Is Your Content Marketing Making a Difference? (KPIs to Watch)

Leah Champagne on March 14, 2023

Goals. If you like reading marketing blogs, then you’ve probably seen this word ad nauseam, situated right at the heart of almost every piece of advice you consume. Well, you can add this blog to the list.

There is no shortage of articles that will outline a handful of helpful ways to determine if all those hours you poured into your content are actually paying off. None of these are wrong; they all list viable content marketing metrics that will tell you something about your content. But they’re missing the context of something big. Can you guess what it is?

Yep! Goals.

The only way to truly know if your content marketing is making a difference is to weigh your gains against your goals. Those objectives will dictate the type of content you create, what channels you distribute it through and how you define the success of your content.

So instead of giving you another list of KPIs to try, I’m going to tackle this topic in context. We’ll look at key performance indicators (KPIs) for four common organizational content goals:

  1. Increase Brand Awareness
  2. Boost User Engagement
  3. Generate Leads
  4. Improve Conversion Rates

Increase Brand Awareness

This is the goal most people think about when they hear “content marketing.” Content is a great way to spread awareness about your business across multiple channels, especially if you're just starting out. To do this well (and with minimal investment), it’s wise to rely heavily on organic traffic.

The trick to capturing organic search is optimization. I know, big surprise. Content optimized for SEO best practices shows Google you’re knowledgeable and trustworthy while providing valuable, easy-to-read information for users. The goal of optimization is to help you capture users who don’t already know about your brand. Hence, increasing brand awareness.

Blogs are one of the most common types of content used to support this goal, mostly because they’re incredibly versatile. You can create content that caters to all stages of the customer journey, but really zero in on those awareness stage pieces. Think about the initial questions new customers often have about your brand and write articles that address them. The more you can educate, the more people will trust you.

Although blogs tend to be the most popular, you can’t forget your other channels. Building awareness isn’t just about beefing up your website; it’s about expanding your overall reach. Consider areas where a YouTube video or social media post would better reach or help your audience and build up those channels as well. The internet is a big place, so don’t limit yourself to one billboard.

Okay, so you know what to post and where to post it but how do you know the right KPIs to track to know if you’re actually generating a return?

What to Measure

Boosting brand awareness is all about how many people see — and like, and share — your content.

Our first set of content marketing KPIs includes:

  • Website traffic or page views – Specifically look at what sources your users are coming from to determine if you're gaining any organic traction. How does your organic traffic compare to direct or paid traffic? Have you made gains since you started regularly publishing content?
  • Unique sessions – A loyal following is great, but when you’re building awareness you want to make sure new people are visiting your site too. Monitor if your unique web session or unique social views are steadily increasing as you publish more content.
  • Social shares and follows – This is more so if you’re focusing on social media channels, but can pertain to blog posts if you use some type of social listening software for your business. Are people following your account or sharing your content on social media? Have you seen an uptick in either of these since you started posting more or changed your strategy? This will show if more people are discovering your brand and if they’re helping you spread the word to more micro-communities on the platform.

Boost User Engagement

Maybe you’ve already got awareness down pat. You have steady website traffic, a solid social media following, maybe even a few brand ambassadors out there. Except, when people make it to your blogs, videos or social posts, nothing comes out of it. They come, they read, they leave.

Once you’ve established a firm foundation of awareness, the next step is to start garnering engagement with your content. This is how you start building a relationship with readers and how you can identify people that are interested in taking next steps with your brand. A few examples of engagement include:

  • Clicking a link
  • Downloading a lead generator (guide, eBook, checklist, template, etc.)
  • Signing up for a webinar
  • Filling out a form
  • Or even just going to another page

I find that boosting engagement isn’t so much about the content itself but what you add to it. For example, a blog about anatomy that has an interactive map of the human body will get a lot more engagement than one without. Why? Because clicking on a cartoon abdomen and seeing a blurb about the pancreas is way more fun than reading a paragraph about it.

