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Content Marketing Metrics: How to Drive Action Instead of Reaction

content marketing metrics, CMIIn a recent interview with Jay Baer, co-author of “The NOW Revolution: 7 Shifts to Make Your Company Faster, Smarter and More Social” and one of the Content Marketing Institute’s consultants, Jay explained four key metrics that every content marketer needs to measure: consumption metrics, sharing metrics, lead metrics, and sales metrics.

As always, Jay is right on the mark, but I would break this down even further into two distinct categories: Metrics that result in actions and those that merely drive reactions.
It’s important to focus your efforts on actionable metrics that can be improved upon. Yes, you may have 1,000 Facebook “likes” this month compared to 500 last month, but who’s reading your website content, and who is it being shared with? Did these same people take a desired action that helped your business make money or save money as a result of consuming your content? And most importantly, did anyone who took a desired action ultimately become a customer?

I often hear that hiring a journalist is the first step to launching a content marketing program. This may be a good start, but keep in mind that many of these folks don’t have an analytics background and have never considered metrics around leads and sales to be important to them. Here are four tips to help your team focus on actions instead of reactions when looking at key content marketing performance metrics.

1. Make sure you are prepared to act on what the data tells you

Whether metrics tell you that you are doing something good or bad, make sure you can do something about it. If it’s good, figure out how you can improve; and if it’s bad, ask yourself how to fix it. Regardless of the metric, make sure someone within your organization can act on the metrics in a way that improves your results moving forward.

Having a metrics dashboard where you can see all of your actionable metrics in one place is key to preparing your team to optimize your content based on the information you receive from your metrics. For example, we use Raven, which provides online marketing tools that can give our team a quick snapshot of many of our key consumption and sharing metrics, while our Salesforce dashboards allow us to track lead and sales metrics.

2. Stop looking at monthly reports

As a content marketer, it’s important to examine key metrics on a regular basis so you can respond more quickly. If your only interaction with metrics is on a monthly basis, you most likely will be reacting to the metrics at a point when you can no longer do much about them.

While looking at your reports on a monthly basis is often not enough, daily analysis can be too much. The key is to find the right balance for your organization. To be able to respond to your metrics more quickly, reduce the number of key performance indicators you’re looking at and focus on the metrics that matter most to your organization. This likely is a case where less is more.

It’s also critical not to compare metrics such as page views or unique visitors month over month. Look at year over year instead. The biggest reason is that seasonal spikes in traffic, like the holidays for example, can skew your data.

3. Know what to look for

Reactionary metrics such as “length of visit” or “number of page views per visit” are not that interesting to the content marketer. The real key is to understand your customers’ purchasing process, and how your content marketing program is affecting actionable metrics like lead generation and sales consumption figures.

Pay attention to metrics such as lead generation and customer acquisition, where the customer entered the sales funnel as a result of your content efforts. Evaluating these figures, as opposed to how many Facebook “likes” or Twitter followers you have, is much more helpful for figuring out how your content marketing program drives business results.

Another key metric to look at is “tweet reach” (or retweet reach), which is a measure of how viral your tweets become. You should pay attention to how many of your followers retweet you, and how many of your followers’ followers do as well.

content marketing metrics - Twitter, CMI

Staying with social, don’t get caught up worrying too much about your overall number of Twitter followers. For instance, as an enterprise software company, if we only add 12 Twitter followers this year but these 12 all become customers, it would result in significant revenue. Instead of looking at the increase in Twitter followers you have on a weekly or monthly basis (a reactionary metric), figure out how you can nurture 12 qualified followers through the sales cycle and convert them into customers. Remember, it’s ultimately about quality, not quantity.

4. Know where they’re coming from

Inbound referral traffic, or how much traffic gets driven to your site from other websites, is one of the most critical metrics for content marketers to monitor, as it provides a window into how your content is resonating with your target audience. For example, if you see that Mashable is consistently driving more traffic to your website than other comparable sources, you should find additional ways to increase your exposure to the Mashable community by contributing a blog post or looking for other ways to deepen your partnership.

content marketing metrics - referring sites, CMI

The bottom line

As a content marketer, don’t get hung up on metrics you can’t act upon. Often, length of visit or the number of page views per visit won’t matter to your overall success. Instead, focus on how many leads and how many opportunities your content marketing team is influencing. At the end of the day the overall goal is to close business, not just increase your number of page views or followers.

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Cover image via Bigstock