What are the most important metrics for measuring the ROI of your content marketing programs? As the old saw goes, what gets measured, gets done. But content marketing is so much on the “humanistic” side of selling that its practitioners forget, overlook or fail to realize there are certain performance numbers that tell their own important story. To keep your work focused on the right goals, learn about these content marketing metrics and how to access them.
1. Conversion Rates by Medium Source
If you haven’t done so already, set or update your conversion goals in Google Analytics.
So that you can see how well your past and current content is doing in any number of ways, you’ll need to tell Google in advance what site actions it’s important for your visitors to be taking. You can unpack this even further by identifying your Macro and Micro Conversion Goals.
Macro Goals are things like making a purchase, completing a lead form, subscribing to a newsletter or signing up for a membership –e.g., bottom of the sales funnel.
Micro Goals are actions like downloading a pdf, hitting a social sharing button, following links to other pages on your site, or watching an embedded video. These are steps taken by those interested but still testing the waters (top or middle of the funnel).
(Note: you will need full admin access to your website to set these up in the Analytics dashboard, so you may have to work with your company’s main webmaster.)
Let Google tell you who’s sending you the most productive leads using its Goals Overview feature.
Review all your current lead-generating content assets and set up the appropriate macro and micro goals for each one. Once you your goals have been set up in the dashboard, you can start logging into your Google Analytics, then click on your site and in the left sidebar click on “Conversions > Goals > Overview.” There you can then see where your goal conversions are coming from.
This enables you to focus harder on marketing efforts that are working and stop the ones that aren’t.
2. Website Traffic
Okay, so this one is obvious. But traffic is the most important metric because it enables everything that comes after it: engagement and conversion.
Knowing how to look at traffic is what makes the difference. Traffic volume alone is not a clear indicator of your content’s performance.
The real metric that you should be paying attention to is the increase in traffic over time.
If you’re comparing your volume to competitor sites, try not to get FOMO. Some are better at SEO than others. Some have been around longer. Others have marketing budgets that can boost traffic numbers.
Each blog and website will have different objectives and a different threshold of traffic before people start to convert. But one thing every site needs for spurring business growth is to increase the number of visits each month.
If you’re properly executing your content strategy, you should see an increase in traffic over time. That change in traffic is a clear indicator of performance.
BEST PRACTICE TIP: Keep an ongoing record of your traffic volume over time.
In Google Analytics, traffic is divided into two different categories: users and sessions.
Sessions are the number of total visits, by anyone including returning users. Users are the unique visitors. Unique visitors only get counted once during a timeframe. For example, frequent visitors to a site would only be counted once in the monthly user numbers.
Both measures have value for different types of reasons. What really matters is the change in traffic over time. The Audience Overview feature in your Analytics dashboard is where you can see both Users and Sessions numbers reported.
Keep your record every month and see how it changes, and line that up with the content that you posted in each month. When something works, you should do more of it. You can learn the best practices and start to adopt them as you progress, eliminating the types of content or headlines that seemed to flop.
3. SERP ranking
While your SERP ranking is not really a metric with a formula (it’s all in Google’s RankBrain AI system now) it is one of the clearest indicators of how well your content is performing. If Google likes it and references it highly, you’re on the right track.
Try searching for a few different combinations to see which of your posts or pages show up, based on the keywords you set for them when you first published. Over time, you can see if those pages go up.
If your content is good enough, you may eventually get your content delivered in what’s often called the “#0 result” in Google SERPs in the form of a snippet, which is one of those boxes with expandable links that you see now highlighted above the regular list of results. (This is the Holy Grail of SEO.)
As you test and optimize for search, the direct result should be an increase in your ranking.
4. Session Duration
The real measure of the quality of your content is how long people actually stay on the site.
The longer people stay, the more content they are consuming.
In Google Analytics this is called Session Duration.
You can see how people are engaging with a specific post by finding the URL.
Then, calculate according to Medium’s method an estimated read time.
Medium calculates their read time like this:
Compare your estimated read time of a blog post with the Session Duration figures. If it’s clear that no one is making it to the end of your content, then it should be time to rethink how you are presenting it.
5. Pages per visit
Internal linking is a huge part of publishing successful content. Content that supports other content helps fuel a virtuous circle where people continue through to other articles while learning and receiving value and, presumably, moving towards a goal conversion.
You should make it as easy as possible for people to click through and find more of your content through liberal use of internal links. Look for opportunities in your text to segue into related topics, embedding hyperlinks to other pages or posts on your site as you mention them.
The strategy is to deliver so much value in one article that when you link to a different article, people assume that it contains a vast amount of value as well.
The more clicks there are, the more your content is working, and the longer visitors will stay on your site.
6. Returning Visitors
The ratio of returning visitors to total visitors is a key metric for answering the question, “Is my content good enough that people are coming back for more?”
Google Analytics has an option in their dashboard to evaluate the percentage of new sessions.
The best way to look at the performance of your content is to look at direct traffic.
This is the traffic that comes from people typing your URL in directly.
Usually, people only type in a few letters before the browser suggests pages from their history.
Based on this assumption, direct traffic will probably be almost entirely returning visitors.
You will always have first-time visitors. In order to increase your traffic, you certainly want new people coming to your site all the time.
But a viable content strategy has never been built upon attracting one-and-done visitors.
The percentage of traffic from direct versus other sources will depend on your marketing campaigns and business model.
Instead of trying to increase the percentage of your traffic from direct, you should focus on the absolute volume of sessions from direct traffic.
If your volume is increasing, it means that people are coming back and your content is working.
7. Social sharing
When you give someone something of value, the tendency is to share.
People clicking a Share button are telling their network, “This is valuable, so you should look at it.”
Make this as easy as possible for them, and your social sharing numbers can rise. Have the social share buttons always visible to the right of the content with their counters, showing how much engagement is happening on each platform.
When visitors see that an article is being shared a lot, they assume that the content has value. It sets a stronger motive for them to read it and share it themselves.
The share is the important metric to track here, and you can see it using the same counter your visitors see.
BEST PRACTICE TIP: Use share buttons that dynamically scroll as someone reads so that it can capitalize on the moment when the content is so good that they have to share.
8. Customer Acquisition Cost
How much does it cost in marketing spend to acquire a customer? This is the most critical metric of all, where you justify your marketing budget. There’s a formula.
Add up all your marketing expenses — including salaries and overhead — and divide by how many new customers were acquired in a given time period. For example, if you spent $10,000 in a month and added 10 customers, then your customer acquisition cost is $1,000. From here, you’ll be able to measure your marketing spend in numbers that are meaningful to a CMO or CEO.
For more on calculating CAC and the related MOC (Marketing Originated Customers), see my earlier piece on Marketing Metrics That Really Count.
If math isn’t your thing, Leadit Marketing offers ongoing customer tracking and reporting services with access to marketing automation software that takes the pain out of all the measurements, calculations and other analytics. Contact us if you’d like some help.
Shannon Prager is recognized B2B marketing strategist and the President of Leadit Marketing. She is responsible for the daily operations and management of Leadit Marketing as well as the long term vision for the company.
A marketing leader with over 19 years of B2B demand generation and marketing experience, she understands the importance of a fully developed integrated marketing strategy. Shannon’s background includes demand generation, marketing automation, social media, digital marketing, customer marketing, account based marketing and marketing operations. You can follow her on LinkedIn via https://www.linkedin.com/in/shannonprager or Twitter @ https://twitter.com/LeaditMarketing
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