Call it content marketing, inbound marketing, or just call it the company blog.
Whatever the name you give to the act of churning out regular, high quality, SEO-optimized writing, the benefits are manifold.
But how do you prove that your content marketing efforts are paying off?
You need to show results to your bosses or, if you’re a freelancer, your clients want tangible proof that their investment has a return. And considering that good content strategy takes a long view, how do you justify the paycheck?
We’ll look at various reports and metrics that will work for you, the mastermind behind the content, and prove the value of your wordsmithing.
The Goals Of Content Marketing
To demonstrate the impact of content marketing, first lay out the business goals you aim to influence. Content marketing has many benefits, but we’ll pick a few and discuss the measurement strategies needed to show success (or the need for improvement).
I’ll focus on five goals of content marketing but, to be sure, there are other goals and benefits. A good marketing strategy will leverage content marketing in positively affecting multiple goals, but each of these goals will have different metrics and reports to track outcomes.
- Brand Identity
- Micro-moments and the Customer Journey
- Search Engine Ranking
- Generate Leads
- Customer Re-engagement
Content Marketing Goal 1: Brand Identity
A company’s brand is the voice with which the business communicates with customers; it is the foundation upon which customer relationships are built. The company’s brand is also a major part of how the business is positioned in the customer’s mind concerning their needs and in relation to rivals. Brand imparts credibility, implies price, and influences word-of-mouth growth.
Measuring the impact of content on brand is tricky, but possible.
In general, brand performance and brand awareness are outside the scope of a content marketer, but if this is a priority for the business, then these metrics can demonstrate success.
Measuring Brand Through Social Media Activity
Many companies equate brand awareness with “people talking about us.” Your content’s shares on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter and elsewhere are excellent indicators that the content and thus the brand is being well received and gaining traction in the public’s mind.
One quick way to show impact is to merely illustrate the traffic from social media in relation to the company’s overall traffic. I’ll use a simple Teacup dashboard summary to demonstrate:
Alternately, I often show the trend of social media traffic with another more in-depth report called “How Much Quality Traffic Is Coming To My Site From Social Media?”
This report highlights the traffic trend over the last few months, the quality of the traffic and allows for more detailed analysis.
In the “Detail Breakdown” section of the report, you can see the number of new visitors, as well as which articles (landing pages) drove the most traffic.
Of course, the “source” row shows which social media platform your traffic comes from.
Demographic Site Traffic Analysis
Diving into the demographics of web traffic can show the impact of the articles in bringing new people or engaging existing customers (or past customers).
You can find this info in Google Analytics here: Audience > Behavior > New vs. Returning. I prefer to use a Teacup report again because it makes it easier to drill down into the landing pages that are drawing in the visitor types. Also, you can glance at other fun metrics like frequency, recency, device, etc.
However, back in Google Analytics directly, you can combine the audience interests with the landing pages that attract them.
Give this a shot:
- Click Audience > Interests > In-Market Segments
In-market segments are the people who, based on their browsing data are actively looking to purchase. i.e., they’re “in the market for…”
- Click on “Secondary dimension” and choose “Landing Page.”
At this point, you’ll see something like this:
Notice that the home page seems to loom large. That’s ok. We can clean this up quickly.
- Click on the “advanced” option and exclude the home page.
Now you can see which landing pages attract which customers based on their interests. You’ll demonstrate the effectiveness of your content in reaching the right potential customers.
Taking Control Of Brand Identity
What if your content is not driving the amount of engagement you want? How do you positively influence these metrics and not only demonstrate your writing’s quality, but demonstrate an ability to drive engagement?
Take Distribution Seriously
As a content marketer, you’re being paid not only for content but also for marketing. Thus you need a distribution plan for each client including:
- Relevant websites where you can share your content. I call this a distribution list.
- A network that will share your content on social media
- A strategy to drive back-links to your content
- A social media strategy for your client to share the content to their network. This includes graphics, multiple variations of posts and a posting schedule.
Low-Cost Pay-To-Play Strategies To Boost The Brand
If your client is investing in your top-notch writing, you should convince them to maximize their investment by providing support and creating a budget for:
- Boosting posts on Facebook. Using the in-market segments you discovered in Google, you’re primed to target the right Facebook segments.
- Remarketing on both Google and Facebook. Sure, this is out of the scope of most content marketers, but this is also a way to increase your value and billable hours. Besides, a company like Teacup can do the heavy lifting here.
- Search Engine Marketing. If your content factors in the buyer-journey and micro-moments, it may be worth marketing your content based on keyword searches too.
