Measuring the Effectiveness of Digital Content Marketing: Insights from the 2018 Intelligent Content Conference (ICC)
If you work in marketing, it’s likely that you’ve heard the saying, "Content is king and distribution is queen." Despite the royal comparisons, however, marketing departments still struggle to justify content marketing investments when trying to parlay the effectiveness of their efforts, especially when it comes to moving the needle on the company’s bottom line. Making sure that the content you put out is resonating with potential clients and helping with the conversion process is critical to good content strategy.
The challenge with measuring the effectiveness of content is that metrics alone (without context) don’t tell the full story. The buyer’s journey for many B2Bs is complex, and sometimes spans months and occasionally years. Quantity of readers doesn’t necessarily have as much impact as quality of readers for B2Bs. For example, a small, niche audience can be more relevant than a large number of general readers for an enterprise-level B2B software provider. Conversely, for a popular soda company, a large social media following may correlate positively to sales.
Learning how to identify which topics resonate with your particular audience, the optimal length of content for your readers, and the type of content that is most relevant to their needs, can help you optimize the path users take from consuming content to becoming engaged customers and brand advocates. The 2018 Intelligent Content Conference (ICC) in Las Vegas had several key talks and sessions providing some great approaches on how to measure the effectiveness of content based on your business goals. We’ll explore these ideas further in this post.
Breaking the Funnel: A New Way to Measure Your Content
When it comes to content marketing, the “spray and pray” approach just doesn’t work anymore. In complex industries such as insurance, buying decisions are long and hard. In their talk, Breaking the Funnel: A New Way to Measure Your Content, Avishai Sharon, CEO, and Inbar Yagur, VP of Marketing, both from TrenDemon, proposed a new way to create a measurable content strategy by connecting content performance and brand engagement.
Their premise was that instead of measuring sessions from the traffic to your website, you should measure and track individual visitor behavior on your site, as you get a much more comprehensive and accurate picture of the buyer’s journey in this manner. They recommended doing this using the position score (where an article is in relation to a successful buyer's journey using landing, nurture, and conversion numbers). The landing number signifies the pages that are visited at the beginning of most journeys. The nurture number refers to pages read by a returning visitor who hasn't converted yet. The conversion number refers to pages read just before the visitor converts. These metrics can be tracked by software that measures the effectiveness of content engagement or impact and can help you decide when in the buyer’s journey to promote an article. You also get a clearer understanding of how each blog post or piece of content works to drive desired actions or return visits. Using the position score, you can extrapolate which articles were most successful at each stage of the buyer's journey.
TrenDemon’s software provides a metric known as the “proceed ratio” which denotes users who visit another page after reading the current one. Using this, you can determine the commonalities between all of your posts that have high scores to discover hidden potential, as well as to determine what content is best for stickiness.
Data indicates that when people read more, there is a higher chance that they convert. This means that examining the read ratio of your content is critical. TrenDemon defines read ratio as the percentage of visitors to the page that actually read it. Using the read ratio, you can determine the most engaging pieces of content, identify strong pieces which could be promoted more, and figure out topics that resonate with your core audience.
Key takeaway: Shift away from the idea of focusing on measuring individual sessions on the site to measuring journeys and audiences instead, always focusing on user behaviors.
Measuring Content Quality: Defined First by the Customer
Content quality can be a complex thing to define as there are many ways to look at it. Megan Gilhooly, Senior Manager of Content Strategy, AWS Solutions Architecture advocates an approach she calls “defined first by the customer.”
In her talk, Measuring Content Quality: Defined First by the Customer, she spoke about the three primary pillars of measuring content quality which are internal assessment, customer behavior, and customer perception. Internal assessment is how well content adheres to the style and structure of an organization’s brand, as well as how you define customer experience. Customer behavior is what customers do and how they engage with your content, such as how much time they spend on a page or section, or whether they share your blog posts through social channels. Customer perception is how customers feel about your content and can be measured through customer surveys, for example. Maintaining customer focus is key when examining content metrics, which is why she recommends using what she calls the Content Quality Flywheel, a customer-driven framework to assess content quality, encompassing areas discussed above such as customer behavior and customer perception.
The behavior metrics you choose to analyze the effectiveness of your content will depend on your business goals. Use behavior metrics to quickly validate or disconfirm your assumptions. Then iterate, and test again. She cautions against the idea of perfect content, as it may cost too much. If you aren’t putting content out publicly, constantly testing, and iterating, you aren’t getting customer feedback.
Megan explained, however, that it’s not enough to solely rely on customer behavior to determine content quality. There are many drivers of content quality including whether it helps readers do what they need to do, is easy to access and understand, and is consistent across all channels. Even something such as whether content is easy to view on a mobile device should be taken into consideration.
Megan shared the attributes that she believes makes for the best content: fresh (timely and up to date), empathetic, accurate, concise, helpful (understandable, accessible, and leads to success), consistent (in tone and voice, terminology, and across channels), findable, and engaging (content that your readers will want to come back to).
Key takeaway: Quality of content should be defined first by the customer. Using the 3 pillars—internal assessment, customer behavior, and customer perception—and the Content Quality Flywheel helps you maintain customer focus when examining content metrics.
Use Your Business Goals to Determine Your Measurement Approach
As we can see from the approaches above, there are numerous ways to measure the effectiveness of content. Much of it depends on your unique business goals, audience, and industry, among other factors. By becoming clear on what the purpose of your content is, you’ll be better able to assess whether your content marketing efforts are hitting the mark.
Do you have a measurement strategy in place for your content marketing efforts? What tactics or metrics have you found to be most useful? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Please add to the discussion via the comments below or Tweet Us, @Velir!