By Cathy McPhillips published September 3, 2018

How to Measure Your Content Marketing Effectiveness

measure-content-marketingEditor’s note: You may have missed the original post when we published it several years ago. We know how important it is for content marketers to tie their results to marketing and business goals, so we’ve updated it with new suggestions and resources.

What does it mean that your content marketing is “working?” In general, this means it’s supporting your marketing and business goals.

Here’s a simple way to track your content marketing program and, more importantly, how to communicate this to your team and management.

How to track basic KPIs

When putting your measurement program in place, start by deciding how frequently you’ll collect your data. A good schedule to start with is measuring marketing effectiveness on a monthly basis. This has worked well for CMI, though we watch some metrics weekly to make sure monthly goals stay on track — especially those we can address quickly.

When putting a measurement program in place, start by deciding how frequently you’ll collect data. @cmcphillips Click To Tweet

Then, create a spreadsheet that documents and tracks the following:

  • Your marketing goals. If you have several, it may help to put them in order of priority. (By this point, you should have agreed on goals with your management team; if you haven’t, now is the time to get on the same page.)
  • The key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll use to measure the marketing effectiveness of your content.
  • Your plan for gathering this performance information.
  • Who will be responsible for collecting and reporting this data.

Here’s a simple spreadsheet you can use based on our experience at CMI. If your metrics spreadsheet is something you plan to share with others across your enterprise (which we highly recommend), consider using Google Sheets or another shared platform so everyone can view and make changes when necessary.

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I can’t stress enough that everyone working on content marketing needs to know the core KPIs for measuring the marketing effectiveness of your content. Whether or not they’re directly involved with your content analytics, it’s critical that content creators understand how their work impacts overarching company goals.

Everyone who works on #contentmarketing needs to know which KPIs matter the most, says @cmcphillips. Click To Tweet

Here are some examples of KPIs you may want to track:

common-content-marketing-goals

Getting started

Measuring content marketing effectiveness can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. Don’t measure simply for the sake of having some numbers to present to your management. If you aren’t certain what you should be measuring, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Do these metrics support my key goals?
  • Can I act on these metrics (i.e., will they provide insight into how I can improve my program)?
Don’t measure simply for the sake of having numbers to present to your management. @cmcphillips #metrics Click To Tweet

Unless you can answer “yes” to the questions above, you likely don’t need to be collecting the data — at least at first. This post from Michele Linn outlines some critical data points you can collect and immediately put to good use: 4 Google Analytics Reports Every Content Marketer Should Use.

At CMI, one of our primary goals is getting new email subscribers, as this goal is a key to our business model. We track how many subscribers we have, but we also delve into data such as:

  • Where subscribers are coming from (e.g., e-books, our blog, webinars, co-registration opportunities, etc.)
  • Opt-out percentages by month and opt-out sources

Content marketing measurement tips

Our measurement processes constantly evolve. It takes time to track, analyze, and report on performance. But over the years we’ve realized how essential this cycle of measurement and optimization is to content marketing success. As you build your measurement processes, keep these tips in mind:

Track conversions

While some vanity metrics (e.g., Twitter followers, website traffic) are easy to track, they’re rarely insightful independent of other data. We do track our social growth, which allows us to look at trending and anecdotal information on where we are getting the most shares and social conversation. However, we’ve found it’s more important to track conversions to email subscription, topics of interest, and registrations for a CMI activity such as Content Marketing World. This helps us adjust our content marketing plan so we have confidence that we’re delivering on our readers’ interests and expectations — which certainly helps our own bottom line.

While some vanity #metrics are easy to track, they’re rarely insightful independent of other data. @cmcphillips Click To Tweet

Collect actionable metrics

Only collect data you want to use and can act on. For example, years ago we created a KPI document that allowed us to watch growth month-to-month in areas such as our email program, website, and social channels. After a year of looking at these KPIs, the CMI team re-evaluated these metrics and made one significant change: We now only track our most actionable metrics, such as email subscribers, email engagement rate, time on site, and event registrations.

Talk to and learn from industry peers

Early in our efforts to measure content performance, we had been looking at growth in particular areas – social followers, email subscribers, and the like. But we found that this didn’t take into account everything CMI does on each of these channels each month. And we weren’t capturing conversions our tweets, posts, and emails delivered each month. After listening to Andy Crestodina’s presentation at Content Marketing World and reading his company blog posts, we’ve implemented better goal tracking. Now, we can see not only what activity is generating engagement, but also which are converting. We rely on many industry peers and CMWorld speakers for continuing education and advice.

Be ready to adapt

At one point, we realized we were tracking email opt-ins by source, but not doing anything with that information. So we fine-tuned the process to look at email deliverability, opt-outs, and completed profiles – all areas we can act on to help improve our email effectiveness. What you track over time will likely shift, so evaluate your list of metrics quarterly, bi-annually, or annually to make sure you’re capturing the data that will best address your key questions. We review our metrics on a quarterly basis to make sure they continue to align with CMI goals as they evolve.

Evaluate #contentmarketing metrics regularly so you capture right data to answer performance ?’s. @cmcphillips Click To Tweet

Automate data collection

Think about how you can automate data collection with reports. With our team’s help, we’ve been able to automate dashboards within Google Analytics, Salesforce, and our marketing automation system. We can look at these dashboards each week, and then have a simple way each month to update our KPI document. However, if automated data collection isn’t an option, consider additional resources and team members you can tap into if you need help evaluating your content performance. Since many team members touch our marketing processes at various points, assigning oversight responsibilities for each KPI has improved ownership and accountability.

Take time for analysis

It’s not enough to just collect data and add it to a spreadsheet. You need to analyze the data so you understand where the opportunities for improvement lie — and what the best path may be for achieving those improvements. For example, if data shows that our blog posts on content marketing strategy all have high numbers of Facebook shares, LinkedIn posts, and tweets, proper analysis of these data points can help show us the best ways to leverage these high-performing topics across our other content platforms and lead to a conversion.

Measuring the results of your content marketing activities lets you continually learn what your audience likes and use that information to improve. The result? Happier prospects, happier customers, and happier management.

What analytics tips and tools do you have that help you track and measure your content performance?

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Cathy McPhillips

Cathy is the Vice President of Marketing at the Content Marketing Institute, leading marketing efforts for CMI, Content Marketing World, Intelligent Content Conference, CMI University, CCO magazine, and other CMI properties. She works hard to get you to CMI events - online and off - and gets extra excited for opportunities to meet #CMWorld community members in person! Cathy is also a board member for The Orange Effect Foundation. You can follow her on Twitter @cmcphillips.

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