Competition is fierce in the world of content and to get the most from your marketing efforts you need to constantly measure your progress and optimize your strategy. Without cold, hard data you can’t pinpoint what’s working and – more importantly – what needs changing.
But with so much data available, one of the toughest questions content marketers face is which metrics are the most important?
A comprehensive answer depends on your specific goals, but today we’re looking at the key metrics you should measure for just about any content strategy. At some point you will probably have to dig a little deeper into data, but these are the core metrics you want to get started with.
The king of metrics
Before we start, we should all take a moment to pay respects to the king of metrics. No matter what your online goals may be, the single most important metric is conversions.
Whether you’re an eCommerce business, self-employed or a charity – everything you do online is designed to increase sales, leads or sign-ups, directly or indirectly.
Even the most profit-free website relies on subscriptions, downloads or some sort of conversion to meet their targets. So even if you’re trying to sell anything (although you probably are), conversions are your key metric.
There may be various conversions with a client, until your first monetary transaction. An email opt in, should be considered a conversion, as long as email marketing is part of your sales funnel (if it’s not, it should be!).
Measuring successful content
The metrics we have looked at so far are ultimately the figures of a successful (or unsuccessful) content strategy. But that doesn’t help you improve results in the meantime – so let’s look at the key metrics of content itself.
Total visitors is pretty self-explanatory, but you can measure total visitors to specific locations as well as your entire site. Landing pages, destinations from PPC ads and blog posts are all locations you want to measure.
If you’re doing things right, you should see a steady climb in traffic over time and you need to investigate any sudden drops – or even spikes.
A more specific metric is the number of new visitors you are bringing in. This is important because you want your content to do two things – keep recurring visitors and bring new ones in.
Repeat customers mean your content has enough quality, originality or value to keep them coming back for more, while new visitors suggest your outreach tactics are working.
Knowing you have a healthy stream of new visitors isn’t enough – you want to know which parts of your strategy are pulling in new punters and which ones aren’t. This brings us on to channel-specific traffic, which you can find under the “Acquisition” section of Google Analytics.
Here you can determine how many people visit your site directly, how many come through external links, those who find you via organic search and how much traffic you pull in from social.
To get more detail on your social performance, it’s a good idea to sign up with Buffer or another social media tool. From here there are a number of social metrics that determine the effectiveness of your social content, depending on your content strategy.
- Clicks, likes, comments and shares
- Post reach
- Best post types
With your content pulling in more traffic there is still work to be done. Big promises and clever headlines might win clicks, but you need engaging content to keep visitors on the page and coming back for more.
All of the following metrics vary from channel to channel, so it is wise to view each channel’s metrics separately.
Bounce rate tells you how many people leave without viewing a second page on your website. You almost always want this to be as low as possible – unless you have a landing page specifically designed to redirect users to another URL (like an app store).
Bounce rate can give good insights (like the quality of your content, your targeting, your web design and more).
Time on page
This is another self-explanatory but important metric that tells you how long people spend with a specific piece of content. It’s not definitive, but the greater this number, the more engaging your content should be.
Pages per visit
Once readers finish with a piece of content what do they do next? If they don’t click to another page of your site then your content isn’t performing they way it should.
Each piece of content should encourage visitors onto the next stage of the conversion process with clear calls to action and enticing links.
Business owners are investing big in content marketing, which means content that doesn’t meet the strategy’s goals, fails. Metrics tell you how well your content is performing, help you diagnose problems and improve results.
The most important of these is ROI. Quite simply, a positive ROI shows your content strategy is profitable – while a negative number means you need to change things fast. Take your cost per lead and weigh it up against your lead to close ratio to see how much it costs you to close a deal.
If your customer value is higher than this figure, your content strategy is in the money. Valuable content might have an impact on helping a lead close faster and easier, on providing more leads and more.
As with all things though, it takes some time to reap the benefits.
Cost per lead
To calculate your cost per lead, check the average monthly cost of your campaign and divide it by the total number of leads your content generated that period. Don’t forget that content is an investment that pays dividends in the future as well.
Lead to close ratio
This simply determines how many of your leads turn into paying customers. If you close the deal on 50% of your leads and each lead costs you $10, you’re spending $20 on each paying customer.
Customer value & retention rate
Customer value and retention rate are more difficult to calculate. Essentially, you want to know the lifetime value of each customer – which depends on the nature of your business, along with how well you educate your customers, after their purchase.
If you sell single purchase products, your retention rate can be very minimal – while subscription services rely on a long-term relationship.
You also have to factor in something called “churn rate” – which determines how many customers quickly leave and how many stick around to become long-term customers.
To calculate the value of each customer you multiply the average sale value by the average number of annual purchases per customer. Then you take this number and divide it by your churn rate.
If you want more detail on these calculations, check out this article from Tutsplus that breaks down the key customer metrics.
Brand lift & putting it all together
Brand lift itself isn’t a metric, but you can use all the previous measurements we have covered as well as surveys and further social metrics to evaluate the growth of your online brand.
If your content metrics are all pointing in the right direction, you should see more brand mentions, inbound links and higher engagement levels – like comments on your blog page.
There are a number of other metrics you may need to measure – depending on the specific goals of your strategy – but the above will apply to just about any marketing campaign. Long-term data is always better than short-term and you never want to take your eyes off key performance indicators.
So, get into the habit of monitoring some of the metrics we have covered today and add more as your content strategy evolves.