Content marketing is much more difficult to measure than traditional digital marketing. With Google AdWords or Facebook Ads, you can set how much you’re willing to pay for each click, see how many clicks an ad attracts, and calculate the conversion rate into sign ups or sales. It’s easy to set a marketing budget when you know that every $100 spent turns into $150 in revenue over the course of a month due to these set conversion rates.
Content marketing is a long-term investment in recurring visitors over time rather than purchasing individual visitors on a per-click basis. It can take several months for a content marketing campaign to rank well in search engines and begin producing consistent results. And it might take even longer to build enough credibility with your target audience to drive true engagement and ultimately become an authority within your niche market.
The upside is that content marketing is a great way to produce both tangible and intangible benefits over the long-term. Measuring organic traffic, engagement, and lead conversion rates provides tangible evidence of success, while also building rapport with potential customers that may buy through another channel and strengthening relationships with existing customers to reduce churn rates and encourage repeat purchases.
In this post, we will take a look at how to quantitatively measure the tangible benefits while avoiding many common pitfalls and mistakes along the way.
Tracking Organic Traffic
Most content marketing relies on search engines – Google in particular – to drive meaningful organic traffic. While social media and email marketing can deliver quick hits, search engines produce the long-term traffic that really drives return on investment.
Google Analytics has become the most popular platform to track website traffic and engagement. But unfortunately, anyone that has used Google Analytics to track organic traffic has experienced the “not provided” issue. Google search users that are logged in are protected by SSL, which means that their referrer data is hidden from publishers. This makes it difficult to calculate the ROI for specific keywords in organic search.
The easiest way to get around this problem is to use Google Webmaster Tools, which provides search query information in the Search Traffic menu under Search Analytics. The tool shows you how many clicks you’ve received from search, how many impressions the term has received, the click-through rate, and even the search position. You can even download this data for analysis in Microsoft Excel or other statistical applications.
There are also many third-party analytics providers that specialize in unlocking this data. For example, SEMRush provides an Organic Search Insights tool that lets you see organic traffic insights and get past the “not provided” message on Google Analytics.
The next step after understanding inbound traffic is determining how engaged the reader is with the content. If a reader doesn’t find value in what you’ve written, then you’re unlikely to make a positive impression, capture a lead, or make a sale.
The most common metrics used for measuring engagement are:
- Page Views – Most people default to page views as a measure of engagement, but in reality, this is a measure of reach. Reach is a vanity metric that means very little since it can be easily manipulated with clickbait headlines or by paying for content promotion ads. Visitors that click-through under these false pretenses may generate a page view, but they are likely to quickly leave and may even form a negative opinion.
- Time on Page – Time on page is a slightly better measure of engagement than page views, but it can be skewed quite a bit due to bounce time. If a visitor clicks through and leaves within the bounce time, the visit is not factored into the time on page calculation in most analytics providers. Time on page calculations may also be skewed by readers that open multiple tabs or walk away from their computer.
- Social Sharing – Social sharing is another commonly used engagement metric since it stands to reason that people only share content that they enjoy. But, several studies have shown this to be false. There are many people that share content that they haven’t even read for a variety of different reasons.
The two best metrics for measuring engagement are:
- Scroll Depth – Scroll depth is one of the best metrics to measure engagement. If readers reach the end of your post, the odds are that they’ve found your content helpful in some way. There are several WordPress plugins and Google Analytics add-ons to capture this data and make it intuitive to analyze for insights. Crazy Egg’s heat maps are another tool that tells you scroll depth and a lot more information.
- Moderated Comments – Comments are another way to measure engagement, as long as anti-spam efforts are in place to prevent automated comments. People usually don’t take the time to comment on something unless they have read it and are interested in it – a conversation in the comments suggests that the content was meaningful. Disqus is a great tool for easily adding comments to a website and moderating them.
Tracking Leads & Sales
The final step is tracking leads and sales that come from content marketing. Even if a piece of content is highly engaging, it’s not worth much to the publisher if it doesn’t produce results. Effective content marketing relies on a balance between engaging content and compelling offers to drive leads that can then be converted into sales over time. As a result, it’s just as important to track these conversion rates as your organic traffic – if not more so!
There are many different ways to track leads and sales:
- Google Analytics – Google Analytics has built-in conversion tracking features that can be found under the Conversions menu item. By setting up Goals, you can measure how well your content fulfills objectives ranging from signing up for a newsletter to making a purchase to registering for a software-as-a-service app.
- Opt-in Providers –There are many different companies that provide opt-in strategies for online publishers as well as the conversion rates. For example, OptinMonster provides a full suite of pop-ups, slide-ins, and in-line offers for content and provides detailed analytics covering the conversion rates and sign-ups.
If you’re looking for a simple way to create offers, the Content Upgrades WordPress Plugin provides a streamlined way to create content upgrades, insert them into blog posts, and automatically send them to people. It integrates seamlessly with MailChimp, Drip, ConvertKit, Zapier, and any platform that supports CSV file formats.
The Bottom Line
Content marketing is a long-term effort with many layers. Many publishers only look at page views when considering performance, but these are vanity metrics that mean very little in terms of return on investment. It’s better to consider track search engine rankings, scroll depth, comments, and lead/sale conversions to get a better idea of where you stand.
If you’re interested in content marketing, Audience Ops can help grow your audience, your email list, and your customer base with done-for-you content. Contact us today for a free demo and consultation.