Content marketing is all the rage these days – and with good reason!
A well-executed content marketing campaign can result in a steady stream of website visitors who arrive regularly on your site’s pages for months following the launch of each new content piece. And as members of your industry get used to seeing your name associated with high-value articles, videos and infographics, your brand’s reputation increases – continuing to improve your sales and profits without any additional direct effort on your part.
But all of that said, producing content for content’s sake isn’t a great strategy. Releasing a content piece because some “marketing guru” told you it was a good idea and hoping for the best isn’t a legitimate business-building approach. Instead, you need to actively measure whether or not your content marketing efforts are having the desired effect on your website’s bottom line.
The process for doing so is similar to the ROI measurement protocol we’ve described on this site for social media marketing, though there are a few special issues to be aware of when it comes to content marketing campaigns. To ensure you’re getting the best possible bang for your content marketing buck, take the following steps to determine whether or not your campaigns are converting:
1 – Define your conversion goals
While plenty of website owners approach content marketing as a way to drive buyers back to their pages, this isn’t the only type of impact that can be used to assess the success of a campaign. Other possible content marketing goals could include:
- Increasing brand mentions within your industry
- Increasing social followers of your brand
- Increasing overall website traffic
- Improving natural search engine results page (SERP) rankings
- Increasing email marketing opt-ins
- Increasing sales or lead generation form completions
Any of these goals are perfectly viable content marketing initiatives, but the key is that you must have a way to measure your goal completion rate.
For example, take the idea of increasing brand mentions through content marketing. It isn’t enough to simply say, “I’m getting more traffic to my site, so my content marketing campaign must be causing more brand mentions in my industry.” You need to actually be able to measure your change in mentions and tie these mentions back to content marketing campaign pieces!
Fortunately, for each of the different goals listed above, there’s a quantifiable way to measure campaign success. In the example of brand mentions, it’s possible to measure a metric called “Share of Voice (SOV)” using the free Social Mentions tool that will tell you whether your brand mentions are increasing relative to competitors in your industry. SERPs ranking changes can be measured using any SEO tracking tool. And in the case of social followers, website traffic, email opt-ins and product sales, goal completions can be measured by pulling the day-to-day changes in your account metrics (as in, number of Twitter followers one day compared to the next).
2 – Measure and manage your campaigns
Of course, generating goal completion data is only half the battle. In addition, you need to be able to tie changes in your goal metrics to your content marketing campaigns.
To see why this is so important, imagine you undertake a content marketing campaign and see a 25% increase in sales – your target goal completion. Pleased with the results, you decide to invest significant resources in producing further content pieces, as you’re sure that doing so will lead to even better results.
Now, what happens if – unbeknownst to you – the reason for your increase in sales wasn’t actually your content marketing campaign, but an improvement in your natural search rankings that occurred at the same time due to a Google algorithm change that was out of your control? In this case, investing further into content marketing isn’t likely to benefit your business in any major way, as it wasn’t the key factor behind your initial increase in sales.
Depending on the type of content marketing goal you’re tracking and the reach of your campaign, distinguishing goals that occurred due as the result of your content promotions from those that can be attributed to other sources can be difficult.
If you’re tracking conversions that occur on your site – for example, email opt-ins, sales or lead gen form completions – you’ll definitely want to take a look at the combination of Google Analytics Goals and Advanced Traffic Segments. When paired together, these two tools allow you to note when a goal completion occurs, as well as to filter out individual goal completions according to content marketing specific traffic sources.
For more information on how to do this, check out Google’s help section on Conversion Tracking.
3 – Understand the limitations of a content marketing campaign
Once you’ve put a tracking system in place to measure both goal completions and the traffic sources that enable them, you’ll be able to better understand how much your content marketing campaigns are contributing to your business’s overall success.
However, don’t get too far ahead of yourself here…
When we work with new Single Grain content marketing clients, we’re very clear to say that it may take a few months to generate solid conversion data that can be used to inform your campaign. This is because our campaigns usually run according to the following structure:
Months 1-2 – Traffic Generation
The first goal of all of our content marketing campaigns is simply to get visitors to the page. Some of these visitors might wind up converting, but that isn’t our primary focus at first. Instead, we want to get as many sets of eyeballs on a site as possible in order to start generating site usage data – sort of a, “throw the spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks” approach.
Months 3-4 – Visitor Engagement
After generating our preliminary traffic data, we’ll start attempting to engage the new audience that’s building on a deeper level. This might involve disseminating content pieces based on what’s proven successful with readers in the past or it might involve things like visitor surveys and reviews. All in all, though, the goal is to start taking the next step in engagement, building a sustainable readership that can then be relied upon for conversions.
Months 5-6 – Conversion Rate Optimization
Once we’ve used content marketing techniques to build up a steady, reliable readership, we then start honing in on the best ways to spur this audience to action. As listed above, the specific types of conversions we target for each client may vary, but we have found that it’s helpful to build relationships with a site’s readers before asking them to take significant action.
The reason I tell you this is to help you put things in perspective. If you’ve written a few “viral style” articles and published a single infographic, you aren’t really content marketing – you’ve run a few standalone promotions that aren’t likely to have any meaningful impact on your website’s success. While it’s important to have testing and tracking measures in place, it’s also crucial that you look at content marketing as a long-term strategy that will help you to both improve the relationships you have with your audience members and your website results at the same time.
Any questions about how to take your own content marketing campaigns to the next level? Share your thoughts in the comment section below: