Essential marketing metrics: the road to success

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Everything you need to monitor, analyse and optimise your content operation

Kate Thompson

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” 

It’s a line from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, but one we should all pay attention to in business and marketing. For any success to be possible, with our content marketing and beyond, we must first be clear on where we’re going, and why.

From there, the road to take should reveal itself, and everything we need to do to get from point A to point B will be clear.

A person wearing a yellow raincoat sits with their back to the camera. They are looking at a winding road.

Does your content marketing have direction? And do you know how to drive and track success?

Measurement starts with a plan

Having a plan is the foundation of all content marketing measurement. I’m not talking about an editorial or content calendar either. 

Your content marketing plan should articulate a clear strategy which highlights what needs to be done to achieve the SMART objectives (specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, and timely) that were agreed by all stakeholders at the get go. 

Once you’ve done this, building a measurement framework is easy. You simply select the metrics, also known as key performance indicators (KPIs), that help you to track these goals, and build out a reporting process (and possibly even a dynamic marketing dashboard) to keep everyone empowered and informed. 

Essential content marketing metrics you need to know and when to use them

Every brand’s content marketing plan is going to be different. So, dependent on your goals and objectives, your KPIs will be unique to you.

But there is a selection of metrics that have become part of the content marketing vernacular and sort of act like the currency of our industry. Especially if you have a commercial component to your program and monetise your audience.

This helps all content marketing professionals to benchmark their brand performance against others in the category or geographic region.

Some of the most common goals and metrics include:

Goals   Common metrics
Brand awareness
Reach and impressions, audience size (total and net growth), website traffic (visits and sessions), page views, social mentions, share of voice/conversation, content views (videos, photo galleries, documents, flipbooks), SERPs/keyword rankings
Brand engagement Backlinks, comments, likes, shares, pins, forwards, downloads, click-through rate, time on site
 Lead generation Opt-ins, goal completions, form completions, cost per lead, lead quality score
Sales and conversions Sales volume, revenue, conversion rate, cost per acquisition 
Customer value and retention Net Promoter Score, content satisfaction, customer lifetime value (LTV; percentage of subscribed customers or content consumers)
Loyalty and advocacy Average products held, recommendations or reviews, referrals

Putting it into practice: a step-by-step guide 

Thinking back to high school, if you were better at history and the arts over mathematics or science, chances are you’re the type who might baulk at developing a content marketing plan and measurement framework.

You might be thinking “This sounds sensible, but do I have to? And how do I actually do it in practice?”

Well, the most important job you have is to be prepared to talk to management and continue to build the case for content marketing which means tracking performance is non-negotiable.

We’ve already covered off a few things that may help you navigate the C-suite and connect content to business outcomes.

And if you follow these five steps, we’re pretty sure you’ll be a pro before too long.

Step 1

Develop your content marketing plan and outline your strategic goals, initiatives and activity. A strategy doesn’t have to be War and Peace either, it just has to clearly articulate what you will and won’t do, why and how.

Step 2

Once you’re clear on the plan, and everyone is behind it, you’re ready to develop a measurement framework. First, identify and select metrics that will help you to track performance.

Step 3

Once you have your marketing metrics, it’s good practice to review historical data to understand your brand and category benchmarks for the previous time period and identify any trends.

Step 4

By this point, you’re ready to articulate SMART objectives and targets for the next time period. Of course, you should consider what you are proposing to implement or do differently when setting targets.

Step 5

Outline the frequency and processes for capturing and analysing data and sharing insights with the core team and other important stakeholders. Most content marketing teams have regular reports, which can be automated, or reporting dashboards and templates that you can fill out on regular or dynamic basis.

Putting it into practice: a simple example 

Imagine you have an overarching business goal to grow market share; to increase how many people buy from your brand and how many times each person transacts with your brand each year. 

Your content marketing plan could support this in many ways. 

Assuming you have a content hub and regular email communications program, a simple and effective approach is to generate more leads for the product marketers to distribute offers and deals to.

So, to support the marketing team’s ambition, you set out to increase the size of your email audience by 20% by the end of 2021. A figure you’ve selected as you know this aligns to the customer and revenue goals based on historical email click-through rates and sales conversion. 

In this example, the primary role of content marketing is to increase the size of your audience. A big part of your success is pulling more people to your content hub by publishing highly relevant and engaging content.

That means opt-ins and the total email database size should be the key performance indicator used for tracking this goal, and it could help to look at net growth as well as acquisition sources (the channels your audience were referred from, e.g. email or Facebook) to help with your content planning. 

If you wanted a secondary measure, you might look at opt-in conversions which can be tracked as a goal in Google Analytics and investigate what style of content and pop ups drive the best results.

Content marketing measurement: the wrap up

At the end of the day, the most important thing about marketing metrics is to understand what’s working and why. So, focus your efforts, and make sure everything you’re tracking is actionable and helps you make decisions about how to improve. And, be prepared to adapt, adapt and adapt.   

Here’s to you nailing your content marketing measurement and if I can help you with anything along the way, drop me a line at  

Or, if you’re feeling more confused than when you started, the Content Marketing Institute has great advice on how you will know when content marketing is working.

Kate Thompson, strategy director

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