Content has become a pillar of digital marketing. Studies show more than four in five marketers now use content marketing strategies and 44% planned to increase their content marketing budgets in 2021. With this growing focus on content comes a need to maximize investment value. The process is called content performance marketing, which bases future marketing strategy on the success of prior content marketing campaigns.
In the age of data, marketers are embracing it as a way of scaling content marketing efforts effectively. Performance marketing depends on the use of content marketing metrics. When used correctly, these tools take the guesswork out of content production and improve return on investment (ROI).
What Are Content Marketing Metrics?
Content marketing metrics are calculations that tell you how well your content performs. Varying types of content metrics offer different information, from how many people engaged with content on social media to how much a company paid to attract a single customer.
The key is to select the relevant metrics for your business and campaign goals. Read on to learn what metrics are generally most effective and which ones work best for different types of businesses and content strategies.
Web Traffic Metrics
According to the Content Marketing Institute, web traffic is the most common sign of content success for B2C marketers (business-to-consumer, slide 27) and the second most common in B2B (business-to-business, slide 31). It tells you how many people reached your site through your content.
The main type of traffic content creators focus on is organic search traffic. These are page views people get through discovering your site by search engine queries. An effective content marketing strategy typically involves a content team making blog posts, articles, and more that rank in popular search engines.
Backlinks, also known as inbound links, are critical for your online presence. They're defined as a link to your content on another website, and they directly improve your search engine rankings.
Why Backlinks Matter
A 2020 Backlinko study showed Google's top result had 3.8 times more backlinks on average than pages ranking #2 through #10. Overall, the more backlinks a page had, the better its search rankings.
By measuring backlinks as a content marketing metric, you find out which type of content works hardest for you.
For instance, you might discover certain topics or styles of post — your definitive guides or posts on backlink building — get more links. You'd probably then choose to create more of that content.
Checking Your Backlinks
You can easily check backlinks to your content with a third-party tool like Moz, Ahrefs, or BuzzSumo. If you don't have an account with any of those services, free services like Rankwatch's Backlink Checker can provide basic-level data.
2. Page Views and Unique Page Views
Page views tell you how much attention your content generates. The number indicates how many times a page has loaded or reloaded, including views by the same user during a single session.
A content marketer may find it more useful to measure unique page views, which excludes re-loads by the same user. This gives you a more accurate view of how many people view a piece of content.
Why Pageviews Matter
Pageviews and unique page views show which content pieces and topics resonate with your audience. If one blog post received significantly more or fewer page views, it's important to find out why.
For an under-performing content piece, the culprit may be the topic or how you promoted it. You can narrow it down by considering the performance of that post compared to an older piece with a similar angle.
Pageviews are most useful for content pieces that have unique page identities, but you can still use the metric to evaluate single-page blogs. Notice how view numbers change after each post goes live and learn which resonated best with your content audience.
Measuring Page Views and Unique Page Views
You can track page views across your website using Google Analytics. The interface lets you select certain dates and pages, and you can view time spent on each view session at the same time.
Also, if you have ads on your content through AdSense, Google Analytics will tell you how much you've earned.
3. Session-to-Contact Rate
This content marketing metric calculates how many of your web visitors become opted-in contacts. That means they're completing email opt-in forms or signing up to receive more information.
Why Session-to-Contact Rate Matters
Organic traffic matters, but only if it generates revenue. You don't need every visitor to make a purchase, especially not right away, but at least some of your readers should become followers.
A higher session-to-contact rate means more audience members are actively engaging with your brand. It indicates a stronger connection than a simple view because the underlying message is, "Yes, I want to know more."
Calculating Contact Rate
Measure your session-to-contact rate by dividing your number of new contacts by the total number of sessions. A session is a time frame in which a user interacts with your website. Each session can include multiple interactions:
Image source: Support.google.com
Google Analytics can give you session numbers for a specified period, but the standard view only covers the entire site. To get a focused view of your content, you'll need to create a segment that includes the content pages you care about.
If you're not able to do that, run the calculation shortly after your new content goes live. It's less precise but a faster calculation.
Brand Awareness and Audience Engagement Rates
Engagement and awareness are also key metrics. They indicate an audience-brand connection, the first step to an ongoing relationship.
4. Social Shares and Engagement
High-quality content expands your audience and builds your online authority. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 81% of B2C marketers and 83% of B2B marketers use social media analytics to determine whether content has achieved those goals.
Why Social Engagement Matters
A social media share, like, or comment tells you that someone is connected enough with your content to engage with it socially. The more active the engagement, the stronger the connection. A share is stronger than a comment, which is stronger than a like — but all is social proof that the target audience is engaging with your brand.
By measuring how many people engage with your content on social media, you can determine:
- Which social media channels should be your top priorities
- Which topics resonate with your audience
- Which content types (videos, blog posts, infographics, etc.) receive the most attention
- How audiences interact with your content
Look at the effectiveness of your social media campaigns. Find out if there is an uptick in blog traffic that aligns with social shares. If you have a blog post go viral and you see traffic go up on your landing page, you know the social media post led to tangible results.
