Performance improvement expert H. James Harrington once said, “Measurement is the first step that leads to control and, eventually, to improvement.” For anyone trying to take their content marketing efforts to the next level, his words certainly ring true.
For content marketers, metrics provide deep insights into how our content is performing. They tell us how many people are consuming our content, what they are doing with it, and whether or not they like it. Metrics alert us to which ideas we should replicate and which we should look to improve. They’re also what give us credibility within our companies by demonstrating that content marketing is both a powerful and worthwhile investment.
Measuring marketing effectiveness: What to start tracking
To measure and, ultimately, improve your content marketing efforts, you need to know which metrics to track and analyze, and how to do so. The best place to start is by gathering some data from your company’s website, including your:
1. Unique visitors: The best indication of your site’s overall traffic, unique visitors refers to the number of individuals who visit your website during a given period of time, where each visitor is only counted once. This number will vary dramatically depending on the size of your company, your industry and, of course, the amount of content you’re producing.
2. Page views: The cumulative number of individual pages that your visitors click on during a given period of time. If your page views are higher than your unique visitors, that may be an indication that your audience is finding your content engaging because individuals are clicking around to multiple pages.
3. Search engine traffic: The amount of traffic being referred to your site through search engines, such as Google or Bing. This number will give you a clear indication of how effective of a job you are doing at optimizing your content for search.
4. Bounce rate: The percentage of visitors who come to your site and then immediately “bounce” or leave before clicking on any other pages. A bounce rate of less than 40 percent is considered good. If it is any higher, it may be an indication that visitors to your site don’t like what they find there.
5. Conversion rate: The percentage of visitors to your site who take a specific action that your content encourages them to, such as signing up for your newsletter. Conversion rates vary considerably based on industry, but tend to hover around 2 and 3 percent on average. That said, aim for a conversion rate of approximately 5 percent, or even higher if you are creating specific landing pages for specific audiences.
6. Inbound links: The number of external links to your site, an indication that other people have found your content important enough to link to it. Importantly, the more high-quality inbound links you have, the higher your content will rank on search engines.
Key metrics: How to start tracking
One of the best ways to track all of this information is by setting up a free account with Google Analytics. A powerful tool, Google Analytics will allow you to monitor your website(s) and analyze a huge amount of data at both the aggregate and individual page level. That way you can find out how specific pieces of content are performing, as well as the overall performance of your content marketing efforts. Signing up is easy and takes just a few minutes. Within a matter of days, Google Analytics will have collected enough data to allow you to start analyzing trends and looking for new insights.
Because Google gives you access to so much information, it can be very helpful to create your own custom dashboard that isolates the metrics that you find most relevant and allows you to compare them over time.
Here’s an example of a basic dashboard I’ve created using Microsoft Excel:
To make things even easier, Google Analytics also gives you the option to compile and download reports that will give you a snapshot view of the information you need. Here’s how you can do this:
- Simply click on the custom report tab.
- Select the new report option.
- Specify the metrics you’d like your report to include.
No matter how you do it, if you have the discipline to look at your key metrics for measuring marketing effectiveness on a weekly basis, you will be much more in tune with how your content is performing. Once you’ve mastered this, then try putting some of the data into chart form to make it easier to identify trends.
The example below displays page views for my company’s corporate site, content site, and blog for a span of six weeks. Displaying the data this way makes it easy to see, for instance, that there were significant spikes in page views during the weeks of September 13 and October 11, and that in both instances, much of the increase was isolated to a single site. Being able to easily see trends and outliers makes it easier to identify what’s working and what isn’t so that you can replicate or adjust as needed.
In addition to the basic metrics noted above, there are two other important things to take note of: the number of comments and the number of shares your content gets — both are strong indicators of engagement. Any time that people are taking the time to post a comment about your content or to share it with others, it’s a great sign.
For more tips on how to manage the key processes involved in content marketing, check out Managing Content Marketing, by Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi.