Content marketing metrics: how much do they matter?

Posted by Andy Beohar on 19 Jun, 2017
View comments Marketing
With large chunks of budgets being spent on content, it's crucial to know whether your content marketing is working or not. These metrics will help you find out.

content marketing

Today’s brands are spending on average 25 to 43% of their marketing budget on content, yet only 23% of CMOs believe that their brand is delivering the right information, in the right format, to the right audience, at the right time. What gives? How do you know for certain if your content marketing is working?

Content marketing metrics help clear up some of that uncertainty. The modern marketer has a wealth of data at their fingertips that they can use to improve their content. The problem is that some marketers aren’t using the right data, which can lead to wasting a lot of money on ineffective content marketing strategies. So the real question is which content marketing metrics matter?

As the VP of SevenAtoms, a successful marketing agency in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve already done my own game of trial and error. So, to spare you the pain of figuring things out yourself, I’ve put together a list of the content metrics that I’ve found to be most profitable:

1. Page view time

If you don’t look at page view time, you won’t know whether or not people are actually taking the time to read your content. You might be thinking: But, like, maybe some people just read really fast? Let me just say, unless you’re a robot, I don’t think anyone can manage to read 2,000 plus words in 15 seconds. So, no more excuses—listen up.

There’s no point in dedicating your time to content that no one reads. It’s a waste of your time and resources. If you don’t bother to track which types of content gather the most interest, readership will only go downhill. And so will your conversions.

Your first step toward improvement is to identify which content topics and formats are most effective so that you can replicate those results. Take a look at the average time your visitors spend on each page.

Over time, you’ll probably notice a few common patterns or trends. For instance, people may be spending time on content pieces that are image-heavy or your longer-form blogs may be capturing your audience’s attention much better than your shorter pieces. Use this information to make data-driven changes to your content strategy and implementation.

Take a look at the screenshot below where we compare views and traffic for some of our client’s blog posts.

views and traffic

From this example, we can see that their readers seem to really enjoy list type posts, and they generally stick around on the page long enough to finish the whole thing.

Producing more content such as this may help to replicate these results.

But while time spent on page can help you produce better content in the future, there’s another reason why it’s important: it can impact your SEO.

When you engage your readers and get them to stick around, Google takes that as a sign that you have a high quality site that provides real value. This means you get a boost in your quality score and search rank, which can potentially bring in more consumers via organic traffic. For this very reason, both Neil Patel and Brian Dean list page view time as an important metric to track.

2. Returning visitors

If you notice a drop in your returning visitors, this can be a sign that your content isn’t pulling its weight—in fancier terms, it’s no longer engaging your target audience or providing value to them.

Think of your content marketing as a relationship between you and your readers. When returning visitors start to drop, the problem isn’t them—it’s you. And without them, well, it’s game over.

The ultimate goal of your content marketing is to capture your target audience’s attention and start to build and nurture relationships. If your content is doing this well, you will have more and more people returning to your website. Here, we can see that 33% of our page viewers are returning visitors:

Returning visitors

Critically evaluate the type of content you’re publishing and determine whether or not you’re meeting your audience’s needs and interests as well as their stage in the buyer’s journey. To get inside your readers’ heads, you don’t have to electrocute yourself with a hairdryer, Mel Gibson style. Just start by creating buyer personas to really dig deep and learn more about what your target consumers truly want.

Writing content that is tailored to the interests of your readers will help you develop a loyal community for your brand. As Rand Fishkin says, “My returning visits, this is like my crowd. That’s my community.”

3. Lead generation

If you’re good at what you do, most of the content you create is developed with the goal of generating more leads. If you’re not, you probably experience dwindling lead generation and sporadic results. In order to create content that converts, you’re going to have start writing with the consumer in mind.

Good content is designed to help potential customers decide that your brand is the right fix for their challenges. That’s why, in order to maximize lead generation, it’s important to track which pieces of content are most successful in duping—er, I mean, persuading readers that you’re the best pick they’ve got.

A great way to determine which content is pulling in the most fish is to use a lead generation form on the content page. Not only will this show you how many leads the page is bringing in, but specifically which ones. Why is the last part important? It’ll tell you which content brings in the big fish versus the small fry.

Once you know which content pages are the all-stars, evaluate them and create your mastermind recipe for success. For example, simply implementing the form below on our most popular blog posts increased my client’s leads by nearly 30% in just one month.

Lead generation

So what about the benchwarmer content? AKA, your poorest performing content. As I always say, waste not! If it has the bone structure of good content, give it the ol’ Pretty Woman makeover and turn it into something new. For example, you can convert a mediocre blog post into an awesome infographic. For bonus points, use this same approach for your content that’s already performing well. That way, you may be able to double the success.

