Content marketing metrics 101

Your content marketing campaign depends on thousands of variables—your strategy, your keyword research, your editorial calendar, your distribution, your platforms, and so on. But like with your marketing efforts, you need to know if your content marketing is a success or a failure. The best way to do this is to use metrics.

A content marketing metric is used to measure and evaluate your content marketing goals. For example, if you want to measure site traffic, you may use pageviews and unique pageviews over time to gauge how well you are achieving that goal. There are major categories for metrics:

  • Consumption metrics
  • Retention metrics
  • Engagement metrics
  • Lead generation metrics
  • Sales metrics
  • Internal and cost metrics

Any given metric only provides one piece of the puzzle. Since content marketing goals are complex, multiple metrics are required to complete the puzzle throughout the entire funnel. In fact, no one data point can satisfactorily tell you whether your program is working. You need many metrics to give a holistic picture of your content marketing health, to understand the progress you’ve made, and to determine what needs to be done in order to achieve your goals.

This is where most content marketers trip themselves: they aren’t clear about what their goals are or what success looks like, they mistakenly track the wrong metrics, or they cannot connect the dots between different KPIs.

Never fear! We’ve put together a comprehensive glossary of metrics that details what goals they measure and what the numbers actually mean.

Consumption metrics

Consumption metrics, also referred to as basic metrics, are the starting point for any content marketing campaign for a reason: they look at the number of people who have viewed or accessed your content (depending on format).

Consumption metrics can evaluate basic goals, like gaining traffic to your site or increasing the average time on site. The really important ones are:

  • Pageviews/unique Pageviews
  • Pages/sessions
  • Average time on page/site
  • Downloads

Consumption metrics answer the first questions everybody wants to know about the performance of a campaign, including:

  • How many people are consuming your content?
  • Where are they consuming on which channels?
  • How frequently and for how long are they consuming it?

However, consumption metrics are usually just a starting point; they can help monitor brand awareness, for example, but they are often not enough to understand the overall performance of your content.

Retention metrics

Retention metrics track how long your audience sticks around after a visit to your site. It’s worth noting that most sites see a vast majority of their visitors only stay once or twice, but it all depends on your industry and the community you’ve built. These are the biggest retention metrics to use:

  • Bounce rate
  • Unsubscribe rate
  • Percentage of returning vs. new visitors rate
  • Number of visits/days since last visit

Retention metrics, together with consumption metrics, offer a clearer understanding of whether or not your content is inspiring your audience to read more. If your goal is to build and retain an audience, you would need to use consumption and retention metrics to track your progress towards that goal.

Engagement metrics

Engagement metrics are closely related to consumption and retention metrics, but more specifically measure how interested your readers are in your content and, by extension, your brand. Engagement metrics are essential in gauging how invested and loyal your audience is. Engagement metrics often overlap with retention metrics; the italicized ones below signify this overlap:

  • Average time on page
  • Session duration
  • New vs. returning visitors
  • Referral traffic
  • New visitors
  • Social metrics

Social metrics are a big part of engagement metrics. They measure how well content is performing on social media, and include metrics like:

  • Number of comments and likes
  • Social media shares
    • Retweets, shares, video views
  • Follower growth
  • Click-through rates

If your goal is to boost audience engagement, you’ll want to focus on engagement metrics. If your goal is to build and retain an audience, you will want to consider engagement metrics in combination with consumption and retention metrics.

Lead generation metrics

According to the Content Marketing Institute, lead generation is the number-one goal for B2B content marketers. And for good reason: content can bring in a relevant new audience and further qualify these new leads by guiding them deeper down the sales funnel. Lead generation metrics help track new leads and conversions. Tools like Eloqua, Marketo, Pardot, Act-On, and similar marketing automation platforms can assist in this area.

The biggest metrics for lead generation are:

  • Click-through rates
  • Conversion

If your goal is to gain new leads, lead generation metrics will help you measure how many leads are coming in and from where.

Sales metrics

Tracking how your content affects your sales is an instrumental part of content marketing. Sales metrics are closely tied to the customers at the bottom of your sales funnel. You’ll want to look at the revenue per conversion, potential value of leads generated, and the value of successful acquisitions. You should monitor sales metrics for leads who receive your content versus those who don’t in order to determine how instrumental your content marketing is in your sales funnel.

The most important sales metrics are:

  • Sales conversion rate
  • Sales cycle length
  • Contract size
  • Transactions, including the number of, the size of, and revenue per transaction
  • Time to purchase

If your goal is sales enablement, you want to closely look at both lead generation and sales metrics.

Internal and implicit costs

Perhaps the most important metrics for your brand’s bottom line are the internal and cost metrics used to evaluate your return on investment for content marketing.

Internal metrics measure soft costs, such as how long it takes to create a piece of content and how many pieces are published regularly. Cost metrics calculate the hard costs, such as how much it costs to produce each piece of content (whether it’s a blog post, whitepaper, email campaign, podcast, or other format), and the cost of effectively distributing content.

In order to ensure your content marketing efforts are profitable, you’ll need to track these metrics.

Of course, many of the metrics above are used in combination to paint a clear picture about the success of your content marketing. Data for data’s sake means nothing if it doesn’t inform observations, insights, and actions. And if you are using the wrong metrics, then you are likely forming the wrong takeaways.

By working with a content marketing partner, you can assess which metrics are relevant to your brand’s individual goals—and leave the reporting to them.

Image: kentoh/Shutterstock

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