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The Complete Guide to Content Marketing Metrics
Make sure you track the right stuff, the right way!

Do you create content, but don't know how it affects your marketing bottom-line? This guide is for you!

In recent years, content marketing has become a separate channel. Yet this has brought new challenges, and many people are asking themselves: Which content performance metrics do I track? How do I align content analytics with my goals? How do I spend less time gathering data?

And this is exactly what the following guide explains.

Content marketing metrics to track

When you start exploring content performance metrics, you realize they are diverse and many. You also realize their relationships are as scrambled as those of gods in Greek mythology, and it's useless to regard them out of context.

Hence, you need to organize content marketing metrics into a system that could be applied to a particular marketing process. And what could be more obvious to a marketer than the classical conversion cycle?

Identify your conversion funnel stages

So you can group content metrics based on the parts of the conversion funnel they correspond to:

However, this system has its drawbacks: the scope of metrics that can be associated with each conversion stage is really large — it is hardly worthwhile to try to track them all on a regular basis.

So, we need to introduce another dimension that would make content tracking more practical — that of the marketing goal.

Align your content metrics efforts with the exact marketing goals

Of course, sometimes you'd be able to achieve multiple goals with one piece of content, but usually there is one goal that dominates.

  • 1. Brand awareness: press releases, sponsorships, expert-level contributions to niche sites, etc.
  • 2. Getting targeted traffic: native advertising, videos, blog posts, presentations, etc.
  • 3. SEO: landing pages, link-bait pieces, topical articles, guest blogging, research data, etc.
  • 4. Growing your email base: e-books, whitepapers, online courses, industry reports, etc.
  • 5. Growing your social following: contests, quizzes, viral campaigns, etc.

And now, let's unite the 2 approaches and align content metrics to the conversion stage and to the marketing goal at the same time!

See what metrics to track for each of your marketing goals

Choose and click a marketing goal to align it with metrics within the conversion funnel:

Brand awareness

If your goal is increasing brand awareness, you'd want to track its completion throughout the conversion funnel.

First, learn your traffic sources to single out branded & direct search traffic.

Then see how this traffic translates into social shares, followers, an increased positive sentiment about your brand as well as email subscribers and, ultimately, sales.

Exposure Engagement Conversion Retention ROI
Rankings Bounce rates Backlinks Return visitors Revenue per visit*
Views The number of pages viewed
Sign-ups & downloads
Driven by branded traffic
Client base growth
Driven by increased sign-ups
Content creation cost
The cost of creating content
Unique visitors Time on page
Followers & sentiment
Follower growth & change of sentiment the content inspired
Direct/branded traffic
Direct traffic in Google Analytics & traffic via branded keywords
Placement cost
Applies if the content was published for a fee
Traffic relevancy Comments Remarketing is set Email open rates
Av. goal conversion rate
Average percentage of goals completed
Traffic sources
You'd expect a spike in branded and direct traffic
Social shares
The number of social shares your brand-oriented post receives
Sales
Sales driven by branded &direct traffic
Repeat sales Cost per acquisition**
Targeted traffic

If your goal is attracting targeted traffic to your site, you'd like to see how this is achieved throughout the conversion funnel.

Start by measuring content exposure (views, unique visitors). Then see if your traffic is relevant, that is, if it is made up of the desired demographic. Bounce rates are often indicative of traffic relevancy, too.

Finally, measure if your traffic pays off long-term (whether it converts & whether the bottom-line revenue per visitor hits the mark).

Exposure Engagement Conversion Retention ROI
Rankings
Bounce rates
The percentage of people who clicked away from the page
Backlinks
Return visitors
The share of people who came back again
Revenue per visit*
See below
Views
The number of page views
The number of pages viewed
Sign-ups & downloads
Driven by the targeted traffic
Client base growth
Driven by increased sign-ups
Content creation cost
The cost of creating content
Unique visitors
The number of unique visitors to the page
Time on page Followers & sentiment Direct/branded traffic
Placement cost
Applies if the content was published for a fee
Traffic relevancy
The right demographics & good conversion rates
Comments
Remarketing is set
Whether you can show ads to the same people on other sites
Email open rates
Av. goal conversion rate
Average percentage of goals completed
Traffic sources Social shares
Sales
The number of orders placed
Repeat sales
The number of repeat orders placed
Cost per acquisition**
See below
SEO

If you create content mostly for the sake of SEO, see where it ranks on Google and how the traffic you get via SEO affects your ROI.

Start by measuring your rankings and the amount of traffic they bring (views, unique visitors). Move on to analyze that traffic further by looking at its relevancy, bounce rates, time on page, etc.

In the end, you should see how that traffic converts into sales and revenue per visit, as well as measure purely SEO metrics such as the backlinks.

