It is not enough to create, publish, and share content: if we want to build our brand and site on a solid foundation, aiming for established and lasting success without relying solely on luck, we need to work with strategy and awareness. That is, it is necessary to develop a content marketing strategy that transcends randomness and is rooted in a scientific approach, starting with adopting the right KPIs to turn insights into informed action and every effort into verifiable added value. In other words, in order to achieve the desired goals, we certainly cannot just launch a campaign and cross our fingers, because part of the work is also related to the initial strategy, to the prior analysis of the types of content that will work for us and for customers, and, no less important, to the subsequent monitoring of results by measuring ROI and the effects that the work brings in concrete terms. Only in this way, in fact, can we improve the strategy, studying the mistakes made and finding the solution to optimize the efforts.
KPIs in content marketing
In recent years, content marketing has established itself as one of the fundamental pillars for building a solid and engaging online presence. For it to be effective, however, it must be feasible and measurable: as we said, it is not enough to publish content on a regular basis, but rather to plan a strategy that determines the type of content to be produced and the way and timing in which we will decline and promote it.
Then there is another aspect: how do we know if this content strategy is really working? This is where the measurement of efforts through key performance indicators or KPIs comes into play, special metrics that give us a snapshot of the effectiveness of our campaigns and also allow us to optimize future actions in order to achieve our goals with greater precision.
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In general, a KPI is a quantifiable metric used to evaluate the success of any campaign against its set goals. There is no definitive, static list, because the identification and use of such indicators vary depending on the specific goals: they may be related to sales, user engagement, lead generation or brand awareness, and as we know there are also some KPIs for SEO.
Identifying the most relevant KPIs for our purposes is a crucial step, because it allows us to focus on what really matters for our business. In relation to content, these metrics often include goals for increasing brand awareness, engaging with customers or potential customers, improving newsletter open rates or increasing visits to a website.
Why it is important to define content marketing goals
In short: defining clear content marketing goals is a crucial step in overall content strategy, because without them we would be navigating by sight and all our efforts may lack consistency, direction and effectiveness.
According to marketing and business practices, goals should be formulated to be clear, quantifiable and aligned with business needs, following the SMART principle that ensures their specificity, measurability, feasibility, relevance and temporality.
More precisely, SMART is an acronym in which each letter identifies an attribute that should characterize a well-formulated business objective, and is a particularly useful concept in the context of content marketing to ensure that any effort is direct and measurable. The meaning of SMART is:
- Specific – The goal should be clear and precise. For example, instead of saying “we want more site traffic,” a specific goal would be “increase site traffic by 20 percent in the next six months.”
- Measurable – It must be possible to quantify the goal so that progress can be tracked. If the goal is to increase engagement, we should be able to measure this increase through metrics such as the number of shares or comments.
- Achievable – The goal should be realistic and attainable with the resources and time available. A goal that is too ambitious may be demotivating, while one that is too easy may be uninspiring.
- Relevant – The goal must be meaningful to the business and aligned with the broader goals of the organization. If the goal does not support the company’s overall strategy, it may not be worth pursuing.
- Time-bound – The goal must have a clear deadline, which creates a sense of urgency and allows for appropriate planning. For example, “increase leads generated from blog content by 30 percent by the end of the first quarter.”
For content marketing, KPIs are the tools that allow us to track the path to these goals, because they provide concrete data that show us how close we are to achieving these goals. They also allow us to assess the effectiveness of our content, providing a clear view of how audiences interact with what we produce, and this feedback is useful for us to refine our strategy, focusing our efforts on the types of content that generate the best results.
Again, KPIs help us demonstrate the value of content marketing within the organization, showing the return on investment and helping us gain the support we need for future initiatives. Finally, they ensure that our content marketing activities are always aligned with broader business goals, ensuring that each piece of content contributes meaningfully to the company’s growth and success.
How to set content marketing goals
Turning to the practical aspects, setting content marketing goals first requires a strategic approach that considers both the company’s overall vision and the specific dynamics of the niche market and target audience.
Trying to outline a step-by-step guide to setting effective content marketing goals, we have the following steps:
- Current Situation Analysis. Before setting new goals, it is important to assess where our company currently stands in terms of content marketing. This includes an analysis of past performance, an assessment of available resources, and an understanding of the challenges and opportunities in the marketplace.
- Alignment with business goals. Content marketing objectives should support the company’s broader goals. Whether it is to increase brand awareness, generate leads, or drive sales, each content marketing objective should contribute directly to the organization’s strategic goals.
- Defining target audiences. Understanding who our audience is and what they are looking for is critical to creating content that resonates and generates engagement. Defining buyer personas, or semi-fictional representations of the ideal customer, can help tailor content marketing efforts.
- Using the SMART principle. As discussed earlier, goals should be SMART to have clear, trackable goals that can be evaluated over time.
- Prioritization of goals. It is likely to have multiple goals to achieve, but it is important to set a priority line based on the impact they will have and the resources we have available, focusing on the goals that offer the best return on investment and are most aligned with business objectives.
- Developing a strategic roadmap. Once the goals have been defined, it is appropriate to create a roadmap that outlines how we intend to achieve them. This could include plans for content creation, editorial calendars, distribution and promotion strategies, and metrics for tracking progress.
