Is your content marketing strategy working? Are you measuring and analyzing the results of the content you create, or are you simply taking a shot in the dark – or throwing spaghetti against the wall in hopes that a few pieces will stick?
Effective content marketing is more than just writing great content and launching it into digital orbit. It’s about learning, measuring, analyzing and modifying your approach to fine-tune your tactics and get more results.
First and Foremost, Get a Content Strategy
The first thing you need is a strategy. And it needs to be more than having a goal in your head of writing 10 blog posts every month. That’s not a content strategy.
You need a firm, solid, well thought-out, written plan complete with goals, timelines, and specific initiatives. It doesn’t have to be a 50-page report. But get it on paper. Give yourself a framework to work from.
Point is, you can’t measure results if you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish in the first place.
Identifying your key performance indicators (KPIs) is the first step to setting specific, measurable goals. KPIs can be along the lines of:
- Increasing “SEO value”
- Building backlinks to your website
- Improving readership
- Raising brand awareness
- Getting more subscribers
- Generating engagement
- Establishing authority
- Driving more leads or sales
So it’s critical to set specific goals, but also ones that are practical and attainable.
If you’re using an editorial calendar, you can easily incorporate goals tied directly to each content asset you create, and even import your metrics there for further analysis.
Leverage Social Media Insights and Analytics
Wait, we’re talking about content marketing, not social media, right? True, but if you’re doing content marketing right, you’re using social media as a content promotion and distribution channel because that’s where a lot of your audience lives. So social metrics are an excellent measure of content marketing success.
Most of the prominent social networks now have analytics or insights built right in. On Facebook, you get Page Insights and Twitter offers Analytics. Even LinkedIn has incorporated some measurement tools.
Facebook Insights tells you exactly which posts drive the most engagement, how many users interact with those posts, and also offers more general overview statistics such as page engagement and like counts week-over-week. This is a seamless way to monitor whether your Facebook presence is growing and becoming more effective.
On Twitter, the analytics feature shows you your timeline activity, including new followers and unfollows day-by-day as well as a full list of your tweets and interactions. You also get to reports on the engagement rates for each of your updates.
There’s even hope for Google+. With AllMyPlus.com, you can get all kinds of metrics about your posts, like how many +1’s you’ve received, follower counts, comments and other data points. You can even filter by the type of post and find out which of your posts are most popular with a simple click. Google+ plays a role in search engine visibility, so the benefits here can be multifaceted.
On LinkedIn, the Analytics tab (available on company pages) shows your posts, impressions, clicks, interactions, new followers generated and an overall engagement score.
With the big four social media networks offering these features, it’s easy to enable social sharing metrics as part of your content marketing goals and measure and analyze until you’ve gotten it down to a science.
Find out precisely what types of content generate the most interest and engagement at which times of the day and on which specific social networks is highly valuable data. So don’t let it go to waste.
What’s more, the ability to measure and evaluate your social data lets you know which topics people care about. So you can leverage this proprietary knowledge to help inform your future content marketing efforts and tap into the subjects that resonate best with your audience.
Beyond Social: Tapping Into SEO Insights
It’s not all about social media. SEO analytics are also a valuable way to measure your content marketing success. There are several important questions for which you can glean answers through SEO analytics to use as content marketing KPIs, such as:
- How many visits from search did your content generate?
- How long did they stay on your site (dwell time)?
- How far did visitors move through your sales funnel?
- How many leads or conversions did you generate?
- How many backlinks did your content earn? Hint: use a tool like ahrefs to gather fresh backlink data.
Don’t Overlook User Engagement
There’s one key, foundational measurement that still stands as solid feedback on how good your content really is and how well it’s working: Is your audience engaging with your content?
You can acquire some of these metrics with your SEO and social data analysis, but you can also gain insights with a pretty basic evaluation of your content. Here are a couple of indicators that clearly illustrate how engaging your content is:
- Are your blog posts generating comments? If so, make sure you’re taking time to respond to questions, thank visitors for reading and for sharing their own recommendations or feedback on your posts. When your blog posts are attracting dozens to hundreds of comments, it’s a sure sign that you’re creating compelling material and you’re building an engaged audience.
- Is your content being shared? Embed share buttons on your site that show the number of times visitors have shared, liked, or +1’d your content. This is one of my favorite sharing plugins. Granted, you can get these metrics via social analytics, but it’s a quick and dirty way to get immediate feedback. Check out this post, for instance. Visitors can clearly see that more than 40 other readers thought it was awesome enough to share with their friends, it’s been tweeted and even pinned multiple times.
- Are your videos, slide decks and infographics attracting attention? Are they being embedded on other websites? Have your YouTube videos been viewed thousands of times? These are all indicators that your content is working. Here’s a great example of a slide deck that’s getting attention. More than 150 people have viewed it, and the company can get deeper SlideShare metrics in the backend.
And that same company offers an e-book on the same topic – “Avoiding a Storm in Your Cloud Installation” – on its website. Notice how they’re maximizing distribution channels to increase exposure and generate more leads. And it’s all measurable.
Want more real world examples of engagement? Check out this infographic that has earned more than 600 shares on the discovery engine Stumbleupon. With a thought-provoking and “click baity” type hook, it’s no shock that a Google search reveals this graphic has been embedded in dozens of other websites. It’s amazing how measurable content marketing really is, yet so many businesses continue to fumble in the dark.
There are dozens of ways to measure the results of your content marketing campaigns. Whether you choose to implement a sophisticated tracking and analysis of all your aggregated metrics or you take a simpler approach, the important thing is that you set goals, analyze your results and use the data that’s readily available to you to drive your initiatives and measure success.
It’s too easy to get stuck in the rut of throwing spaghetti against a wall, especially when things change so frequently you can’t keep tabs on what you’re supposed to be doing and what you should avoid. Pay attention to your audience and do more of what works for you.