How can you measure the value of your content marketing investment? Look beyond leads and study other measures of engagement and growth.
Measuring ROI is a skill that all content marketers need to master. Yet it’s also the one skill that most eludes our tribe. A recent study found that 71% of inbound marketers from companies of 200 or more employees say that measuring the ROI of their marketing dollars is their biggest challenge. And nearly three out of four marketers feel pressure to demonstrate the ROI of their content marketing.
So how do we do this? The key lies in breaking it down into metrics, understanding how they function, measuring and then optimizing them. The first metric—conversions—we recently discussed in our blog.
But not all metrics tie directly to sales or profitability. Here are five elements to focus on:
Many common analytics tools, such as Hootsuite and Buffer allow you to track sharing metrics, such as how many Tweets are being retweeted, how many times a blog is being shared on Facebook, or how many times a video has been viewed on YouTube.
Study these numbers, but also look beyond them with your strategic hat on: which items are being shared, who is sharing them, and when? By building up an understanding of who is sharing what content at what time, and across which platforms, you’ll start to develop an awareness of your audience, which is vital in content marketing.
The numbers alone aren’t the most important factor—if you’re getting positive responses from key influencers in your industry, that’s worth far more than hundreds of shares from those with half a dozen followers each. Focus on gauging your fans and followers’ influence level to determine how significant your impact actually is.
Brand sentiment is the glow that naturally arises from content that is brilliantly engaging, when you are reaching right into the customer’s world and offering them gold. Today, it’s a metric that can also shift very quickly and powerfully with instant global news headlines caused by Twitter—where a brand can go to global disaster or acclaim in a matter of minutes.
Arby’s did the latter in 2014 by creating one of the best brand Tweets of all time during the Grammy Awards. All it took was a sharp mind, access to the Twitter account and a cunning sense of comedic timing. You can measure brand mention volume to get a sense of sentiment—handle mentions on platforms like Twitter for example (although if you have spikes in volume, be sure to investigate: it may not be a good thing).
If you’re a great content marketer, you don’t need to make SEO your primary goal—your articles and content are so useful that they will naturally rise high in search engines of the world. But don’t rest on your laurels.
You need to keep your eye on your industry’s most common search terms and infuse these into your creative process. Use tools like Moz and Google's free Keyword Planner tool to identify the terms that people are searching for in your industry, and plan out content topics that naturally include those words. You can also use a tool like BuzzSumo to surface the most popular content around a particular topic, and then start to think about how you can improve on what's out there.
To boost your SEO even further, focus on backlinks. For example, if you craft a guest blog post bylined by your CEO and have this placed on Forbes—the link to your site coming back from that story will have an excellent impact on your own site’s domain authority, helping your own headlines to rise to the top of the search results. As your team develops truly groundbreaking and informative content, your site will emerge as an authority and others will start to link to your articles, infographics or industry reports, effortlessly pushing you up those search pages.
It’s great to get a visitor to a single blog post—but where do they go from there? Does the visitor instantly depart, or does she stick around to read 5 or 6 more articles? Pay attention to “bounce rates,” which show how many visitors immediately clicked away; pages per visit; and time on site, which will show you how long a visitor spent on each page. These metrics will help you see how captivating your content truly is.
Then, of course, there’s lead generation, aka the Wizard of Oz of Content Marketing. This is your key moment in tracking the ROI of content marketing; all previous steps are leading along the Yellow Brick Road to this point. Here you are tracking your leads—by capturing email addresses at the downloading stage of the gated assets, so that you’re able to trace the customer all the way back to that particular piece of content they first encountered. Here is a great example from HubSpot of a range of assets you can be building to boost lead generation.
These are just a few ideas along the path to proven ROI. But first, you need a solid foundation for your content strategy—so check out our below ebook for more insights to help you get started.
Clare Tyrrell-Morin brings 15 years of international marketing and editing experience to Eucalypt Media. Born in the UK, she spent a decade in the Asian media industry as arts writer for the South China Morning Post newspaper, founding art editor of Time Out Hong Kong, and marketing and events manager for Asia City Media. She moved to Maine in 2009 with her husband and has been enjoying the pristine air ever since.
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