When Clicks Won’t Cut It: Use Internal and External Metrics to Determine the Real Value of your Content
It’s hard to tie content to revenue, and so plenty of companies do it poorly with metrics that don’t actually tell the full story. Numbers concerning clicks, page views and shares don’t tend to fly when you’re trying to convince the higher ups that you deserve more content spending. So how do you start to go about painting a better picture of ROI on your content production and tying it back to your sales funnel?
Three things that stop you from understanding the true value of your content:
1. Not knowing which metrics matter
Content marketers are tasked with the challenge of knowing exactly what to measure. Performance is often measured in the form of opens, clicks, views, shares and other data that might make the material look successful, but is often insignificant. Like Joe Lazauskas said in the Contently Ultimate Content Strategist Playbook: “Relying on pageviews is like inviting a bunch of people to your company conference and then only tracking how many times someone passed through the front door. You have no idea what they did when they got there.” Not only are there a bevy of additional external “reach” metrics to measure, but there are also way to measure how valuable your content is to your internal team.
2. Not doing the daily work to make the most successful content
Lead generation and nurturing is one of the main goals of content marketing in B2B companies. According to Forrester, brands that create 15 blog posts per month average 1,200 new monthly leads and companies that are stellar lead nurturers generate 50% more leads at 1/3 of the cost. The problem is that many companies aren’t coming up with the right numbers to help them justify the investment in this daily work.
3. Not having enough patience
Content marketing is a long game, and understanding the compounded power in brand-building with content over time is crucial to success. For instance, Coca-Cola launched a new website and content plan to achieve marketing success through 2020. This fundamental change in its marketing plan is the perfect example of why ROI must be continually measured to get a clearer picture of how marketing initiatives are performing, and how companies must keep updating and shaping an integrated marketing plan and tracking strategy.
So what metrics help measure ROI?
Figuring out what metrics to use and how to use them is a huge step toward measuring the impact of our content across marketing platforms. These metrics should both explain the performance of content (no matter whether it sinks or floats) and should also deliver insights that guide decision-making and creative processes going forward. Think of the following metrics in two categories: internal and external.
Content Flow in the Pipeline
This is an internal measurement: It’s important to analyze how content is flowing through your pipeline and to be aware of the points, if any, at which it clogs up. First of all, you need to know the length of time it takes to move from ideation to publication. Next, analyze which stages of the flow might be causing bottlenecks. Maybe your graphics vendor is constantly late with visuals, perhaps your writers are a bit sluggish when it comes to deadlines or maybe your editing process is too time-consuming. This is an important metric because marketers can take this information and easily tackle many of the issues that are leading to lost opportunities.
Speaking of lost opportunities, if you’re not mapping content to specific buyer personas and sales stages, you’re missing out. Your customers and potential customers need information, your job is to provide to them at the right time. Check out this simple content mapping table, that you can use at the ideas stage, from Kapost.
Content Reach: Internal and External
Now for the more familiar type of external measurement; while page views are a thing of the past, you do want more information about engagement across channels — it’s important to analyze how content creates engagement, because when you finally collect enough data, you can analyze it for insights.
Some of the key measurements are things you can literally check in on everyday through your Google Analytics dashboard or through tools like SumoMe and Chartbeat. These include:
Time spent on the page: Do people just click, skim, and leave? Or did people actually get into your 3000-word opus on how to conduct great research? According to Chartbeat, if a person spends three minutes with a story, there’s a 50% chance they’ll come back the next week.
Bounce rate: A debated, but ultimately valuable statistic. Bounce rate can mean just that, your readers arrived, and they bounced. Why? Are headlines misleading? Is your page poorly formatted? Are you pushing a hard-sell? On the other hand, Outbrain makes a pretty convincing argument that the standard bounce rate can be misleading and suggests adding a line of code to make it more accurate.
Finish Rate: Some tools can show you how far people read. Hopefully you’re still reading. Check out SumoMe’s free tool.
Social Actions: Measures shares across networks. They’ll only share it if they like it, or if they like you, or maybe if they want you to like them.
While these content experience metrics are the ones that show what kind of value your content is delivering to your readers, don’t you wonder about the value your content delivers to your internal organization? A high-performing content team isn’t just sharing through broadcast channels like social; they’re sharing through their sales and customer success teams. That one-on-one communication that happens with customers or potential customers through email or through services like Intercom has the potential to be far more tailored to specific customer’s need.
But since your entire organization doesn’t know your content quite as well as your team, (they actually might not even read every word) it is up to your marketing or content team to organize it and make it accessible, rather then letting it gather dust. That means creating an accessible repository of content and assets organized by marketing personas, buying stages, and marketing objectives so people can seek and find exactly what they need.
Conversions are the true bottom-line metric that all marketers want to boost in order to prove how much they are increasing ROIs. While many people know that content production has become the best way to attract prospects, engage leads, guide them through the buying process, and finally convert them, measuring this stuff is time-consuming and expensive. This is why, until you have the money and the time, your absolute best bet is to use the reach analytics above to determine what works, and to keep getting better.
But just so you know where you’re heading: the basic game includes calculating how much money it takes to produce content and weighing that against the value of the sale you’re eventually bringing in. Most customers have several touch points with content and sales before they purchase, they are, as we like to say, on their buyer’s journey. What you’d like to do, ideally is tie each specific piece of content to a revenue number. That’s actually impossible to do if you don’t know how much each piece of content cost to create, and which pieces of content a customer actually used along their journey. Marketo is one of several tools that integrates with Salesforce and can show you how the role content played in each step of the journey. If you’re interested in geeking out on this kind of stuff, Contently’s Sam Slaughter has put together great case study.
And in competing for the medal in geekery, Kapost who suggests that you take the bull by the horns and assign content scores to every piece of content to determine which content is generating the most conversions in which stages of the pipeline, has made an animated infographic you can’t miss.
As more and more companies have realized the pivotal role of content in their marketing strategies, it has become more important than ever to analyze how that content is affecting growth. As the process continues to mature and evolve, it will help you optimize your marketing budget much more effectively and will make the case for allocating more dollars toward a solid flow of high-quality content production.
Do you have any other metrics that you measure regularly or any interesting ways to calculate ROI? Let us know!
Originally published at ozcontent.com on August 5, 2015.