Measuring Social Media Engagement
There are multiple types of social media engagement, including:
- Number of likes, shares, and comments on a post
- Number of new social media followers
- Clicks per post
- Brand mentions on consumer pages
Most social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, have native reporting tools that will give you key data. Focus on content-related posts to get the data you need.
Some marketers also choose to use third-party analytics platforms like Sprout Social or HubSpot. Your choice will depend on your budget and how extensively you use social media to promote your content.
5. Organic Click-through Rate
The click-through rate (CTR) tells you the percentage of people who viewed your content link and clicked through to your website or product page, compared to the total number who viewed it.
Content marketers often use CTRs to measure email content, but you can apply this metric to any type of content that links to your other properties.
Why Click-through Rate Matters
Click-through rates give you more information about your content's ranking. It's great if your latest blog post ranks in the top five results for your target keyword, but that ranking only helps if people view your content. Calculating the organic click-through rate will tell you how often that's happening.
A low click-through rate indicates that viewers are choosing other content to answer their questions. That often means another link appears more relevant, which suggests keyword selection could be better.
Improving your CTR may improve your ranking, and it always means more traffic.
Measuring Click-Through Rate
To calculate the click-through rate, divide your content's number of organic impressions by the number of organic clicks. You can get both of those data points through the Google Search Console. Some SEO tools, like Botify, will automate this calculation.
Lead Generation and Conversion Metrics
Audience engagement and brand-building are particularly important content marketing metrics for B2C companies, but lead generation is the true measure of success in B2B. It's also important for B2C industries that have longer buying journeys, such as real estate or higher education.
Cost-per-lead (CPL) is the amount you spend to obtain one qualified lead — someone whose interest level justifies direct outreach. It's less subjective than measurements like social shares and page views, which may or may not change your bottom line. CPL focuses on audience members who have expressed an active interest in buying.
Why CPL Matters
CPL shows which content investments have the best returns. It's a bottom-line content marketing metric that can secure buy-in from company leadership and justify content spending.
It also helps you to plan your content more effectively. For example, if your video content generates a much lower CPL than your blog posts, you'd want to direct more of your marketing dollars to video.
To calculate cost-per-lead, divide the campaign's total cost by the number of quality leads it generates. The result tells you which of your content marketing initiatives have the best potential returns.
7. Customer Acquisition Cost
Customer acquisition cost (CAC) is how much you paid for content to bring in a single client. Also known as cost-per-sale, it goes a step further than CPL in determining content marketing ROI.
Why CAC Matters
Customer acquisition cost takes the "maybes" out of the equation. Even with the CPL, there's uncertainty about who will move forward to purchase. With CAC, you have a definite purpose and a definitive ad spend.
Calculating Acquisition Cost
To calculate CAC, divide the cost of content production by the number of buyers it brought in.
For example, if your 3,000-word white paper cost $450 to produce and it earned you five new clients, your CAC for that piece was $90. A $300 blog post that brought in six clients would have a CAC of $50.
You can also use CPL as a stepping stone to measure ROI directly. To do this, you need to know your business's average deal size.
For example, if your Software as a Service (SaaS) solution brings in an average of $1,000 for a year-long subscription and a $90 CAC, your ROI for that campaign was $910 per customer.
8. Conversion Rate
Conversion rate (CR) refers to the frequency with which visitors turn into followers or customers. Your definition of conversion will depend on your campaign's goal and your business model.
For example, you might have a content campaign geared toward growing a subscriber base. In that case, a conversion might be new subscriptions or free trial sign-ups.
Why Conversion Rate Matters
Conversion rate tells you how many visitors took a certain action — visiting a web page, signing up for more information, and so on — after interacting with your content. Its takeaway is similar to that of CPL, but it's more accessible to companies with shorter sales cycles.
The CR won't tell you how much you paid for each conversion, but you can calculate that using the total spend for the content piece. It's extremely useful for calculating the effectiveness of each marketing channel since you determine it by tracking traffic from the content source.
How to Track Conversion Rate
You can track your CR by adding an Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) to each content piece. A UTM is a snippet of code added to the end of a URL. When readers click that URL and navigate to your target webpage, the UTM tells you where the person was when they clicked.
It looks like this:
According to the code, the reader followed this link from Facebook to read about the appeal of listicles.
Once a content URL contains a UTM code, you can use Google Analytics to track conversions.
Choosing The Right Content Marketing Metrics for Your Business
If you're feeling overwhelmed at the sheer number of metrics out there, take a deep breath. You don't have to implement all of them at once.
Start with a single metric or two, especially if you're new to content performance marketing. See how those metrics determine your content marketing success. You can always add more in the future. For now, think about your campaign goal and what would indicate success. Notice how each data point helps you make better decisions.
In time, content marketing metrics will become a natural part of your content strategy.