KPIs for measuring content marketing ROI

5 Questions to help set, manage and review your content marketing effectiveness

As we accept that our consumers are learning about, and navigating through, more and more information about our brand, organisation, industries or topic areas as they research online, we're needing to deploy more sophisticated strategies in order we can earn attention, and importantly trust. This is what sits behind the drive of content marketing's rise to the forefront of the digital marketing agenda.

Content marketing is starting to mature, too. More and more reports, such as this from the Aberdeen Group, illustrate this, here too.

An easy start-point

Below is a simple matrix of ideas to help you set the KPIs or metrics based on what we've used on different projects. We're not saying "this is the way you must do it" or that you need to use all of these KPIs. Instead, we hope this is a useful framework to help select the best type of KPIs for different markets.

We've taken three angles here to illustrate, so we've got the full range of measures covered from hard sales vs softer engagement metrics.

Using these different types of measures is even more important for companies with long purchase or repeat purchase cycles, such as automotive, furniture or maybe PCs - and certainly for B2B businesses. The longer buy cycles require the need to demonstrate ongoing engagement.

  • Commercial measures: These are the harder business or commercial measures and what usually takes the longest to be demonstrable. These are the measures for the senior managers although they may well also need to know about Likes! Think audience share, sales, leads or at least clear indicators from people such satisfaction ratings or % that fed back. Remember that these need to be incremental and ideally attributable to your content marketing. Dave will show you how to attribute these using Google Analytics in a separate post.
  • Tactical measures: These include the views, clicks, interactions with your content - so involves the social shares such as Likes and Tweets. You might also use link shortening tools to help measure, at Smart Insights we use PostRank rating and also metrics from Facebook Insights. These are hard indicators that your content is visible and worth sharing - so very key.
  • Brand measures: These are easier for bigger brands or where there's less competition, simply because the tools seem to work better in that space. Think brand or key-phrase mentions, sentiment, share of market mentions over competitors and certainly site traffic. These are the bigger needles to get moving and often require a bit more momentum.

Combining measurements and social media optimisation

As you can see from the table above, content marketing KPIs go hand in hand with social media marketing, content fuels social media. The two come together when working on social media optimisation (SMO) which Dave has recently posted on. SMO for me centres on the distribution of social objects and their ability to rise to the top of any related search query [Dan - I disagree on this - the poll in our post show that most think it's broader - maximising reach and interaction in social channels to achieve your goals].

Brian Solis talks about SEO + SMO = Amplified Findability in the traditional and social web. I think that's a great way to summarise it [Dan - like that although I'd call it Amplified Visibility FWIW - for me Findability is about efficient customer journeys on websites - it's a user-centred design technique, but I guess Brian doesn't know about that!).

Since tracking within SMO is also important, how do you do it? At the centre of a SMO programme are social objects. Social objects represent the content we market via social media - images, videos, blog posts, comments, status updates, wall posts, and all related activity that creates the potential for online conversations. It follows then, that the goal of SMO is to measure, monitor and improve the visibility of social objects as a means to connecting with individuals who are proactively seeking additional information and direction.

Given that social objects are contextualized through keywords, titles, descriptions, and/or tags so the measures here are not so different to SEO in terms of inbound links, as well as referring web sites where your content, the social objects, are placed. So you need to develop an analytics dashboard that reviews your effectiveness within this content eco-system.


Actionable analytics for content marketing

Following on from the above table, these measurements are great and you also have to be able to do something with them. The analytics guru's like Avinash Kaushik, and of course Dave Chaffey :-) will always talk about actionable metrics. How might that apply to content marketing, here are a few examples of questions to ask for which you need to review the analytics to get the answer:

  • Q1. Which keyphrases related to content are most effective at driving visits and outcomes? Ensure that you have an idea of what audience personas or segments whom those keywords relate to as well, so you know who you're writing content for. Build on the keyphrases that are most effective. When you identify high bouncing keywords try surveying those users on exit or placing calls to action directly on the page to ask for feedback, tools like Kampyle can help with that.
  • Q2. Which referring partner sites or social networks have helped with link generation and measurement (for SEO) and the driving of traffic, referenced above as a part of SMO. Check for traffic volumes from those domains and how those users (segmented by referring domain) bounce and click through the site - are their needs being met?  Of course, you want more of the traffic that's generating results and understand how you might also improve journeys for those that bounce highest, starting with landing pages. From an SEO perspective you should review the number and quality of links that your content generates using these types of backlink benchmarking software.
  • Q3. How does content viewed on click-paths or journeys affect marketing outcomes. This reviews the value that a user is finding on your web site and whether it's influencing leads or sales. In a separate post Dave will show how to use Advanced Segments to precisely show how content is affecting sales.
  • Q4. Are we increasing the % of engaged users? Engagement can be short or longer-term - it might be that someone has viewed more than 3 pages on the site, per session, this is better than time on site. You can consider improving that by designing site journeys that are for specific audiences and creating multiple routes to the important content.
  • Q5. What are the satisfaction ratings for our content? Use different customer feedback software like 4Q and Kampyle so you get overall ratings of your content and feedback on specific content. 4Q is great since it shows you what people were looking for against what whether they were successful and how satisfied.

The general rule of optimisation is to monitor and test and don't stop! Websites and web based content are not brochures, they're never 'done'. Focus on testing and trying new things where the analytics and customer feedback data indicates the best opportunity to improve.

Share your thoughts

  • Nathan Brook commented on March 26, 2014

    Great post and useful information, and clean information about the post. Thanks for shared for such amazing information. Really nice post

  • Graeme Benge commented on January 31, 2014

    This is a great piece. Bookmarked to read and read again.
    I like the idea of considering money spent and money saved. For instance calculating the cost of a Facebook like and using that as a unit for money saved for a piece of content that gets shared organically as it were. Not my concept, saw Jono Alderson cover it in a great slot at MeasureCamp last year.

  • Shaun commented on January 9, 2013

    A cracking piece. I’m going to nick quite a bit of this to use on my clients.Until now, I’ve been concentrating on providing copy for websites, but the move to content marketing is a natural step for my business. Thanks for the heads up.

    • Thanks for the comment Shaun, I worked on this one as well. I really recommend the RACE breakdown for assessing Content Marketing and more widely.
      That sounds a wise move for your business, best for that.


  • Dan – another thought on this – just prompted by reading about the in New Media Age. You can also demonstrate the relative effectiveness of how different social and digital marketing channels combine with content marketing through looking at relatively propensities to convert. For example, the Financial Times reported in 2011 that its analytics showed that Facebook users are three times as likely to subscribe compared to those from other sources such as search. LinkedIn users were six times as likely to subscribe.

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