a good sign.

Likes, shares, comments, republications
The number of interactions on the content you publish in social media will help you gauge the interest of your content. The higher the friction, the more valuable is the interaction. Likes are an easy, low-cost action that delivers low interaction value as well. Comments require more effort, so the value is higher. And shares and republications mean the user found the content so helpful or interesting they decided to make it theirs by sharing it with their audience. This interaction has the most friction, as users are staking their social value on your content, which makes it more valuable. This interaction also allows you to reach beyond your own audience in social media.

If you’re interested, you can read more about the key Twitter and Instagram metrics.

Open and click-through rate
You can monitor the open and click-through rate of your newsletters and email campaigns to get an approximate measure of how engaging your content is. These metrics will naturally go down with time, as your email list grows. To get a realistic and more accurate view of your email performance, make sure to periodically clean your email lists, removing all the people who won’t engage with your content.

Content marketing metrics for measuring conversions

It can be hard to measure content marketing metrics for conversion but it is possible.

Most business goals will require you to measure conversions, in one form or other. From purchases to ebook downloads, a conversion is a key measure of success. Not all content can be measured strictly in terms of conversions, but if you have the tools and processes in play, you can evaluate the role of your content to nurture leads and move them forward in their customer journey towards conversion.

New leads and conversion rate
The total number of purchases or leads you capture in a time period is a key business metric to prove your business value to other teams beyond marketing. You can compare that number over time to show trends and attribute leads to specific content or content campaigns. The conversion rate measures the percentage of unique visitors that convert. A successful performance-driven optimisation strategy would focus on increasing the number of visitors while prioritising the traffic channels that have a better conversion rate.

Cost per acquisition and ROI
Besides looking at the number of leads, it’s important to measure the cost of your content marketing efforts and calculate the return on investment of the leads you generate with your content. For long sales cycles or if you can’t assign a concrete value to a conversion you can use an average purchase value to estimate ROI.

Leads touched
When you develop your content analytics framework you can assign some of that value to the content your leads consumed in their nurturing process. With an attribution model in place, you can divide the value of the leads you generate between the content pieces a lead consumed before making a purchase decision or filling out a form. You can divide that value evenly, assign more value to the more recent touchpoints, or use any other attribution model, depending on your preferences and your business. This metric will allow you to detect content that underperforms in its contribution to your sales funnel.

What to do with content that fails to meet its goals?

You can always extract more value from high-performing content. But what can you do about the content that won’t meet your goals? Underperforming content can actually hurt your brand and affect the performance of your other content. Pruning or optimising your existing content is at least as important as developing new content assets.

To decide whether to remove or optimise a content asset you need to evaluate several aspects. First, you need to verify that this content answers a user’s need. If it’s not related to a customer pain point or a user need, then it’s probable that this content is not needed and can be removed safely. Removing all the redundant, outdated or trivial (ROT) content can actually have a positive impact. For example, search engines like Google would be able to better understand the focus and expertise of your website and assign you more authority on key topics.

If the content actually answers a customer pain point or need then you can check whether it’s being cannibalized by other existing content. If that’s the case, you could merge both content assets, redirecting the appropriate links, to have a stronger chance to a high ranking in search engines. 

If you don’t have any competing content, then it needs to be optimised or built from scratch to properly serve your audience. Depending on the content asset, you can try to switch to another perspective, modify the title and description to increase visibility on search engines or optimise the CTAs. In any case, it’s important to perform A/B testing if you have the audience volume to support it, and only test one thing at a time, to properly identify what’s improving your content.

A data-driven approach to content marketing

Measuring your content effectiveness by defining business goals and user needs, and stating KPIs to measure your success in answering those goals and needs, will help you raise your content effectiveness. You’ll develop a data-driven approach to evaluating content success which will allow you to properly prune and optimise your misses and repurpose your hits. Demonstrating the business impact of your content to stakeholders is also a key tool in order to secure and expand budget and resources.

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