By Derek Edmond published February 10, 2014

6 Ways to Measure B2B Content Marketing Performance

performance level meter-gaugeYou’ve no doubt reviewed one of the Content Marketing Institute’s research reports on Content Marketing Budgets, Benchmarks and Trends. As a B2B online marketing strategist, my focus is with its B2B Content Marketing Research report, and one of the more important points I found lies within the organizational goals set for content marketing initiatives. Content marketing clients want to make sure their objectives are satisfying similar criteria as their peers’ efforts.

Here is the chart again for reference:

chart-organizational goals-b2b marketing

While this year’s top content marketing goals shouldn’t come as a surprise, in my mind, the biggest unanswered question is, how can B2B marketers demonstrate goal completion? In this article, I’ll outline how to demonstrate B2B content marketing performance in association with three primary challenges: brand awareness, thought leadership, and engagement.

Brand awareness

Even though page performance metrics found in Google Analytics are strong indicators of B2B content marketing success (check out Andy Crestodina’s article for a more in-depth discussion on content optimization through Google Analytics), they don’t fully illustrate the reach of the content that’s developed and marketed. Here are important reporting options for content marketers benchmarking brand awareness.

1. Google Webmaster Tools’ keyword report: Google continues to improve the information that’s accessible to site owners in its Webmaster Tools suite, especially in the wake of significantly increased “not provided” keyword referral data in Google Analytics.

Marketers logged into Webmaster Tools can navigate to “Search Traffic” –> “Search Queries,” clicking the “Top Pages” tab, to get an overview of the approximate clicks and impressions in organic search results that web pages have received. The latter half helps define reach of your efforts.

search queries-graph

Marketers should export and filter this report to find the web addresses associated with content marketing assets published. Take note: Webmaster Tool data is only accessible for the past 90 days, so you’ll need to export information on a periodic basis if you want to build out trending information.

Key measurement data to benchmark:

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Keywords associated to page (you can manually select each web page to view specific keywords that the page appeared for in search engine results)

2. Bing Webmaster Tools: Bing also provides similar data in association to Bing search engine results, and the information it makes available extends back for 6 months.

bing-page traffic image

Once your site is registered, navigate from “Reports & Data” to “Page Traffic” to access this information.

3. Social media post performance: Social media platforms have significantly improved reporting data associated with activity measurement and benchmarking performance. These data points help prove reach and engagement of an organization’s presence in an applicable social media community.

B2B content marketers should seek to gain access to social media platform reports, to establish content marketing performance reports on content distributed in social media channels. Here is a basic breakdown on where to obtain the data, once logged into an applicable social media account:

  • Post performance in Facebook: Facebook insights have come a long way in offering actionable metrics to marketing managers and business owners. The most relevant locations for the measurement of content marketing asset performance include:

o   Individual Post Performance (Page –> Insights –> Posts)

individual post performance listing

  • Comprehensive data exports at the page and post level, breaking out specific engagement details of social media activity

export insights data

  • Post performance in Twitter: Twitter also offers a free set of traffic metrics directly accessible via Twitter Analytics and also from the “Twitter Ads” menu when logged into your Twitter profile.
  • From the Twitter reporting dashboard, users can get information on the performance activity (favorites, replies, retweets) associated with Twitter updates created for up to the last 90 days or 500 updates.

twitter-recent tweets listing

  • Post performance in LinkedIn: For LinkedIn company page administrators, the social platform has begun incorporating a much more comprehensive set of metrics in the company insights section of LinkedIn Pages. Page administrators can get a better understanding of visitor types (in terms of professional level of experience), and impressions and engagement percentages of company updates.

company updates listing

Thought leadership, and engagement

I bucketed thought leadership and engagement together because we use similar benchmarks for both in establishing performance success.

4. Social shares: The social media platform performance metrics detailed above provide a good indication of the visibility and engagement with your own social media posts, but what about the broader network? Paying attention to the volume of social sharing happening across platforms can be an important indicator for establishing improvements in thought leadership and broader engagement levels.

