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Content marketing metrics: what to count, how to count it

Over the past few columns, we’ve looked at content marketing basics, knowing your audience and ways to generate great content, among other things. We’ll come back to those issues in the future, but before we dig deeper into succeeding with a content marketing plan, we need to decide what success looks like. The most reliable way to do that is to define and track metrics over time. You’ll not only get a great picture of whether you’re succeeding, but knowing what works and what doesn’t will help you do more of the former and less of the latter.

Numbers
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First, let’s discuss what metrics we’re talking about. At the simplest levels, we’re talking about things like:

  • Page views, unique visitors, pages per visit, length of visit for websites
  • Followers/friends/fans and sharing for social media
  • Subscribers and click-throughs for email

But to succeed–particularly if you need to defend a content marketing budget to C-level executives–there’s more to measure. The metrics listed above are proxies, really. They may not have cost much to create, but did they return more than they cost?

That’s why it’s important that business metrics be a part of your success equation, as well. And that means sales. Or subscribers. Or generating qualified leads.

Here’s a really great quote from Jay Baer (@JayBaer) in the most recent issue of Chief Content Officer magazine.

There are four types of content marketing metrics: consumption, sharing, leads, and sales. Most marketers overvalue the first two (blog page views and retweets, for example) and undervalue the last two (email subscriptions from people who first read the blog and, ultimately, sales from among that group). If you focus your metrics on behavior, rather than on data aggregation, you’ll be measuring points of greater business value.

Don’t discount the importance of tracking how your consumption and sharing are changing over time, but have in mind that those measures are most relevant in relation to how they affect your business goals: this month’s email newsletter clickthrough rate was double our norm. Did sales double that week?

You’re probably one step ahead of me already, asking the question, “But how do I know if my sales increase can be attributed to my content marketing?” That can be a tough question for many of us.

It’s easy if your latest email newsletter or social media post has a link to a landing page with a “Buy Now” button on it. But for most marketers. you have to be careful in attributing conversions to your various marketing efforts even if you’re doing things like segmenting leads via gated content links on your website.

The classic example: someone clicks through to a landing page but isn’t ready to buy. A month later, when they are, they don’t have the URL of the landing page handy, but they remember your company name. A quick Google search lands them on your home page, and from there they initiate their purchase.

Cases like this make it important to view your metrics in relation to one another and not always individually–content marketing vs. direct mail vs. outbound telephone sales. Yes, you want to evaluate which is most effective, but you also want to leave room for the bleed between efforts that will always occur.

The most important take-away? Knowing how to interpret the data is as important as the data itself.

 

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Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured? A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms find a more strategic and productive mix of tools that genuinely support online brand goals over time. With a passion for true collaboration and meaningful consensus, his work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components. He views is primary goal as encouraging engagement. Getting an audience involved in your story requires solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either. Andrew has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events, on content marketing and web-development topics. His technology writing appears on the Andigo blog, in a monthly column on Biznology.com, and for print and online publications like The New York Enterprise Report, Social Media Today, and GSG Worldwide’s publications LinkedIn & Business, Facebook & Business, and Tweeting & Business. Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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