Implementing a content marketing program is a sizable investment in terms of money and resources. Content marketing programs tend to be high profile. Everyone in the organization is anxious to generate results. It is critical to set and manage expectations accordingly. There are many content marketing metrics that you could track. But it’s important to avoid the trap of focusing on vanity metrics like the number of followers we have on social media. It’s exciting to see these numbers trending in a positive way. But in reality, the number of Instagram followers you have has no bearing on how many new customers you will bring in the door this quarter.
In this post, you’ll learn:
- How content marketing can transform your business
- The different types content marketing metrics and how to use them
- Identifying & avoiding over-use of vanity metrics
- The metrics that truly matter
At the end of this post, you’ll have all the information you need to be able to focus on the right content marketing metrics to deliver real value to your business.
What’s the big deal about content marketing?
Marketing used to be a marketer-centric approach, executed at the convenience of the marketer. Marketers would use tactics like advertising, cold-calling and email blasts to place messages in front of their prospects. These techniques were convenient for us – but they interrupted our prospects.
Content marketing (also known as inbound marketing) is a customer-centric marketing approach that focuses on providing prospects with useful information when they need it most. An effective content marketing strategy will provide the right tools and information targeted to a buyer persona and tuned to that persona’s buying stage. Content marketing seeks to build a trusting relationship with a prospect, long before they ever talk with a sales representative.
Today’s buyer will consume up to thirteen pieces of content before they interact with a sales representative. Where does that leave the companies who aren’t creating content?
Understanding the different types of content marketing metrics
Obviously, creating all the necessary content to fuel the customer journey takes time, resources and budget. For this reason, content marketing programs should be governed by metrics to help you understand if you are generating a return for that investment. There are seven main categories of content marketing metrics that can be tracked. In this post, we’ll learn a little bit about each of them, but then focus on the metrics that actually indicate a return on your investment. Curata does a fantastic job describing the different types of metrics in this infographic.
What are vanity metrics & how can they create a false sense of success?
You will be expending a great deal of effort to execute your content marketing program. All eyes will be on you – the management team, and the entire organization, will be keen to see the results of the program. So, when you’re just starting out, it’s easy to get excited about any numbers that are trending in a positive direction. It feels great to see your website views steadily climbing and there is nothing better than watching your subscriber list grow. This is a dangerous trap – certain content marketing metrics can give us a false sense of success because we see these numbers trending upward, but no matter how high they get, they will not move our business forward without the application of additional strategies to drive prospects toward a purchase. We call these vanity metrics. Whether you are running a content program on your own, or hiring an agency to support your efforts, it is imperative to understand the difference between vanity metrics and actual indicators of success.
Looking back to that infographic from Curata, let’s take a look at a few content marketing metrics that can be valuable, but should not be considered as indicators of success:
Page Views – Page views tells you how many and which of your content pages your visitors are consuming. Taken alone, page views are a vanity metric. Sure, it’s great to have 10,000 page views, but you can’t make payroll with page views. However, careful analysis of your page views can help you understand more about your audience. Which pages do they visit most often? What types of content perform best? This information can help you make decisions on how to optimize your content program to drive more lead generation. A deeper understanding of what your visitors do on your site can help you focus on areas to place lead magnets or implement other conversion tools. Understanding more about page views can also contribute to an optimized content strategy – by helping you identify what topics generate the most interest with your audience.
Unique Visitors – The number of web visitors or social media followers you have is not an indicator of a healthy business. But, if you have a strategy for converting this traffic to paying customers, then these unique visitors and followers are a leading indicator that leads will be entering your pipeline soon. Furthermore, a strong number of repeat visitors can tell you that your website is packed with valuable content that keeps people coming back for more. If you’re not seeing many repeat visitors, you might want to look at some strategies to drive repeat visits – this is a key step in building relationships with prospects.
Feed subscribers – The number of individuals who choose to subscribe to your blog feed can tell you that your content is relevant and valuable. But, just like page views, the number of subscribers you have does not directly correlate to how many new customers you will have at the end of the month. However, having an effective nurturing strategy focused on moving these subscribers through your lead cycle can have a positive impact on that number. Additionally, the ability to track these metrics can help you build formulas to benchmark and then predict how many subscribers might become customers over a period of time.
Social media likes – It has been my experience that social media likes is the most unreliable of all the content marketing metrics. Many people will scroll through their social media feeds and click the like button if they find the image associated with the post to be interesting, or if there is a catchy title. Most of the time, the person hasn’t even bother to click on the link and consume the content.
As you can see, some vanity metrics are actually the leading indicators of whether your content marketing program will be able to generate revenue. So, if your vanity metrics are trending positively, pat yourself on the back. You’re probably on the right path.
Which vanity metrics build into business metrics?
On their own, vanity metrics can give us a dangerous false sense of success. They key is understanding how to utilize your content program and an effective customer journey to guide your prospects down a path that ultimately results in a sale. It’s important to understand some of the moving parts at play. In addition to how we perceive the prospect, we must also understand what they are thinking and how those thoughts are manifested in their actions. The image below summarizes the moving parts.
Using this model, it’s easy to visualize how increasing the number of website visitors could contribute to more prospects filling out a form and entering a lead nurturing program. So, it’s fair to say that page views are an important metric and that it is worthwhile to work to increase this number. Many of the vanity metrics are what I like to think of as the top of the marketing funnel (unqualified prospects or marketing qualified leads. Ultimately, without these at the top of the funnel, the whole program would fall apart. They key to success is ensuring that you move these prospects through the funnel and turn them into customers. A mature organization would be able to say that for every 1,000 unique page views, they can expect 10 new customers.
Walk before you run
It takes a great deal of effort, process development and supporting tools to establish a program that enables you to effectively track and manage to the right metrics. But, you have to start somewhere. Leveraging the content marketing maturity model is an excellent way to identify where you are on the journey and to guide your strategy toward content marketing excellence.
If you can’t wait for next week’s post about the content marketing maturity model, contact me today to learn more.
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