Whether you’re a beauty brand or a B2B (Business to Business) mobile testing company, content marketing is crucial to brand awareness and sales growth.
It’s often said that you can’t improve what you don’t measure. So whether you’re redirecting your marketing content marketing efforts or building them up from scratch, you need performance metrics. But which ones?
“Marketing” covers a lot of different kinds of work, from designing event graphics to writing a high-level communication plan. There’s a lot you could measure, and marketing teams can struggle to come up with clear KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) as easily as their colleagues in Sales or Logistics.
However, without those numbers, you could end up plowing your resources into advertising campaigns that aren’t performing well or efforts that don’t really align with the overall business strategy. With that in mind, here are seven performance metrics you could use to make sure your content marketing efforts are going in the right direction.
How to choose your performance metrics
Which metrics you track really depends on your content and goals.
Even across one channel like your blog, different pieces of content will have different key metrics. A blog post you’ve written for the sales team to share with warm leads, like “how to set up freelancer referrals with [your product] in just two minutes”, will have different goals from a backlink-oriented guest post like “5 ways to win more referrals as a freelancer”.
Executives outside the marketing team might dream of viral content that gets millions of views. However, if those aren’t the right million viewers at the right time and place, it won’t even register as a blip on your sales figures.
During a meeting or virtual office hours, you should take the time to talk to the relevant stakeholders and make sure everyone has agreed on what metrics to focus on, and in what context. You have limited time and resources, so you only want to focus on what’s most relevant to the overall business strategy.
1. Quality of your leads
If you’re working to get people into your site and they’re not turning into sales, perhaps you’re not getting the quality leads you need.
There are a few metrics you can track that will point to the quality of your leads. Look out for:
- How many people are reading your pillar content or guest posts vs. how many of them are signing up for your lead magnets in those posts?
- How many people are visiting your site, vs. how many of them are visiting the funnel content you’ve labeled as “mid-funnel” or “bottom-of-funnel”. (You can use Google Analytics’ funnel analysis tools to specify those, and track that against what people are really doing on your site.)
- How many people see your “contact us” pop-ups, vs. how many of them actually reach out to your sales team to ask more questions.
- Your site’s bounce rate overall, potentially segmented by Source/Medium.
You can use conversion funnel metrics like these to measure how well your marketing efforts match the leads you’re targeting. More leads are always a good thing, but you’ll have to sift through the data and optimize your inbound marketing to get quality leads.
In the early stages, you should pay attention to the bottom of your funnel (BOFU) and refine that until you’re happy with the leads you’re getting. Once that’s effective, you can work on the top-of-funnel (TOFU) efforts like targeted advertising and brand awareness knowing that your funnel is working for the right people.
Conversion rates simply refer to the number of users who have taken any specified action.
Conversions could be:
- Following the call-to-action (CTA) in your blog post.
- Signing up for your lead magnet or your newsletter.
- Booking a demo.
- Arriving at the virtual waiting room for a call with your sales team.
- Making a purchase.
It’s good to have conversions for different stages of the funnel, which will let you know the funnel is working as intended.
3. Website traffic
As your site grows, looking at your overall website traffic can be a nice morale boost. But on its own, this metric isn’t so useful without context.
Just adjusting the time horizons on your site’s traffic metric can lead to useful insights. On a large scale, you can tie upticks in your traffic to specific business decisions and see seasonal patterns. On a small scale, you can see what days and times your audience is visiting your site. This could help you time your social media posts and get more click-throughs on those.
4. Website engagement
There are a number of metrics you could use to track engagement on your content. If you’re posting on other peoples’ sites you might just be monitoring shares from their social channels or click-throughs to your own site.
But on your own site, you can get much more detailed analytics. One important one is the average time people spend per page. If you segment this number based on the sections of your site you’ll find interesting variations.
Maybe nobody spends much time on your FAQs page, which might be fine, but on your blog and product pages, you want people to spend enough time on the page that they can read your content and be swayed to buy or book a sales call.
If you have a low average time spent there are a number of things that could be causing that, including:
- Your blogs aren’t formatted to be skimmable.
- Your site’s design makes content hard to read or engage with.
- Your blogs aren’t tailored to your audience.
- Your blogs are great, but you’re not advertising to the right people.
Another key performance metric for engagement is pages-per-session. A higher page-per-session number means people are taking a more detailed look through the pages of your site, not just spending time on one.
A high pages/session metric is a good sign that your content, your marketing funnel, and your audience targeting are all working well together.
5. Social media traffic
You should pay attention to the total number of people coming to your content from social media, not as a vanity metric but to track which post styles and strategies are performing well.
But a more important metric in the early stages of a new marketing strategy is which social site is giving you the best leads. The Source/Medium page in Google Analytics will show you traffic from almost all sources, including social sites.
If you’re operating in the B2B world, you’ll probably find that LinkedIn is your #1 source of good leads who are likely to engage with your content or make the conversion. If you’re a B2C company whose content marketing strategy focuses on great photography, you want to make sure a visual site like Instagram is a high-performing source of good leads.
6. SEO performance
A strong SEO strategy involving elements like SaaS backlinks is essential to any growing startup’s success. For a scrappy young company, it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to get in front of their target audience.
SEO has been around as long as search engines have, but the amount companies are spending to perform well on search engines reached an all-time high of $80 billion in 2020.
But with most people not even scrolling past the first three search results, it’s a winner-take-all game. Unless you have the finances to take over a popular search term like “best productivity software”, you have to pick your battles and go for “long-tail” keywords that fit what your target niche is searching for.
As with your inbound leads, the metric to track is not the number of searchers on that keyword, but quality.
If your site’s content isn’t optimized for SEO, discovering a few good keywords – terms your target audience is searching – and refreshing your blog posts with those keywords placed throughout is one quick fix.
You’ll be able to track your own domain authority as a metric for how well your SEO content strategy is doing, but if it’s good you’ll see benefits across the site like more traffic, better engagement, and more conversions.
7. Authority and expertise
When it comes to the goals of a content marketing strategy, becoming an authority in your business sector is one of the hardest to quantify. This is because so many of the conversations about your company happen offline – people recommending you to their friends and colleagues, talking about how good your product is, etc.
Online, you can use your site’s domain ranking authority as a rough metric of how trusted your brand is becoming. But that won’t capture the whole picture. One approach you might take to monitoring perceptions of your business’ authority is to keep a spreadsheet of how many mentions you’re getting in the media.
As with many of the numbers we’ve discussed here: this isn’t a vanity metric. Keep a very close eye on which of these media sites are actually getting you clicks and conversions. Start building close relationships with them using channels like sponsored content and exclusive scoops.
Picking the metrics that matter
There are countless performance metrics you could choose to evaluate your content marketing strategy. By choosing just a few to focus all your efforts on at a time, you can quickly iterate on your content marketing strategy and get those metrics trending upwards as soon as possible.