All KPIs Are Not Created Equal: Measuring Content Marketing

Too often, there’s an overemphasis on process metrics like page views, open rates and list growth (subscribers, followers, friends, etc.). This is understandable since these are among the easiest metrics to obtain and to interpret. The metrics that really matter — business metrics — get lost with the focus on process.

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“If you’re not measuring it, it doesn’t matter.”

It’s hard to argue with that marketing truism — it’s just about impossible to know what is and isn’t working if you aren’t measuring your efforts and tracking your results. But what’s often left unsaid is that what and how you’re measuring matter.

Too often, there’s an overemphasis on process metrics like page views, open rates and list growth (subscribers, followers, friends, etc.). This is understandable because these are among the easiest metrics to obtain and to interpret.

The metrics that really matter — business metrics — get lost with the focus on process. Business metrics include leads generated, revenue booked and return on investment, and provide insights on your business’ health.

That’s not to say that process metrics don’t matter at all. Both business and process metrics are valuable. Depending on your industry, your organization and your approach to marketing, you can apply both accordingly to derive your best path.

Knowing that your organization’s needs are going to differ from others, I hope you’ll take these thoughts as general guidelines rather than edicts written in stone. The one inviolable rule you should follow is, “What would the C-Suite think?” Because ultimately, if your marketing is not producing results, something has to change.

Consumption Metrics

Despite the gray areas in process metrics, they are important to track because they frequently serve as a sort of leading indicator, providing a sense of whether your marketing is on the right track. Among the metrics you should consider here are:

  • Site visits
  • Email open rates
  • Subscribers/Followers/Friends

These metrics are not going to be numbers we worry about as individual data points, but as trends we track over time. The trends will be the most valuable in monitoring content marketing.

Engagement Metrics

This is another type of process metric that will paint a clearer picture of your marketing’s effectiveness. As with consumption metrics, these are going to be most valuable when considered over time.

They are also going to be quite valuable when broken down further: Are there particular pieces or types of content that are providing better results than everything else you’re doing? That’s the content you’ll want to focus on as a model for future content development. Use your highest-performing pieces to both create more content just like it, and to reverse engineer it, if possible, to apply whatever is working here to other, less effective areas of your content marketing. Some important metrics to consider include:

  • Pages per visit
  • Time per visit
  • CTA completion: download forms, subscription signups, etc.
  • Email clickthrough rates
  • Comments
  • Social likes
  • Social sharing
  • Email forwarding

Retention Metrics

Your retention metrics will help provide insights into other metrics. A slowly growing list might mean your progress is just that — slow and steady. Or it could mean that you’re doing a great job of attracting new subscribers, but a poor job of keeping them. Plugging that retention hole could be an easy fix for increasing your reach. Common retention metrics include:

  • List churn
  • Repeat visitors

Leads Metrics

Now we’re starting to get to where the rubber meets the road in business metrics. These are the numbers that the executives in the C-Suite are going to be interested in, particularly if you can track how valuable the leads you hand off to your sales team prove to be. Consider these metrics in your evaluations:

  • Leads generated
  • Leads progressed

Sales Metrics

Finally, we have the sales metrics, which are, of course, the ultimate metric. Are we adding to the top line, and are we doing so with a reasonable return on the investment we’ve made in our efforts? Use these metrics to help you answer these questions:

  • Leads handed off to sales
  • Revenue generated
  • Profitability
  • Measurement against other lead/marketing sources

As I mentioned, not every one of these metrics will be part of your KPI dashboard. But you’ll likely want at least one of each type of metric outlined here in order to recognize where your resources are best allocated to maximize revenue and profitability. You’ll need to choose the metrics that give you the best picture of your marketing today, and give you a high degree of confidence in where your marketing is heading tomorrow.

Learn even more about the convergence of technology and branded content at the FUSE Enterprise summit. Artificial intelligence and personalization will be featured among many other techniques and technologies.

Author: Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured?

A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms encourage audience engagement through solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either.

His work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components, and he has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events. His writing appears in various online and print publications. 

Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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