It’s easy to get wrapped up in the fun parts of content marketing. Being creative, writing articles, and seeing a post go live are all exciting and enjoyable parts of the job.
So, a lot of us jump right in, quickly publishing and sharing without taking much time to think about what we are doing and why. We are just excited to get our work out in the world.
And this is a problem.
Because effective content marketing that drives pre-planned business goals is strategic — not just fueled by initial excitement.
Let’s look at a system that will help you incorporate the fun parts of content marketing with a thoughtful plan to track your results.
Why smart content marketing is goal-driven
Goals differentiate strategic, results-driven content marketing from random, haphazard publishing.
When you approach content marketing without goals, your content marketing strategy is based on guesses. It’s difficult to see if your content produces value for your business.
And key performance indicators (KPIs) turn that guessing game into a strategic plan.
Goals and KPIs help you see where you are going, how you will get there, and if you took the right route to the finish line.
At the beginning of a campaign, they help you create a plan and decide:
- What type of content to create
- How much content to create
- How to promote the content
- Where to promote the content
- How long to wait for results
And at the end of a campaign, they help you reflect on your work and:
- Measure your success in concrete numbers
- Determine your ROI
- Identify what’s working and what’s not working
- Plan future campaigns
Goals and KPIs bookend a powerful campaign because they direct your content strategy at the beginning and rate effectiveness at the end.
Set your content marketing goals
When you begin a content marketing campaign, focus your efforts on one or two primary goals (even if you find that your campaign also produces results for other goals).
Those primary goals may be to:
- Increase traffic
- Get more leads
- Grow an email list
- Improve search engine rankings
- Build a social media presence
- Demonstrate authority in your niche
- Engage and entertain your audience
- Educate your audience about products or services
- Increase brand awareness
Once you decide on your primary goals, match them with measurable KPIs that will allow you to see the results of your work.
Each of KPIs in the list below will help you measure content marketing campaign results, but select the KPIs that best match the goals for your campaign.
Conversion indicates how many users took an action that you wanted them to take on your website or landing page.
For example, if you offer a free ebook when someone registers for your site, the number of users who signed up for your email list to download the ebook help calculate your conversion rate.
Measure this when goals are to get more leads, grow an email list, and educate your audience about products and services.
Email list subscribers
Email list subscribers are the number of people who have signed up for your email list.
Pay attention to this KPI when your goal is to grow an email list and get more leads.
Measure and track your number of new email list subscribers through your email marketing software.
Number of leads
Number of leads represents the total number of times potential customers and clients have connected with you. This may include users who join a list or use your contact form.
Measure this when goals are to get more leads and educate your audience about products and services.
Depending on your specific lead goal, you can measure and track your leads using your digital marketing and sales platform, email marketing software, or Google Analytics.
Number of new customers and sales
Number of new customers and sales is the total number of new business transactions that occurred.
This is an important KPI for your business’s bottom line.
Track your customer growth in the database where you monitor transactions.
Rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs)
SERPs show the placement of your website in organic search. This is an important metric for your site’s main keywords or branded terms.
Measure this when goals are to improve rankings on SERPs and increase traffic.
Use Google’s Search Console to find the keywords your site ranks for and the positions they have in SERPs.
Organic traffic is the amount of traffic sent to a website from organic search. Users are sent to your website after they find it on a SERP. This may correspond to how high a site ranks in organic search.
Measure this when goals are to improve rankings in SERPs, increase traffic, and increase brand awareness.
Measure and track organic traffic in Google Analytics.
Referral traffic is the amount of traffic sent to a website from other websites. Users are sent to your site after they click on a link to it from another website.
Use this KPI when goals are to increase traffic and increase brand awareness.
Measure and track referral traffic in Google Analytics.
Press mentions are the number of times that other publishers mention your business or brand. They increase your reach and visibility because other publishers expose their audiences to your brand.
Use this KPI when goals are to demonstrate authority in your niche and increase brand awareness.
Social shares represent the number of times that a piece of your content was shared on social media.
Measure this KPI when goals are to increase brand awareness, increase traffic, and build a social media presence.
Use a social share plugin or counter to see the number of shares for a URL.
Page views are the number of pages on a website that are viewed over a measured period of time. This number indicates if there is an increase or drop in usage for a website.
Use this KPI when goals are to increase traffic, improve rankings on SERPs, and increase brand awareness.
Measure and track page views in Google Analytics.
Unique visits are the number of users that visit a website over a measured period of time. The metric counts a user as “one,” even if they visit the website multiple times.
Use this KPI when goals are to increase traffic and increase brand awareness.
Measure and track unique visits in Google Analytics.
Bounce rate is the percentage of users who leave a website shortly after accessing it. When a bounce rate is high, it indicates that users aren’t finding what they want or they are not engaged with the content.
Measure this when your goals are to educate your audience about products or services, demonstrate authority in your niche, and increase brand awareness.
Measure and track bounce rate in Google Analytics.
Inbound links are the number of times that other websites link back to your website.
While the total number of inbound links is important, you should also factor in the authority of the site linking back to you. Sites with higher authority that link to you are more valuable than links from lesser-known websites.
Use this KPI when goals are to increase traffic, improve rankings on SERPs, and demonstrate authority in your niche.
Use Google’s Search Console, BuzzSumo, or Moz’s Open Site Explorer to view your site’s backlink profile.
Social traffic is the amount of traffic sent to a website from social media platforms. Users are sent to your site after clicking on a link from sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.
Measure this when goals are to increase your social media presence, increase traffic, and increase brand awareness.
Measure and track social traffic in Google Analytics.
Number of social media followers
Number of social media followers are the number of users who follow a business on social media platforms where you publish updates.
Track this metric to see if your content is engaging, attracting new audiences, and building your authority.
Measure this metric through each social media platform you use.
How long should you track and measure goals?
The time frames for measuring your KPIs will depend on your campaign type.
- For long-term campaigns like growing your email list subscribers, measure KPIs for as long as you use content marketing. Set benchmarks for measuring and reviewing these goals weekly or monthly.
- For multi-content campaigns like a blog post series, measure KPIs a few days after each you publish each piece of content. Then, review KPIs once a week for a few weeks after the campaign ends.
- For a one-time campaign like a guest blog post, first measure KPIs a week after the content has been published. Then, regularly review the metrics over the next two to three months.
Typically, you can stop tracking campaign-specific KPIs when the metrics plateau or stop growing. But you may want to schedule a bi-annual or annual review of all campaigns in case your content picks up momentum and continues to provide powerful results.
When you start your next content marketing project, remember the importance of setting and tracking your goals before you create content.
For help setting goals, check out this free Content Marketing KPI Spreadsheet that outlines goals and specific metrics you should track for each of your campaigns.
How do you measure the results of your content marketing campaigns? Share in the comments below.