Generally speaking, marketers want to take note of the social share volume content marketing assets have, in the specific social platforms they are using. For B2B marketers, common examples include:

  • LinkedIn shares
  • Twitter shares (and possibly the social profiles that shared content)
  • Google+ updates
  • Facebook shares and “likes”

Here are a few resources that can aid in the aggregation of information associated to social media sharing:

  • SharedCount offers an easy-to-use interface for tracking social sharing metrics across content marketing assets. Simply input a web address in SharedCount to obtain various sharing metrics from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and more.

shared count-track url shares, likes, tweets

  • RavenTools provides simple-to-evaluate dashboards for gaining insight into Twitter and Facebook metrics associated with reach of shares and mentions. In addition, marketers can track performance over time in an effort to assess comparative data across specific time frames.

twitter metrics example

Finally, we can explore more automated methods for maintaining content marketing performance reports on social sharing and analytics reporting, since these numbers obviously shift over time. It’s possible to create your own automated reports using a combination of Google spreadsheets and API calls to Google Analytics and social media platforms. (To learn a bit more about this process, check out this article, from Tom Critchlow of Distilled).

5. Inbound link performance in webmaster tools: Both Google and Bing provide inbound link reports in their respective Webmaster Tool consoles. The value in measuring inbound link data lies with being able to establish the tie-in between quality content and attribution by third parties. You certainly want to know, and showcase, when your content is well-received by relevant audiences and influencers in your respective industries, by way of link references.

In Google Webmaster Tools, the inbound link report can be found by navigating through “Search Traffic” –> “Links to Your Site”. From there, marketers can review third-party sites linking in, as well as specific inbound links on individual web pages.

google-webmaster-inbound-links

For Bing, a similar report can be found by navigating from “Reports & Data” to “Inbound Links.”

bing-inbound links example

There are commercial SEO programs that also provide inbound link data (with a level of free access also), most notably RavenTools (detailed above), Moz’s Open Site Explorer, and Majestic SEO.

6. Web page referral reports: Don’t forget to check out referral data in Google Analytics as well. While the broader “Acquisition” report on third-party referrals provides site-wide data, marketers should filter landing page information in an effort to identify the specific sources of traffic.

To do this in Google Analytics, simply navigate, “Behavior” –> “Site Content” –> “All Pages” and select the applicable web address. Once accessed, use the “Secondary Dimension” filter to choose “Source” which will provide insight into the specific domains that sent traffic to that web page.

google analyitics  - pageview information

Marketers can use this report to track references and inbound links, leveraging the information to ascertain what types of content third-party sites find the most valuable as well.

Did I miss anything? How is your organization measuring the performance of B2B content marketing initiatives and their impact on brand awareness, thought leadership, and user engagement? I would love to read your perspective and feedback via comments below.

For more tips, tools, and techniques for tracking and measuring B2B content marketing performance, check out CMI’s eGuide on Measuring Content Marketing Success.

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Derek Edmond

Derek Edmond is a Managing Partner for KoMarketing Associates, a B2B internet marketing agency specializing in search, social media, and content marketing. Derek directs SEO and social media strategies for clients of KoMarketing. With nearly 10 years experience, Derek has worked with organizations ranging from the Fortune 500 to venture-backed startups to small business enterprises. Connect with Derek through Twitter, LinkedIn, and "Google+.

Other posts by Derek Edmond

  • http://www.docalytics.com/ Steve Peck

    Good list of performance measurement tools, but I feel you’ve somewhat missed the boat by glossing over the importance of measuring true engagement with content. As we’ve found, focusing exclusively on social sharing activities is not so much a precise proxy for how valuable a piece of content is to your target audience, but more a measure of how ‘sharable’ the title of your content and the first few paragraphs might be.

    As we look at our longer form content, we’ve seen time and time again that those who tend to share content make snap judgement in sharing a whitepaper or eBook based on engaging with the first page or two, while in many cases the engagement rate of those who actually are there to read the content (i.e. the people your business most likely wants to nurture) many times will not mirror the engagement patterns of the minority of readers who chose to share.

    In summary, social sharing metrics can often be a misleading, vanity metric, and many times do not equate to high engagement rates like time spent or pages consumed, so be careful about relying only on those metrics for measuring campaign success.

    • derekedmond

      Hi Steve – thanks for commenting and your perspective is appreciated. As I developed this post I thought about how to intertwine some of those ideas but leaned towards the notion that they drift more towards customer acquisition and lead generation. That said – you bring up great points.

  • James Perrin

    Great list there Derek, I like the look of Shared Content as a nice quick social metrics check. For something a bit more comprehensive have you tried using Sprout Social? I really like it – so many different metrics and stats. What I particularly love about it is the theoretical number of impressions across all social media channels – this gives you a better idea of brand exposure. Great post.

    • derekedmond

      Hi James – thanks for commenting! I have not tried Sprout Social but heard good things. I’ll definitely take a look

  • Steve Rayson

    Nice post thanks. To find the most shared content for any topic, domain or author you can do a search with the free BuzzSumo tool. This will show you the most shared content across all the main networks and who shared it.