Posted: Monday 9th November 2020 in Content and Data.

“Great… but how many sales did it generate?” 

I slide further down my chair, hands desperately clutching at my head to try and tear out the few hairs remaining up there. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard this question about a blog post or piece of content. 

As a content marketer, one of my pet hates is unrealistic expectations – and it all stems from improper reporting (or worse, no reporting at all). 

Today I’m going to share the biggest mistake marketers make when it comes to measuring the impact of content… and how you can effectively report on yours. 

Not all content is created equal 

There’s no denying that content is an essential part of any online business; online consumers read as many as 13 pieces of content before they purchase. However, there can be a misconception that every content asset has a common goal – to drive sales. This is a key mistake, because that’s rarely the case. 

Think about it: a blog post is completely different to a product page description. And both are a world away from a piece of video content. So why would we expect each of these three types of content to produce the same results? 

Instead, to understand how successful your content is, you need to set clear and realistic goals for each piece. 

Goals and KPIs: what’s the point of the content? 

Broadly speaking, the goals of any piece of content will fall into one (or, on some occasions, more) stages of the buyer funnel: 

  • Awareness: the consumer first becomes aware of your business, website or products
     
  • Consideration: the consumer is in the decision-making process ahead of purchase 

  • Conversion: the consumer converts by making a purchase (or completing a micro-conversion such as a newsletter signup) 

  • Loyalty/advocacy: the consumer returns and becomes a repeat customer or brand advocate

The content you create to target consumers at each of these stages will have different goals – just as the consumer has a different goal at each stage. 

Awareness stage goals are about getting your content in front of the right people, so the goals here should be targeted towards visibility. 

For consideration, the consumer is looking for help making a decision. Your goals should be aimed towards actions that move your user further down the funnel towards purchase. 

The conversion stage is self-explanatory: the content goal here is to make the user take action, whether that’s adding a product to the basket and checking out, or driving them to sign up for an email newsletter or software demo. 

Loyalty or advocacy content should aim to engage (and re-engage) existing users or customers. 

Without understanding the goals of your content, there’s absolutely no way you can report on it effectively – and you’ll likely end up setting unrealistic expectations with clients or stakeholders. 

Metrics: how can you measure the content’s performance? 

Because the goals are different at each stage of the buying funnel, so too are the metrics you’ll need to look at to report effectively. 

Awareness content metrics 

At the awareness stage, it’s all about getting eyeballs on your content, so look to measure: 

  • Organic search rankings 
  • Impressions 
  • Click-through rate 
  • Video views 
  • Organic social reach 

Consideration content metrics 

Consideration content is designed to help your target customer make a decision, with the intention of your content being to push them further down the funnel into the conversion stage. Here are some metrics to track for consideration content: 

  • Page views (particularly for buying guide-style content) 
  • Product page views or clicks through to product pages 
  • Bounce rate 
  • Time on page 

Conversion content metrics 

At the conversion stage, your content has one goal: to drive your user to take the desired action. For ecommerce and retail sites, that usually means you’ll report on these metrics: 

  • Sales 
  • Revenue 
  • Return on investment (ROI) 
  • Conversion rate 
  • Average order value 

For information sites and B2B businesses, there may also be secondary metrics and micro-conversions you can measure, such as: 

  • File downloads
  • Email signups 
  • Leads 
  • Product demo signups  

Loyalty content metrics 

The purpose of loyalty content is to engage and delight people who’ve already become customers. These are brand advocates who ideally will be repeat customers and will help to amplify your message online by sharing your content with their own auidences. 

Measure the following to understand how your loyalty content performs: 

  • Social shares of your content 
  • Returning users 
  • Reviews 
  • Comments 
  • Repeat purchases 
  • External links/backlinks to your site 
  • Referrals 

But… what about sales? 

All right, I get it. In marketing, you usually have to prove some kind of revenue impact or return on investment. 

The difficulty here is that a typical buyer journey will often include various touchpoints and channels, so it can be hard to attribute a single piece of content to a sale or conversion – especially when Google Analytics reports on a last-click attribution model by default. 

That means you can only view the impact of content in relation to sales provided the user has consumed that content in the session where the conversion was made. What if they read a blog post days beforehand to influence their decision? What about an awareness campaign that attracted the customer to your site in the first place? 

By looking at the Model Comparison Tool report in Google Analytics (Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions > Model Comparison Tool), you can view different attribution models such as first-click, linear and time-decay. Each of these provide a more rounded view of how users behave on your site over time, allowing you to understand channel performance and how your campaigns influence user behaviour. 

We’ve also been able to generate insightful reports for our clients by using segments to separate users who view a particular content piece or type (a buying guide, for example) in their conversion journey, versus those that don’t. 

Anecdotally, this has allowed us to show the value of various pieces of content, by proving in some cases that those users who view the content are more likely to buy and spend more on average. 

Reporting is key 

I’ve always been a words man – I like writing and I love getting my clients’ messages across. But throughout my content marketing career I’ve come to learn and appreciate the importance of the numbers that the words generate – because after all, without proper content reporting, how would we know what content works and what doesn’t? 

If you’d like more advice on getting the most value from your content, get in touch with us today at [email protected]