How to measure, evaluate, and improve your content marketing program

Posted by Kevin Cain on Apr 29, 2014 1:00:00 PM

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One of the biggest mistakes that many content marketers make is thinking that once their content is published and promoted their work is done. technology_trends

In fact, there’s still a very important job for them to tackle after that: They need to measure how each piece of content performed, reflect on what worked and what didn’t, and try to use any insights that they glean from the process to improve the next time.

It’s really important to get into a consistent rhythm of examining how your content performs on a regular — at least weekly, but potentially even daily — basis.

When you do so, try to answer the following questions:

  • How much traffic did that particular piece of content drive to your website in terms of both unique visitors and page views?
  • How engaged with your content was your audience as measured by time on page, bounce rate, number of shares, and number of comments?
  • How many people completed the desired conversion as a result of consuming your content, i.e., what was the conversion rate?

All of the key performance indicators bolded above are ones that you can easily access using Google Analytics. Once you do, it’s a good idea to start tracking and recording these metrics in a content marketing dashboard that you can set up in a simple Excel spreadsheet.

For example, you might have one worksheet that includes overall metrics for your site and another that tracks these same metrics for each key piece of content or page that you develop. Doing so will allow you to begin to see how your content marketing program is performing over time on both a macro and micro level.

When you start to look at the data, your goal will be to try to identify any trends over time as well as any potential outliers. If something performed really well, for example, can you figure out why so that you can try to replicate it again?

Conversely, if something else didn’t perform so well, can you pinpoint the reason and avoid it going forward? Your job is to glean as many insights as you can into how your content performed and why, and then to adjust your strategy accordingly going forward.

To do so successfully you not only have to update your content marketing dashboard on a consistent basis, but also meet as a team to discuss it. Having meaningful, data-driven retrospectives about your content marketing program and what’s working and what isn’t, is really one of the most critical steps to improving your program over the long term.

Unfortunately, it’s a step that many content marketers overlook. Even if they are disciplined enough to gather the right metrics, they never sit down as a team to discuss them and figure out what they all mean and how they should adjust their content strategy as a result.

Don’t fall into that trap.

The reality is that content marketing is as much of a science as it is an art, and without a clear understanding of the analytics behind your program, it is going to be virtually impossible to make meaningful improvements to it. That said, there is a limit to how deep you should go.

Google Analytics allows you to track so much information about your content that you can quickly find yourself in a state of analysis paralysis. It’s an easy way to spend a lot of time without necessarily getting a substantially bigger benefit.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to limit what you track to those metrics and pages that matter most. After all, if you spend your entire week gathering and analyzing the data, it will leave little time for you to attend to the tasks of creating and distributing your content.

As you set off to build your own content marketing program, remember that metrics are going to be a key indicator of the value that your program is bringing to your organization. Not only that, they will also serve as guide posts to help steer you in the right direction when it comes time to make improvements to it.

Read Kevin Cain's complete series on content marketing for MSPs:

Kevin Cain is a content and communications strategist based in Sydney, Australia, and has more than a decade or experience working in the financial services and consulting industries and helping expansion-stage software companies develop their content strategies. To learn more, follow him on Twitter @kevinrcain or check out his blog on language, content, communication and strategy.

Topics: Content Marketing