By Kelsey Meyer published May 1, 2016

How to Match Key Metrics With Your Content Goals

Matching Key Metrics with Content Goals

If your goal is to lose weight and you want to measure your progress, you use a scale to track pounds or a tape measure to track inches. You would never measure your weight loss by tracking your height.

If you did that, you’d never know how far you’ve come — how many pounds or inches you’ve lost — and you wouldn’t be able to objectively see whether something you’re doing to lose weight is working. It’d be nearly impossible to hold yourself accountable, and it would be a waste of your time, energy, and resources.

It’s common sense. You wouldn’t record your height to measure how much weight you’ve lost. Unfortunately, some content marketers lose that common sense when it comes to tracking the success of their content efforts.

Some marketers aren’t clear from the beginning about what their goals are or what success looks like, and others mistakenly track the wrong metrics. Too often, we hear fellow marketers set lead generation as the No. 1 goal of content, yet they can’t seem to look past the number of social shares a piece of content earns to measure its effectiveness.

And it’s that confusion that leads to ineffective content marketing and other challenges that keep you from achieving your organization’s content marketing goals. In fact, in its 2016 B2B content marketing research, Content Marketing Institute found that only 30% of marketers say their organizations are effective at content marketing.

Only 30% of marketers say their organizations are effective at #contentmarketing via @cmicontent #research Click To Tweet

Now, this goal-tracking confusion could very well be a simple misunderstanding on the part of marketers – after all, many factors play into content’s success, and just as many metrics exist to measure it. But this misunderstanding, as simple as it is, has serious consequences for your content efforts.

The trick is uncovering your team’s key performance indicators and matching those goals with specific, measurable metrics to ensure that the content you’re creating and distributing is effective. The following guide will help you match metrics to goals, measure success, and become a better, more effective content marketer.

Uncover KPIs & match goals to measurable metrics for effective #contentmarketing via @Kelsey_M_Meyer Click To Tweet

If your goal is lead generation

When lead generation is your most important organizational goal (85% of marketers say it is), measuring social shares isn’t enough. To appropriately measure how your content is working for lead generation, you need to head to the bottom of the funnel to check out these metrics:

85% of marketers say that lead generation is their most important organizational goal says @Kelsey_M_Meyer Click To Tweet
  • Click-throughs: Every article should include a clear call to action. If your content is published elsewhere as a guest contribution, the desired action could be a click-through to your site or blog. If it’s a blog post on your platform, the desired action could be a download of gated content. Either way, the action should be clear and compelling, and measuring the click-through rates on those links is critical to understanding how your content is generating and converting leads.
  • Conversions: Take this a step further by comparing how many of those leads are qualified and can be converted into clients. We have a team member whose job involves combining information from our marketing automation system with her own individual research to learn more about each lead who comes through our site. She looks at everything from a lead’s LinkedIn account to his company website and even his Twitter account to determine whether he would be a good prospective customer. From there, she reaches out to the most qualified ones to advance the sales process, and our marketing team compares leads generated to qualified leads generated to better understand our progress toward achieving our goal.

If your goal is sales enablement

While lead generation is a fantastic goal – one that my team sets for itself each month – it isn’t complete without sales. Using content in the sales process is incredibly valuable, and to track how your content is affecting your sales enablement, you should monitor sales for leads who receive your content versus those who don’t. In particular, consider:

  • Sales conversion rate: Ideally, you’ll find that sending content to leads builds trust by directly addressing their objections, pain points, and questions. As a result, they should convert at a higher rate.
  • Sales cycle length: If your content is working, it should help your team decrease the length of your average sales cycle. If leads who receive content continue to close at a faster rate than those who don’t, you’ll know your content is effective.
  • Contract size: Because each piece of content should help overcome or minimize a barrier, it should be easier to sell more to the lead. Compare the contract size of clients who were nurtured with content against the contract size of clients who weren’t.

If your goal is brand awareness

Despite a 7% decrease since last year, brand awareness remains a top-level organizational goal for 77% of marketers. While I wouldn’t consider brand awareness a KPI (it’s difficult to accurately measure without performing an expensive brand-lift analysis), it is a goal that content marketing can help achieve. To measure your progress toward this goal, track the following:

  • Social shares and following: Measure your social following and average shares per article by benchmarking where you are and tracking your progress. Our marketing team uses HubSpot to schedule and track social media engagement and consistently reviews it to see what types of content, formats, times of day, days of the week, etc., work best for us and our audience.
  • Article views: This is easier to measure if you only focus on owned media because you can access your own analytics. It becomes a bit more difficult when you contribute content to external media, especially if the publisher doesn’t list the number of views on the page itself. The more people are viewing your content, the more they are aware of your brand.

If your goal is audience engagement

Beyond awareness, though, lies engagement. Many marketers — my team included — lean more toward genuine engagement and interaction than general brand awareness. To track your progress toward your goal of audience engagement, monitor these metrics:

  • Social shares: Look beyond the number of social shares, and closely examine who is sharing your content. It’s great when a piece of content goes viral or earns lots of shares, but if no one in your target audience or no one who influences your audience is engaging, those numbers aren’t as meaningful.
  • Comments: Ignore trolls and spam messages. Identify the individuals who are contributing to your content and who care about your industry, and look for the types of content that engage them most. You can reach out to them personally or on social media to continue the conversation and engagement.
  • Click-through rates: Sharing and commenting are solid metrics, but when your content prompts a reader to click, you can find out more about how and why he or she is engaging. By tracking the number of people who click and what kinds of content they’re clicking to see, you can learn even more about your audience members and how to engage them.

We know that 79% of marketers with the most effective content marketing know what success looks like for them. But we should also recognize that content’s effectiveness doesn’t rely on the clarity of our content goals alone.

79% of marketers w/the most effective #contentmarketing know what success looks like says @Kelsey_M_Meyer Click To Tweet

Part of the effectiveness of our content depends on our ability to identify the correct metrics and measure our progress toward achieving those goals. It’s not enough to simply set those content goals. Without a system to track and measure them, you’ll never know whether you achieve the goals you set. Or worse, you’ll never be able to improve ineffective efforts because you won’t know what works and what doesn’t.

As content marketers and consumers, we all benefit from better, more effective content, and it all starts with clear goals and effective measurement.

Setting your goals is one of the five core elements for running successful, scalable content marketing operations. Read our 2016 Content Marketing Framework: 5 Building Blocks for Profitable, Scalable Operations for an overview of the full strategic blueprint. 

Cover image by cohdra, Morguefile.com, via pixabay.com

Author: Kelsey Meyer

Kelsey Meyer is the president of Influence & Co., a content marketing firm that specializes in helping companies showcase their expertise through thought leadership. Influence & Co.’s clients range from venture-backed startups to Fortune 500 brands. For more on matching metrics to goals and tracking your performance, download Influence & Co.'s customizable analytics template. Follow Kelsey on Twitter @Kelsey_M_Meyer.

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  • Cyndi Frohman

    Great article, Kelsey! I agree that all too often undefined goals create unclear content plans and meaningless metrics. Marketing needs to clarify the goals throughout the organization, and not just within the department, to develop a successful plan.