Key Metrics to Watch to Help You Determine Content’s Effectiveness
Content marketing works… assuming you’ve done your homework and continuously assess your results. And therein lies the challenge. Content creation is an ordeal in and of itself, to be sure, but it’s still just one aspect of your overall content strategy. Measuring your effectiveness, successes, limitations, and even failings is an absolute must, but is nonetheless challenging The good news is that measuring your effectiveness, as tough as it might be, feeds your ongoing strategy. Determining the success of a content marketing strategy can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. In a vein similar to SEO analysis, reviewing your content strategy’s effectiveness requires careful attention, testing, and incremental refinement. You’re also going to have step outside your comfort zone. Are you ready? Let’s begin!
Content Strategy 101
Let’s recap for a moment. Successful content strategies use data to inform content ideation and creation with the intent to generate leads, conversions, or sales. When that strategy is properly implemented, your valuable, informative content attracts visitors to your site, engaging them while promoting and building brand authority. Remember the 80-20 rule: 80 percent of your content should be informative, and 20 should promote your brand. That breakdown gives you a general idea of how users engage with search engines. In fact, we want you to rethink one assumption you’ve made about Google, Bing, and all other engines. Search engines aren’t just delivering results, they’re bringing users highly valuable information that meets their needs and answers their queries. As a result, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that diving into analytics can help get you the answers you’re looking for about your content’s performance.
What to Measure, How to Do it, and Why
Analytics allows you to measure your content strategy’s success by identifying what’s working and what isn’t. Of course, this means defining what “working” and “not working” mean for your situation. We’ve discussed the importance of SMART goals before – you need to set benchmarks that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Basically, your goals have to be, well, goals and not long-term blue-sky thinking. For example, say you run a guitar shop, and you’re not seeing a ton of traffic to your guide on replacing broken strings, despite all the effort you’ve put into creating a compelling, engaging, and fun piece of content. Your goal might be to rank this page in the top ten results on Google Search within three months. Sub-goals might include increasing conversions by 5 percent from in-content CTAs and reaching over 2,000 users via social media. These are just a few metrics you can track! Really, depending on what you want to accomplish, you can track any number of factors, including (but not limited to):
- Lead quality
- Web traffic
- Onsite engagement
- Social media engagement
- SEO success
Let’s take a closer look at these metrics, why they’re worth measuring, and how to gather data.
Basic Metrics – AKA Consumption Metrics
Consumption metrics measure content effectiveness by showing how many people have viewed or accessed your content. Typically, at SEO TWIST, we like to use Google Analytics, though we also employ a variety of other tools to drill deep on content, search intent, and traffic. You can use this data to optimize your content strategy and target different audiences. Below, we’ve assembled some key engagement metrics, along with tips on how you can measure them with the tools at your disposal:
- Users: The total number of unique users who have visited a specific page on your website.
- Bounce Rate: The number of visitors who left your website after viewing one page. A high bounce rate is a sign that your website isn’t user-friendly, and your content isn’t compelling users to stick around and browse more pages.
- Pageviews: The total number of times a specific page on your website is viewed.
- Unique Pageviews: The combination of pageviews made by the same user during the same session. This provides insight into the total number of sessions specific pages were viewed.
- Demographics: Demographics provide insight into your visitors’ ages, genders, and interests. This helps you see if your content is reaching your target audience.
- Location: The geographic location of users visiting pages. This can help you create content that engages audiences from specific locations.
- Source/Medium: The channels that directed visitors to your pages. This can help you create content to complement these channels or determine if those channels are worth pursuing.
- Mobile: The number of users who visit your pages using their mobile devices. This provides insight into the type of content you create (i.e. long-form vs infographics, videos, or other short and easy-to-digest, mobile-friendly formats).
These metrics allow you to directly compare performance. Alternatively, using a tool like SEMrush can provide simple, straightforward segmenting via subdomains (such as /blog/ posts and so on).
