Is Your Content Marketing Making a Difference?

By Gray Gill on March 29, 2021

How to See if Your Words Are Working

Content marketing is a world full of hope and wonder and shiny things. It can also serve several of your business goals, like improving your bottom line, showing that you're an authority in your space, and growing brand awareness.

If content marketing is already part of your strategy, you probably have a gut instinct of what's working and what's not. The problem is, gut instincts will only get you so far. You need to be able to tie the results you’re seeing to the specific assets that generated them so that you know where to focus to continue that success. This allows you to see what's working and how to continue that momentum. It also helps you see what isn't working so you can avoid wasting resources on something that isn't productive or profitable. Beyond that, if you're reporting on that success to a client or your boss, you need specific metrics you can point to so they can see the value you're bringing to the table.

Every content marketing strategy should be measured against key performance indicators (KPIs) that you identify before you write a single word. This ensures you stay focused on the content that is driving leads and revenue for the company, instead of getting distracted by whatever topic sounds interesting.

Whether you are championing a content marketing campaign for your own organization or you work for a marketing agency and oversee content for multiple clients (like us), here is a proven approach you can use to measure the effectiveness of your efforts.

Outline Your Goals

Every marketer has heard it a thousand times, and yet we still tend to get distracted from the goals we initially set out to achieve. So always remember: start by outlining and writing down quantifiable content marketing metrics you want to focus on. Here are some of the foolproof questions our team uses to get started:

1. Who is our target audience for this content?

2. What action do we want them to take?

3. After users engage with our content, what's next?

4. What volume of content is necessary to create the number of leads in our quarterly goals?

5. What is our content marketing budget?

We know how easy it is to get sidetracked by topic tangents. When it comes to writing, a big problem is that you can write about pretty much anything. It's tempting to jump on board current events or wedge your brand into the latest pop culture conversation. But that isn't a great long-term strategy. 

Always remember: your goals for content marketing should directly correlate with your business' goals the topics that are most relevant to your audience. Whether that's to become a thought leader, increase revenue or add more marketing automation into your processes, those business goals will clarify what KPIs you should be tracking. KPIs aren't the be-all-end-all of your reporting, but they are the best way to keep your finger on the pulse of your content performance and stay focused on the most important metrics. This helps ensure you're moving closer toward your goals with every piece of content.

Define Your Content Marketing KPIs

Content Marketing KPIs

Now it’s time to choose the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) you’ll focus on. We recommend tracking no more than 10 because it gets difficult to manage more than that. Remember, these key metrics are intended to provide an overview of how your content is doing. That doesn't mean you won't need other metrics, but the idea is, if these metrics start failing, your content isn't doing what you need it to.  

Now we know you didn't start reading this article just to get some vague "set whatever goals make sense" advice from us. Never fear, there are five KPIs we think every content marketer should be tracking for their lead generation content. 

  • Organic traffic
  • Bounce rate
  • Time spent on page
  • Conversion rate
  • Top performing content (and their topics)

1. Organic Traffic

Your overall website traffic is important, but for content focused on lead generation, you need to drill down into the traffic you're getting from organic search. A ton of factors go into the volume of your organic traffic. From your level of SEO optimization to backlinks to the specific keywords you're targeting, keeping an eye on your organic traffic will reflect the health of a number of other things. If this starts to fall, you have several different levers to pull to get it trending back up. 

How to track: In Google Analytics, go to Acquisition > Overview > Organic Traffic. 

If your organic traffic is low, you'll need to focus on an SEO strategy to get in front of more users by climbing the rankings in search engines. It takes around 6 months to get any traction with SEO, but once you do, it becomes a sustainable way to get more traffic on your website (see how we increased organic traffic by 324%). 

2. Bounce Rate

A "bounce" is when a user comes to your site or landing page and doesn't do anything else. In the case of a blog, this is somewhat normal behavior and doesn't mean your content isn't delivering on its purpose: to engage and educate your users. While there are things you should be doing to lower your bounce rate, this metric must be considered in conjunction with the next KPI, Time on Page. 

How to track: In Google Analytics, go to Audience > Overview (You can also see a closer view for each page under Behavior > Overview > View Full Report)

If your bounce rate is high, first check which channels are producing the highest bounce rates. You may discover that your organic traffic is high quality but the users coming from social media are low quality. Or perhaps you have a high volume of referral traffic from your email newsletter but they are only staying on the page for 20 seconds. Or maybe your organic users have a high bounce rate but they're staying on the page for a while. Once you have this information, it becomes a lot easier to strategize ways you can improve your bounce rate. 

3. Time on Page

If your bounce rate is high but your average time on page is also high, that often means that users are reading your content, but aren't compelled to take any additional action. This is a great starting place for content because it means you already have an audience and now you just need to convert them. While this can also indicate that the wrong people are coming to your page, the best case is that you just need to provide better conversion opportunities. 

