"Brands Are Measuring Their Content All Wrong." That article by Contently Founder Shane Snow got my attention.
Shane submits offline or on, publishers remain transfixed by page views and all of today's analytics tools are made to solve a different problem than the one brands face.
Is this approach a proper measure of the effectiveness of content marketing? Snow says it isn't. So what is? It's a tough question, to be sure.
Snow attempts to simplify the problem by wrestling with the challenge. He writes, "What game are brands playing as publishers? Ultimately, they're trying to build relationships." Do page views amount to relationships?
Bring on the "Attention Web"
The following comes from Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat, in a post on Time.com, "What You Think You Know About the Web is Wrong." Haile says, it's not clicks you need, it's attention. And he struts out a series of myths, including:
1. We read what we click on
No such luck, says Haile. Chartbeat's data reveals 55% (of 2 billion studied web page visitors) spent fewer than 15 seconds actively on a page. Gulp.
For a few years now, I've been telling my clients the goal of your content isn't to get people to visit your site, it's get them to subscribe to it.
So I was thrilled when I read this from Haile's article: "Research across the Chartbeat network has shown that if you can hold a visitor's attention for just three minutes they are twice as likely to return than if you only hold them for one minute. The most valuable audience is the one that comes back.
2. The more we share, the more we read
Haile drops a bomb. "Social is not the silver bullet of the Attention Web."
His company's research examined 10,000 socially-shared articles and found the relationship between the amount a piece of content is shared and the amount of attention it gets is non-existent.
Do relationships equal sales?
Contently has developed "Insights," a tool Snow claims is the first analytics package built specifically to optimize brand-reader relationships. The article explains (and shows) how the software monitors people instead of visitors, meaning it gauges the actual engagement level of the reader and how it builds relationships over time.
Jay Baer of Convince and Convert told me he loves what Contently is doing. "They're creating more detailed insights around content effectiveness," said Jay. "That style of analytics goes a long way toward optimizing content to build solid reader relationships."
Still, Baer challenges the approach, saying, "Remember the goal is not to be good at content; the goal is to be good at business because of content. Unless you are selling ads, and thus have a linear relationship between engaging content and revenue, content must be a way station along the path to some other behavior that benefits the company."
He told me the assumption that more content consumption equates to improved business metrics is a bold-and potentially expensive-leap of faith.
What could be better than page views?
Clearly David Gould, creative services director at Vertical Measures, has some ideas on the subject. In "You Are Not a Publisher: 5 Metrics Better Than Page Views," David suggests content marketers should heed the following:
- Bounce rate-"Any online conversion path begins with getting them to a second page," writes Gould.
- Exit rate-High exit rates might indicate readers didn't find what they're looking for or weren't impressed by what they found.
- Average time on page-Gould claims this is a good engagement metric and is especially useful for the sake of comparing page performance.
- Traffic sources-Knowing where your traffic is coming from can deliver insights that gauge the effectiveness of your investments in content marketing and media.
- Social reports-Gould admits there are a robust number of social metrics and they're not always simple to assess, but says they are useful for informing your content strategy.
And then there's lead generation
On the Fusion Marketing Experience blog, content marketing expert J-P De Clerck digs deep into what he deems essential measurements. He touches on consumption and sharing metrics, but goes "beyond" with a series of lead generation metrics and KPIs.
J-P writes, "In the end, content marketing is about attracting, engaging, identifying, nurturing and converting leads (and servicing them once they are customers). How many leads did you get using content marketing tactics? How many have been turned into opportunities, etc."
I was recently asked (for a roundup yet to be published) to identify the metric I believe to be most important and responded with "opt-ins," so I'm quite fond of J-P's list, which includes:
- Filled out contact forms
- Subscriptions and registrations (such as newsletter subscribers and requests for demos)
- RSS subscribers
More of the same is covered by Jasmine Henry on the Writtent blog in "9 Ways to Measure Content Marketing Success," which includes subscribers and leads generated.
Make it count
According to Kapost, only 27% of B2B marketers say they are effectively tracking content utilization metrics. In their "Make it Count: Content Marketing Analytics" presentation, they present four key areas for focusing your analytics efforts:
- Content scoring (which they say is the coolest)
Kapost claims content scoring shows which pieces of content are effective and offers an overview of their formula for calculating scores (along with a video and eBook).
The grand conclusion
"Ultimately, the answer to the question of which metric is best for tracking content marketing performance is: it depends." ~ Perry Simpson, (Direct Marketing News, June 2014)
I know, it's perfectly imperfect, this content marketing measurement thing. I thought I'd present these various points of view, so at the very least, you begin to put some thought into it and attempt to measure what matters to you.
A nice conclusion, comes from the oft-quoted Joe Chernov of HubSpot...
"Content should play a variety of roles in your inbound marketing. It should do everything from getting people talking, to generating quality leads, to accelerating close rates. All metrics matter. There's no one magic metric."
Still with me? Clearly, you like this topic. You'll find some nice nuggets in this infographic from Pardot.