By Michele Linn published November 23, 2010

How to Measure and Present the Effectiveness of Your Content Marketing Program

In our ongoing series, we’re helping B2B marketers overcome the challenges highlighted in our recent B2B Content Marketing: 2010 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends. Most recently, our contributors are providing insights and examples to help you make the case for content marketing in your organization.

First our contributors explained the value of content marketing and provided tips on how to get started.

Next up: “How can marketers measure – and present – the effectiveness of their content marketing programs to their management teams?”


Data is made useful for measurement and presentation by the context in which it’s perceived. To put data in context, determine your marketing objectives and content goals, then relate them to meaningful metrics. For example, use web analytics to measure “engagement”:

Business objective: increase engagement.
Content goal: elicit user feedback.
Metric: user comment rate (track the percentage of users who comment on blog posts). Tip: create a “virtual page” to track blog comment submissions as goals with Google Analytics or other tools.

Putting data in context with objectives and goals allows for effective interpretation and decision-making. In the above example, you can learn what blog content topics or writing styles are most conducive to encouraging interaction and then adjust your content strategy accordingly.

- Rick Allen (@epublishmedia)


Here are four suggestions for a marketing organization starting to do content marketing.

When presenting content marketing program results to management, focus on the most important metrics. Track your marketing outcomes back to your initial goals. (Here’s a full list of content marketing metrics.) Here are four of the top measures to evaluate.

  1. Brand interactions. To be one of a consumer’s brand inner circle, track Facebook likes, comments and related activity. Make it easy for consumers to engage.
  2. Social media shares. Since these impressions translate to earned media, the equivalent of purchased media, count Tweets, Facebook likes and social sharing. To expand your influence, create Twitter bait.
  3. Time on content shows readers’ level of engagement with your marketing.
  4. Call-to-action. Include a call-to-action in your content marketing with a related promotional code that you can track. Realize that social media activity may not tie directly to a sale since it tends to occur early in the purchase process.

- Heidi Cohen (@heidicohen)


From an analytics standpoint, I like to see an increased average time on site and average number of pages visited.  I want to see a decrease in the bounce rate.  I also like to see growth in the number of “permission assets” (e.g. email subscribers, Facebook “likes”, LinkedIn connections, etc).

- Russ Henneberry(@russhenneberry)


Measure everything, the hard metrics (web traffic, downloads, conversions) and the soft (retweets, invitations to speak or guest post).  Then capture it all in a single page.  Our Project Open Kimono shares insights from our recent content marketing campaign, including some metrics.

Harder but hugely important: work with the sales team to connect the campaign to real sales. That speaks louder than any report.

Doug Kessler (@dougkessler)


The best approach is to set the measurements before you begin the programNot all content marketing programs can be measured by dollars and it’s very important for executives to understand this.  Once you set the measurements, set appropriate goals.  Create a table with each goal on a line and then put the expected number in the column next to it.  Use a different color for the actual measurement in another column.  Use a percentage difference with pluses and minuses (hopefully you won’t have any of the latter) so that management can see very quickly what worked, and maybe what might need improvement for the next time.

Ahava Leibtag (@ahaval)


Content marketers pay attention to three metrics: participation, sharing and referencing. Participation is measured by how many people added conversation to a piece of content. Then, how many users shared this content with their peers? Finally, how many users directly referenced your content when creating their own?

Great content displays all three metrics. I express this as “G.I.V.E.”

Katie McCaskey (@KatieMcCaskey)


There’s never been a better time for marketers to prove their worth to an organization. Nearly every social media tool provides comprehensive usage analytics. Google Analytics provides free statistics on website activity. It’s easy for marketers to track the effectiveness of even a single blog post and provide supporting data segmented in myriad ways. The challenge is to correlate activity to the intended results. It’s critical to scrub the information to find:

  • What channels are referring the most people?
  • What content is actually being digested?
  • What causes readers to respond to your call to action?

Sarah Mitchell (@globalcopywrite)


In our research with IDC, over 90% of executives now require quantified proof of bottom-line impact on key investments, and use ROI more often than not to prove that the investments are generating the expected value to the organization. So if you want to assure that your content marketing efforts get the proper budget and attention they deserve, communicating the value in ROI terms is best.

However, even though the formula for ROI is not a difficult one to calculate by dividing the net benefits of a project by the total investment, the ability to measure and quantify the benefits in tangible terms is often a challenge.

To quantify the benefits, the team will need to track not just downloads or readership/reach of the content, but the impact that the content has on the sales process. Some questions the team will need to answer to quantify the benefits include:

  • How many of the downloads / views converted into qualified leads and most importantly into sales revenue?
  • How much did the content help to accelerate the sales cycle / decision-making process, bringing more sales revenue sooner?
  • How many leads were generated more efficiently using content marketing programs versus other programs (cost avoidance)?

 

Compare the content marketing costs, including all of the costs for content development, collaboration and management, promotion and distribution, to these quantified benefits.

- Tom Pisello (@tpisello)


Effectiveness must first be measured by how frequently you produce content and how each content nugget aligns with your content and SEO keyword strategies.  For instance, if you are only producing one post per week, chances are you will never see significant interest or customer engagement on your company blog.  The results in traffic, subscriptions and conversion will come after you’ve proven your consistency to your audience.  Providing a consistent resource for your audience is what keeps them coming back and will reap benefits for your company over the long term.

