Content marketing is long past the ‘shiny new toy’ stage. The Content Marketing Institute’s most recent benchmark survey reveals 91 per cent of B2B businesses use content marketing, with 63 per cent seeing better results than last year. Content is now an established part of a good marketing strategy. So it’s puzzling that only 9 per cent of the executives surveyed describe their organisation’s content strategy as ‘sophisticated’. Only 4 per cent say their approach is ‘extremely successful’. Clearly, something isn’t adding up.
You Can’t Improve What You Don’t Measure
The people that described themselves as ‘sophisticated’ content marketers were differentiated by their ability to provide accurate measurement to the broader business. The fact that so many respondents didn’t fall into this group tells us there’s probably a whole lot of content being produced with little thought as to its effectiveness, audience value or purpose.
Measuring the performance of content isn’t just a great way of proving to your boss that what you’re doing matters. It also ensures you’re not wasting time, energy or money by just chucking a bunch of words into an Internet black hole and walking away.
More importantly, knowing what content works, and why, means you’re not wasting your audience’s time.
Having said that, measurement is easier said than done. It can be overwhelming to get started if you’re not sure what tools to use or what metrics to look at. Here are a few ways measurement can become part of your content efforts.
Have a strategy
One of the most surprising takeaways from the CMI report is that just over a third of marketers using content marketing have a documented strategy. And 15 per cent say a strategy isn’t important or even necessary.
A content marketing strategy underscores why you’re producing content in the first place. What’s it value for the audience? What is it doing for your business? Are you contributing something totally new? Having a clear objective immediately improves content performance. Without it, you’re in danger of frustrating your audience with irrelevant or insincere content.
It also provides a framework for how to execute your strategy. A content plan should outline how often you’ll produce content, what type of content you’ll develop, how it will be distributed and what your expectations are. This gives you a starting point for measurement. You’ll have a benchmark for what you planned to produce and achieve, so you can start measuring both your output and its outcomes.
Here’s a simple seven step guide to putting together a content calendar once you’ve got a strategy defined.
Pick the right metrics
A tiny three per cent of the organisations surveyed by CMI said they were ‘excellent’ at aligning metrics with content marketing goals. While analysing your content can seem like a daunting task, it’s much easier when you realise you don’t need to measure everything – just the stuff that matters. The metrics you look at should be directly related to your objectives.
If revenue generation or sales is the name of the game, then leads and conversions are a good place to start. If you’re a start-up looking to build a profile in the market, then brand awareness metrics like reach, views, share of voice and engagement are more important. And if you’re looking to impress your CEO or sell the value of content marketing to the business, return on investment is an important metric, which can be measured using lead value, cost-per-lead or an attribution model that shows the influence of content on sales.
Measure failure as well as success
Measurement isn’t just about proving that you’re awesome. It’s also about looking at what’s not working, so you can keep improving your results. There’s nothing wrong with discovering that some of your content isn’t doing well, as long as you figure out why and stop wasting time with it.
Experimentation is a great way to start. You can test and compare results throughout the year. You can compare headlines, trial a new tone of voice, expand beyond blogging to see whether video performs better or find ways of personalising your content. Even small A/B tests will give you some insight into what works best with your audience, to inform your ongoing content strategy. Here are some easy experiments to try. When you find something that has a negative impact on performance, it’s not a fail, but a learning that you can apply next time.
There are plenty of ways to measure the impact of your content, from website analytics to social media shares or influence on sales. The key is having a clear strategy and defined set of objectives to measure against, so you can communicate the impact of content to the business and offer something of value to your audience.
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