By Neil Bhapkar published February 3, 2013

8 KPIs Your Content Marketing Measurement Should Include

images from a tabletWeb analytics and general knowledge of digital marketing key performance indicators (KPIs) have come a long way since the days when people were measuring “hits” on a site. Tools like Google Analytics, Omniture, and proprietary systems within companies have made digital marketing reporting more simple and accessible for the average marketing professional. These days, you’re nowhere in marketing if you don’t understand your basic web KPIs, including customer engagement and conversion rates.

However, as content marketing takes the forefront in digital marketing tactics — especially for B2B and SEO marketing — marketers are still stuck in the Stone Age as it relates to measuring the effectiveness and impact of various forms of content. For example, consider white papers (or any page turn publication) — they are a common lead generation tactic within content marketing, yet most marketers fail to measure anything beyond “downloads.” The question remains: What can a marketer do to better understand the effectiveness of this type of content?

The tactics that work in measuring a website or a traditional customer acquisition funnel do not always translate into content marketing measurement. For white papers, eBooks, blogs, eNewsletters, or whatever format you choose, here is a definitive guide to what marketing KPIs you should be measuring for your content marketing initiatives.

Reach

1. Unique visits: UVs are the most standard measure of how many individuals have viewed your content within a given time frame (typically a 30-day cookie window). This KPI provides a good baseline for which to compare different forms of content and trends over time.

However, it is important to keep in mind that not all unique visits are the same. For example, a unique visit to a white paper might be much more valuable for lead generation purposes than a unique visit to a blog — especially if that visit spends more time with the content (which we’ll get more into later on).

2. Geography: Understanding where your content is being read is important in order to understand where to allocate more budget and resources based on where your audience is. Google Analytics provides page-level details of such geographic information, which in turn helps content marketers optimize for the geographical locations (or geos) that are most important to their business — and its bottom line.

geography - where content is read

Geo concentrations for content

3. Mobile readership: It’s great if you know how many unique visits (or readers) your content is getting.  But how are they reading your content? Are 50 percent of them on mobile devices, as the latest content consumption research suggests? And which mobile devices are they using?

Understanding trends in how your content is being delivered to different devices is key to determining how to optimize your content and its design (i.e., responsive design) for future publications.

Engagement

4. Bounce rates/time spent: An obvious goal (and one that’s critical to engagement) is to not lose your reader because you didn’t deliver on their expectation of what they were clicking on. A high bounce rate might mean just that. Another similar measure is how much time your audience is actually spending with your content. So what if you have 15,000 unique views if the average time spent is 12 seconds for a 30-page white paper? Both bounce rate percent and time spent metrics are good early indicators of how engaged the traffic to your content is.

5. Heat maps and click patterns: There are many great tools out there that illustrate how your audience is engaging with a page and its content. One such tool, CrazyEgg, allows you to create heat maps to see what sections of a page are getting the most views.

In addition, tools like Google Analytics can offer in-page analytics to track click patterns. My company (Uberflip) also does this for digital content through our Zoom Points product. Such information is critical to understanding what is relevant to your audience, allowing you to optimize content and design based on your findings.

in-page analytics

Zoom Points

6. Page views: This is another basic marketing KPI that is often overlooked. We discussed UVs earlier, but understanding the correlation between UVs and page views (PVs) is an important one. A high page views/UVs multiple is a good sign that your audience is engaged — and quite often means that they are coming back regularly to your content. Further, with your digital content, it’s a good measure of how far along in a publication they may have gotten. Did they read four pages before dropping off? Is 90 percent of your audience dropping off before page seven? Answers to these types of questions will help you understand how to develop future content for your audience.

Sentiment

7. Comments: In the age of social media, almost everything you make available online becomes subject to two-way conversations. Don’t make the mistake of trying to restrict it or block it — embrace commenting and social sharing! Users are the best advocates for any product or service, so if they’re engaged enough to openly discuss your content, consider it a success.

Now, be mindful that the discussion may turn negative. However, often even negative comments can be great feedback for you, as they can help you gain better insight into the attitudes and pain points of your prospects and customers. Be ready to respond in a meaningful manner when this happens.

8. Social sharing: Making your content easily shareable is critical for almost all content marketing initiatives. What better way to find new eyeballs for your digital content than by having people share it to their networks? With just a few social shares, the reach of your content can expand exponentially at an amazing rate! Embrace this trend by incorporating sharing widgets throughout your content. At Uberflip, we like to use the AddThis widget, which allows content to easily be shared across dozens of popular social networks.

widgets for easy sharing

Social sharing widgets

The ultimate goal of content marketing is to increase your brand’s reach and bottom line. Thus, the ultimate indicator of success is often the number of leads generated from your content marketing initiatives. However, by not overlooking these other marketing KPIs along the way to a lead or a sale, you’ll be in much better shape while getting more out of your content!