Again, this is where a partnership with a freelancer or a service like Teacup comes in. You can offer the service to your client and sub-contract digital marketing to someone else, freeing you up to do what you love.
Content Marketing Goal 2: Micro-Moments and the Customer Journey
Micro-moments describe the many instances in a day that consumers turn to their phones to get help making a decision. Micro-moments are opportunities for a business to connect with customers at the instant of need.
Fact is, the only possible way for a business to be there for the customer when a micro-moment arises is through thoughtful content and requires research into the customer journeys the buyer process.
Then you’ll need to map out the micro-moments for each type:
If you, as a content marketer take the time to work with your clients in discovering these moments, you’ll not only generate a lot of work to be done (billings!), you’ll help your clients with a marketing tactic that pays dividends over time.
Measuring The Micro-Moment Impact Of Your Content
The micro-moment frames your client as the answer to the customer’s question. Whether it’s a comparison of luxury watches or affirming the buying decision with technical specifications, this is an opportunity to help your client build relationships with customers by providing useful information.
81% of people turn to search when they have1 experience a micro-moment and your client can play a role in providing advice to these searchers.
As before, Google Analytics provides useful micro-moment measurement. Head over to Google Analytics and click on Acquisition > Search Console > Queries.
You’ll want to go for the long-tail here and set the number of rows to 100 or more. The lower down you explore, the more specific the queries become. As you look for those moments, you’ll notice patterns in the search queries that imply the topics that interest people. Take a look at this tour operator’s results:
These searchers are exploring the idea of travel to Africa. If your content is meeting the needs of informational searches like these and drawing in people to your client’s site, you’re doing your job!
Looking at the keywords report in Google Analytics can also offer insight. However, due to the frequent issue of keywords showing as (not provided), the usefulness here is minimized. Keywords are the high-level idea or overall topic while queries are what people type into the search engine. That’s why I find search queries to be the best option here when demonstrating the relevance of your content.
Another fantastic report to show clients the long-term impact of your content is to use multi-channel attribution and the assisted conversion report.
In Google Analytics, click on Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions. It’ll look something like this:
Then, add Landing Page as a secondary dimension like this:
Ok, so what are you looking at in the Assisted Conversions report?
You’re noticing which landing pages played a role in driving sales for your client during the entire buyer journey. Pretty cool, right? This way, your content gets credit for the sale, even if the customer purchased two weeks after they read your article and entered the site through an ad.
If your content has either Assisted Conversions or Last Click Conversions, then your content paid a return on your client’s investment in you.
Make Sure You’re Part Of The Solution
Your content is part of the solution when it comes to answering customer questions and driving sales over time.
The challenge is in making sure that you’re writing the right content for the right micro-moments and then tracking them.
Finding The Micro-Moments, You Need To Impact
First, you need to talk to your clients and create a plan. Think of every objection, concern, competitor or question that a customer faces during their buyer journey. Each of those items will need you, the writer, to craft answers. It can add up quickly, so think which micro-moments you’re best suited to help by walking in the customer’s shoes.
Where are the gaps in the customer’s search for a solution? Where do they see your client’s business and where do competitors win them over? A great example is the search keywords “buy” or “near me.”
Imagine a brand new Aunt whose sister just had her first child. Auntie might google something like “what do new mothers need?”
Here’s where useful content like “The top 10 products every new mother needs” would win over an E-commerce-centric page. Then, later the Aunt will search “buy Happy Brand diapers” and find their way back to your client’s site.
In competitive industries, educational content is gold in the long run, and the only way to solve this is through great content that helps customers make good decisions. Combined with well-designed websites with calls-to-action micro-moment friendly content generates revenue.
Can AdWords Boost Micro-Moment Visibility?
Yes, Adwords with good content can help reach customers at the right micro-moment. It requires a moderately sophisticated understanding of your client’s customers and the buyer journey.
The good news is that the AdWords Search campaign will, by nature, focus on searches that are long-tail. That’s good news because long-tail keywords are also often low-cost keywords. If your customer research finds the “how do I…” or “what are the…” or “the best…” types of searches then you can target those and deliver the content at the perfect moment.
Answer the Public is a fantastic tool to find these questions.
Content Marketing Goal 3: Search Engine Ranking
Rising in rank in Google’s search results is the holy grail of online marketing.
A good organic search ranking is a long-term strategy that requires long-term thinking, and in the end, it results in regular traffic and leads arriving at your digital doorstep.
The bad news is that from your client’s perspective, waiting for an ROI somewhere out there in the murky future can feel like they’re being taken for a fool.
Short-Term Measurement Of Long-Term Gain
It might be almost intangible to show the power of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) but the operative word there is almost.