Exposure Engagement Conversion Retention ROI
Rankings
Positions at which the page appears in search
Bounce rates
The percentage of people who clicked away from the page
Backlinks
The number of new links pointed to your content
Return visitors
Revenue per visit*
See below
Views
Page views driven by search traffic
The number of pages viewed
The number of pages viewed per visit
Sign-ups & downloads Client base growth
Content creation cost
The cost of creating content
Unique visitors
The number of unique visitors from search
Time on page
The amount of time a visitor stays on a page
Followers & sentiment Direct/branded traffic Content placement cost
Traffic relevancy
The right demographics & good conversion rates
Comments
Remarketing is set
Whether you can show ads to the same people on other sites
Email open rates
Av. goal conversion rate
Average percentage of goals completed
Traffic sources Social shares
Sales
The number of orders placed
Repeat sales
Cost per acquisition**
See below
Email base

If your goal is growing the email base — say, by locking an e-book with a sign-up form — first see how many people visited the page with your content (unique visitors), where they came from (traffic sources) and whether that traffic is relevant (demographics and bounce rates).

Then see what percentage of people left their email to unlock your offer (sign-ups) and how many of them actually opened the email you sent (open rates).

To track the entire cycle, find out what share of these subscribers open your emails in the future, buy from you (sales) or become repeat customers.

Exposure Engagement Conversion Retention ROI
Rankings
Bounce rates
The percentage of people who clicked away from the page
Backlinks Return visitors
Revenue per visit*
See below
Views The number of pages viewed
Sign-ups & downloads
Driven by the content locked with a sign-up form
Client base growth
Driven by increased sign-ups
Content creation cost
The cost of creating content
Unique visitors
The number of unique visitors to the page with your content
Time on page Followers & sentiment Direct/branded traffic Content placement cost
Traffic relevancy
The right demographics & good conversion rates
Comments Remarketing is set
Email open rates
The percentage of people who opened the emails you sent
Av. goal conversion rate
Average percentage of goals completed
Traffic sources
The distribution of traffic across channels: organic, social, direct, etc.
Social shares
Sales
The number of orders placed
Repeat sales
The number of repeat orders placed
Cost per acquisition**
See below
Social followers

If you aim at increasing social following, find out how content helps you get more followers and how this impacts your ROI.

Start by tracking content exposure, especially the traffic sources (see which share of your traffic is from social media).

Measure engagement by looking at comments and social shares. See if they lead to an increased number of followers, and whether this transforms into sales or return visits in the long run (say, when one clicks your Facebook link, because they started following you on Facebook).

Exposure Engagement Conversion Retention ROI
Rankings
Bounce rates
The number of people who saw your post, but didn't take any other action on your post/page
Backlinks
Return visitors
The share of your new followers to revisit your site or social page
Revenue per visit*
See below
Views
The number of people who saw your post either on social media or on your site
The number of pages viewed
Sign-ups & downloads
Driven by an increased number of social followers
Client base growth
Content creation cost
The cost of creating web content or social content
Unique visitors
The number unique visitors to the page with content
Time on page
Followers & sentiment
The number of new followers and their sentiment about your brand
Direct/branded traffic
Content placement cost
Applies if you purchased Facebook ads, Twitter ads, etc.
Traffic relevancy
Traffic demographics, bounce rates and click-through rates
Comments
The number of comments left on social media or on your page
Remarketing is set Email open rates
Avg. goal conversion rate
Average percentage of goals completed
Traffic sources
The distribution of traffic across channels: social, organic, etc.
Social shares
The number of times your content was shared on social
Sales
An incremental increase in sales driven by new social followers
Repeat sales
Cost per acquisition**
See below
* Revenue per visit = Goal conversion rate x Per-visit goal value
** Cost per acquisition = Content creation cost x Content placement cost / The # of completed goals
Tools to measure content performance

Now that you know which content metrics to track, the question is how to track them.

The biggest divide in gathering content marketing metrics is between the data you can get for your own site and the statistics you can collect on content published on a third-party resource.

Hence, here is a list of content tracking tools, broken into 2 parts accordingly.

Metrics Tracking the content on your site Tracking your content on a third-party site
Unique visitors
Views
Traffic relevancy
Traffic sources
Bounce rates
The # of pages viewed
Time on page
Sign-ups & downloads
Return visitors
Direct traffic
Goal conversion rates
(All traffic sources)
(Referral traffic)
(Paid solutions for those who need more insight into their conversion funnels)
Native in-platform analytics
YouTube Analytics, Word Stats in WordPress, Facebook Page Insights, Vocus Analytics, etc.
Rankings
and other keyword tracking tools
Branded traffic
(brand searches on Google)
Brand awareness
(brand searches on Google)
(brand mentions across social networks)
(brand searches on Google)
(brand mentions across social networks)
Social shares/likes
(in Popularity In Social Media)
Follower growth & sentiment
Facebook's in-mail reports
Twitter
Google+
Backlinks
and other backlink checkers

In addition, here are some extras that demonstrate a practical way of setting up content performance tracking. Enjoy!

Using Google Analytics to calculate content value

If you're Google-Analytics-savvy, you can use this free tool to compute the economic value of each content piece you create (isn't it wild?)

You can compute content value in 3 steps: (1) identify your bigger goals (macro-conversions) and smaller ones (micro-conversions), (2) compute the value of each goal and (3) compute the values of all goals achieved through a piece of content. The final number you get would be your content value.

