Content marketing is everywhere. Indeed, you are reading a piece of content marketing right now. Whether it’s a blog, a podcast, or a video, you can’t move for content that someone is using to market their business. It is, of course, nothing new. Content marketing is as old as business itself. People were telling stories in days of old; then they handed out leaflets when printing became cheap enough to use. Before the Internet came along, savvy marketers used content in the form of booklets, books, and well-placed articles in newspapers and magazines. Many marketers still do that today – wisely.
Online content marketing has several advantages. You can reach more people, you can get to your audience more quickly, and you can rapidly enter new markets. Plus you can “go global”, and you can measure everything you do in fine detail, unlike with traditional content marketing.
The problems with content marketing
There are some real issues with content marketing. The sheer volume of material is so immense that it is almost unimaginable. All kinds of estimates abound, but you’ll find around 720,000 hours worth of new videos on YouTube every day, as well as around 200m blog posts. Before the Internet, only a small proportion of businesses did any serious amounts of content marketing. Now, everyone is at it. That means content marketers are having to fight for visibility like never before.
Another issue is the whole arena of measurement. Indeed, this is an issue for everything that we do online. Digital material can be measured in an almost endless array of possibilities. If you want to know what version of Windows a person in Peru was using to open your blog post, you can find out. Online marketing can be measured to the tiniest fragment of detail. So, guess what? That’s precisely what many marketers now do. Content marketing measurement has become an industry in itself.
But are you measuring the right things?
Effective ways to measure content marketing
All too often people measure the wrong things when it comes to content marketing. They measure the number of views (which tells you nothing), the amount of social media sharing (which shows you very little) or the extent of any subscriptions (which only tells you a little). Other forms of ways to measure content marketing can provide you with much more useful information which helps you develop and grow your business. Here are five ways you can improve the way you measure content marketing.
- Changes in buying behaviour. If your content leads to people buying something from you, or for existing clients to purchase even more, then the content has real value to your business. The most important measure is whether content increases your financial bottom line. So you need coded links between the calls to action in each specific piece of content and the products or services you want to sell. Use those links within Google Analytics so you can track the visitor from engagement with the content through to purchase. Do that with each piece of content, and you will be able to measure its relevance to your sales. If you do not measure the value of content on buying behaviour, you are simply producing content and hoping. Hope is not a strategy.
- Production of ideas. Content does not just have an impact on your market; it affects your teams. Does content help produce ideas for improvements in your business, your products or your services? This can be achieved with feedback on content in the form of comments. But it can also be obtained by following the pathway people take through your website from each piece of content, demonstrating what they are thinking about and what interests them. By analysing such information, it can trigger ideas for new products and services. Are you measuring the feedback you get and are you using it to help produce ideas? How many ideas are you creating that help grow your business that derives from your content? Knowing that will tell you how valuable that content was in the first place.
- Sentiment. Knowing how many people share your items or link to you in some way is only half the story. What they say about you when doing so is much more critical. Are they saying positive things, showing warmth and happiness about your content? Or are they just being neutral, or at worst negative about you? Measuring the number of positive words in social media, in comments and in emails produced in response to content will help you understand which pieces of content on what topics produce the best reaction. If all you are measuring is pure numbers, it doesn’t help you work out how to improve your connection with your audience. Only by measuring sentiment can you find out what works best and thereby do more of that in the future to grow your business.
- The share of voice. Other people will be producing content on the same topics as you. But how much of your voice is heard compared with theirs? At its simple level, this is just the number of followers you might have on social media. But that’s a rather basic measure. What you need to know is where each piece of content fares in search engine ranking, how many comments you get compared with similar content from your competitors, how many shares does it get, how much email activity you receive as a result of the content. In other words, it is taking into account all of the numbers which show your total visibility and then comparing that with the best information you can get about competitor content. If your content is doing worse than theirs, you need to examine the items and investigate what it is that provides them with the louder voice online. Then you can do something about it.
- Awareness. Often people mix up awareness with visibility. People can see something, but not be aware of it. Every day you see tens of thousands of marketing messages; how many were you aware of? Many people in the world of content suggest that the numbers of followers you get on social media is a measure of your awareness. It isn’t. People can follow you and then never see anything else you produce again. Indeed, Facebook’s algorithm for business pages means that nine out of every ten will NOT see your content. Just checking numbers of followers and saying that is how aware people are of you is simplistic at best. Awareness is when people know about the content and remember. You can check awareness levels for content using simple polls and surveys. Ask questions relating to recent content, and you will see from the levels and kinds of replies the extent of actual awareness. Also, when people buy from you get them to complete a post-purchase questionnaire and ask questions which will show you how much they know about your company, its products and services. But make sure the questions are those which could only be answered by knowing about previous content. This will help you see the value of your content.
If you want to measure content marketing in a way that enhances your business and helps it grow, you need to do more than just look at the numbers. These five ways of measuring will help you do just that. Remember Einstein who said, “Just because something can be measured doesn’t mean it is important.” Often, content marketers look at numbers that are easy to measure thanks to modern digital technology. But those measurements might not be significant. The five measure outlined here – while more difficult to achieve – could be much more important for your business.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+