Many companies struggle to measure content marketing. A recent study by Contently found that a mere 9% of content marketers were confident that their key metrics are effective in measuring business results. In other words, the vast majority of content marketers can’t tie their efforts to key outcomes – at least not with any certainty.
What makes content marketing so hard to accurately measure? Most of the challenges stem back to the deep involvement of content in both marketing and sales processes. Content is so deeply ingrained in both areas that it’s difficult to separate and fully attribute its impact. Major quantitative metrics – like conversions, leads, and revenue – are dependent on other factors further down the funnel. Qualitative content marketing metrics, on the other hand, are difficult to capture and often highly subjective.
So, what is it that content marketers want to know? In the same Contently study, content marketers were asked for metrics which they wish they could measure. The chart to the left shows the most popular answers. Even without being confined to available metrics, content marketers didn’t target any overly complicated metrics. Most of the desired metrics had to do with brand awareness and conversions – fairly standard measures for other activities. Though these metrics are not currently available, we’ll look at each in turn and explore some possible alternatives.
1. How many people’s opinions of our brand are changing because of content?
Goal: Understandably, content marketers want to know how their content changes opinions around their brand. They want some sort of quantitative measure, so they can emphasize the types of content that create the greatest amount of positive sentiment.
Challenge: Accurately measuring audience sentiment is difficult enough on its own, let alone attributing changes to content marketing efforts. Content marketing efforts typically scale over time, so there’s not a clear before and after data split.
Proxy: There are quite a few reputation management tools that help to put numbers to conversations and sentiment around a brand. Analysis can be performed by channel or individual message. You can get a top-level view of your content’s impact by comparing channels where content is frequently distributed to channels where content is not. Similarly, you can get a general idea of content marketing impact by looking at the change in overall sentiment before and after a campaign. For more detailed analysis, you can drill into conversations specifically dealing with content and tabulate the associated sentiment scores.
2. How much more likely are people to buy our products because of our content?
Goal: Content marketers want to know that content creation is worthwhile. They want to know that their content has a definite impact on securing and retaining customers.
Challenge: Purchase decisions are complicated. Few purchases are made due to content alone, but, at the same time, few purchases are made without some form of content in consideration (especially in B2B). Content is such an integral part of the sales process that it can be hard to find customers that haven’t interacted with at least some content. The question shifts from whether or not a customer consumed content to how much content they consumed.
Proxy: Lead scoring allows you to assign values to specific content-related engagement activities – more engagement equates to a higher score. A lead score is a fair measure of content engagement. Comparing this score with lead conversion rate and lifetime revenue provides insight into content’s involvement in purchase decisions.
3. How much real attention are people paying to our content?
Goal: Content marketers want insight into interaction with their content. They want to know whether a whitepaper was downloaded and forgotten or carefully studied. Such information makes a big difference in how the lead is pursued.
Challenge: It’s relatively easy for a company to track content views and downloads. Unfortunately, that’s often where the reliable information stops. Significant time on page is often viewed as a sign that web-based content is being read; however, all it really indicates is that the page was open for a significant amount of time. Just as likely, users could have stepped away from the computer or switched to another tab. As for post-download engagement, content marketers are essentially blind.
Proxy: Web-based document managers and analytics programs provide additional information on content consumption, such as mouse heat maps, page by page viewing information, and share/print counts. These programs often condense this information into a single engagement score for each viewer. Conversely, downloaded documents remain difficult to measure. The best indicators of engagement are dedicated (and tagged) call to action links within documents.
4. How much brand awareness our content is driving?
Goal: Brand awareness is a top goal of content marketing. Marketers want to know the impact of content marketing efforts on the recognition of their brand name, brand imagery, and service offerings.
Challenge: Impressions are often seen as an indication of brand awareness, but, in reality, impressions only indicate that content appeared. Brand awareness requires seeing, recognizing, and understanding brand elements – all three of which create problems for measurement.
Proxy: There’s not a perfect way to measure of brand awareness driven by content marketing. Growth in brand awareness can be approximated with a combination new website visits landing on content-related pages, organic search volume of branded keywords, and social mentions around content. Changes in brand awareness can also be gauged through large-scale surveys on brand recognition and discovery.
5. Which conversions/sales that we get have engaged with our content at some point?
Goal: Similarly to point number two, content marketers want to know content creation is worthwhile. In this case, they want to be able to connect sales with any related content interaction.
Challenge: Unlike downloads and other engagement, viewing web-based content is largely anonymous. For example, the only identifiable blog readers are the small portion that choose to subscribe. It’s entirely possible for customers to read – and even be influenced by – content viewed anonymously.
Proxy: As unglamorous of a solution as it is, simply asking customers is the most reliable way to get this information. It could be recorded as part of the sales process or collected through a survey. Alternatively, some marketing automation systems tie IP addresses to form completions. Though not completely accurate,
Let us know what you think:
- Which of these metrics would be most valuable to you?
- What other content marketing metrics would you like to be able to measure?
- How confident are you in your ability to measure content marketing?