Content marketing can be one of the most effective ways to generate and convert leads, but it’s only effective if you make well-informed improvements to your strategy over time.
And, of course, you can only make these types of improvements if you have the data needed to inform your decisions.
Effective content marketing is a synergy of two skillsets and you need to combine the science and data discipline of a scientist with the creative genes of an artist.
The art and the science
This excerpt from an infographic from Kissmetrics provides a great insight into the mindset required for successful content marketing. The art?
- How will it make my audience feel?
- Will it stand out?
- Does it tell a story?
It needs to have that little bit of magic! Data doesn’t touch hearts.
But replicating the magic is where content marketing metrics tracking comes into play. According to management guru Peter Drucker,
“What gets measured, gets managed”
Take his words to heart by reviewing the following 17 key content marketing metrics I’ve identified to optimize your content planning strategy for higher sales and greater visibility:
#1. Time on site
As a general rule, the amount of time your visitors spend on your site is one of the best indicators of their engagement with your content.
According to Hubspot, over half of website visitors spend less than 15 seconds on a website, though, unfortunately, it generally takes longer than that to generate a lead. Tracking your average time on site and comparing it across different pages should help you uncover ways to keep visitors around longer.
My advice? If your time on site is improving, but the number of leads you’re generating is not, you need to look at the quality of your calls-to-action to see what’s preventing visitors from taking the next step.
#2. Unique visitors
There is no point generating high-quality content if nobody is viewing it! By measuring the number of unique visitors your site receives and tracking this metric over time, you’ll be able to determine whether or not your marketing campaigns are working.
That said, be careful not to put too much stock in this metric. I come across lots of business owners who live and die by their number of unique visitors, but the truth is that raw traffic counts aren’t nearly as important as what those readers do once they land on your site.
#3. Returning visitors
Earning long-term brand followers is every bit as important as driving new leads to your site. Measuring the number of visitors who return to your site will tell you whether or not your content has achieved the necessary level of “stickiness.”
#4. Total leads
Leads are the lifeblood of a business, which is why generating leads is such an important part of any content marketing strategy. Keep an eye on this metric by tracking the number of lead gen form completions you receive, free trial signups you capture, and email subscribers or social media fans that you convert into future buyers.
#5. Bounce rate
A “bounce” occurs when a visitor hits one of your pages and then clicks “Back” without engaging further, so a high bounce rate usually indicates that people aren’t interested in what you have to offer (though, less commonly, it can also mean that they found the answers they needed and left).
Bounce rate is typically tracked on a page-by-page basis, so watch your stats. If you see a page or series of pages with a high bounce rate, you’ll need to improve the quality or relevancy of your content to keep your visitors around.
#6. Volume of organic leads
All leads are valuable, but leads generated from organic search traffic, direct referrals and social media tend to be more cost-effective than their paid counterparts. As a result, you’ll want to measure the percentage of leads you receive from organic sources to ensure you’re taking full advantage of these mechanisms.
#7. Natural inbound links
Natural inbound links tend to provide higher quality leads and are more SEO value than links that you build manually. Measuring this metric will help you to keep an eye on the traction your content is gaining within your community. If you see a sharp uptick in unsolicited inbound links, there’s a good chance one of your content pieces is going viral!
#8. Cost effectiveness
Inbound leads from content marketing and other organic sources are reportedly 61% cheaper than leads generated from outbound marketing, but that doesn’t mean they’re free!
To determine the cost-effectiveness of these leads, calculate the cost of your content marketing campaign relative to the value of the leads that you generate. For more accurate numbers, be sure to take into consideration intangible costs, such as the value of the time you spent creating your content or the overhead expenses associated with your computer and other equipment.
#9. Lead-close rate
In theory, a well-executed content marketing strategy should make your viewers more receptive to your marketing messages. As a result, an interesting metric to track is the number of leads you go on to close.
For best results, use a multi-touch attribution modeling program like Convertro to see which of your leads can be specifically attributed to your content marketing campaigns.
#10. Call-to-action click-through rate
While measuring your overall lead-close rate is important, it can be difficult to identify specific ways to improve it without involving other data.
In my experience, you can use your call-to-action click-through rate as kind of a proxy that helps you determine whether weaknesses in your lead-close rate could be coming from your content or your sales process.
#11. Total social shares
A July 2014 report from Shareaholic showed that approximately 30% of website traffic is driven by social media. Measuring your social shares will help you determine what kind of traction your content is receiving on social platforms, in addition to how well your business is taking advantage of this traffic source.
To get started, measure your overall social shares, the number of social shares each piece of content received and the number of visitors that arrived on your website from social sites. Doing so will show you what types of content to focus on in the future, as well as on which social platforms you should allocate your marketing resources.
#12. Keyword rankings
The goal of a good content marketing campaign isn’t necessarily better SEO performance, but the two often go hand-in-hand.
When you publish content pieces on your website, you increase the number of keywords you can potentially be found for. At the same time, when you improve the SEO of the content pieces you’ve created, you increase their likelihood of appearing in the organic search results. It’s a win-win!
So basically, if you’re following content marketing and SEO best practices, you should be seeing an increase in the number of keywords you’re ranking for, as well as how high you’re ranking. Tracking these metrics is a fun way to see if your campaigns are having their intended effect.
#13. Landing page views
Total website traffic is an important metric, but it’s meaningless if that traffic isn’t funneled to the landing pages where visitors can actually take one of your desired actions (like, for example, opting-in to your email list or buying a product).
For this reason, you’ll want to measure not just overall website views, but landing page views as well to ensure visitors are getting to the right place.
#14. External referral sources to landing pages
Next up, while you’re looking at your landing pages’ overall traffic, take a look at the external sites that are sending traffic your way. Identifying these web pages – especially the ones that are driving conversions, not just traffic – gives you important insight into the channels you should focus your off-site content marketing efforts on.
#15. Internal referral sources to landing pages
Similarly, try to see if pages within your own site are driving traffic and conversions to your landing pages. Doing so will show you which under-performing pages need a little extra love and what types of content are most likely to drive referrals to your landing pages.
#16. Leads per keyword
Identifying which keywords to optimize your website for is one of the most important factors a digital marketer must assess.
One way to do this is to measure the number of leads that each of your target keywords generates for you. If you can find keywords that perform well, but for which you aren’t ranked highly in the SERPs, focus your attention on them and the number of organic leads you capture will increase.
That said, you should also bear in mind that conversion rates are strongly affected by landing page relevancy to those keywords. So if your conversion rates on a promising keyword are unacceptably low, this could be a sign that you need to revamp your landing page content.
#17. Reader comments
Finally, reader comments may seem like a strange metric to track when it comes to content marketing campaigns, but doing so will give you a rough idea of how well visitors are engaging with your content.
Even better, as the number of comments you receive goes up, you’ll be able to leverage this engagement to build loyalty and convert visitors into profitable customers. If your comments section looks embarrassingly bare, brainstorm ways to encourage more participation on your blog.
Content marketing offers a vast number of metrics you can track, but honing in on those that will help you move the needle on your business’s biggest goals will ensure you get the most out of this powerful marketing strategy. Choose at least 3-5 of the metrics described above and set up a monitoring program that tracks them using Google Analytics or another analytics tool. Tracking your results according to these key performance indicators will help you optimize your content marketing strategy for both cost-effectiveness and conversion rates.
Are there any other metrics you feel belong on this list? Share your suggestions by leaving a comment below!
Author: Aaron Agius is an online marketer, web strategist and entrepreneur and you can check him out at AaronAgius.com