This is a pretty advanced example, but there are lots of simple things you can do to promote engagement too.

  • Internal linking is one of the oldest methods of encouraging people to explore more of your website by providing a clear path to related articles.
  • Pop ups with special offers or information can also be extremely successful.
  • Adding a video to your blog or social post
  • Creating a quiz that relates to your content

Even just the logical placement of transitional calls to action (CTAs) or offers that relate to the content’s topic encourage people to take action on your page.

After you implement some of these efforts, it’s time to see if they’re actually working.

What to Measure

Engagement is all about taking action, so you want to focus on metrics that demonstrate action. One of my favorite things about the newest iteration of Google Analytics (GA4) is that it makes this super easy. They changed the platform to focus more on the customer journey, so a lot of its reporting measures different engagement metrics to evaluate content performance.

As you evaluate your content’s success, look at:

  • Session duration – How long do people stay on your website? You can view this overall or report it on the page level if you want to track specific pieces of content. I recommend implementing new tactics iteratively and tracking their success before applying them to other areas of your content marketing. This will help you hone in on what generates the best results with your target audience so you only invest future energy on something that provides a return.
  • Average time on page – How long do people stay on your content pages? Do they hop on and off in a few seconds or stick around to read the entire article or watch the whole video? The amount of time website visitors stay on your content pages is a good indication of whether or not they’re finding value in what you offer.
  • Bounce rate – This is when someone views your page and then leaves your site without seeing any other pages. You’ll get some indication of this from your user flow, but monitoring the bounce rate on particular pieces of content is also important. Do people leave your site or social profile after viewing your content? Do they continue exploring your content? As a rule of thumb, the average bounce rate is 85%. A decreasing bounce rate indicates people are engaging more with your site by visiting other pages.
  • Clicks – This is a fun new measurement you can set up in GA4 to monitor when people click on certain things in your blog. It’s their new way of monitoring things like click-through rates or CTA engagements on a page. It’s incredibly helpful if you’re using transitional CTA’s that link to landing pages. You can track how many people are clicking on that link and then compare it against who actually took action on the landing page.

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Generate Leads

Attention inbound marketers: It’s all about the leads, and you need content that generates them.

Content marketing is every inbound marketer’s best friend. Or at least it should be. It’s how you educate people about your brand and start building a relationship with them. It also provides the perfect space to encourage further engagement with your brand.

  • Liked this video? Check out our website!
  • Fan of our social posts? Go read our blog!
  • Enjoyed our article? Visit the product page!

There is no shortage of logical next steps that you can introduce in any piece of content, so don’t let those opportunities go to waste.

The easiest way to generate leads from your content is to offer people chances to “opt in.” It might be to your newsletter, a lead generator download, access to exclusive member-only posts, or a chance to meet with your team. Whatever matches their current customer journey stage.

And remember, these shouldn’t be isolated incidents. Every piece of content should offer some way for users to engage with your brand, even if it isn’t directly lead generation. The more opportunities they have to interact with your brand, the more trust you can build and the more likely they are to give you their information when you finally do ask for it.

Speaking of asking for it, there’s an art to that. I like to think of it as the “Southern salesman” technique: be polite but direct and always offer value.

An easy tool for generating leads with content is gated content — a special asset that requires the user to give you some information in order to access the content. You can use pop-up forms, in-line forms or landing pages to collect information and add leads to your contact list.

Getting their information is only the first step though. Don’t let that fruit die on the vine. Automatically enroll leads in an email nurture series tailored to their topic of interest (what your lead generator is about) to help keep your brand top-of-mind and demonstrate how you can solve their problem.

Lastly, make sure you follow the rules of a quid pro quo bargain when asking for information. The amount of information you request from users should directly correlate to the amount of value you’re delivering.

For example, if you’re offering a one page template, asking for 10 pieces of information would be a bit much. Typically, you want to err on the side of caution. Ask for just a name and email in most scenarios, reserving more information for the really valuable content.

What to Measure

Measuring leads is a bit more straightforward than metrics for other content marketing goals, mostly because it’s all about tracking actions people take on your website. It’s important to first define what counts as a lead — someone who gave you their email, someone who scheduled a meeting, etc. — so you can tailor your metrics to your definition of success.

In general, these are a few metrics you can track to see if your content is helping you generate leads:

  • Downloads – Are people downloading your lead generator or other forms from your website? If you keep these gated, then it gives you an idea of how many leads you’ve captured from a single piece of content.
  • Click-through rates (CTRs) – Are people clicking through to your landing pages or on CTAs? It’s critical to set up tracking in Google Analytics so you can see accurate numbers of how many people are opting into your lead generation efforts and through which channels.
  • Form responses – How many people are filling out forms on your landing pages or within your blogs? You can one step further and see if those users had any further interaction with your brand after filling out the form.
  • HubSpot deal pipelineHow many deals were created? You can even go one step further and filter this by the contact’s original source or by a lead source that your sales team manually enters. For example, you could filter for contacts with organic search as their lead source.

Improve Conversion Rates

Conversion means different things to different businesses, but for the sake of this section, we’ll say it’s leads that turn into customers.

I’m not trying to take any glory from your sales team. They are the ultimate champions of conversion. But content is super helpful in their sales process too. When you create relevant content for each stage of the customer journey and address common questions in the sales process, you equip your sales team with the resources they need to convert leads.

It’s important to create high-quality content that not only matches each stage of the customer journey but also helps to qualify potential customers as they dive deeper into your brand. I know this might sound like a sure way to turn away leads, but hear me out.

If your readers are more educated and can qualify themselves as they learn about your solutions, it means that only the most qualified leads are making it to your sales team. So instead of spending days or weeks going back and forth with people who aren’t sure about your solution, they can focus their energy on people who have probably already bought in and just have a few clarifying questions.

It’s much easier to sell your products and services when your potential customers are privy to helpful information. That’s how your content can best help you improve conversion rates.

What to Measure

These metrics are a little more holistic to your business, so you’ll be going beyond just raw content data. To accurately measure conversion rates, you want to see the effect of your content in the context of your business.

Look at:

  • Conversion rate – No brainer, I know, but the key is knowing how to measure it. One (albeit complex) way is to create user IDs in GA4 so you can track a single person’s journey on your site and see where/when they convert. This helps you better understand how many pages people visit, the touches they had, and the time it took before they were ready to convert.
  • Length of sales cycle – Identify how long it takes new leads to become customers across your various channels. Has implementing your content strategy or publishing new content shortened this cycle in its channel?
  • Articles viewed per lead – Has your sales team kept track of what articles they send to leads? Do you use software to see if and how much of the article leads read? You can compare this data to your overall sales and deals data to see if certain content pieces are improving your stats. If you’re using HubSpot, you can use content attribution reporting to see what articles contacts viewed before becoming customers.
  • Content Rev attribution – As a content creator, this is probably the most validating metric for me. How much of your revenue can you attribute to content? HubSpot recently rolled out some helpful attribution tools that can show you how leads and contacts interact with your content, allowing you to quantify your content marketing ROI. Or you can set up UTMs on your URLs to track the success of specific content marketing campaigns.

Watch the Numbers Roll In

Key performance indicators are critical to measuring the success of your content marketing. But if you’re trying to follow every metric you can find, you’re going to end up overwhelmed and miss the important numbers.

Align your KPIs with your overall organizational and content goals to really know if your content marketing strategy is working. And if you’re ready to take content creation to the next level, check out our blog about matching your content to the customer journey.

Leah Champagne
Leah Champagne
Leah is a professional content specialist with three years of experience writing for a wide array of industries. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism, then pivoted her writing skills to a career in marketing content. Now she is also well versed in completing keyword research and content strategy for our clients. Leah is known for her consistency, creativity and ability to work with clients to create the perfect piece of content.

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