Analytics are key to any successful content marketing strategy. You can plan and research all the content in the world, but you won’t know its full potential (or downfalls) until you’ve pushed the content live and measured the content’s performance.
But if you can accurately measure the early stages, you have a better chance of getting long-term buy-in for your overall strategy.
With every new initiative comes a new need for reporting, so let’s get into the nitty-gritty so you know how to measure ROI with the appropriate content marketing analytics.
Understanding Content Marketing KPIs
All content marketers have probably heard the acronym KPI, which means “key performance indicator,” AKA, what you’re going to monitor in order to determine if what you’re doing is reaching your goal.
When it comes to reporting, the most common mistake I see clients make is misidentifying their content marketing KPIs. Different types of content are needed for different stages of the buyer’s journey, and analyzing them all in the same fashion won’t provide you the insight you need.
For example, many want to track traffic conversions on content that’s meant to primarily bring in high-authority links, not convert searchers.
That’s like a dairy farmer using the local farmer’s market profits as her or his primary metric. Yes, the dairy sold there may contribute to the market’s total profits, but it doesn’t mean it’s really driving the individual farmer’s growth or success.
For content analytics, there are a few core metrics I recommend measuring for each type of primary content-related goal.
Let’s dive into each goal specifically.
Goal: Increasing Organic Traffic
This goal is sometimes the one that requires the most effort, as there’s not really one initiative that can make the difference. You need content, but that content needs backlinks, your website needs sound technical SEO, you need to be meeting the user intent, etc. There are a lot of moving parts, and understanding them can help you better reach this goal.
Typically I analyze monthly visitors and pageviews over time. Within Google Analytics, you’re able to zoom into who is a new user vs. a returning visitor. This is helpful when you’re determining how new content is performing and if it’s widening your audience reach.
At Fractl, our content team looks specifically at how the pages we’ve produced have performed compared to the rest of our client's site. Content marketing is a long game, and even the most optimized and valuable content won’t make huge impacts on a site right off the bat. It may take months or a year for your performance metrics to even out. However, if you’re looking by various segments of content, you can see how they may be trending upward, even if your site as a whole is trending downwards or plateauing.
Keep in mind that are other metrics that indicate site growth. You can also examine:
- Domain authority (we recommend Moz’s Link Explorer tool, which easily illustrates how authority shifts overtime)
- Referring domains (best visualized by Ahrefs)
- Average keyword position (SEMrush has an easy graph for this too)
It’s important with any SEO strategy to prepare for the long haul. It takes time, and that’s mostly the case for any tactics aiming to increase organic traffic to a site.
Tip for getting buy-in: Set expectations early that this is a long-term investment. To show early success, look for how your new pages are ranking and see if they're climbing in the SERPs. If a particular piece of content is performing well, highlight that success.
Goal: Increasing Leads and Conversions
Once you’ve expanded your reach, then what? Well, most companies want a site visitor to make a purchase or subscribe to an email list or submit a contact form. No matter how your company defines conversions, everyone is looking to create leads and close business.
This, however, requires a different mindset in terms of strategy and measurement than what you would do for sheer organic growth. With lead and conversion goals, the money is in the details.
You’ll want to track more about how users behave when landing on content. This starts with looking at bounce rates and click-through rates (CTRs). You want your content to push people further down the funnel and ultimately to a purchase page or form submission. If most people are reading the content and hopping off the page, you may be targeting the wrong search query or searcher intent.
Next, you’ll want to see how goal completions (AKA purchases, form submissions, etc.) are performing. Ask yourself: What’s the most successful route through your site to the goal completion, and what pieces of content may be distracting or underperforming?
You’ll want to segment new content here, too, if it’s within its first few months of being published. New content may need more time to rank and perform; however, that doesn’t mean the people landing on these pages aren’t going to convert.
I’ve also found calculating a conversion rate per page really helps condense heavy analytic data for quick yes/no looks on performance. Try to log monthly visitors and the number of goal completions that came from anyone landing on that page to see if the content is helping move people down the funnel. When you see other pages not performing as well, you can work that into your own editorial calendar to refresh or replace for other search queries.
Finally, you may want to consider looking at the referring pages: Where are people coming from to land on your site? It’s good to identify if organic search is your leading referral or if other channels may be performing better.
Tip for getting buy-in: Try AB testing your content pages to see if one version over another can lead people through the funnel better. Showing this kind of proactive optimization can help get people on-board with your initiative.
Goal: Improving Site and Brand Authority
This may be the hardest goal to understand and track because many agencies use vanity metrics to measure it. Vanity metrics like readership figures or social media followers don’t always mean you’ve built strong authority and loyalty within your space.
The first metric to track here is the growth and authority of your backlink portfolio. The number of links is important, but it’s also crucial to track the ratio in which you’re building these links. Are you targeting high enough? Think of it this way: Google examines what sites are linking to you. If they're of higher quality and link to you, that means that site must consider you a certain level of trustworthy, right?
Staying technical and tracking your site’s domain authority here is also important. This is how you can measure if your link building and content efforts are helping increase your perceived authority within algorithms. Leveraging formulas like Moz’s Domain Authority tool or Ahrefs’ Domain Rank, you can see how you’re improving over time once link building campaigns have been executed. (Note: These are not Google's metrics but rather guesses by third-party companies about how Google sees the authority of sites.)
Finally, tracking engagement metrics both with the sites you’re being published on and within your own are super important. We want to make sure that people are reading and reacting to your brand. Data from article social shares and comments are a great start. Measuring how many people come through to your site through various links also help to track and report on your growing brand awareness.
Tip for getting buy-in: In the early stages, get qualitative with some of your reporting. How did an authoritative site talk about you? Did an influencer mention your brand as an expert? These can be indicators that you're heading in the right direction.
It can be daunting to be tasked with communicating content marketing success when it comes to organic search...especially if others around you “don’t really get it.” But like with any other reporting process within marketing, it starts with identifying your goal and using data that corresponds or assists you in hitting that goal.
KPIs don’t need to be overblown or super technical. Really, when it comes to reporting, most people outside of your SEO team may prefer simple and easy to understand metrics that illustrate the effectiveness of your content creation. Starting with these tips can help you stay focused and only show what matters to your organic growth strategy.
Want more tips on measuring content marketing ROI and getting buy-in? Check out our Cashing in on Content Marketing podcast, featuring marketing experts and their tips on understanding and communicating your content's value.