For too long content marketers have relied on ‘soft’ vanity metrics to prove the efficacy of their efforts. This is particularly the case in consumer marketing, where content marketing campaigns are largely celebrated by how innovative or aesthetically-pleasing they are, rather than whether they have demonstrably ‘moved the needle’.
In the B2B world, content marketing is a much more sober affair. Advances in marketing automation, smaller CRM databases, and fewer content assets have meant that measuring content marketing – at least on the face of it – should be easier. However, this presumption was undermined last year when Contently released the stark statistic that “90% of marketers are not confident in how they are measuring content”. This was reaffirmed by the Content Marketing Institute’s own research that found only 7% of UK marketers rated their ability to gain ROI as “very successful”.
It’s no surprise that this the case: especially in an industry where experts are still struggling to standardise what to measure and how to measure it. Editors, advertisers and marketers, continue to battle over whether it should be editorial metrics, web metrics or social metrics.
The content marketing metrics that matter
Against this backdrop, the best we can do is suggest the metrics that have best served us in our demand generation and content marketing practice:
This refers to how cost-effective your marketing campaigns are when it comes to generating new leads for your sales team. The purpose of this metric is to provide your marketing team with a tangible £ figure so they understand how much money is appropriate to spend on acquiring new leads.
To calculate your cost per lead: Calculate the average monthly cost of your inbound efforts and divide it by the total number of leads your content generated that period. Don’t forget that content is an investment that pays dividends in the future as well.
Measuring how many readers took a tangible action is a telling indicator of success. A conversion action could be downloading a piece of gated content, signing up for a webinar, or purchasing from your e-commerce site. Always ask, “What can my team do to increase conversions through content?”
To calculate your conversion rate: In order to calculate your conversion rate you will need to implement website tracking, so that it collect the data that you will need. Gather data from your website analytics program. Depending on whether you are measuring conversion on leads or sales collected via your website, for lead generation – Number of Leads Collected / Total Traffic to Site x 100 = Conversion Rate, for sales – Number of Sales / Number of Visitors x 100 = Conversion Rate.
Lead generation and qualification are two key aspects of the conversion rate. By tracking leads as they move through the funnel, you can deliver more targeted content that expedites the sales process. A common practice is to start with lightweight, educational content for top-of-the-funnel readers before offering in-depth articles and webinars that engage more qualified prospects to move deeper into the conversion process.
We’re always looking to shorten our deal cycles (i.e. reduce the time between a Marketing Qualified Lead becoming a ‘Closed Win’).
To track lead generation, qualification and deal velocity: This requires a ‘marketing stack’ – this should always include marketing automation platform and a customer database. We use Pardot for marketing automation and lead capture, idio to identify and optimise the content topics which stimulate prospects to move to the next sales stage, and Salesforce to manage qualified leads and deal flow.
The number of social shares your content receives gives you an idea of how valuable it is to your audience. If they share it with their networks, then they found something truly useful that advances the conversation.
To calculate your social shares rate: Nearly all CMS that websites are built on come with plugins which can display how many shares a particular post has received. Otherwise, we use Topsy and SharedCount to see where (and by whom) our content has been shared.
An effective content strategy helps boost traffic over time. Tracking unique visitors per day, week, and month for each post gives marketers a baseline for success and month-over-month growth.
To calculate web traffic: A simple tool like Google Analytics will easily (and inexpensively) allow you to track where your website visitors are coming from and which content in particular is most popular.
Measuring the performance of individual content creators on your team can also reveal key insights into effective content creation. You can evaluate whose content drove the most leads, shares, or conversions, then analyse their creative process to determine best practices that your team can implement. Most importantly, you can recognise the value that content creators bring to your organisation.
To track team performance: This requires little more than an editorial calendar with fields for date, title, and name of the content creator. You can add extra rows for ‘Social shares’, ‘unique visits’, etc.
Fundamentally, businesses exist to make money – a ‘Most Innovative Use of Content’ award may make your content marketing team feel warm and fuzzy inside but if it isn’t reducing cost-per-lead or improving deal velocity, then it’s really just an unhelpful distraction.
If brands are serious about becoming publishers and using their content to move the needle – they need to adopt a publisher’s commercialism. Publishers and media outlets have lived and died on the strength of their content generating sales – not engagement -and it’s time brands followed suit as well, by measuring the content marketing metrics that actually matter.