By Brian Massey published December 16, 2012

How to Measure the Value of Content Marketing Podcasts

In my new book, “Your Customer Creation Equation,” there is a chapter called, How Content Fuels Conversion, in which I introduce the “content cascade.”

A presentation gets recorded to create audio or video content. For a few dollars, this can be turned into a transcript, which can then be edited into a white paper. The white paper can then be divvied up into many blog posts — erupting from your blog like lava cascading from a content volcano.

Audio is easy to produce and starts the ball rolling on your content cascade — like champagne filling layers of stacked glasses at a wedding.

It can also be easily distributed as a content marketing podcast, making it appear on iTunes, or in your visitors’ local feed readers.

Unfortunately, my book fails to tell you how to measure the effectiveness of your podcasts. To remedy that (and for those who haven’t yet purchased the book), I’ve outlined the process here:

The challenges of tracking listens

Since listeners are likely downloading the audio file of your content marketing podcasts directly to their iPod, smartphone, or computer, there’s no “click” to tell you that they listened. If they don’t click, there’s really no way to even tell how many folks are listening.

So, how do you know if you should be investing in audio and podcasts?

There are two very important questions you should ask to determine if your podcast investment is paying off:

  • Is my podcast generating traffic to my site?
  • Are visitors from my podcast converting to leads, subscribers, or customers?

Yes, there are many ancillary uses for audio, including its ability to spawn additional content. It’s educational, promotional, and good for building thought leadership. But these are issues for someone else’s post. We are interested in measuring our podcasting efforts to the bottom line.

To measure traffic, we’ll rely on two services: Feedburner and Google Analytics.

Feed analytics from Feedburner

First, I recommend that you “burn” your feed through Feedburner, a service of Google. When you do this, Feedburner essentially intercepts your podcast RSS feed, keeping track of how many people are subscribed and which episodes get clicks.

measuring podcast effectiveness

These graphs tell you how your podcast audience is growing, and how many clicks and downloads it is generating.

In this scenario, we an only assume that a download is a listen, although not every downloaded podcast is actually listened to. Like all analytics, it isn’t the actual numbers that count as much as the change. Is readership increasing or decreasing? By how much?

To ensure that Feedburner is tracking your podcast correctly, click on the Configure Stats menu item.

podcast measurement - feedburner2

Check every box, but the one that is particularly important is “Track clicks as a traffic source in Google Analytics.” Below this, you’ll find the “Customize” link:

customize tracking for measurement

This allows you to add tags to any links in your podcast. It’s OK to take the default values here. They are quite useful.

“Clicks” are not plays of your podcast, but rather clicks that bring visitors back to your blog or website. When you have this enabled, Google Analytics will keep track of this traffic for you.

Google Analytics: For all of your reporting needs

All of this Google Analytics tracking assumes that you have Google Analytics installed on your blog or podcast site. You do have this free, easy to implement and very helpful service installed, don’t you?

Feedburner will feed Google Analytics (GA) a steady diet of clicks as people interact with our RSS feed. You can then run a report like this:

google analytics report

The first item on the list is our Feedburner campaign. We can see that it has generated 1,119 visits for this period of time. Almost 55 percent of the visitors are new to the blog, and 69.97 percent of them leave after viewing one page (called a bounce).

If you wear a lab coat and can do nifty things with GA, you can create a custom report that will tell you how many of these feed visitors turned into conversions (subscribers, in this case).

google analytics custom report

For your GA enthusiasts, here’s how I created the custom report for the above image:

custom report on subscribers

This report tells us that out of 1,119 visits, only four became subscribers to our email list — a paltry 0.36 percent conversion rate.

This may make you wonder if it is a good investment of time to do podcasts. If our only measure of success is traffic and subscribers, the answer would be a resounding, “No.” But there’s more to the story…

Measuring listens

The truth is that many of our podcast listeners won’t necessarily be “visiting” as they listen to the podcast. They could be in their cars or listening on an MP3 player as they exercise, with no way to “click” while they listen.

If they are moved by our audio, they are more likely to look us up later, and these visitors won’t look any different than any other visitor in our analytics report.

But there is still another way to get more information about our listeners. I use a service called Capture by 44 Doors. This is a URL shortening service, very much like Bit.ly, but it has special analytics powers. And more importantly, you can use it to shorten the URL of your MP3 file, and it will work.

With Capture, the file URL http://conversionscientist.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Webmaster-Radio-Landing-Page-Optimization-Brian-Massey.mp3 becomes http://conversci.com/rqmz.

