When I first started at Crew, our CEO Mikael told me the 3 goals he had for all our content marketing efforts:
- Build trust
- Boost awareness for Crew
- Provide extreme value
Notice anything here? There’s absolutely nothing about metrics or numbers.
As pretty much everyone before me has mentioned here, content marketing is one of those incredibly tricky marketing efforts to measure (which is either a blessing or a curse depending on your position!)
Unfortunately, way too many people (probably including your boss) expect to see some sort of direct ROI from writing a blog post or two. Or worse, expect to see leads rolling in after a month of publishing.
Content marketing is a long game. Sure, there are ways to speed up the results, but in today’s online environment, trying to ‘hack’ your content will send you running with your tail between your legs.
As advertising guru David Ogilvy told us 60+ years ago “The consumer is not a moron. She’s your wife.”
So how do you measure success while also treating your wife/audience with respect?
#1. Know Your Business Goals
When we switched domains last year, we didn’t do our research and lost 80% of our traffic in one fell swoop. Yeah. Whoops.
But did our company go broke? Not at all.
What this process highlighted was the need to create proper success metrics for our content.
As Spencer so eloquently put it, you need to understand what your business goals are prior to building a content marketing strategy. Otherwise it’s all too easy to drink the Kool Aid from the cult of page views.
So why are you producing content?
Is it to boost awareness of your brand?
Is it to educate people who already know you about new features?
Is it to sell people your service or product?
Know what you’re after before you start and what’s most important to the health of your business. And even more than that, you need to know who you’re after.
- Who is your audience?
- What interests them?
- Where do they spend their time online?
- Who do they look up to and respect?
- What cliches are they sick of hearing?
#2. Define Your Direct Success Metrics
Those 3 initial success metrics I mentioned? They still inform all the content decisions we make, but we’ve since complemented them with more direct metrics that relate to our business goals, while still staying respectful to the realities of content marketing (remember, you’re talking to your wife/partner here).
For our business, Crew, which connects freelance designers and developers with people looking for help building digital products, the success metric that makes the most sense for us is filled projects.
For your business this might be subscribers, users, qualified leads, or traffic—it all depends what’s most important to your survival here.
In terms of our business model, this means a user has seen a blog post/video/podcast, joined our platform, met a freelancer in our network, and started work. The content qualified the lead and pushed them directly into our sales flow.
Now, that’s a tall order from reading one piece of content. Which is why our monthly goals are considerably lower than, say, our sales team.
If we had more aggressive goals or focused just on direct results from our content it would cause us to lose sight of the other (and in my opinion) more important indirect metrics that will ultimately bring us 10-100X the return.
#3. Define Your Indirect Success Metrics (And How You’ll Achieve Them)
I’ll say it one more time: Content marketing is a long game.
And defining proper long-term, indirect metrics (and how you’ll measure them) is what builds a brand people respect and come back to time and time again.
How you do this is up to you, but here’s our 3 indirect success metrics again, and how we measure them.
- Trust. Measured by: Newsletter signups & repeat visitors. My inbox is a sacred place, and only brands and people I trust get access. We feel our customers are the same.
- Awareness. Measured by: Social following and syndication partners. While we like to play in our own sandbox (i.e. publish on our own blog), bigger awareness comes from outside. We track how regularly our posts are syndicated in places like The Next Web, Business Insider, Inc., Quartz and how regularly our social following is growing.
- Value. Measured by: Social engagement. Inbound requests. Love. People who love what you do tell you so. They share with friends. They send you love. And while this is more of a gut feeling, perusing responses on Twitter, Medium, and Facebook can quickly give you an idea of whether or not people love what you do.
These are the goals we know will not only help us hit our immediate business goals, but will help turn us into a brand that people will continue to use and love for years to come.
Direct metrics = short-term business goals
Indirect metrics = long-term brand building
#4. Don’t Forget to Step Back And Reassess Regularly
Combining your immediate business goals with your long-term dreams is what content marketing is all about. It’s too easy to weigh one more than the other and lose sight of the real goal here: build your business for the long run.
Take time to step back and look at what you’re doing and the results you’re seeing. A good strategy will bring you compound returns over time. And while it may take months (or more) of effort to get there, it’s worth it in the end.