For more tips on measuring key performance indicators, read CMI’s eGuide, Measuring Content Marketing Success

Author: Neil Bhapkar

Neil is a digital marketing professional who currently serves as the Director of Marketing for interactive marketing start-up Uberflip. Neil has previously worked with global brands such as Kobo, Lavalife, and GlaxoSmithKline. Neil's expertise includes content marketing, online lead generation, web analytics, and digital strategy. Follow Neil at @NeilBhaps or visit www.uberflip.com/blog for similar thought-leadership content.

Other posts by Neil Bhapkar

  • http://about.me/KariRippetoe Kari Rippetoe

    I think you outline some very important KPIs, but I also think you’re missing some very important ones, too. I’m content marketing manager at a search engine marketing agency, so we measure KPIs relevant to our content’s effectiveness in search. Certainly, metrics like reach, engagement and sentiment are very important to us so we know what’s working and what isn’t; but we also look at inbound links, search indexability and rankings (and thusly, organic traffic from search).

    We also don’t place as much emphasis on bounce rate and time spent, since those numbers can be inaccurate based on the fact that many visitors will leave your website open in the background on one of many browser tabs, with the intention of saving it to read or reference later. Sure, if tose numbers are very low, that can certainly be telling (your content isn’t holding the attention of your visitors), but I wouldn’t trust them as an accurate representation of your visitors’ actual behavior.

    Thanks for the suggestions of heat mapping tools – I’ll definitely be looking into them, because I think click patterns are very important to measure.

  • http://www.digitalmarketinganalytics.net/ Ramki

    Content should provide value to end users / target audience

  • http://www.facebook.com/Therealcharlieardagh Charlie Ardagh

    Great article and one that ties in completely with the underlying basis for our business. We by using these KPI’s to identify what content is working and making this analysis the basis for amplifying the content with ads is what we call “Socaily Validated Advertising”

  • http://twitter.com/SEO AJ Ghergich

    am I the only one that clicked the image of the social sharing buttons..to share this out lol.

  • A. Ayer

    What about traffic source and keyword source if organic source? You want to know what people were interested in finding if they consume your material – what topic search brought them there, and what kept them. If organic, did they find your site, or did they find the content directly?

    If source was not direct to the content, what path took them to the content? From where in your site did they find the promotion of the content relevant (which sidebar form led to a request for your white paper, click through to the page, etc.).

  • Sarah Howard

    Informative article as many people still hold the opinion that content marketing is ‘fluffy’ and intangible.

    As you mentioned at the beginning of the article, conversions are also a key metric. Multi-channel funnels in GA can give content marketers an insight into their audience’s conversion paths. We can now see when our content has assisted a conversion; which is really useful given that content such as news and blogs is designed to target those in the early stages of the buying cycle. It’s great to see when a visitor has come into your site through your content, come back directly and then converted. Some paths are longer than others, but content is usually at the heart.

  • Andrew

    Thanks Neil. Understanding the stats is so important, yet an on-going education.

  • Graeme Benge

    I like this Custom report for keyword analysis https://www.google.com/analytics/web/template?uid=KHh2JFGxSo24HtbLsVptEA it’s great for understanding your content some more once you’ve pushed it out there.

  • Manan Shah

    Hi Neil,

    KPIs seems good and glossy but if my content strategy also includes posts going out on third party websites via outreach; can you please suggest some tools that would help me track all the KPIs for individual posts on multiple websites???

    • http://twitter.com/NeilBhaps Neil Bhapkar

      Hi Manan,

      Good question. Unfortunately I don’t have a great answer for you in this situation where you’re posting content on other sites (ie. guest blogging). One thing you can control is inbound visits from this content, which along with backlinking and authorship credibility is the primary goal for posting on other sites. Analytics suites (ie. GA, KISS) can help you understand that inbound audience. For reach metrics, you should ask the third party sites for their data or use free research tools like quantcast or alexa to estimate it. Sentiment can understood by just looking at the sharing and commenting, or using a tool like HootSuite. Hope that helps.

  • http://www.virtualsupportsystems.com/blog VSS: Daniel Shlifer

    I am a very small inbound marketing agency and measurement plus analysis seems so critical for all my clients but it’s my job to show them why and how. I often have to use the phrase, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. You were very clear in this post how important it is to pay attention to analytics. I am learning how to separate the key KPIs from more useless reports which seems to be expanding all the time. If I had one item of value that I could offer to your readers, it’s to learn which are the 5 to 10 reports and key performance indicators that make their decision making process smoother. Your blog posts seem to be, and should be of great help in this area. Education is everything.

  • Rahul Puri

    Hi Neil, If I have to source this wonderful article for a B2B fortnightly magazine, what is the procedure?