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Content Marketing ROI: Metrics That Matter Most

Muhammad Saad Khan
Content Marketing ROI: Metrics That Matter Most

With the advent of smart technology (TV, cell phones and other portable devices), people are now more connected to each other than ever before. They can fast-forward ads, skip them or simply overlook them, making traditional marketing less effective by the minute. Therefore, marketers are now looking for a better way to interact with their consumers.

Marketers now understand that it is time for content marketing to take its due place.

What is Content Marketing?

But what exactly is content marketing? Here is a definition from the Content Marketing Institute:

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Informally speaking, content marketing is how you attract, engage, and re-engage your customers. You need to be careful of the fact that content marketing is not about selling your products. Selling is the last piece of the pie. It is an intriguing aspect of consumer behavior that has now become an integral part of business goals for companies looking to engage with their customers online.

Content marketing is the means for justifying the end. It is based on the belief that if we, as businesses, provide valuable, and consistent content to our customer base, then they will ultimately reward us with loyalty and business.

Align Your Content Strategy with Your Business Goals

Take a closer look at the compass. The compass defines 6 goals you should be concerned about if you are serious for your business’ success. The six points of the compass are:


Image Source: Altimeter Group (Page 8)

  1. Brand Health

Perception is stronger than reality. If you are not aware of your customers’ perceptions regarding your brand, then your brand’s health is near deterioration. The best way to diagnose your brand health is to have an in-depth knowledge of how people are talking about your products.

  1. Market Optimization

Your content can assist you in finding the right target audience. You need to analyze what your target audience is looking for and how they are landing on your website. From then on, it is the quality of the content which engages the customers. Try going for different social media channels to fine-tune your target audience. This will help you in defining the future strategies of your business.

  1. Revenue Generation

When it comes to content marketing, you must understand that revenue generation comes in the form of relationship building. As I stated in the informal definition, it is all about attracting, engaging, and re-engaging your customers. Monetary benefits should be at the bottom of the pyramid when you are constructing a content strategy. However, I am not negating monetary value of the content. If your content is properly aligned with your business goals, then it would reap monetary benefits for you. You should be able to easily analyze the ROI you generate with your content if you have the proper tools in place. 

  1. Operational Savings

Your content will help you in saving considerable costs. It has the power to turn your customers into your inexpensive brand advocates. One of the major advantages you may reap from a content strategy is the instantaneous communication with your customer, something that was missing from traditional channels of marketing.

  1. Customer Experience

When a social media team from Kraft discovered trends like "cut," "blood" and "salad dressing," they were startled. These are not words you would associate with their foods. When they dug a bit deeper into the trends, they discovered that the customers were going onto the social media and complaining about cutting their fingers while opening a new bottle of salad dressing. an issue solved quite easily, but a solution would have never been possible if a content marketing strategy was not in place.

  1. Innovation

The most important aspect of your business is innovation. The question is: What value can your content add to your business? Almost everything! You must remember that your content needs to be unique and it should look engaging to your customers. From then on, you can listen to what your customers are saying about your company and in what context are they talking about you.

Sean McGinnis sums it up beautifully:

Read Quote of Sean McGinnis' answer to What are the 10 ways to measure content marketing? on Quora      

Why You Should Measure Your Content Marketing?

Go back to the definition for content marketing and read it again, but this time, remove the words “valuable” and “relevant.” Yes, it is true. Content has been there since times immemorial. However, much of the produced content was either without direction or aim. Because such content failed to connect with the appropriate target audience, hence the term “spam” was introduced. Content Marketing is the antidote for spam. If your content marketing is done correctly, it would make a person (or customer) stop, read, think, and behave differently. Content Marketing is measurable. You just need to assess as to what are the proper metrics for your type of content. To have a proper in-depth knowledge of how your customers are landing on your pages, from which sources and who is actually reading your content, you need to have proper metrics in place. Content Marketing Metrics There are many ways of measuring content marketing. Check out this discussion on Quora to learn about some of them. There are four types of content marketing metrics. They are: Consumption, Sharing, Lead generation, and Sales. These metrics combine together to help you assess the impact your content is having on your business goals. These metrics are defined comprehensively in this report by CMI. Below, you will find a brief overview of the four metrics. Don’t take only my opinion. Let’s see how Andy Crestodina summarizes the Content Marketing metrics: Read Quote of Andy Crestodina's answer to What are the 10 ways to measure content marketing? on Quora The Four Metrics

Final Thoughts:

No one tool can help you measure the impact of content on your business’ performance. You need to spend sufficient amount of time thinking right through your set goals for success in order to select the right metrics for measurement. You need to set specific business objectives and strategies (not tactics) before finalizing a content calendar. Once accomplished, you can then organize your resources around those metrics.

Remember, content marketing is not the end; it is only the means to reach to the end.

What are your thoughts? What metrics would you deploy to measure your content’s effectiveness? How do these content ideas help you align your business goals? Leave your ideas and suggestions in the comments section below.

