In 1906, Mark Twain famously said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics,” and things have only become more complicated in the age of Big Data. There is a seemingly infinite array of metrics that you can choose from to measure the effectiveness of your content marketing, but they often range from the irrelevant to the downright deceptive.
As you begin your journey into Content Marketing, it can be overwhelming to decide on a starting point. In this blog post, I’m going to walk you through some ideas and some actionable tactics you can use to get your reporting in order and start measuring your content marketing performance accurately.
What Should I Be Measuring?
At our recent #ThinkContent Tour event in Chicago we held a breakout session on Measurement, and the challenges marketers identified were overwhelmingly around just identifying the right metrics. If you’re experiencing this same frustration, feel good knowing you’re in very significant company.
To understand what types of metrics you should be measuring, it’s important to look at what types of metrics are typically being used. The metrics that most of us are familiar with when it comes to content are sometimes known as Vanity Metrics, but they are treated with reverence. You’ve no doubt seem them, and may be relying on them right now:
Don’t get me wrong, there is undoubtedly value in these numbers and you should continue to stay aware of them, but this is simply the veneer of Google Analytics. In order to measure results, you need to start with the goals of your content marketing and work backwards from there.
If you’re a B2B company and you ultimately want form fills, then this is where your measurement strategy should begin. If you’re a B2C company and customers and engagement with your content is your goal, then you should start here. If share-of-voice on Social Media is the goal, then this is your starting point. Whatever your situation, the strategy is the same: look for actions that you want your content to result in and measure for this.
Before we go on to how you should do this, it’s worth mentioning that to begin with it would be a good idea to set goals that are realistic, achievable within a time frame that you can report on, and most importantly, that you can actually measure. Getting buy-in from senior leadership is often a significant challenge, so setting your sights on goals that are tangible but achievable is where you need to begin.
There are a lot of ways to interpret the true value of attribution, so don’t get too worried if your goals don’t seem lofty enough. As you become more sophisticated in your measurement, you can look at long tail, multi-touch, and other interesting methods of measurement. But when you start, focus on goals that mean something to the organization in a tangible way, and you’ll get buy-in to keep going. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for wins that nobody wants to celebrate.
Setting Up Measurement Goals For Your Content
A valuable first step in setting up your content marketing measurement is familiarizing yourself with Google Analytics Goals. A goal is an action taken by a site visitor that you want to measure and track, whenever they occur. The beauty of them is that they don’t require any coding skill, and don’t require any additional technical changes to your site.
Setting them up is also easier than you might think. If you identified that a particular page visit is the goal of choice, for example: visits to your pricing page, then you can simply tell Google that you’d like that action to be recorded every time a visitor hits that page. If you wanted visitors to go through a specific path, say from your solutions pages first, then pricing second, you can set that as a goal. It’s not simply tied to a destination either. You can also create goals for returning visits, time durations reached, or nearly anything you can think of. Depending on your technical skill level you can even record specific element clicks such as social share buttons.
Setting up Goals in GA is a topic that could (and has) spanned many a blog post in its entirety, so I won’t go too deep into it here. What’s more important to take away from this is that your metrics should be dictated by your desired outcomes, not the other way around. By making a time investment establishing these goals, you’ll set yourself up for a much more promising measurement journey.
Establishing Internal Benchmarks For Your Content
As you begin to present your content performance reports to leadership, you may be pushed to answer the benchmark question – “How is our content performing against our competitors?” While a valid question, there’s often one that’s not asked at all. How is your content performing against your static pages?
When you start to report on goals that your content is achieving, it’s critical that you have something to report it against. While competitors and industry benchmarks are nice, that’s often apples to oranges. What you can benchmark against today with confidence is how your content performs against the basic pages on your site. If you can report that your content drives more of a desired action than your static pages, then you’re already on a winning path. This also helps to reinforce the leadership buy-in as it’s much more solid than feel-good metrics like time on site.
Spend a little time recording the data and establishing a baseline for how your existing assets achieve these goals, and then you’ll have realistic and reachable targets to shoot for.
Measuring One Good Goal is Better Than Ten Bad Ones.
The final thing to remember when starting out is not to be dissuaded if you think your goals are not significant enough. If you can start with one goal that has demonstrable value, lines up with your corporate strategy, and shows user intent, then you’ll already be way beyond where most industries are today. By starting with a goal that you can get leadership behind, you’ll buy enough confidence to dig deeper.
The greatest journey begins with a single step, and measuring your content marketing effectiveness is no different.
Godspeed, content marketer.
Liam Moroney is the Demand Generation Manager at NewsCred