For example, my team created an infographic by repurposing a post we thought had a lot of potential, but for whatever reason just wasn’t getting the attention it deserved. After implementing the infographic, this post now has nearly 600 backlinks. Which brings me to my next point…


4. Bring on the backlinks

If you ask me, backlinks are the much underappreciated hero of content marketing success. Not only do they expand your reach and help drive more traffic back to your site, but quality backlinks can also help improve your search engine optimization ranking. In fact, according to a study by Moz, 99.2% of the top 50 search results have backlinks.

While these alone are great benefits, the number of backlinks you have can also tell you something else very important: is your content providing value to viewers?

The image below shows the backlink profile for one of my own blog posts: 

backlink profile

Not to brag or anything, but this piece generated 112 backlinks with 30 referring domains. In addition to providing evidence of the value of the content, this measurement shows how many people have referenced my content when writing their own content. The latter is especially important, because it shows that this piece of content was valuable to others in the industry.

But like that kettlebell that’s been sitting in your garage since the heydays of CrossFit, backlink information is only important if you actually put the information to use. Take what you learn and make significant changes to your content strategy.

5. Content ranking

While looking at individual pieces of content can help you better understand which factors lead to a successful piece, you should also monitor how content pieces stack up against each other. For instance, look at two blog posts side by side and compare the number of views.

Doing that will tell you a few things: what types of content topics get more views? Which formats are most popular? Are the higher ranking blogs shorter pieces or longer? Are they more in-depth or concise?

Knowing this information helps you better understand what your visitors want to see and what resonates with them most. Once you’ve gotten this information together, you can stop blindly throwing new content into the abyss that is the internet and start making data-driven decisions instead.

It’s worth mentioning that you may not get the most accurate insight by comparing apples to oranges. That is to say, if you’re writing topics for diverse concepts or even industries, you probably don’t want to compare a piece on improving site content with a piece called “5 Steps for Better Abs.”

To get the most accurate reading of which specific elements drive traffic, compare pieces of content that are similar in most ways. For example, choose two blog posts that are targeted to the same reader, are about the same length, and on the same general topic but written in a slightly different format (i.e., one might be a “How to” piece while the other contains a list).

Take a look at these numbers from the SevenAtoms’ blog. We can see that during the month of February, we had a 27% increase in viewership. With that in mind, we ought to take a look at the content we produced that month and use the same tactics going forward.

blog views

6. Social media metrics

If your content isn’t shareable, it’s going to be difficult to get it to take off. This is why it’s vital that companies not only create engaging and informative content but also find ways to promote that content to their audience.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock with Patrick Star, you’ve probably figured out that social media channels like Facebook and Twitter are excellent platforms for content sharing. Evaluating your social media metrics can help you better understand how content resonates with readers.

Here are just a few social media metrics that you might look at to make more informed decisions about your content:

  • Engagement – Track which posts are getting the most comments and conversation on your social media profiles. This will help you get a feel for what types of content resonate best with your audience.

  • Shares – Shares are an important social media metric because they show how many people find your content compelling enough to share with their friends and family. Shares can also help you better indicate the overall reach of certain content pieces.

  • Sentiment – This is a metric that many marketers “forget” to look at. Sentiment allows you to see how your fans and followers feel about your content. You can determine this by looking at the comments sections of your popular posts. Take into account both positive and negative reactions to look for factors that you can replicate or improve.

These metrics can help you make more strategic decisions about how you share content on social media platforms, including which platforms provide a better ROI.

Again, not to toot my own horn, but take a gander at the example below—you can see on the side of the page how many times the article was shared and on which platforms.

.Social engagement

By monitoring which platforms your readers are sharing your brand’s content on the most, you can get a better idea of where you should be publishing and promoting new content.

7. Organic traffic

By looking at which content pieces brought in the most organic traffic, you can gauge your audience’s authentic interests and needs and begin to understand what search engine users are looking for when they search for brands like yours.

Search engine optimization (SEO) can take awhile to work its magic. Even with adequate keyword research and implementation, there are still many other factors that can play into content ranking on the search engines. Organic traffic can give you valuable insight into how people search for your products and services and what they choose to click on.

For instance, the image below shows eight blog posts that are bringing in the most organic traffic to this client’s website. Based on what we see here, current events are causing many searchers to look for answers to specific immigration questions.

best content

Clearly, these niche immigration topics are resonating best within the client’s target market. Focusing on creating more content like this will help to replicate these results.

Which content marketing metrics do you use most often? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments below.

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