According to the 2012 B2B Content Marketing: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report by the Content Marketing Institute, "nine out of ten Business to Business marketers are using content marketing to grow their businesses." Ninety percent is a pretty big number to prove that content marketing is without a doubt the most important marketing strategy of the near future.
But like any other type of marketing technique, many people say they have a content marketing strategy, yet actually have a hard time defining the term in-depth. Some might kick back a definition they found on the web, like the one from the Content Marketing Institute that states,
"Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience - with the objective of driving profitable customer action."
Now ask them how they are measuring the success of their content marketing efforts, and most won't have a clear answer. This is often because they don't fully understand what they want content to actually do for them.
Decide Where You Are Going
Before you begin to think about what makes content marketing successful, you have to determine what you want your content to do for you. Are you looking for it to:
When you what you need your content to do, you can start thinking more about measuring its effectiveness.
Measuring success can run the spectrum of complexity. You can simply say you want traffic to increase 30 percent within three months of starting your company blog. There you have a measurable goal in a defined time period spelled out in easy terms. But what if you want more? Do you know what other metrics can be used to see how well your content is working for you?
In order to increase revenue, your business needs to increase conversions. But to look at conversions as sales alone is too narrow. Conversions can be sales, but they can also be defined as lead captures, Facebook likes, and much more. To increase conversions, you have to convince people to take some sort of action.
Content can be used to convince people to take an action. Trading an e-book or a white paper for contact information is an example of a successful conversion. Someone wants that information and they are willing to pay, by giving their email address, for it. This is an example of successful content marketing.
Decide how you want your content to work to increase conversions. Set measureable and realistic goals and then test to see which types of content and which landing pages produce the best results.
Search Engine Success
Everyone who has a website wants to rank well in the search engine results pages. Time and time again, Google has stated that the way to improve rankings is to simply publish high-quality content.
On their blog, Salesforce noted that blogs result in websites having 434% more indexed pages. So, companies that blog regularly have a much wider net, as far as the search engines are concerned, since each indexed page provides for one more opportunity to rank on the coveted first page.
But this isn't limited to blogs. Any type of content that readers find valuable will help increase your search engine visibility. Spend some time looking at your rankings and see how well your blog posts do compared to your home page. Look for which content gives you the best results and work to create more of it.
Content that doesn't rank well can be a useful measurement tool as well. See what's causing the poor rankings by testing that content. Make changes until you get it right and when you find what makes it a success remember that adjustment in the future.
With so many social sites, marketers can easily be overtaken by an avalanche of data from measuring likes, favorites, shares, mentions, Google +1's, etc. While overwhelming, these metrics can measure how effective your content is in the social space.
However, taking this measurement one step further can really give you insight into how well your content is performing. Instead of looking at only the numbers, look at the quality of shares you are getting. What type of people are sharing your content and with whom? And most importantly, are these people converting?
Some types of content will typically find its way to more people. List posts and infographics are generally more popular, and receive more social chatter (which translates to improved rankings via social signals) than most other types of content. However stack this against something like a white paper that may receive less social traction, but increase conversions and bring in more qualified leads. In this instance, which would you rather have?
The last metric you should consider is how much your content marketing strategy is costing you. If you're doing everything in house, take into account the time your employees or staff are spending on creating content and getting it in front of readers. If you're outsourcing your content, tally up the dollars spent to see what the real numbers are.
Success is often measured by how much more revenue you bring in as a result of content marketing, compared to how much you spend (ROI). But with a content marketing campaign, it can be difficult to draw specific conclusions or insight. This is because content marketing results in more than just direct revenue; it also builds your brand credibility, trustworthiness, and loyalty. All these things are a sort of business equity that can't directly be measured in dollars.
Seeing the end results of your content marketing campaign will take months or even years. How long depends on variables such as your industry, the amount of time and money spent on your content marketing campaign, your content marketing strategy, how well the strategy was executed, your social media presence and integration with your content strategy, and of course the quality of the content you produce.
But just because it takes time to see the end results, it doesn't mean that you shouldn't keep a vigilant eye on these metrics throughout the course of your campaign. Test the effectiveness of your content against other mediums to see which ones will help you reach your end goals. Create what works for you and fix that which isn't getting any traction.
In the years to come, content is going to continue to be at the front and center of the marketing world. Build a foundation today so you won't find yourself playing catch up tomorrow.
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