(NOTE: I have personalized Capture to use my own domain “conversci.com”, and you can too!)

Now, whenever a feed reader or podcast user opens this link, Capture sends them the full URL of the MP3 file and records some interesting information about the event:

measurement with feedburner

Here you can see that over 30 days, 20 people opened the MP3 file. (We’ll just have to assume that they listened, though we don’t know for sure.)

daily click totals

We can track how many people may have listened on a daily basis.

hourly click totals

We can also see what time of the day they prefer to listen. Apparently some 25 percent of my listeners prefer the 10 pm time for listening to podcasts.

There are a number of other graphs offered by this service that can give you more details on your podcast audience, as well.

Hosting

File hosts such as LibsynBlubrry, and Blip.tv will host your MP3 files and deliver statistics on how often they are played. Here’s an example of stats from Blip.tv:

hosting blip.tv

The trouble with third-party services is that your stats are a bit scattered around. If you use GA regularly, the Feedburner/Google Analytics setup is best. If you spend time tracking your short URLs, using a service like Capture is a good bet, since you’re already in there regularly.

If you spend time in a service like Blip.tv, choose that.

In short, use the analytics approach that you will check occasionally. Knowing is the whole point of measuring.

Why spend time on podcasts?

While I can’t attribute many subscribers to my podcasts, I still add audio to my content mix. I make online audio because it is easy for me to record and edit. Often, I am simply reading my posts and columns into an MP3 for those in my audience who prefer audio.

I also add audio to my podcast because it is easy. I use WordPress for almost all of my sites, and with the addition of a podcasting plug-in, any old blog post can be enhanced when added to my podcast. So for me, podcasting doesn’t require much effort, and it supports my blog “volcanoes.”

Want more insight from Brian Massey and his book, “Your Customer Creation Equation“? From now until December 19, you can get a free copy for your Kindle, iPad, or smartphone.

Author: Brian Massey

Brian Massey calls himself a Conversion Scientist and he has the lab coat to prove it. “Conversion” is the process of converting Web traffic to leads and sales, and his practice, Conversion Sciences, brings these disciplines to businesses of all sizes. Brian is a dynamic speaker, presenting before corporations, universities, and at national conferences. He is the author of the The Conversion Scientist, and is a columnist for ClickZ.com and Search Engine Land. Follow me on Twitter @bmassey.

Other posts by Brian Massey

  • http://www.shortcutblogging.com/ Dave Young

    Good stuff as usual, Brian. People should be aware that Feedburner is rumored to be going away. I’d also like to point out that the Blubrry system has a free version of its powerful stats service that does not require you to purchase their media hosting plan. If you’re on WordPress, there’s no better combo than Blubrry and the Powerpress plugin for keeping an eye on your podcast downloads.

    • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

      At the recommendation of this comment stream, I’ve picked up Blubrry and am testing its ability to provide the statistics I need. Right now, that’s the best recommendation I’ve heard. I’m not crazy about their user interfaces. It’s a very non-intuitive system.

  • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

    Nice write-up, but there are a few issues.

    FeedBurner stats are far from reliable. Primarily, they will completely ignore on-website downloads.

    Google Analytics may miss RSS downloads, too. And configuring Google Analytics to track downloads causes compatibility issues with popular podcasting plugins (like PowerPress).

    Blubrry offers free and premium media stats that work with any media hosting, and they also offer media hosting (including premium stats). LibSyn offers just a media hosting package with basic stats, or premium stats for extra cost.

    The only sure way to track downloads is through the media host (web-hosting AWstats also fail to do this accurately). Because even if your media is downloaded somewhere without the special stats redirect URL, it’s still coming from the media host and can thus be tracked.

  • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

    Daniel and Dave,

    I’ve been able to track download from any host using 44Doors Capture. Feedburner is, like all analytics, relative.

    I’m moving to BluBrry for my Podcast. Thanks for the comments.

    Brian

    • http://morekeynote.com/ tpldrew

      Brian,
      I’ve been using Blubrry for 5 Years to handle my podcast and it’s been awesome. They’re analytics are great (compared to others) and I’ve learned a lot about consumption time, habits, platforms and even the devices on which the podcast is consumed.
      Great article!
      Thanks for sharing your podcast wisdom…. Mr. Wizard.
      - Drew

  • http://www.thenorthernedge.ca CMColeman

    Now that Feedburner is not being supported and likely to shut down (an assumption) like Google Reader has been, are you using anything different for tracking?

    • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

      At the recommendation of this comment stream, I’ve picked up Blubrry and am testing its ability to provide the statistics I need. Let me know if you find other solutions.