Blog post

How to measure the success of your content marketing  

Date of post

27 October 2023

Read time

6 mins
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Measuring the outcome of your content marketing efforts is far from straightforward, but it’s critical if you want to convince the people around you that it’s worth doing (particularly those holding the purse strings!).

In this blog, we look at how to measure your success. Before going on, let’s clarify what content marketing means with a handy definition from HubSpot

“Content marketing is a type of marketing where you create and share online content […] to spread awareness about what you do and create interest in working with or purchasing from your company.”

It’s about using content to drive people towards an action – even if that ‘action’ is simply being aware of something. Content includes blogs and articles, social posts, videography, and podcasts.    

Aligning your goals with key metrics 

Before you can start measuring your performance, you must return to the goals you set out initially – the reasons why you ran the campaign in the first place. 

Content marketing goals are varied, but here are a few of the most popular. 

Revenue Increasing the bottom line with additional visits, downloads, and purchases. 
LeadsFilling the hopper with qualified leads so the sales team can take over and do its thing. 
Brand awarenessIncreasing brand awareness and educating your market.
EngagementBuilding a relationship with your audience to secure their interest in your product/service/brand. 

The key to successfully measuring the results of your content marketing campaign is to pick metrics that correlate with your goals, i.e., the number of visitors to a service page and revenue growth. 

Content marketing KPIs 

Once you’re clear on what you set out to achieve with your content, you can pick the right metrics to track and measure its performance. 

In this section, we’ll look at some of the most used key performance indicators (KPIs) for content marketing. 

  1. Website/page visitors 

It’s relatively easy to track page visitors using tools like Google Analytics, which is useful for understanding how many people have seen your blog. In isolation, page visits don’t mean much, but combined with other metrics, it can be helpful to build up a holistic picture of visitor behaviour. 

  1. Time on page/ scroll depth

Time spent on the page and scroll depth are good indications of engagement. Time on page is easy to track in Google Analytics, while scroll depth might take a little longer to figure out using Google Tag Manager. 

These metrics are not foolproof (none of them are), but generally, the longer a visitor spends on the page, the more likely they are engaged in your article. This should give you an idea about the type of content resonating with your audience. 

  1. Shares and backlinks

High-performing content is more likely to be shared and linked back to, so it makes sense to track these two metrics. It’s an excellent way to assess how well your content has gone down with your audience. 

You can use tools like Ahrefs to find the sites linking to your article and for social shares, something like Shared Count or Shareaholic.     

  1. Traffic sources 

Understanding how a person found your content is as important as whether they engaged with it. Did they arrive at the page directly, via organic search, or a paid ad? You’ll find this information in Google Analytics and can use it to inform the distribution tactics of future campaigns. 

  1. Keyword rankings 

This may not seem like an obvious metric, but it’s an integral part of the puzzle. You can use this information to drill down into how your users talk about the topics you’re interested in and how well your content matches their needs. 

Combine Google Search Console with a tool like SEMRush or Ahrefs to get a fuller picture. 

  1. Click-through rates (CTR) 

If you get plenty of impressions, but your click-through rates are low, something isn’t quite right. Whether it’s a social post or an organic listing on Google’s results pages, it could indicate that your content (or the way it’s promoted) is wide of the mark. 

In this case, you’ll need to tweak your content/meta description and title accordingly. 

  1. Bounce rate 

I’ve included bounce rate in this list of KPIs because it’s often misunderstood. Bounce rate refers to the percentage of visitors who leave your site after viewing only one page. This can indicate poor-quality content, but it could just mean you’ve sufficiently answered the reader’s question.

If you notice a high bounce rate, ensure your article has correctly positioned CTAs (call-to-actions) that give your users a place to go once they’ve finished reading it. 

KPIs by content type 

Content includes everything from the written word to audio and video; each medium requires a different approach. To accurately track and measure your performance, you must find the right KPIs to match the medium and channel.

Remember that your chosen KPIs should show your progress toward meeting your goals. 

To start you off, we’ve broken down the most popular KPIs by content type. 

A table showing content marketing KPIs broken down by content type

What is content marketing ROI? 

Content marketing ROI (return on investment) determines how much you’ve earned in return for the amount you’ve spent. It’s usually expressed as a percentage. 

The simplest way to calculate content marketing ROI is using this formula: 

ROI = Net Profit from Content Marketing / Cost of Content Marketing x 100 

Let’s imagine you made £8,000 net profit from your campaign and spent £2,000 – here’s how that would look:

8000 (net profit)  / 2000 (investment) x 100 = 400%

In this case, your return on investment would be 400%. Or expressed another way, for every £1 spent, you earned £4 in return.

Determining the revenue directly attributable to your content marketing efforts is key to working out ROI. That’s why it’s critical to decide on an attribution model upfront.

An attribution model is a marketing and analytics tool that determines which parts of a customer’s journey get credit for things like sales and other vital actions.

How to plug the gaps in attribution

There are some things that you won’t be able to measure directly. There isn’t always going to be a direct link between your chosen KPIs and your content marketing goals. 

For example, tracking the path that connects content with increased brand awareness is hard. But on the flip side, it’s relatively easy to prove how much money you’ve earned from a ‘buy now’ link on a social post.

In his blog on content marketing measurement, Ben Jacobson from Semrush introduces the idea of ‘proxy metrics’. These metrics offer a way to measure and track performance, but they are not conclusive.

For example, an increase in organic traffic to your website from branded search terms is a good indicator that your content marketing is doing its job of raising brand awareness.

It doesn’t provide definitive proof, but it’s one of many proxy indicators you can use to build up a bigger picture. 

The key takeaway on content marketing KPIs  

Measuring the outcome of your content marketing efforts can be challenging, but it’s essential if you want to secure future investment. 

Start by defining what you set out to achieve with your campaign, then work backwards, using key performance indicators to track your progress towards meeting these goals.

There won’t always be a direct link between outcome and output, but you can get around this using proxy metrics. 

Performance measurement isn’t straightforward, but it is possible! 

Post author

Mel left university with a first-class degree in English Language and Linguistics and after more than ten years as a marketing manager working for organisations across various industries, she left employment behind and struck out on her own as a freelance writer.

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