It is indeed possible.
The trick to keeping clients happy during the long haul to first-page ranking is communication.
Write out a list of the essential keywords that your client wants to rank for. There could be 10, 20 or even 50 or more keywords relevant to the business. Think long tail, short tail and you can also refer to the micro-moments above for some ideas.
Then, armed with this list, show your client exactly where they rank in search engine results for each of those keywords. The best tool that I know of is Moz Pro. With SERP tools, that’s Search Engine Results Page tools, like Moz, you can follow the keywords, just like fans watch their sports team in a league.
The point on all this is that you can show how your client rises, slow but steady from position 50 on a specific keyword to carving out a spot on the first page.
Tracking The Increase In Organic Search Traffic
Want more metrics to measure your content marketing magic?
The super simple metric is the number of website visits your client gets through organic search.
By showing a steady climb over time in the number of organic search visitors, you can demonstrate the efficacy of your content. A word of warning, though it probably isn’t needed.
Search engine traffic takes time to start appearing, and it grows as your rankings improve. Keep your client grounded in realistic expectations and educate them.
Also, keep in kind the power of multi-channel attribution that was mentioned above in the micro-moments section. You can always show your client the impact of Organic search in assisting conversions. Combined with growth in rankings and traffic, Multi-channel attribution is a cherry on the analytics sundae.
How To Rise Up The Ranks Through Through Good Content
There are three primary elements needed to improve ranking in the results. You won’t be able to influence all three as a content marketer, but you can indeed be instrumental in influencing your client! These pillars of ranking are site structure, backlinks, and quality content.
Website Structure and SEO
Google and other search engines need understand your client’s website to know where to rank it.
To facilitate Google’s understanding, the site should be appropriately structured, with descriptive Semantic HTML, Schema, appropriate meta tags, sitemaps and a whole host of other structural requirements. These are the domain of web designers, not content marketers.
If you’re writing your heart out, it behooves you to set yourself up for success. Encourage your client to take this seriously.
Grab a report at WooRank and show your client where their big SEO structural pitfalls are. Don’t be afraid to nag your client, from time to time either so they fix some of the more pressing issues.
Also, make sure Google indexes their website.
Find out who the IT guy or webmaster is and push hard for confirmation that they take this seriously. If you can swing it, get access to their Search Console account (or set it up yourself with Google Analytics as the validation) and make sure Google is crawling your content.
While your site will still be indexed without this step, being engaged here will help you uncover any issues that might prevent your site from being indexed.
Backlink-building is contentious due to black-hat corruption. Anytime a “trick” to improving SEO arises, someone inevitably abuses it and ultimately, Google finds a new way to determine rank. Regardless, if reputable websites, related to the content you’re righting, are sharing or linking to your content then Google will consider you to be respectable too.
Distribution matters here and the advice as we gave earlier applies just as much here. Distribution of your content helps your SEO.
Create a plan, find friendly sites which can share your content and don’t leave it up to your client.
Quality Content Consistently
Quality and consistency are immune to the whims of Google updates and black-hat tactics. If you regularly write new content that is of value to customers, Google will reward you.
Be uncompromising in your goal to write quality content that serves the searcher and potential customers. Be consistent in releasing new material and keeping old content fresh.
Content Marketing Goal 4: Generate Leads
Generating leads for your clients is a primary reason they’re paying for great content. You’re there to help their salespeople receive engaged inbound leads.
Tracking this is obvious – you directly measure the number of leads. The challenge is in making sure leads are indeed counted.
When someone fills out a “get a quote” form on a client’s website, that needs to be tracked as a conversion. Once that is done, you’re all set to use the tools we’ve discussed above to prove that your content was part of the customer journey. Multi-channel attribution is a meaningful way to ensure you get the credit for the lead taking that final step and reaching out.
But that isn’t all. If you’re creating compelling content, you’ll want to ensure that you can turn readers into leads by including your client’s phone number, or a contact form and again, ensuring that any signups from these pages are correctly attributed to you.
Getting Leads Through E-books, Whitepapers or Guides
The list of companies that use this tactic is vast. Offering a guide to your client’s chief specialty and requiring an email or phone number before gaining access to the knowledge is a conventional method of lead generation.
When you look at what many online companies do, is they compile related articles into a single e-book, create a landing page and voila! Crafting an e-book requires some design efforts, but it’s an efficient way to repurpose past content and “stretch” the value of your content.
