Content marketing is all the rage these days, and regardless of what industry you’re in or what audience you’re targeting, it’s becoming increasingly hard to be competitive without participating in what’s become a virtual content arms race.
Once upon a time it was enough just to have a blog and post to it every now and then (also known as “the good old days”).
Then you needed a blog plus a video blog (or “vlog”, as they call it—you gotta love the silly names for things that marketers come up with). Then it was a blog, vlog, and podcast. Or did podcasting come before vlogging? The bar has been moving so fast that it’s all become a blur. The point is that in an age when even the kid selling lemonade on a street corner has his own YouTube channel, you had better believe that you need to be producing good content—and lots of it—if you want to stand out. The question is, how do you tell if your content marketing efforts are paying off?
While the method for tracking results will vary somewhat depending on your goals, niche, and the type of content you’re producing, if you are making progress in all of the ten areas listed below, it’s safe to say you’re doing pretty well.
#1: Website traffic
Let’s start with the most obvious metric—traffic to your website. Regardless of what type of content you are producing (podcasts, videos, articles, books, etc.) it would be hard to call your effort an unqualified success if it didn’t result in an increase in traffic to your website.
In addition to simply seeing an increase in the number of visitors to your site, you should also see an improvement in other key metrics such as time on site, pages viewed per visit, and bounce rate (all of which you can see from a quick glance at your Google analytics dashboard). If you are simply seeing an increase in visits without an improvement in other areas, it might be a sign that the quality or relevance of your website content needs some work.
So, how much of an increase in traffic should you expect? Well, that really depends on how competitive your niche is, the quality and volume of content you’re producing, and many, many other factors. One blog post can bring hundreds or even thousands of visitors to your site, as is the case with a blog post I wrote last year about how to choose your business email address. That single article has resulted in over 600 visits to my website since it was posted, and after my home page it’s one of the most visited pages on my site. I didn’t know that would be the case when I wrote the article, of course—I just was doing my best to post content that I thought would be useful to my target audience. If you do the same, and do so while following SEO best practices, you will see an increase in traffic.
#2: Ranking for target keywords
Speaking of SEO, another key metric to determine the success of your content marketing efforts is how well your website ranks in search results for the keywords you’re targeting. This goes hand-in-hand with website traffic to a certain extent, but I mention it separately here because you’ll need to track it using different tools (such as Google webmaster tools or a wide variety of paid SEO tools).
If you don’t see improvement in this area, it might be a sign that you need to get better about producing keyword-rich content, or be a little more strategic about optimizing your content.
#3: Domain authority and backlinks
Two other important and closely related SEO metrics that you’ll want to track are domain authority and the number of backlinks you have pointing to your website. If the content you are producing is high-quality and useful, and you are properly promoting it, then both of these numbers will go up.
#4: Klout score
The Klout score is a number between 1-100 that represents your influence (the higher the number, the more influence you have). It’s measured using hundreds of signals from eight different social media networks. I include it on this list because it’s an indication of how well your content is being promoted and shared across the internet. You should see this number increase as you ramp up your content marketing efforts.
#5: Mentions of your brand
Are people talking about you? They should be, if the content you are producing is having the desired effect. You can track this using a tool like mention.net, which has plans starting at $29 a month.
#6: Size of your community
I use the term “community” here to refer to your total number of followers and subscribers. This would include the number of people on your email list as well as the number of followers on various social media platforms. Obviously, the value of a subscriber to your email newsletter probably has more value than a follower on Twitter, so you’ll want break down this metric into subcategories for a better understanding of how you’re doing. However, “total community size” is still a good number to track for a quick-and-dirty indication of whether your content marketing efforts are paying off.
#7: Media-specific metrics
Depending on what type of content you are producing, there may be some media-specific metrics that you should track to help you determine the success of your efforts. Examples of this would be podcast downloads (for an audio podcast) or views (as in the case of a video podcast), YouTube views or minutes of videos watched, number of books sold on Amazon, number of speaking engagements, etc.
I am purposely leaving this one open-ended because depending on your goals and your industry, a “conversion” could mean anything from a phone call, an order from an ecommerce site, or simply someone filling out a form on your website. You could even have several different types of conversions with different values assigned to them that you track simultaneously (and in fact, you probably should). The point is that if this number does not go up as you ramp up your content marketing, then you may be producing the wrong kind of content.
Aka, “the bottom line”. After all, at the end of the day if your content marketing is not directly leading to you making more money, then what’s the point?
If all the other numbers on this list are going up and this one isn’t (or is only increasing by a comparatively small amount), that could be an indication that your marketing hourglass needs a little work. For example, perhaps you need to give people more ways to try you out before asking them to make a purchase…or maybe you need to try packaging your products or services differently. It could also mean that you need to produce different types of content—for example, buyer’s guides or case studies—to help drive up sales.
There are some things that you just can’t track very well in a spreadsheet, but that are still very important indicators of success. That’s what this category is all about.
This could be anything from making a best-seller list, getting an award that’s somehow related to your content (like “best of iTunes” for a podcast), or getting a positive endorsement or review from a respected player in your industry.
While the first nine items on this list are important to track, it is #10 that keeps me motivated when it’s time to write another blog post, record another podcast episode, or prepare for another speaking gig. Sure, noticing that my website traffic is up 10% or that my Klout score increased slightly is nice. However, when it comes to feeling successful, nothing beats getting a random email from a podcast subscriber letting me know that she’s been listening to the show for a year and that it’s really helping her with her business. When you start getting feedback like that on a regular basis, that’s when you know your content marketing efforts are truly paying off.
Kevin Jordan is a Certified Duct Tape Marketing Consultant, founder of Redpoint Marketing Consultants and Co-Author of the new book The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Local Lead Generation. You can connect with Kevin on Twitter @RMCVirginia.