MEASURING CONTENT EFFECTIVENESS – A PRAGMATIC APPROACH
Today’s blog is about a topic really close to my heart – content performance measurement. Marketing is entering an era of unprecedented accountability and content marketing is no exception. Tech B2B companies, whose sales often come with higher ticket values and longer purchase cycles, are under particular pressure to demonstrate that every minute of time and pound of budget are well spent, and resonating with target audiences.
The largest proportion of time associated with a content marketing campaign is generally spent on content creation. Marketing automation, social campaigns, sales flows, community management and even sales prospecting is usually based on an exchange of value, knowledge, expertise and thought leadership in the form of content.
It then follows that time spent on content creation must be optimised. In other words, all the content that is created must be exactly what audiences want to know at their stage in the sales cycle, and the content that we create must improve each time. Over time, this will lead to an efficient and effective content marketing process, where the team as a whole is able to develop assets that readers find valuable with little wasted effort.
In order to do this, the team needs to know which of its content assets readers find valuable. Is it that blog, focussing on the use cases of a solution? Or is it a white paper with an analysis of the deployment challenges? While, as a rule of thumb, case studies are quite useful, it is dangerous to generalise.
If content marketers can measure the effectiveness of their individual content assets, they can optimise marketing in many ways:
- The characteristics of successful content assets can be determined for that particular industry and audience
- Successful topics, formats and approaches can be replicated
- Poorly performing assets can be adapted to improve success or discontinued
- Marketing and promotional campaigns can become more effective
- Planning can become more informed
If there’s one thing we have learnt in our years as marketers at Isoline, it is that measurement takes time and money. The bad news is that from a pragmatic perspective, there are not many organisations who will be willing to invest in a large-scale, sophisticated content evaluation exercise on an ongoing basis. But the good news is that there are simple ways of measuring the effectiveness of a particular piece of content against others created by the same company or campaign, or even over time.
Here are some thoughts on how this could be approached.
Traffic measurement: Page views, email open rates or click-through rates are the most commonly quoted metrics in marketing round up reports and performance reviews. All that page views statistics show are how many people reached that piece of content either on their own or by being directed to it. Measuring impressions/ clicks from different sources (Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) can provide a good comparison of which promotional vehicle is most effective in driving attention to a piece of content. Therefore – while they are an excellent way to understand the reach of your content marketing efforts and promotional tactics – they should not be used as a proxy to gauge content effectiveness.
Content performance score: Any piece of content that is hosted on a website can be analysed via Google Analytics to yield in-depth information on how users interact with content – including time spent on page, scroll depth, links clicked on, etc. Depending upon the marketing objectives of the organisation, a combination of these factors could be taken to create a content performance score that can then be used to compare the relative performance of a number of content assets. The characteristics of the highest performing content assets could then be analysed – are they listicles? Do they all have a particular approach to presenting the solution? This should then be taken into account while planning the next piece of content.
Downloadable content: When a piece of content is gated and readers are only allowed to download it in exchange for contact information such as e-mail address, organisation, etc., the way that readers engage with the asset becomes much harder to track. There is numerous services that allow tracking of user engagement with documents, but all depend upon the document being opened within a browser environment. The fact of the matter is, that once it is downloaded onto a reader’s personal device it ‘vanishes’ from the analytics landscape. Number of downloads is in these cases the only metric that can be tracked, as a proxy for engagement. However, just measuring number of downloads is like measuring number of impressions – all we are tracking is the effectiveness of the promotion of the content asset and not its inherent effectiveness. The effect of promotion must be eliminated – a simple ratio approach will do the trick. However, it is important to stress that the number of downloads is just a proxy – even gated content should be served within the browser environment to allow for a deeper understanding of the way users interact with the content.
Link tracking: Often, content is sent out by sales as well as marketing teams to prospective and current buyers through email, or on social channels. To avoid filling up recipients’ inboxes, most sophisticated marketing organisations have moved to sending links to content hosted either on their public websites or in a document hosting and sharing environment – a number of such solutions exist in the marketplace today. Ensuring link tracking to implement insightful analytics of such content is also essential.
Surveys: The best way to understand what readers think is to simply ask them! It is unlikely that the budget of too many organisations would extend to conducting in-depth surveys around each piece of content, but a simple ‘Did you find this content useful?’ question at the end of each web page or content asset can provide one more useful dimension to content effectiveness analysis.
Tech B2B organisations are spending huge amounts of time creating content for their stakeholders and in order to optimise this time, it is essential to know how their content performed, and how engaged readers were with it. While there is an almost unlimited number of ways by which content performance is measured, it is useful to have a couple of simple measures as a yardstick to see how content is performing and which content is outperforming others.