How to measure content marketing success

Updated 15 Dec, 2023 | Content marketing

Marketing of any kind is all about maintaining or increasing revenue (if you’re a business). When you’re using an indirect marketing strategy, like content marketing, it can be tough to measure how effective your marketing efforts are. But you need to measure this, so you know what’s working and how you can optimise your content marketing strategy to get the best results from your content marketing efforts. So today I’m going to give you a primer on how to measure content marketing success. You can either read the text or listen to the audio provided.

What does content marketing success look like? The first step to measuring content marketing success

Person climbing an upward-trending graph to reach a trophy.

The first step in learning how to measure content marketing success is to clarify your content marketing goals. Once you know what your goals are, you can develop a picture of what successful content marketing looks like for your business. Only then can you measure how successful your efforts are.

Now, content marketing works in a variety of ways, but, essentially, it works by using valuable content to attract, inform, educate and engage a clearly defined target audience. So, to develop a good picture of what content marketing success looks like for your business, you need to develop clear goals for each way in which you want to use content marketing.

For instance, when you’re producing content designed to attract new prospective buyers, your goals might include something like this:

  • Maintain an average website visitor rate of 10, 000 unique monthly visitors from the Asia Pacific region
  • Always achieve a bounce rate of less than 40% for ‘landing content’ (the pieces of content that are designed to attract new visitors and be the first piece of content that new visitors view)

Your engagement goals might look something like this :

  • Increase the average number of Facebook post comments in the first 48 hours to 50 or more
  • Increase the average number of blog post comments to 10 or more
  • Decrease the average number of negative Twitter post comments to less than 5

Notice each of these example goals includes a specific value for the goal. This is critical. Your goals must be objectively measurable. This means your goals must be something that can be measured, you must be able to gather the data required to measure them, and there must be a threshold value that delineates success from failure.

It’s important to then tie these small goals to your broader business goals. For instance, you might be aiming to achieve an annual profit of $100, 000 this year and your content marketing efforts need to contribute to that goal. There’s no point getting more web traffic, Facebook comments, and retweets if they don’t translate into more and/or higher-value sales.

Of course, content marketing isn’t going to be the only thing that affects whether you reach your broader business goals. Every other marketing activity also affects these goals. For example, you might have the most effective content marketing strategy and execution in the world, but if your sales copy is terrible, it’s not going to translate into very many sales.

Because of this, you also need to assess how your content marketing efforts contribute to your broader business goals, while also considering the contribution of other marketing activities. And unfortunately, this is the most difficult part. It’s also the part that many businesses skip.

But it’s not impossible. As an example, if you achieve your website visitor goals, and you’re pretty sure the visitors you’re attracting are your ideal shoppers (e.g. because they’re heading to all the right places on your website and they’re adding your products to their shopping carts), but then your sales aren’t going up, you could reasonably hypothesise that there’s something going wrong during the checkout process. On the other hand, if you get those 10, 000 visitors but they never visit another page on your site, then you can reasonably conclude that you’re either attracting the wrong people or there’s something wrong with the call-to-action section of that first landing page.

Armed with a clear view of what successful content marketing looks like, you can then set about measuring how successfully your content marketing efforts contribute to your business goals.

How is content marketing contributing to broader business goals? The second step to measuring content marketing success

people throwing content marketing darts at a target

Once you’ve developed and measured your content-marketing-specific goals, you can start determining how content marketing is contributing to your broader (usually revenue) goals. While the former can be measured using averages for one or more distinct metrics (such as the average number of comments), measuring the latter often involves tracking the contributions of individual pieces or sequences and then aggregating those values.

The best way to explain that is probably to give an example.

Scenario: Let’s say you write a content series that’s designed to increase sales of your top level of hospital insurance. Your series might start with a piece of content designed to attract 17-year-olds who are just about to become ineligible to remain on their parents’ health insurance policy. The series would explain the value of hospital insurance and describe the benefits of investing in top-level hospital cover. It would probably also explain the value of purchasing cover that starts immediately after their existing cover lapses, so there’s no gap between them. The last piece of content in your series would include a link to a landing page for your top level of hospital cover that’s designed to sell that cover to 17-year-olds on family health insurance plans. That landing page would include a strong call-to-action and links to the purchase page for that product.

How you could measure the success of that content series:

People with calculators and laptops and notebooks sitting on a dashboard measuring how well a content series performed.
  1. Measure how many people visit the first piece of content. In particular, you’d look at the click-through rates, so you can gauge how enticing the content is.
  2. Look at how valuable that content is by measuring how long visitors stay on the page, how much of the content they consume, and how many people leave your site without interacting with it in any other way (that’s the content’s bounce rate).
  3. Measure how many people view and engage with each piece of content in the series, paying particular attention to whether more people leave your site after viewing any specific piece of content (so you know if anything’s underperforming).
  4. Determine how many people visit the sales landing page after viewing the last piece of content and compare that to the number of people being sent there from other sources, such as ads, (if relevant).
  5. Measure how many people visit your sales page after viewing your content series (both the whole series and parts of it) and calculate what proportion of the total visitors to your sales page viewed your content series or part of it.
  6. Determine the number of sales of that product, the value of those sales and the profit generated from those sales. Measure how many of those purchases were made by people who viewed your content series. Calculate how much profit was generated from the content series taking into account how much the content series, landing page and sales page cost to produce. And compare that to any other activities that contributed to the sales.
  7. Asses whether any profit generated from the content series met your target.
  8. You could then combine that data with similar data from all your content marketing efforts to develop an overall measure of your content marketing success.

There’s a lot involved in gathering and measuring all that data. And you’ll notice you need to decide what proportion of your business goal (let’s assume it’s a revenue goal) needs to be met through content marketing.

Thankfully, it is entirely possible to gather every piece of that data even if you’re a small business or a sole trader — assuming of course that the content series is hosted on your website. Much of the information is available through Google Analytics.

Pretty much the only information you can’t currently get through Google Analytics is where viewers spent the most amount of time looking and how far through your content they got. There are plenty of tools that provide this sort of data — Crazy Egg is one of them. Click-through rates from Google search are available from Google Search Console, and click-through rates from social media are available from the social platforms themselves.

Is your content marketing successful?

 person sitting on a chair in front of an upward-trending graph and next to a pile of money

Armed with this knowledge, you can go forth and measure your content marketing success. If you’re consistently getting good results from your content marketing activities, that’s fantastic. If not, one or more of these resources might help you out: