Crap – The Content Marketing Deluge got it right!
The biggest threat to content marketing is content marketing itself. The practice of producing information an audience would consume and then take action on is treated with nonchalance. And this is a major reason behind the fluff that we can see on most blogs. In fact, a research study by Altimeter says that 70% of marketers do not have a solid content strategy. Yet, they keep increasing the budget for content production every year.
The result is all around us!
Posts, articles and guides that simply rehash what competitors and influencers are talking about. All for the sake of dubious SEO rewards that will not come.
Content in no longer king! It has been dethroned.
And if content marketing has to have any kind of impact on the promotional and branding efforts of a business, CMOs, publishers and all content-first agencies will have to sit up, take notice and look beyond likes and shares to the real metrics that offer insights into how effective their content is.
So what are these “effective” content metrics I haven’t been measuring, you ask? Let’s get started. Fortunately these advanced metrics can be broken down into simpler components and most of the elements can be tracked through a Google Analytics account.
A good piece of content serves two purposes. One, it solves a problem that the reader has. Two, it tells the reader exactly what to do next to either learn more about the solution or in some cases purchase the solution. This is how a prospect moves from the Top of the Funnel to the Middle of the Funnel and finally to the Bottom of the Funnel. If the engagement with a blog or a whitepaper is poor, then neither of the two objectives is fulfilled. The purpose of the content is defeated because the money spent on creating it should have a tangible return and social media adulation generally doesn’t amount to much.
This is the reason why engagement should be measured not by how many social shares your post has got, but by anyone is actually reading it. After all that’s why you created the content in the first place, didn’t you?
The time taken to reach the bottom of an article tells marketers if an article is read in its entirety by the intended audience. Most brands have started featuring a “Time to Finish” indicator with their content pieces so that the act of consuming the information is well bounded (and thus less tedious).
However it also happens to be an excellent marker for determining the engagement with the content. If the majority of the readers take at least the Time to Finish to reach the bottom of a page or article, then it means the piece has them hooked. There might be exceptions but in general the content is serving its end goal.
How to Measure
To measure the time taken to reach the bottom of an article, you need to set up a Google Analytics event that corresponds to a reader scrolling down to the end of the post. You can find more details about the anatomy of an event and the process of setting one up here.
Once this is done, head over to Content > Events > Top Events Report > Reading Actions in your analytics and view the report. It will look something like the screenshot below.
The last column has the required data. Content Bottom is the event that should be paid attention to. This is the time taken by readers to reach the end of the piece from the time they start reading it. If this number (in seconds) aligns pretty well with the Time to Finish you estimated, then the content has steam.
Companies don’t just host content on-site. A large number of posts are ultimately created with the aim of being shared on social channels. And half-life happens to be a great measure of the ever green nature of content.
Half-life is defined as the time in days over which the number of click throughs to a post reduces to exactly half of what it was when first published and distributed. If a brand consistently produces information that hits half-life in 30 minutes flat, then it is better to re-think strategy. Maybe the topics selected are not relevant to the target audience. Maybe there is no actual ‘meat’ to the bones of the pieces. Maybe the formatting is cluttered and poor. Or maybe the distribution channels are not the regular haunts of ideal buyers.
Depending on the industry, a half-life of three to seven hours is acceptable.
How to Measure
Use Bit.ly’s shortening tool to create content links that you share on social media or post to forums and other distribution platforms. It offers good insights into click through numbers and clicks over time.
This metric calls for making some associations. But using it has tremendous benefits. Purchase intent of content refers to the intention to purchase an item driven by it. There are two ways to go about measuring this:
The direct way involves featuring a call to action to buy a product within a long form blog post. In this case, a simple study of the sales attributed to the landing page of the piece gives an idea of the potency of the information.
The indirect way involves looking for an increase in the purchase of related products post a piece going live. If a brand blogs about how effectively its range of leather pants can keep the cold away and it hits a chord pushing people to actually buy the item, then the relation between content and intent is pretty apparent. Depending on your product, decide up to how many days from the date of publication you can successfully attribute purchase intent to the blog post. Outside this window, the results become unpredictable.
Any blog or article that nudges Purchase Intent is ideal bottom of funnel content. It should be studied and more pieces like it created to overcome buyers’ resistance.
How to Measure
Again, you can measure this by setting up Google Analytics Events for downloads or Goals that lead to purchases. On the other hand if you never detect a spike in spend timed with your content calendar, you might start thinking of investing in a few BOF assets that will round off your funnel.
Production & Distribution Costs
Very few content marketers try to dig into the tangible ROI of their efforts. When the truth is, without assessing the return on investment, strategy can’t be refined. So content production and distribution cost analysis is critical. First and foremost, marketers need to list out all the expenses related to the creation of a piece. This includes:
- Writing costs: Was a freelancer hired? Or was the content created in-house, in which case the total salary of the individual who wrote it divided by the number of hours spent crafting the content is a decent assessment.
- Designing costs: The same considerations as above apply
- Distribution costs: Was the distribution organic or was traffic paid for? Did someone charge money to post the content on various social channels?
- Miscellaneous costs: The subscription of any tools used to enhance the content, services of a subject matter expert, and so on.
How to Measure
Compare how this amount stacks up against the monetary value of the purchase intent. For SaaS based companies, sign ups to free trials and demo calls may be counted as instances of a ‘possible sale’ and assigned financial value.
If a piece costs more than its purchase intent, then it is better to invest the allocated budget in research or in purchasing traffic from AdWords.
Over to You
The time has come to fully commit to content marketing and have clear goals attached to publications. Likes and shares no longer make the cut. There must be dedicated metrics for each section of the funnel, offering clear insights into performance of the pieces that are created to facilitate buyer’s journey.
How are you measuring the success of your content marketing?