One of the biggest challenges facing content marketers today is how to measure the effectiveness of their content marketing. According to the B2B content marketing report, this is going to be a major area of focus in 2015, and with good reason! Content marketers have to be more accountable and demonstrate that they are contributing to the bottom line, not just adding a cost center to the business.
So where do we start? The reality is that we’re not lacking for metrics. Page views, shares, click-through rates, engagement — you name it, you can track it. We have more data about our content than ever before. But how many of us have real insight?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the information at our fingertips and get distracted by vanity metrics. Be honest, are page views really the most important thing for you to look at?)
So what should we be paying attention to? Which metrics matter more than others? And how do you measure the true business impact of your content?
Ultimately, it’s about the bottom line. All of the traffic in the world doesn’t mean much if you aren’t getting any new customers out of it.
Here’s a roundup of the core metrics that content marketers should keep an eye on if they want to know whether their content marketing is truly paying off.
Measuring your content performance starts with your content. You’ll need to track your content’s performance at a granular level to know whether it’s getting the exposure it needs, as well as to discover which pieces are performing best, so you can better tailor future content to your audience.
Here are some metrics to track for this purpose:
- Social shares: Be it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, or all of the above, if people are sharing your content, that’s a good indication they’re into it.
- Bounce rate/visit time: Have you ever been pulled in by a headline only to discover the actual blog piece isn’t what you’re looking for? Your bounce rate decreasing over time tells you that you’re giving people what they want. In conjunction with this, an increase in time on site means your content is engaging enough to keep your audience around.
- Pages per visit: This speaks to your content’s relevance and exposure. If visitors are moving from one piece of content to the next (instead of reading, then leaving your site), it shows you’re producing more than just one-off pieces that hit the mark — and that you’ve created a content experience that allows for discoverability.
Marketing and sales have always gone hand in hand. But this has become an even more important consideration now that content allows potential customers to explore your business and evaluate your company’s expertise before they even consider speaking with a sales representative (if they ever do).
While not all content is directly focused on lead generation, even a top-of-the-funnel piece could be just the catalyst a prospect needs to convert. Ideally, you’re using content marketing software that helps track the effectiveness of each piece of content, but if not, here’s where you want to start:
- Click-through rates for your calls to action (CTAs): If a CTA’s click-through rate is low, consider changing up the language, placement, or even colors of your content to see if that brings different results. Or, if you have the same CTA in different places and one is performing better than the other, you may want to further promote that piece of content to drive more traffic there.
- Lead-to-customer percentage: How many of the leads your content is bringing in are turning into actual customers? A low number indicates the need for a tighter sales funnel, a deeper look at the quality of leads your content is attracting, or perhaps more targeted content that will help the sales team close more and faster.
- Cost per lead/cost per acquisition: This is the amount your company has to spend to bring in a lead and turn it into a customer. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that this cost should be far below the amount of money that customer is bringing in!
- Average sales cycle duration: A sales cycle is the length of time it takes for a lead to become a full-on customer. While the initial length of a sales cycle is relative to your product and process, the shorter your average sales cycle becomes, the better your content marketing ROI.
- Average revenue per user: If the average amount each individual customer is bringing in begins to dip, it may mean your sales and content teams need to focus on up-selling or targeting leads at a higher price point.
- Customer retention/churn rate: Content marketing doesn’t end with landing a customer. A steady or increasing customer retention rate means you’re on track, while an increasing churn rate (the amount of customers you lose) should sound the alarm for more customer TLC.
Calculating content marketing ROI
When it boils down to actually calculating your content marketing ROI, it’s really just about the dollars and cents. Calculate your content marketing ROI thusly:
Take the dollars invested — including cost of writers, content marketing software, paid distribution channels, etc. Then, based on your campaign, determine the increase in sales that resulted from your content marketing efforts, and voila: The difference is your return, be it negative or positive. Simply put:
The math is simple, but the implications for your strategy will be huge.
What to report on
The above metrics are all well and good to know, but when it comes to reporting to your CMO or executive team, there’s no need to recite every cell of your spreadsheet. Here are three big questions to answer that will wrap all of this information up into a nice, little, digestible package.
- Are leads turning into customers? As stated above, it’s all about the bottom line. Knowing the number of social shares or bounce rate is valuable to you for strategy and execution, but on their own these metrics don’t say much when you are tasked with reporting content marketing ROI to others in your organization.
Your content is meant to engage, educate, and entertain — but, above all, it’s meant to bring in customers. Knowing how many leads are brought in with your content and how many of those leads show you the money is what matters most to the C-suite.
- Are we saving money? You’ve got to spend money to make money, but if you’re spending as much or more to bring in customers than they’re giving back, that’s bad for business. A decrease in cost-per-lead or cost-per-acquisition means you’re on the right track (and may even free up some more money for your marketing budget — hooray!).
- Are we keeping customers? A lot of companies tend to forget about the customers they have in favor of the customers they’re trying to get, and an increase in churn rate will signify this. If you’re losing customers at an unreasonable rate, then your team will know to place more focus on retention efforts, be it with content that better answers product questions or a more hands-on customer success approach.
Check out the infographic below for more on measuring your content marketing ROI. And if you think a crucial metric is missing here, let us know in the comments!
For a deeper look at these metrics (and more), check out CMI’s eGuide on measurement.
Cover image by Jarmoluk via pixabay.com