Nate Riggs (@nateriggs)


I have just one tip here, but it’s a doozy:  Google analytics are wonderful, but I can pretty much assure you that no one on your senior management team has a clue how to read them.  I have been frustrated countless times by having a stack of Google charts printed off and dumped on my desk as the “web marketing report.”  Avoid this at all costs if you are interested in making your content marketing efforts understood and appreciated.  Here’s how:

1.  Be sure to select meaningful metrics and meaningful time periods. Present them (even re-format them, if necessary) so they are simple and sensible to your audience.

2.  Define all terms -- it may be second nature to you, but to different people “bounce” can mean anything from an email going astray to a fabric softener.

3.  Go beyond the stats and interpret them: answer the ‘so what’ question that your audience is asking.  Where results are above or below what you would expect, provide some analysis as to why (always nice to trace an increase in site visits to a specific content marketing campaign; similarly, show how a decrease might be due to a holiday or a decision to cut back from monthly to bi-monthly eNewsletters).

4.  Be transparent — your page hits increased, but so did your bounce rate?  Explain how the two data points are related, and what you’re going to do to tweak your approach to counter it. Then, next month (or quarter), revisit the same stats to show how what you did had an impact.

5.    Establish a straightforward but consistent format for telling your  story that suits your audience’s preferences. Maybe it’s PowerPoint; maybe it’s a spreadsheet; maybe it’s a text-based report with an executive summary delivered verbally.  Take the time to build a template that will let you tell your story the same way (even though the data change) each month or quarter, and show how you’re progressing over time.

Jennifer Watson (@ContextComm)


Most content marketing tactics have very low barriers to entry, which is one of the perks of using content marketing.  It’s quite easy, and can be quite effective, to jump into social media, article posting, blogs, eNewsletters, etc.  Proving that effectiveness becomes a challenge when marketers jump in before thinking through a strategy.

A content marketing program is only as good as the strategy, tracking metrics and quality of content it includes.  To gauge effectiveness:

  1. Know why your management team wants to try specific content marketing tactics (increase sales, improve engagement, position themselves as experts, etc.).
  2. Choose success measures.
  3. Track results consistently.
  4. Set up a regular timeframe to review data with your management team (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.).

- Dechay Watts (@sproutcontent)


Content marketing programs work quite effectively with traditional marketing programs and you can easily get started building success stories.  Don’t forget, though, to measure the before state of your website, lead generation efforts and any other elements critical to your business and management team. Consider screen grabs of digital assets, too. Those come in very handy during presentations!

Many content marketing programs build gradually over time. Monitor and measure regularly. Build mini-case studies at regular intervals, repurpose your small successes, and generate conversation with your management team to build engagement on their part. Keep track of unexpected efficiencies that develop and of the anecdotal stories about how the impossible has started to happen!

Don’t forget to tell your content marketing program story at every opportunity – in formal settings as well as less formal ones, with associates and customers. The effectiveness of your content marketing programs will be undeniable!

By the way, we had a lively discussion about measuring engagement during the previous content marketing series. Definitely check out How To Measure Engagement.

CB Whittemore (@cbwhittemore)

Summary

As the question asked, our contributors provided a number of suggestions on how to measure and present the effectiveness of content marketing.

What to measure:

  • Interactions with your brand, including invitations to speak, write, etc.
  • Extent that your content is shared: retweets, Facebook likes, etc.
  • Number of people who respond to your call to action.
  • Number of pages visited on your website.
  • Bounce rate.
  • How much time people are spending with your content.
  • Channels your traffic is coming from.
  • Content that is being downloaded and shared.
  • Registrations and “permission assets.”
  • Impact content has on the sales process, such as how it helped to accelerate it.
  • ROI, including the efficiency of spend.

Specifically, if you are getting started, remember that it takes time to see results. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Agree on specific goals and determine which metrics support them before you begin the program.
  • Remember that all goals are not tied directly to sales.
  • Measure output instead of specific results for the first 180 days. Align to content and SEO goals.

Here are some ideas on how  to present the data to your management team:

  • Keep track of all goals, corresponding metrics/expected results, actual results and suggestions for improvement on one table.
  • Make sure to capture the “before” aspects of all of your programs so you have something to compare.
  • Build mini-case studies at regular intervals.
  • Explain the Google analytics in terms that your audience can understand, and go beyond the data to analysis.
  • Repurpose your small successes.
  • Generate conversation with your management team to build engagement on their part.
  • Keep track of unexpected efficiencies that develop and of anecdotal stories.
  • Work with sales to see how content marketing program is impacting sales.

What other ideas do you have to measure and present the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts?

If you are interested in learning how to educate and justify the importance of content marketing, stay tuned to our posts on Tuesdays. Even better, sign up so to get all of our content marketing how-to articles.

Other posts in this series:

Author: Michele Linn

Michele is the Content Development Director of the Content Marketing Institute and a B2B content marketing consultant who has a passion for helping companies use content to connect with their ideal buyers. You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn or read more of her posts on Savvy B2B Marketing.

Other posts by Michele Linn