Connecting Content Marketing To Lead Generation
To highlight the role you’re playing in generating leads and revenue for your clients requires some nagging. You’ll need to nag your clients into setting up appropriate tracking and into sharing the data with you. If this is done correctly, whether your client sees this in their company reports or you show them via your reporting, all depends on how they track leads.
If your client is amenable to it, find out what their close rate is and also their average revenue per customer. You can then calculate the exact ROI of your content.
Content Marketing ROI = Leads divided by Sales multiplied by Avg. Revenue.
For example, let’s say you generate 50 leads through your content and the sales team closes on 10 of them. Each sale is worth $3,000. That looks like:
50/10 * $3,000 = $15,000
Your content is worth $15,000 in gross revenue.
The hard part, as always, is getting access to this information. Try to convince your client that they’ll get more transparency and accountability if they share.
Generating More Leads Through Paid Channels
If no one sees your content, you’re merely treading water so distributing your content to new eyes is vital to finding new leads. One of the most effective channels is Facebook but cutting through the noise is getting harder and harder, especially when relying on organic methods.
Avinash Kaushik has written a blistering indictment of the impact of organic social media: Stop All Social Media Activity (Organic).
However, you’re able to generate new leads by paid boosts of your content on Facebook. Facebook makes it easy to “boost” any post, and your top content should get the financial backing. That’s the crux of our article. Investing in great content also means spending in sharing the content.
However, taking your best content and turning it into regular Facebook ads can also reap benefits, primarily if the content is hosted on a page that encourages form submission.
If you followed the e-book route we describe above, then paid ads is a valuable way to find the people most likely to benefit from your guide. When your client’s industry is very competitive, advertising a “buyers guide” on the keywords in AdWords can be an effective way to beat the sale-schtick of competitors ads and, indeed, get those leads.
Content Marketing Goal 5: Customer Re-Engagement
A standard business truism states that it’s easier and cheaper to sell to existing customers than to acquire new customers. That’s where you come in! Staying in touch with past customers requires great content disseminated frequently.
Great blog posts, email newsletters, marketing automation and social media; these are all content marketing channels.
Newsletters For Customer Re-Engagement
My favorite tool to stay in touch with existing customers is email newsletters. Where so many companies fail is that they use newsletters like digital “flyers” which sell, sell, sell and treat customer inboxes as a dumping ground for marketing junk.
The reality is that we all read emails from businesses when the content is exciting and informative. Again, this is where helpful content wins.
If you’re writing excellent blog posts for your client, then the newsletter ensures a baseline readership. So every blog post should become a newsletter or, at the very least, should be included in a regular newsletter.
Push for ownership of your client’s monthly newsletter, and you’ll end up with a client who relies on you more and more.
Proving Content Marketing’s Role In Repeat Business
Measurement is fractured when measuring repeat business. There are newsletter opens and clicks. There is “returning” blog visits which are tracked in Google Analytics. There is also “mindshare” which can be nigh impossible to measure.
So, how do you do it?
Well, you do it all together.
Using Google Analytics data, you can track some fascinating metrics like Frequency, Recency and, the trend of retaining past visitors. I’ll demonstrate with a Teacup report called Am I Attracting Both New And Return Visitors To My Website?
We’re looking at the trend of return visitors. As long as it’s increasing over time, this implies that you’re retaining past visitors and converting first-time visitors into repeat traffic.
You can also track conversions in this report specific to returning visitors to show that repeat visits translate into repeat business:
In this same report, you can see Frequency which describes how often people return to the site. You can view this in more detail in a unique Frequency report too. Superficially, this context should suffice. Measuring conversions alongside frequency can demonstrate how many visits it takes before a visitor converts.
Remarketing To Past Customers
Businesses often use Remarketing to close sales that didn’t complete their journey through the funnel on the first visit. However, a great benefit of remarketing is, in fact, re-engagement of existing customers.
Both AdWords and Facebook allow for you upload your customer lists and market to them but I prefer Facebook for this idea. Consider this. Sharing new articles, new ideas and new products with people who already know and love you is the most granular targeting I can think of. It is far cheaper and more potent than a spray-and-pray boost on any ad network too.
So, suggest to your clients that they help share great content with those most likely to care!
If past customers love your clients’ company, staying in touch is worth the investment in generating more sales through directly sharing great content.
The Measurement Of Content Creation
At no point do I recommend enacting all the suggestions in this article.
Pick and choose whatever might fit but I hope this serves as inspiration. The goal denoted to help you think creatively about measurement as it pertains to content creation. The other goal was to help your clients feel great each time they sign your paycheck.
Let me know how it goes or ask me anything, anytime!
1. Google/Purchased Digital Diary “How Consumers Solve Their Needs In The Moment