Step 1

To get through with identifying your macro-conversions quickly, let us agree that your macro-conversion is a sale. So, now we'd need to identify your smaller in-between goals — your micro-conversions.

These are the steps people take on their way to making a purchase. Depending on the nature of your business, the number of these steps and their essence may vary.

Here is an example of a possible sequence of micro-conversions that lead to a sale:

Step 2

Once you have defined the micro-conversions that lead to your bigger goal (=the sale), the next step is to get economic values of these micro-conversions.

Let's take a Twitter follower as an exmaple. Would you like to know how much each new Twitter follower is worth (in dollars)? Here's a good approach to copy.

If you use paid analytics tools or a CRM (customer relationship management) solution, you can identify patterns as follows:

100 new Twitter followers -> 10 of those people bought a 5-dollar product in the end (after possibly taking additional steps in between) -> the value of each new follower is then ₵50.

Unfortunately, sometimes you can't track each sale back to a particular action (such as a Twitter follow, etc.) In this case, you can still use the average numbers that your finance team should have as a reference point.

For instance, they may know that 25% of people who see your TV ad usually call for more info, and 2.5% of them normally place an order. You can use these average conversion rates and your product price as a starting point to estimate the value of each new Twitter follower.

Step 3

The final step would be to estimate the economic value of the content you create. Provided that you already know the value of each smaller goal (micro-conversion) and the number of such goals completed, you can get the content value according to a simple formula:

Basically, your content value will be composed of different in-between goals (Twitter followers, page visits, quote requests, etc.) and their values. For instance, if each new Twitter follower is worth ₵50 and you got 50 new followers, your content value would be $25.00.

This approach is well described by Googler Avinash Kaushik in his blog post (including the tips on what to do in your worst-case scenario).

Tracking content performance with SEO SpyGlass

This will work very well for tracking the performance of content published on third-party sites (that also links to your site). For instance, guest posts, native advertising pieces, etc.

Step 1

Enter the URL of your site to create a new project in SEO SpyGlass (or use an existing project).

Then go to Preferences -> Preferred Backlink Factors and check Visits to Your Site (a factor not selected by default) to pull Google Analytics data into your project.

*Alternatively, you could check Domain Authority/Page Authority if you'd like to see these data along with Google PageRank. You'll then need to add a Moz API key in Preferences -> Moz API Settings.

Step 2

If you are starting a project from scratch, do the right click and choose Add backlink(s) to project (or use importing options if you are an Enterprise user).

If you already have a project with data, you'd better use Tags to pinpoint backlink pages with your content (guest posts, native advertising pieces, etc.) If you don't do that, the workspace we're about to create at the next step will contain each and every URL that links to your site.

Step 3

Add a separate workspace for content tracking that includes the following columns:

Backlink Page, Visits to Your Site, Page PR, Page Authority (optional), Page's Google +1's, Page Facebook Popularity, Page Twitter mentions, Penalty Risk, Links Back, Tags (optional).

If you are adding this workspace to an existing project and you have implemented Tags, create a filter to see just the tagged URLs:

Tags -> equals -> TAG_NAME*

*Replace TAG_NAME with the name of your tag.

Step 4

Click Update Factors for the URLs you have added.

That's it! From now on, you'll be able to track such stats for your content as

– Traffic
– Backlink value
– Social likes/shares
– Link Penalty Risk (to ensure these links don't hurt your SEO)

The Links Back column shows if the backlink to your site is live. You'll also see if it's missing or is nofollowed.

Tip! You can copy this workspace to any other SEO SpyGlass project by clicking the arrow and choosing Copy workspace to another project.

Tracking social media shares in WebSite Auditor

This method will allow you to effectively track social media shares/likes for the content published on any site. If the content belongs to your site, you'll be able to also track web traffic for.

Step 1

Enter the URL of your site to create a new project in WebSite Auditor (or open an existing project).

When creating a project, (1.1) check Enable expert options at Step 1 and (1.2) configure filtering conditions at Step 4 to collect only the pages of your blog (or another site folder that has your content).

Step 2

*You can skip Steps 2 and 3 if you're not planning to track visits to your content.

To see traffic statistics in your project (if it is your own site we're talking about), go to Preferences -> Google Analytics Account to synchronize WebSite Auditor with your Google Analytics account.

Step 3

Head to Preferences -> Preferred Page Ranking Factors and select the Page Visits factor to get traffic statistics for your pages from Google Analytics.

Step 4

Go to the workspace called Popularity In Social Media and hit the small arrow next to the workspace's name to add the columns that matter to you.

For example, let us add Page's Google +1's, Page LinkedIn Shares and Page Visits that are not present in the workspace by default.

Step 5

Voila! Now you have all you need for continuous tracking of social media popularity (and traffic!) for your posts:

Conclusion

To wrap it up, content performance metrics are important to track to see how your content affects your sales. You should also align content KPIs with your goals to short-list the parameters you track to a feasible scope.

There are quite a few tools to use for that, one of the most widely-used ones being Google Analytics. In the guide, you also find recommendations on setting up content tracking in SEO SpyGlass and WebSite Auditor.

Have questions, insight or ideas to share? Chime in with the comments below!