Deciding on Your Content Marketing Metrics

by Katie Joll

How successful has your content marketing strategy been so far?

If your answer is “I’m not really sure” or “I think it could be better,” then there’s a good chance that your content marketing efforts are hobbled by a common problem; undefined or unclear metrics for success.

It’s difficult to make a judgment about how successful any kind of strategy is without having clear goals and metrics in place. The old adage “what gets measured, gets managed” is as true a statement for content marketing as any other strategy.

There’s also a danger that without clear metrics, you might try to do too many things, therefore reducing the effectiveness of results because calls to action or purposes are unclear, or, you need to spread finite resources too thinly.

The solution is to craft some defined metrics which hone in on the underlying goals you have for content.

Get our guide to content metrics that matter (and those that don’t) here

What is behind your content metrics?

Knowing that you should have defined content metrics is all well and good, but you’ve also got to understand what is behind them. It makes no sense to just track the same things as the next business because they’re not you – they’ve got their own underlying goals, priorities and target audience. What’s behind your content metrics?

Your target audience

Clearly defining your target audience is content marketing 101. Without doing so, it’s next to impossible to create a content plan that will attract the right people to your content.

Can you see where we’re going with this? Let’s say you end up deciding that one of your content metrics is going to be number of new leads. If you’ve been in business for a while you probably have an intimate understanding of how there are great leads, then there are the rest, the ones who are just tire-kickers, or who never will be a good fit in the first place.

You might devise a new marketing campaign with the hopes of drawing in a large number of new leads, but how much use was it really if many of those are not a good fit? Defining your target audience helps you to minimize this situation as much as possible and prepare your business to look at metrics that will actually be meaningful.

Your goal/s

If you’ve followed the progress of Buffer at all, you’ll know that they’ve become a content powerhouse over the last few years with regular production of high-quality content and a large following. Brian recently interviewed Ash Read, Buffer’s editor, and they talked about how they have grown such a high-traffic blog.

Being very clear about what they wanted to achieve from the blog is one tip that Ash talked about: “what specifically do you want people to convert to from the blog?,” he asks. A common mistake that companies often make on their blogs is to create a mish-mash of topics and content types that they think might appeal to their audience, without a fluid pathway or cohesive experience for people.

If you’re not sure what you want your blog to achieve, then your audience doesn’t know either. You’re not going to see the results that you’d otherwise get if you strategically planned out your content based on who you want to attract and what you want them to do.

So, think about which target audience you want to attract and what your end-goal is. Do you want to build your list and sign up more leads? Do you want more shares and brand visibility? Have goals that you’re going to be able to measure so that you can track them as well, and remember, one of the most important questions you can ask yourself is: “why am I creating this content?”

Different blogs for different jobs…

Brian’s discussion with Ash raised some very interesting points, one being the concept of creating different blogs for the different goals (or audience types) that you may have. Buffer began with just one, but have since expanded to split their content into four distinct blogs.

The original blog is now known as “Buffer Social” and is where they publish their thoughts on social media and online marketing.“Buffer Open” is about productivity, transparency and culture; “Buffer Overflow,” about development, and “Buffer Customer Experience” for stories about delivering for the customer.

Why make this move to different blogs? Because they found that they have very distinct audiences and want to keep specific goals for each blog. “We wanted to ensure that we were focused on one or two key goals rather than aiming for a ton of audiences or metrics,” Ash says.

Your first thought might be to balk at the idea of running more than one blog (let’s face it, they take work!), but if you’ve got more than one target audience, this can have value – you can provide a consistent and relevant experience in one place for the customer, leading to improvement in your metrics.

As a consideration if you’re trying to juggle different content goals, think about whether you want to develop more than one blog. You could begin quite simply by running two and picking alternating weeks to publish content. The underlying point really is, pick just one or two key goals that make sense per blog and focus only on those.

“Jobs to be done” framework

Great content gets to the heart of what motivates a customer. It captures their needs and desires and evokes action from them. Ash talked about the “Jobs to be Done” framework as a guide for thinking about content and the metrics that make sense to follow on it.

The Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) framework emerged in the 1990s as a way to understand what motivates people to buy and has become an important principle among marketers. It was made popular by Harvard Business School Professor, Clayton Christensen and has been upheld as a framework to help companies take a more customer-driven approach to product development, sales and marketing.

JTBD centers on the idea that in order to understand customer purchasing decisions, companies need to know what job the client is trying to get done.

For example, if you were to think of your audience’s problem as a “job” that they’re hiring for, you can design your content and define your metrics based on how to help them fill that position. This is the primary reason to consider JTBD – because it can help you to boost the effectiveness of your marketing.

Is the content you’re putting out really helping your audience to solve those “jobs” that need doing? You should be able to develop metrics around engagement which help you to understand this.

Realistic content metrics

No discussion about content metrics would be complete without talking about what “realistic” goals and metrics might look like. A common question we hear is; “how long until I see results from content marketing?”

That’s a great question, but in our experience, a lot boils down to what your metrics are and the expectations that you’ve set for your content. “Results” mean different things to different people, but what a lot of people really mean when they ask this questions is; “when will I see revenue driven by content marketing?”

Content Marketing Institute published an article written by Neil Patel which sets out to bust common content marketing myths. One of those is that “our content marketing will drive serious revenue.” It’s not that this is never going to happen, it’s that you must know that most content won’t directly increase your revenue, certainly not immediately anyway.

Content marketing is a “long-tail” game, meaning most people won’t convert into leads or customers during the same week that they discovered you. As Neil Patel puts it:

“Content marketing is a great way to nurture relationships and build a loyal audience. Eventually, that loyal audience will look at you and think, “These people really know their stuff and their content is great. I wonder …”

You’re not likely to see significant revenue results even within a couple of months, but if you follow up with leads over the long term, consistently sending them new content, then they’re likely to convert later on when they have a need and now know your name well.

As for results outside of revenue, such as growing leads, boosting followers or improving engagement with your brand, these are all things that you can see sooner, but again they’ll take time to build up to a decent mass. A good overall content strategy and consistency in its application are again going to be key. (Check out our email course on getting an ROI from content marketing here).

Decide upon your content metrics…

With the right foundation in place – knowing your target audience, clearly defining your content goals, and understanding how the content you create will solve the “jobs” your audience wants to get done, you can begin to define your content metrics.

Think about what makes the most sense given the goals of your business and make sure that your blog clearly steers toward just one or two core goals, rather than trying to incorporate too many.

A confused customer probably won’t buy, but you can clear the path for them by being consistent and true to their needs.

Bonus: Get our quick guide to metrics that matter (and some that don’t) here