Using your Email Service Provider, you can measure the effectiveness of your e-mail strategy, including:
- Open Rates: How many users opened the e-mail. To boost open rates, test the effectiveness of e-mail headlines using A/B testing; and,
- Clicks: The number of clicks and which links were clicked on in the e-mail message. This will show which posts/links are most attractive to users.
What Is Content Engagement? How Is It Measured?
Content engagement is notoriously difficult to measure. It is, after all, a term used to describe how a user interacts with your content on web pages, social media, and e-mail campaigns. If you’re just getting started with content marketing, though, it might surprise you to learn that Google Analytics tracks a wide variety of user actions, letting you measure and compare easily. (Beyond your site, Google Analytics also offers social media monitoring.) Measuring engagement provides insight into how your audience is interacting with your content and how long they are paying attention to it. Understanding engagement metrics can help you build a relationship with your audience, increasing brand authority and loyalty to your brand. Those who stick around to read an article are more likely to return than those who just read the headline and do a quick scan-through. Let’s take a closer look at our metrics here:
- Average Time on Page: This helps you find the content users are sticking around to read/engage with.
- Pages per Session: The total number of pages an average user visits while browsing your website. This can tell you if your content answered their questions well and compelled them to keep browsing. Quality content that answers user questions and includes a compelling call-to-action on each page will boost user engagement.
- New vs. Returning: The number of new visitors to your website compared to the number of returning visitors. This provides insight into the number of new people engaging with your content and the number of returning visitors who keep coming back for more.
- Referral Traffic: The websites that are sharing and linking to your content, directing traffic to your pages.
- Form Completions: Shows how many users have signed up to receive something from your brand, such as newsletters, personal responses (via “Contact Us” forms), and gated resources (i.e. ebooks). The success of this engagement is also directly correlated with effective and clear calls to action.
- Shares: The number of shares (retweets, repins, etc.) for your content, showing how much reach your content has, and how interesting and relevant your content is for users. This will also influence what content social media platforms choose to share with other users.
- Comments: Since comments take more time for users to create that simply liking a post, comments are an effective measure of audience engagement. When used on social media and on your own website (i.e. with blogs), you can shape the conversation and boost user engagement with your brand.
- Reach/Impressions: Reach is the total number of users who saw a piece of content. Impressions are the number of times your content was seen regardless of whether it was the same users or new users looking at your content. This can give you an understanding of how many people saw your content and how many people engaged with your content.
- Follower Growth: The number of new followers. As in, those who have chosen to be exposed to your content on social media. Always account for your new audience when creating content to share.
- Subscriber Growth: The number of subscribers that have chosen to receive your e-mail content.
- Unsubscribes/Opt-Outs: While you don’t want people to unsubscribe, the number of users who have opted out from your email content provides useful insight into user engagement and reaction to certain e-mail campaigns. Understanding what doesn’t work for you is just as important as what does, after all.
- Forwards: These details capture what content is being shared with a “send to a friend” button and shared links embedded in your emails.
Content Distribution – How Do You Get the Message Out?
A combination of PPC ads and content marketing can be a highly effective means of distributing content to your audiences. PPC ads provide immediate exposure while quality content provides lasting results, boosting organic SEO, user engagement, and brand authority. Of course, these approaches aren’t strictly either/or. Employing both effectively, while sometimes challenging, pays off in the long term.
Is It Worth It?
Is your content strategy paying off? A successful content strategy generates leads that turn into sales. If you earn more revenue than you spend on your content marketing efforts, then it is totally worth it! Measuring content marketing ROI (return on investment) means making a comparison of the amount you spent on content marketing and the amount of revenue your business gained as a result of your content marketing efforts. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to determine whether your content marketing strategy is worth your time and investment. That said, it’s hard to argue against consistent results and a marketing strategy that relies on your existing expertise. Measuring ROI isn’t the hardest task, but it does take a critical eye and attention to detail. If you’re not happy with your content marketing efforts, though, it might be time to get some professional help to get things back on track and working for you.