Tracking your content marketing performance isn’t as easy as simply measuring your ROI.
By its very nature, content marketing demands time, effort and consistency. This makes performance analysis a complicated and often overlooked process.
That needs to end today…
..because the difference between a good content marketer and a great content marketer is knowing what to track and then how to use this information to optimise your efforts.
As a frequent and experienced blogger, I have tried tracking (what feels like) a thousand different metrics to get a better understand of my performance. But, after years of measuring (near enough) every stat on the web, I’ve boiled my content marketing metrics down to the handful on this list.
Using the information from these metrics, I understand more about my audience, can predict results from almost every piece of content and most importantly, constantly up my game (and my content marketing return).
If you’re creating and publishing content (btw: every business should be doing this anyway!) prepare yourself for a ton of super-valuable tips, tricks, plugins and little-known-metrics. Let’s do this:
OK, I know this is really obvious and most of you are already tracking your website traffic…
…but I’m (almost) certain that most of you aren’t measuring how your content marketing is affecting traffic.
There are several ways to do this, but before we get into that, anybody with a website must have Google Analytics installed. It’s FREE, provides an incredible amount of invaluable information and is just about the most powerful website analysis tool available.
If you haven’t already, make sure you have Google Analytics installed!
When you have GA set-up and it’s tracking your web traffic, you should measure and record the following statistics once per month (I always track ours on the 1st day of the month):
- Total Traffic (segmented): Track the total amount of traffic your website is receiving every month. If you’re running offers or promotions (that don’t involve content), segment your traffic by landing page URL. This can be done in BEHAVIOUR > SITE CONTENT > LANDING PAGES section of Google Analytics. Simply exclude (or include) all your offers and subtract this from your total traffic score for the month.
- Users by time of day: It’s crucial that you know when the optimum time to publish content is. Vary your publishing time, testing different days and times, until you have enough data to fully understand your audience’s preference. Keep a track on the most popular times and days every month. Why are these times most popular? This data can be found on GA’s ‘Home’ page.
- Returning Traffic: A successful content marketer is able to generate ‘Returning Visitors’. You must track and measure this every month. Your website (and traffic) will grow much faster if you’re able to get visitors to return regularly. If this stat is not increasing month on month, you need to perform a thorough audit of your content. This stat can be found in AUDIENCE > OVERVIEW.
- Traffic Source Breakdown (and analysis): In ACQUISITION > OVERVIEW, you’ll find a breakdown of all your traffic sources. Adjust the date range to the previous month and analyse the best performing sources, why have they performed best? How can you improve the weaker sources? Record, track and create strategies for each of the 6 sources: Organic, Direct, Social, Referral, Email, Other.
- Best performing content (for traffic): The final metric I track every month is the best performing piece of content. I do this by looking at BEHAVIOUR > OVERVIEW. This shows a ranked list of the most viewed pages. I analyse the top content’s traffic sources and use this to help my content distribution and channel targeting strategy.
#2: User Behaviour
When you have a solid understanding of your traffic scores, it’s time to dig a little deeper into performance and see how it relates to your audience.
User behaviour is the best way of investigating what your audience truly think of your content. It will give you a clear picture of the success of your content, your key distribution channels and your visitor’s behaviour after reading your content.
User behaviour is absolutely crucial. As a content marketer I would much rather have 50 of my target readers visiting my site, than 5,000 who aren’t. Behavioural scores is the perfect method of uncovering this and optimising these results for future performance.
Let’s take a look at the key user behaviour metrics you should be measuring every month:
- Bounce Rate: Tracking bounce rate will show you the success of your content at convincing your visitors to take further action. If you are writing blogs without encouraging readers to take action (whether that’s read something else, visit another page, view a product) you will suffer from high bounce rate. As a content marketer you must aim to keep visitors on your website for as long as possible (further exposing them to your brand). You find your Bounce Rate at BEHAVIOUR > OVERVIEW
- Time on Page: Another stat found in BEHAVIOUR > OVERVIEW, avg. time on page shows you how long visitors are spending on your content. It’s crucial that you aim to drive this number up every month with high quality content. The longer your audience spend on your content pages, the more it indicates success.
