Is Your Content Marketing Working?

September 3, 2013 Shanna Mallon

You know you should be writing content regularly, but do you know why? What’s the point of content marketing? Where’s the value? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, it’s time to regroup—because, listen, if your content marketing isn’t delivering results, it’s nothing but a waste of time. What you need is a way to determine if it’s working. You need a way to quantify results.

With that in mind, here are some specific ideas to help you measure your content marketing efforts!

1. Set Specific Goals

If you don’t know what you’re working towards, you won’t know when you reach it. Goals are absolute musts, in content marketing as in any other aspect of business. So before you launch a content marketing campaign, ask yourself why you’re doing it. Here are some potential goals you might have:

  • Increase Sales: Every business wants to boost revenue, and many sub-goals work towards this ultimate one. From building traffic and generating leads to increasing conversions, consider what you most want to achieve with your content.
  • Cut Costs: Are you looking for ways to reduce spending as a company? You might use content marketing to cut the costs of customer service personnel, reduce costs per lead, etc.
  • Improve the Customer Experience: Added value comes through quality content. If you want your content to improve the customer experience, focus on answering questions, providing helpful information, and creating other types of content that will retain your audience for the long haul.

Does one or more of these goals ring true for you, or are you content marketing for other reasons? Nail down, as specifically as possible, what you want from your content efforts, and don’t move forward with anything else until you do.

2. Make a Plan

You know what they say: “Failure to plan is a plan to fail.” Rather than writing some articles and then just hoping for results to come, make a specific plan. Look at the top two or three goals you outlined in Step 1, make them incredibly specific, and then set actionable steps underneath each one. Here are a few examples of how this might look:

Goal: Generate New Leads

Potential Actions to Take: Figure out what type of content draws the most traffic. Plan out topics and formats for that type of content over a specific period of time (i.e., a month, 90 days). Put that plan into place.

Goal: Improve the Customer Experience

Potential Actions to Take: Research what your customers need. Run surveys or focus groups to find out what sort of content they want to see. Use this research to lay out a framework of content over a period of time (i.e., a month, 90 days). Put that plan into place.

Tips for Planning

Whatever your goals, here are some general tips to keep in mind:

  • Be strategic: Break down big goals into smaller goals. Working top-down helps you ensure all your goals are strategically aligned with your ultimate plan.
  • The more specific, the better: Setting the goal to “write more often” is much less helpful than “publish 300-word blog posts twice a week.” When you are more specific, you make it harder to bend the rules, and you set yourself up to see positive results.
  • Deadlines are your friends: The best goals include timelines because timelines keep you accountable. When your goal includes “finish by Friday,” it’s much harder to flake out.

3. Track Results

The third and final step towards knowing if your content marketing is working is tracking results. Once you’re generating content and publishing it, how do you know if it’s working?

What to Measure

Your goals determine what results are most vital to measure. Usually, these results belong to one or more of the following categories:

People and Exposure: Who’s reading your content, and how your numbers are changing

  • How many unique visitors per month?
  • From where are your visitors coming?
  • How many followers on social media networks

Engagement and Actions: What readers are doing with your content and how that’s changing

  • How long do visitors spend on your site?
  • What content is viewed most often?
  • What kind of responses are you getting? How often?
  • How often do users share your content on social media?
  • How deep do visitors dig into your content? Do they follow related links?

Costs and Revenue: What you’re spending and making, comparing one time period to another

  • What are you investing (time, money, etc.) in creating content?
  • What is your conversion rate?
  • What new revenue is resulting from your content?
  • How many purchases are coming from your content?
  • What are your revenues per reader?

How to Measure

To measure the results of your marketing plan, you have to set up metrics to quantify what happens. Start with Google Analytics, which provides insight into website visitors, engagement, and conversions.

Other measurement tools include Hootsuite (social media metrics), Alterian (customer sentiment measurements), Uberflip (content marketing metrics), Kampyle and ClickTools (surveys). If you use a tool like MailChimp to run your email newsletter, you gain free analytics with it, as well.

Monitor and Adjust

The last step in measuring your content marketing efforts is regularly adjusting based on what you find. Are your metrics revealing one type of content is more successful than others? Focus on that kind of content. Did you make a change to your email newsletter campaign and lose 10% of subscribers? Go back to the content that was working. As you continue adjusting content based on results, you will improve your results over time.

About the Author

Shanna Mallon is a writer for Straight North, a Chicago Web design firm providing specialized SEO, Web development, and other online marketing services. Follow Straight North on Twitter and Facebook.

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