How to track: In Google Analytics, go to Audience > Overview (you can also see a drill-down for each page under Behavior > Overview > View Full Report)

If your time on page is low, you may not be matching the intent of users going to that page. That means they are clicking on the link or search result thinking they are going to get one thing and instead see something totally different, so they leave. To check this, open an incognito window and type in the search term for your page or the page's title. Are the other results that come up similar? Is their content different from yours?

4. Conversion Rate

Conversion Rate measures the percent of users who trade their contact information for something on a page. This could be a lead generator or even scheduling a call. Depending on the tools and platforms you're using, this metric can be a bit trickier to track.

How to track: Platforms like HubSpot will track this in the analytics for each page or blog post or through trackable CTA buttons, but other platforms may have a different way of approaching this. Either way, the goal here is to measure the effectiveness of your content in getting you new leads to nurture. 

If your conversion rate is low, and you've verified that the searcher's intent matches the content on the page, you need to examine two things. First, where are the conversion opportunities on your page? CTAs and internal links should be found throughout your page, not saved for the end. Second, do your CTAs match the topic of your page? Are you forcing the user into a bottom-of-the-funnel action when the page is focused on top-of-the-funnel problems? Try out a different conversion point and see if it resonates better with your users. 

think outside the inbox

5. Top Performing Content (and their topics)

It's important to have a bead on your top-performing content for the last 30-90 days for a few reasons. For one, it gives you an idea of the topics your audience is most likely to engage with. But beyond that, it's really motivating to see your content start to perform. This is especially helpful when you have multiple team members involved in creating and publishing content for your company. Being able to tell your coworker that their piece of content has gotten x number of views in the past 30 days, or that it converted 5 new leads is incredibly encouraging. 

This is a major reason it's worth investing time and resources in content marketing. How can you know if someone bought your offering because they saw your billboard or heard your ad on the radio? While outbound marketing isn't completely worthless, it's rewarding when you can point to specific pieces of content that produced qualified leads for your business. Speaking from the experience of our own team, this often leads to many enthusiastic fist pumps.

How to track: If you have HubSpot, go to Reports > Analytics Tools > Traffic Analytics > Pages. Make sure Page Types is set to Blog Posts. 

In Google Analytics go to  Behavior > Overview > View Full Report. In the search bar above your page report, type /blog, or whatever identifier your blog uses in the slug. 

Once you've identified what content is performing best, ask yourself if those topics align with your business goals.

Do These KPIs Apply to All Content?

The metrics above are great for measuring content that's being created to generate leads. While that is the goal of most content, especially when you're starting out, there can be other motivators behind your content. For instance, let's say you're working to become a thought leader in your industry. You don't want to totally dismiss lead conversion, but engagement and reach will be incredibly important to track. If you're creating content to answer questions from existing customers, time on page and feedback from customers will be the primary indicators of its effectiveness in improving customer retention. 

Are people watching your webinars and sharing your white papers with their friends and colleagues? Are they shouting you out on LinkedIn? These kinds of metrics can be huge for growing your personal brand. Stick with your content strategy and watch as you turn casual observers into subscribers, followers into fans, and pageviews into profits. 

Remember, your content marketing KPIs should relate back to your overall digital marketing strategy and your business goals. That will influence the focus and direction for your content and how success is measured. 

Make Tracking a Priority

By getting clear on your goals and being strategic in what you’re tracking, you’ll gain the insight you need in order to know exactly what’s working and what isn’t. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to improve your content marketing efforts further, and see better results in the process.

Remember earlier when we said that going with your gut and making decisions based on a feeling only gets you so far? So, what should you use to measure the effectiveness of your content and campaigns? 

There are dozens of CRMs and content reporting tools out there to choose from, but if you’re looking for an easy way to view your metrics, a popular platform is Databox. It combines multiple data sources into a dashboard for an organized reporting view. You can easily see the metrics we mentioned in this post, or mix and match to focus on what matters most to you. On top of the simple user experience, Databox is a streamlined way to keep tabs on how your content is performing and uncover opportunities to make it more effective. 

Start Putting It Into Practice

Hopefully, this has helped demystify content marketing and given you some practical tools to start measuring the effectiveness of your campaigns. Whether you're an e-commerce brand or a SAAS company, developing content can play a major factor in growing your audience and building your brand. If you ever need more help from lovable weirdos who do this for fun, give us a shout.

Gray Gill
Gray Gill
Stories are why we buy one flavor of ice cream over another. They're why we prefer a certain pair of running shoes. As a copywriter, Gray loves to help brands tell their story in a way that resonates with their audience and draws them in.

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