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Published October 20th 2014

How To Assess Content Marketing Performance: 5 Tips

You know the old joke. 50% of your advertising is working. If only you knew which 50%. Content marketing has the same challenge – plus one more – what does ‘working’ really mean for content marketing? Curata recently interviewed 24 experts for their advice on the best content marketing metrics. We reviewed their top tips and drew upon our own experience to come up with our own top tips on how you can assess your content marketing performance and relevant metrics to monitor.

1. Business goal (AKA, revenue)

Rebecca Lieb, analyst at Altimeter, suggests you start by considering what performance indicators are the most important to your business.

For many businesses content performance ultimately comes down to customer acquisition, sales, revenue or profit. For content marketing, the best metric is probably going to be revenue generated. That was the top response in the Curata survey.

But as Lee Odden points out “content marketing can deliver results on a variety of objectives that create value for a business.” Thus you may be aiming to create awareness, adjust your brand positioning, create customer engagement or increase attractiveness to potential staff.

Which in our view means: yes, there should of course be a line between your content marketing effort and your revenue. Otherwise, why do it. Just don’t expect that road to be straight and to get there quickly. There are markers along the road that show you’re going in the right direction. Use those to help ensure you’re investing in the right activities. It can help to think about the customer acquisition and sales funnel to align measurements to that. Here are some four other considerations that came through in the survey:

2. Brand positioning

Before customers and revenue comes brand awareness. Content can be very important in positioning your brand and helping you tell your story and rise above the noise.

This is not simply about ensuring content quality but thinking about the style of content, the tone of voice and content formats. All of these can do a lot to position your brand.

Some metrics like social shares, alexa ranking, level of branded search, level of new visitors to your site will indicate brand awareness. Be careful about becoming too slavish to any one of these. You need a rounded view – and customer perception, qualitative feedback of how you’re perceived vs your competitors, is the best (albeit most expensive) metric at this level.

How is your content positioning your brand? Are you balancing quantity and quality of message?

3. Customer engagement

Awareness is nice, but it doesn’t pay the bills. To really understand the metrics that matter, you need to look at who’s really investing time to get to know your brand and your offer. There’s gold in these hills: this is the audience that are primed to convert, and move from awareness that you can solve a problem to engaging you to do just that.

For some businesses customer engagement is a key indicator of the relationships you are building online. Neil Patel looks at comments on posts to judge engagement.

Larry Kim suggests you look at reader feedback and fan mail. For example, he asks “are your readers reaching out to you to connect on LinkedIn?”

Social sharing is also an indicator of engagement – if prospects are sharing and amplifying your content, they are imbuing you with credibility to their networks.

Marcus Sheridan looks at number of pages read per lead, which is an interesting way of examining the effort in terms of content marketing volume needed to get to a conversion. Is it a silver content bullet for your engagement, or a scatter gun approach ?

4. Quality of leads

From engagment through to converted leads – this is where your lead generation efforts start to take over from content marketing. It’s a numbers game on one level – you should have targets for quantity of leads generated by month / channel / campaign. But quality is as important.

Robert Rose emphasizes the importance of audience quality such as a registered or “known subscriber” metric. Not all audiences are equal, the average value per customer can vary significantly.

Darmesh Shah at HubSpot summarises several views when he says that number of qualified leads is the key metric for any content marketing. “We make considerable investment in content creation — particularly our blog, which represents a major component of our overall inbound marketing. The most important result of those efforts is qualified leads that we can then pass along to our sales team.” Emphasis is on the qualified. If your content marketing is attracting the wrong audience. So be clear on your personas from the outset and keep measuring against actual conversions.”

So what metrics to use?

Armed with this, what should be on your content marketing dashboard? There’s no one right answer, it’ll depend on your business goals, but you should be looking at

  1. social shares
  2. social sentiment – comments / forums
  3. linking domains
  4. website traffic (in particular quantity of new visitors)
  5. downloads/registrations
  6. number of qualified leads
  7. number and rate of lead conversions
  8. revenue

The most common effectiveness indicators we see include the number of qualified leads and rate of lead conversions to closed sales. Those are healthy metrics as they bind sales and marketing teams tightly.

Where to start?

You’ve got to start somewhere – we’d recommend setting a baseline to begin with. You can look at some of the above by period, against baselines. against competitors. It doesn’t take much to find out. For example, try running a BuzzSumo domain comparison report , or Alexa report against your top competitors. You can see your relative rankings fairly easily. So You’ll quickly see what you’re up against. And what to do about it  (as doing is still more important than measuring, let’s not forget…)

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