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Muhammad Saad Khan is a content marketing strategist at Cloudways (cloud hosting  management platform built for digital agencies to manage multiple clients). He is also a columnist at VentureBeat working on business growth, influencer engagements and innovative content strategies. You can follow him on Twitter and get connected on LinkedIn.
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Jason Amunwa
"Which metrics would you deploy to measure your content's effectiveness?"

So torn! On one hand, I definitely agree with Sean McGinnis that the important metrics flow from your overall business objective. On the other hand, Andy Crestodina nails it by outlining how you can measure content based on the role it's playing in your sales funnel. I guess the main takeaways are a) pick stuff that's meaningful for you, and b) no-one's quite figured out exactly how to measure content marketing in all scenarios just yet.

My team and I created the Engagement Score as a way to help you keep track of how your content is performing, by consolidating multiple visitor activity metrics into one simple score.

We found that watching that single score over time helps you quickly understand the overall level of engagement your content is getting, and lets you objectively compare posts against each other regardless of age - it's very similar to the 1Metric created by Moz. It's been super-helpful with allowing us to focus on the posts that are truly our superstars, and knowing which other posts could use some optimization love.
Kathleen Burns
Jason Amunwa
Hey Jason! I'm interested in this metric you mentioned. What factors into your Engagement Score and how often do you report on this metric - is it weekly, monthly, quarterly? What visitor activities do you use as part of your Engagement Score - I'm going to assume time spent on the page is part of it? And what made you decide that there was a need to combine a few different metrics into one big one?
Jason Amunwa
Kathleen Burns
Hi Kathleen - we factor in several indicators of visitor engagement (we call them "touchpoints"), including bounce, social share, scroll depth and a couple other actions. We actually *don't* include time on page in the score - we used to, but we found that if just one person arrives on your post, then decides to go make themselves a sandwich, that 10-minutes of idle time still gets tracked, and it throws a lot of false positives! Others (like Upworthy, etc.) have built their own mechanisms to track "Active time" via watching for mouse movements in the browser, but we'll look at incorporating something like that later.

We report on the Engagement Score daily with our tool Filament ( - you can give it a try for free =)

As for the score, it was born out of a need for clarity and speed. My boss would ask me "How's the blog doing?", and I would need to take like 4 hours to look at all the metrics across multiple analytics tools - and frequently come up with conflicting results, which clouded the answer to what seems like a simple question. By tracking just one combined score over time, we're able to easily say whether we're better or worse today versus the 30-day average, and *which individual metric influenced the score the most*.

So if our 30-day average is a 28 and today's score is a 36, because of a spike in social sharing, we can quickly hone in on which post got those shares and where it got shared to. The Engagement Score is like a windsock that tells us which way the wind is blowing overall, and helps us focus on the movements that are most significant. It also helps us see whether we're trending up in visitor activity over time, and understand why.

That help to clarify? Happy to answer more questions! =)
Kathleen Burns
Jason Amunwa
I can understand needing to come up with an easier response to "How's the blog doing?" It's hard to put that into a short response that doesn't require some major prep into analytics. That's a good point you made about time spent on a page vs active time. I'll keep that in mind for my own reporting.

Thanks Jason for taking the time to respond back! I'll be sure to check out your Filament tool.
Jason Amunwa
Kathleen Burns
No problem! Would love your thoughts - shoot me a note if you have any questions/suggestions - [email protected]
Kathleen Garvin
Curtis Hays
Thanks for sharing that link, Curtis. I've fallen into the "technical talk" trap.
Kathleen Garvin
We all do. I thought it was a good share since Raven had posted that earlier today. I'm always trying to get my B2B clients to create a value on their leads so we can measure ROI. We also have to figure out how to get marketing and sales sharing important metrics that help them make better decisions together.
Kathleen Garvin
Curtis Hays
Absolutely. Same with customer success -- we're in the beginning stages of increasing blog posts and materials aimed at bridging the gap between what customers need versus what we *think* they need.
Muhammad Saad Khan
Curtis Hays
Thanks for sharing the link @curtishays:disqus. And James is absolutely spot on. This is what we face at Cloudways as well. We have to show percentage of sales growing on monthly basis. The founders of the company wants to look that the efforts we are putting in via content marketing are getting results or not. Sales is one important metric to track the performance of a content marketing team. Fortunately, we were able to raise the bar upto 20% every single month. Because we know from the first day on that we need to achieve our targets.
Jason Amunwa
Curtis Hays
Seconded - James makes a great point. Digital marketers live in a world awash with data and metrics, but not enough *insight*. It's not our fault, since getting useful, actionable insights takes so much time and manual effort. The vast majority of analytics tools out simply present us with raw data and numbers, and leave the burden of interpretation on our shoulders alone.

If you're not able to hire a fulltime analyst, you're kinda up the creek without a paddle, unless you invest the time to go digging for the precious nuggets of gold that are buried under all the data. We've struggled with this ourselves, which is why we built a tool to help us interpret the data and metrics from our blog quicker.

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