One of the biggest challenges any content marketer faces is coming up with a way to determine whether their content is actually working.
Indeed, even if your brand has produced a series of excellent stories, you’ll need to prove that they are helping your company generate sales if someone is going to give you the budget to create more content in the future.
And since consumers usually do not make a purchase immediately after watching or reading a piece of content, content marketers have a much more difficult time showing the impact of their work than, say, a direct-response marketer who can just point to their sales conversions.
With that in mind, here are four other metrics you can use to gauge whether your content marketing is having the desired effect on your target audience.
An expanded definition of “conversions”
Typically, we think of a “conversion” in online marketing as something that happens when someone clicks on an ad and then buys a product immediately afterward. Unfortunately, content usually sits higher in the purchase cycle, and its job is frequently to build a relationship with consumers that likely won’t pay off until weeks or months after the first story is consumed.
So instead of thinking of a “conversion” as a sale, it may be helpful to measure a conversion every time a piece of content is effective in moving a consumer along the path to purchase.
Did one of your readers sign up for your email newsletter to receive additional content and product offers? Did they click a link to a web page that taught them more about your company? Did your content lead them to a product landing page? Did they watch a product tutorial or demo video? What was the cost-per-acquisition (CPA) for audiences who interacted with your content vs. those who did not?
All of these actions can be considered conversions for content because they lead to consumers being more likely to make a purchase once they are ultimately targeted with a direct sales offer.
Content marketing is all about relationship-building, and brand lift allows you to see just how much your relationship with consumers has changed as a result of your content.
The way you measure brand lift is by having a survey firm ask two groups of people what they think of your brand — a group of people who haven’t seen your content marketing work, and a group that has. If you don’t have the resources to hire a survey firm, you can conduct your own, among your customer base.
By looking at the difference between how these two groups answer questions like “Would you consider purchasing Brand X cookies the next time you’re shopping for snacks?” or “Do you see Brand X as trustworthy?”, you’ll be able to measure just how much your content is moving the needle with your target audience.
And since you’re in control of the survey questions, you can use brand lift to measure how well your content is performing based on whichever perceptions you are hoping to shift.
The pageview is perhaps the most obvious metric that content marketers have at their disposal, but it’s not always indicative of a successful campaign.
After all, if someone clicks on your story and then immediately decides to go do something else, how can you possibly say you’ve given them an experience that will inspire them to think differently about your brand?
Enter engaged time, which measures how long your readers are spending with your content. Combined with finish rate — the percentage of people who read or watch your content all the way through — engaged time lets you know whether the people you’ve attracted to your work are enjoying it enough to stick around.
In addition, research from Chartbeat has found that visitors with higher engagement times have a greater understanding of the content they’ve encountered and are more likely to read your content again in the future. That’s why it’s important to track completion metrics to understand view-throughs and completed article reads.
Visitor loyalty measures how frequently a reader consumes a piece of your content, allowing you to see which of your target consumers are making a habit of engaging with your brand. Tracking pixels can help you analyze this activity over the long-term.
Typically, these super users are the ones most likely to share your content with their friends and to feel a sense of loyalty to your brand when it’s time for them to make a purchase (and perhaps recommend it to their friends).
According to a BuzzFeed case study, people who saw between five and nine pieces of content sponsored by Virgin Mobile were more than three times as likely to agree with the statement, “Virgin Mobile is a brand that I’d investigate for my next phone” than people who had not viewed any of the brand’s BuzzFeed content.
Additionally, those return visitors were nearly five times as likely to agree with the idea that, “Virgin Mobile is a brand that understands me and the things I like.”
By using these four metrics, you should not only be able to measure how well your content is working, but also have the ability to communicate your success to the relevant stakeholders in your organization.
When discussing content marketing with your peers and supervisors, it’s important to remember that the purpose of content is to build relationships for the long term. Even if content does not deliver immediate ROI, it very well could pay off exponentially over the course of several months or years.
Check out the Taboola resources page for more tips for content marketing success, along with data sheets, webinars, videos, ebooks and more.
Want to learn more about how Taboola can help boost your content marketing efforts? Contact us today!