Marketers are pumping out more content than ever. Unfortunately, they’re often doing so to diminishing returns. In the last five years, blog output from brands has jumped 800%. But organic share of blogs has fallen by 89%.
One way to look at such data is to assume that content marketing doesn’t have the persuasive power it once did. But another takeaway is that the content’s quality may play a role. If brands are producing more and more content, there is a risk that they’re letting quality slip. For instance, just 5% of all content gets 90% of the engagement.
The goal of any content marketer is to be in that 5%. What makes for great content? Some of the judgment is qualitative. There is no use creating content that gets great engagement if it doesn’t fit the brand tone. The difference between Red Bull’s content and Fidelity’s should be as stark as the difference between ESPN the Magazine and The Economist.
Assuming that the tone is right, the following are quantitative measurements for content. Taken individually, they won’t tell you much, but in the aggregate, they can tell you if your content is connecting with your audience as intended:
As a basic introductory measurement, site traffic will tell you if anyone is reading your blog and if your readership is growing. The prime tool for measuring traffic is Google Analytics, which also has the virtue of being free. Every brand will have a different baseline for traffic. A blog post by Nike is going to get a lot more views than one for a startup with low name recognition. What you’re looking for is traffic growth, which should be measured on a monthly basis. There are several ways to boost traffic. Including sought-after keywords that help search visibility. One tool to find such keywords is Google’s Keyword Planner, which will help uncover primary and long-tail keywords. If you’re a SaaS company selling an alternative to expense reports, then “expense reports” is a primary keyword and “expense reports SaaS” is a long-tail one that you have a better chance of owning. The other variable for increasing site traffic is the number of published posts. HubSpot research has shown that marketers who publish 16 or more posts a month get 3.5X the traffic of those who post four or fewer. Of course, upping your frequency risks compromising the quality of your content.
One goal of content marketing is to improve search rankings overall. In theory, great content should improve your brand’s visibility in search because backlinks play a prominent role in Google’s PageRank algorithm. The idea behind PageRank was that if content was helpful and important, other websites would link to it. Of course, it’s possible to game the system. A post may achieve high SEO visibility because a user with a lot of followers on Twitter linked to it, for instance. But SEO is one of the metrics content marketers should look at to judge their program’s success.
Another indication content hits the mark is through social sharing. If a reader likes what they see, they will want to share it with friends and followers on Twitter and Facebook. People generally share content that elicits joy or fear — two so-called high-arousal emotions. Of course, if your content is intended for a B2B audience, that’s not always advisable. A Buzzsumo analysis of B2B content found short, to the point and interesting industry topics were shared the most.
Time spent and bounce rate
The average adult reading speed is around 300 words per minute. That means a 600-word article should prompt an average time-spent of two minutes. If it’s far short of that, then that’s a good indication that your marketing outreach works well, but your content isn’t sustaining interest. There could be other factors. If you’re subjecting readers to too many pop-ups or autoplay video, that may be driving them away. The way your text is spaced is also a factor — readers don’t like large blocks of text.
Actions taken or lead generation
If the goal of your content is specific, then it’s pretty easy to measure whether it’s working. A white paper that requires registration should be generating some registrations (and leads). If not, either the topic is not of interest or you’re not teasing the content skillfully enough to entice readers to see more. If the goal is to get subscribers to your email newsletter, then that metric is similarly easy to read.
Other metrics are case-specific. If you’re trying to get people to sign up for your email newsletter, then subscriptions, rather than traffic, is your key indicator. If you are executing account-based marketing, then it doesn’t matter if your overall numbers are low, as long as the right people are reading the content. In a general way, no matter the metrics, the goal is to ensure that the target consumers are aware your content exists and that they’re reading it. Any metrics beyond that aren’t important enough to consider.