By Robert Pease, Pipeline Performance Lead for Heinz Marketing

Can you measure the ROI of content marketing? How much investment is required to see customer conversions that can be attributed directly to my content?

As I covered previously in the Case for Content Marketing, investing in content marketing is a core component of a modern marketing plan and if you are not doing it, you are behind…or maybe missing out on a competitive advantage.

Using content to reach your target prospects on their terms and in a format they choose to consume will have direct and meaningful impact on your sales pipeline and business success.

So, how do I measure it? How do I know when it is working?

Think of content as part of upper funnel activities designed to reach and engage your target audience with the goal of getting them to your website.  Content has a role throughout the funnel but for the purpose of this post, let’s just focus on upper funnel activity.

In many ways you can consider it a way to proactively reach and qualify those “in” your target audience who are interested in (or have) the problem you solve and how you deliver the desired outcome they are seeking.

There are also broader awareness and brand building benefits to gain from content marketing but those are harder to quantify so let’s focus on measuring and tracking engagement as a way to understand how our content is working.

To do this, make Google Analytics your friend and understand the difference between an “anonymous visitor” and a “known prospect.”

An anonymous visitor is just that – not known to you although you can see where they came from, what kind of device they are using, etc. Your goal is to convert an anonymous visitor into a known prospect who you can further qualify, score and even enhance with data for better segmentation, nurture, and outreach.

Now, on to Google Analytics. Make visiting the following reports part of your daily schedule:

  • Behavior>Site Content>All Pages – overall breakdown of pages on the site ranked by traffic.
  • Behavior>Site Content>Landing Pages – all site traffic detailed by what page they arrived at first.
  • Acquisition>All Traffic>Referrals – this is a place to see where non-hosted content fits into driving traffic to the site. It could be from a contributed article in another publication or via another mechanism.
  • Conversion>Goals – if the company is tracking conversions via Google, this is where you will see conversion performance of those tracked pages (i.e., form completes)

When you spend time in Google Analytics in these views, be sure to focus on the following:

  1. New Users – you want this to be growing + a high percentage of overall Sessions – this is the % of New Sessions. To me, this is an indication of net new traffic.
  2. Bounce Rate – You want this to be low and it is an indication of initial expectations and relevance (i.e., did I click on something that delivered its promise or am I in the wrong place?)
  3. Pages/Session – Another engagement metric: the average number of additional pages viewed by traffic that entered via that page (i.e., you clicked to go elsewhere/deeper on the site)
  4. Average Session Duration – the amount of time spent on site generally parallels pages although a meaty page can hold a visitor so pages/session and session duration don’t always track together.

Again, your goal is to take these anonymous visitors coming from your content (either 3rd party or self hosted) and convert them to a known prospect through a call to action on the page with the content, highlighted offer on the same page, or via an ad retargeting program.

Retargeting is a hugely effective way to provide an “in context” reminder to someone about you even if they left your site and did not convert to a known prospect. Those who know me know I refer to retargeting as a “back stop” designed to give you another chance or two to convert a prospect once you have attracted their attention.

Good, engaging content is doing its job when it gets into the consumption pattern of the target audience, gets them to the website, and then keeps them there long enough for a compelling offer or call to action to convert them from an anonymous visitor to a known prospect via a form completion.

When you see the traffic + engagement stats + conversion activity happening, then you know your content marketing is working. How long will it take? Well, mostly that all depends on when you started. If your content speaks to your prospect’s needs in their language (good) vs. talks about your product/service in your words (bad) and if you are successfully getting it into the daily/weekly consumption patterns of those prospects then you can expect to see positive results.

To learn more about improving your content marketing efforts, check out our upcoming Modern Marketer’s Workshop on how to create content that converts. Click here to learn more and get signed up!