Content marketing is one of the most popular marketing strategies available because of its high success rate—but how can you tell whether your content marketing strategy is successful? This is an especially hard question to answer, because different marketers may have different definitions of “success.”
One of the advantages of content marketing is that the strategy can help you achieve a wide range of different goals; you can use it to increase traffic, generate conversions, or just improve your own reputation. It’s this complex network of different competing goals that makes it so difficult to identify and measure “success.” But once you have the right tools and the right framework in place, everything becomes easier.
Choosing the Right Tools
Before you can start measuring your content marketing performance, you’ll need to invest in the right analytics and measurement tools. One of the best options here is Google Analytics (GA), which can help you measure traffic, onsite behavior, and dozens of related metrics; with content groupings in Google Analytics, it’s even easier to evaluate the performance of different types of content on your site.
You can complement GA with other marketing analytics tools of your choice.
Factors to Consider
Success will look different to different content marketers, but these are some of the most commonly considered factors for success:
- Organic traffic. If you’re using content marketing in coordination with a search engine optimization (SEO) campaign (and you probably are, since the two go hand-in-hand), you’ll want to pay attention to the organic traffic your content is generating. Organic traffic is traffic that comes from search engine results pages (SERPs), and is a relative measure of how popular your content entries are in search engines. The better optimized your content is, and the more enticing it is for new visitors, the higher this will be.
- Referral traffic. Referral traffic represents people who clicked through to your site because they encountered an offsite link pointing to you. Depending on your content marketing approach, this could be a result of people citing your work as evidence, or a result of your own offsite content writing efforts. Either way, it’s a sign you’re building positive interest in your brand and that your content is influencing people.
- Social traffic. Similarly, you might look at your levels of social media traffic. If you’re frequently publishing or syndicating your work on social media, how often are people sharing and clicking those links?
- Repeat vs. new traffic. New traffic and repeat traffic are both important factors for your online success, and they can tell you different things about your strategy. High rates of new traffic mean you’re doing a good job of attracting new audiences. High rates of repeat traffic mean your content readers are avid, and interested in reading more.
- Comments and interactions. If you’re interested in generating more interactions with your readers, you’ll need to study the comments and engagements your work receives. Strong, captivating articles tend to attract lots of comments and ongoing discussion, as well as likes, comments, and shares on social media.
- Brand awareness and visibility. It’s difficult to measure brand awareness directly, but you should be able to calculate how much visibility your brand is getting due to the popularity of your content. How many new people are discovering your brand because of your content writing efforts?
- Conversions. For many content marketers, content serves as a gateway to conversion. A well-placed call-to-action (CTA) in the body of a blog article could feasibly generate a reliable stream of revenue. Measuring the conversion rate associated with each of your most popular content pieces could help you better understand their true value.
- Relationship to other marketing strategies. Content marketing has synergy with many other marketing strategies, including SEO, social media marketing, email marketing, and more. If you’re trying to use all these strategies in coordination with each other, you can measure your content marketing success as it influences these other areas.
- Costs and ROI. Finally, consider what you’re spending on content marketing, both in terms of money and in terms of time. How much value is it bringing to your organization in all the above areas? Is it generating a positive return on investment (ROI)? And is there any way to improve that ROI?
Which of these dimensions of content marketing success are most important for your brand? Which are lower priorities? Even if you have a clear picture of what you’re hoping to get from your content marketing strategy, you’ll need to remain adaptable if you want to succeed. Keep a close eye on all these metrics (and others), and be ready to adjust your expectations and your performance as you learn more about your niche.