- Bounce Rate and Avg. Time on Page (segmented by source): Perform both metrics above for each traffic source. This will give you an understanding of where you’re hitting the highest percentage of target visitors. This can be found in ACQUISITION > OVERVIEW
- Behaviour Flow Analysis: Whilst this metric is difficult to record, I always keep a close eye on it. The behaviour flow shows you the movements of your audience through your content. This can be used to understand if you’re driving your visitors in your desired direction. Find it in BEHAVIOUR > BEHAVIOUR FLOW
#3: Social Performance
Content shouldn’t just be hosted on your website. Distributing, publishing and marketing on your social networks is a fundamental process.
Remember, a simple post on Facebook is content marketing, as is a curated video on Instagram. These might be much quicker to create than a video or long-form blog post, but their performance is still a crucial KPI that you must be tracking.
Social performance directly correlates with content marketing success. Make sure you’re tracking it!
These are the key metrics I measure every month:
- Followers (segmented): The quality of your content has a massive effect on your social followers. I record Einstein Marketer’s follower numbers every month (for each individual platform) to understand where and why our content is performing best.
- Engagement rate (segmented): Engagement is a clear indication of content success. Total up your comments, shares and likes (on each platform) and divide this by your total number of followers. E.g. if my post receives 100 likes, 10 comments and 20 shares, my total engagement for this post is 130. If my follower number is 1300, my engagement rate is 10%. Measure this for each platform.
- Native Social Shares (segmented): All our (natively hosted) blog posts and podcasts have share buttons. I total these up each month to track performance. Native social shares are crucial for social proof, always aim to beat your previous month!
#4: External Comparison
Understanding your place in the wider (digital) world is a key trackable metric (and probably my favourite data to watch).
In the past I have used a variety of different tracking sources, but I’ve streamlined this process down to the two that I deem most valuable.
I still use the other tools but instead of tracking our performance, I use them for competitor analysis (I will have to make a completely separate post about these tools!).
These are the two metrics that I track every month:
- Alexa Rank: Alexa is an Amazon company that ranks every website on the internet by its traffic score. The highest scoring website (Google) is at number 1, then all other websites are ranked in descending order. Whilst this stat is important to record, don’t just chase a high Alexa rank. Your audience come first, so make sure your User Behaviour metrics do not drop as you ascend the rankings.
- Domain Authority: This is a measurement of how high your website is likely to rank on search engines. Websites are ranked from 0-100, with 100 being the highest (btw, it’s almost impossible to hit a perfect 100). This is a really important monthly metric to track, so make sure you’re checking it! If you’d like to learn more about domain authority, check out our guide to improving your DA.
#5: Organic/Search Performance
Most people use search engines to find answers, solve problems and perform product research, this is why organic/search performance is so important.
Traffic from search engines is (usually) highly qualified, interested in your content and always provides good behavioural metrics. And it’s FREE.
My aim is always to increase organic traffic month on month and so far on the Einstein Marketer website, I have a perfect record (let’s hope this doesn’t jinx us!).
Most websites have to increase marketing spend in order to drive more traffic, but if you’re increasing organic traffic every month, you are receiving all the same benefits without having to spend a penny!
If you’d like to learn more about my SEO fundamentals check out How to Find Keywords that Generate More Organic Traffic or How I Optimise Every Page for Search.
These are the key organic/search performance metrics that I record and aim to beat every month:
- Total organic traffic: Starting with the most obvious metric, always track and record your total organic traffic. This can be found in Google Analytics, ACQUISITION > OVERVIEW.
- Total impressions and Average CTR: A key tool that will massively help your search engine performance is Google’s Search Console. Using this FREE tool, you are able to track how many people saw your results in their search enquiries and the average CTR of each enquiry. If you are seeing a low CTR, this guide to generating more organic traffic will help!
- Most clicked pages from organic: I also like to keep a track on the best performing pages on Google. These posts are almost always older pieces of content. When I notice that one is losing search traffic, I update the article. This tells Google that the article is still relevant and can help boost your organic scores. You can also find this metric in Google’s Search Console.
Tracking, recording and analysing your content marketing performance is the first step to optimising your strategy and improving your return.
Just as it is vital that you understand where you’re weakest and improving upon it, it’s also crucial that you know what you’re doing right and why it’s happening.
The more you know about your audience, the better you can serve them. Content marketing is a relationship, use the data to understand your audience’s needs.
The metrics in this article do not lie. Always aim to beat your previous month.