- Monitoring and Adaptation. With goals in place, it is essential to constantly monitor progress through KPIs and adjust strategy accordingly. The world of content marketing is dynamic, and what works today may not work tomorrow. Being flexible and ready to optimize your strategy based on your results is crucial for long-term success.
What are content marketing KPIs: a guide to indicators to consider
KPIs help us understand the effectiveness of the content we produce, and as we said, it is not possible to draw up a standard, definitive list of indicators to monitor, because each site (and even each campaign) may require a customized set of KPIs based on its specific goals and target audience.
Regardless, there are nonetheless some content marketing KPIs that would be worth monitoring at all times, useful for making informed decisions and guiding our business toward success-remembering that measuring and analyzing these indicators is not an activity to be done sporadically, but an ongoing process that allows us to refine our strategies and ensure that our work efforts are paying off.
We talk, in particular, about:
- Web Site Traffic. One of the main goals of content marketing is to increase traffic to our site. By monitoring the number of unique visitors and page views, we can assess the attractiveness of our content.
- Engagement. User interaction with our content is critical. Comments, shares and time spent on the page tell us how engaged our audience is.
- Conversion Rate. This KPI measures the percentage of visitors who take a desired action, such as signing up for a newsletter or making a purchase, after interacting with our content.
- Lead Generated. In B2B in particular, content marketing aims to generate qualified leads. Tracking how many leads have been acquired through content allows us to assess their effectiveness in nurturing the sales funnel.
- SEO Ranking. The position of our content in search results is a key indicator of its visibility. Good ranking means more organic traffic and recognition of our site’s authority.
Content Marketing ROI. Calculating the return on investment helps us understand whether the benefits obtained from content exceed the costs incurred to produce it.
KPIs and funnels: how to use indicators for success at each stage
There is another step we can take, working on the relationship between content marketing KPIs and the marketing funnel, which are (should be) inherently connected and interdependent.
The marketing funnel, or sales funnel, is a model that describes the path a potential customer follows from first awareness of a product or service to purchase and beyond; this path is typically divided into several stages, which may vary slightly depending on the specific model, but commonly include awareness (awareness), consideration (consideration), decision (decision) and action (action).
We can then set up appropriate KPI metrics to assess the effectiveness of the content at each stage of this funnel, because each level requires a different type of content designed to guide the potential customer to the next stage, and so the KPIs must be aligned with the specific objectives of each stage of the funnel.
What we need to remember, fundamentally, is that every piece of content should be created to meet a user’s intentions: if we are able to identify where in the funnel we are working with, we will be able to choose metrics to actually define the success of that content.
What are the content marketing KPIs for each stage of the funnel
To help us in identifying the main content KPIs to be analyzed for the main marketing funnel stages is an article by Brie E. Anderson on Search Engine Journal, which focuses in a particular way on the key performance indicators to be evaluated in relation to awareness, content engagement, conversion and loyalty.
- The awareness stage
The content in the awareness phase is focused “on grabbing the attention of those who have a problem you can solve,” the author says.
With this in mind, these are the main Kpis to be evaluated and measured:
- Impressions of organic search
SEO can meet the funnel awareness part by providing data on impressions on the search engine results pages (SERP).
When the right page of our site appears in the search results, users realize that our company offers a solution to their problem: the more often we present ourselves, the greater the chances of attracting their interest.
We can measure organic search impressions for our content using Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, as well as of course SEO suites like SEOZoom for broader analyses.
- Share of Voice
The share of voice (Sov) is a percentage metric that measures “the advertising weight” of a brand, its visibility value compared to competitors, calculating the frequency with which the brand name is displayed in the SERP compared to the total number of searches for the selected keywords.
For example, Anderson explains, if we appear 200 times out of 1000 keywords you search, our Sov would be 20%.
This metric gives us good guidance on whether or not our content is displayed for content searches that we have created, and we can monitor Sov in some search platforms.
- New users
New users are those who have never been on the site before; therefore, they are an excellent indicator of how many people have found us through a specific content.
We can monitor new users with Google Analytics, remembering to review this metric after setting the display “Landing Page”.
- The engagement stage
The funnel engagement phase is extremely important, as it shows that people really care about our business and what we do and propose; it is also a step forward in convincing users to do business with us.
At this level, we must evaluate the following KPIs:
The clicks indicate that at least the title of the content was engaging, otherwise people would not have chosen to click on the result that appeared to them.
We can measure clicks from the SERP, clicks from social media posts to our site, or any other click that brings people to the content we have posted.
Clicks can also be monitored as “sessions” on the site using Google Analytics, trying to analyze the traffic that has arrived through a specific content; in addition, they can also be viewed on specific social platforms, on Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools etc.
- Bounce rate
Once users are on the site, the first sign of their engagement is whether they stay on our pages and do not bounce back.
A bounce essentially happens when someone who arrives on the site and then leaves immediately before interacting.
We can monitor the bounce rate using Google Analytics, by which we measure the bounce rate for the page in general and the bounce rate on the page from specific sources, to get a better idea of the involvement of different audience segments.
- Average time on the page
If a person spends time with our brand, they are interacting with it.
If we create a 5,000-word “Final Guide” content “and the average time on the page is less than 20 seconds, it is likely that people are not affected by that specific content”.
Again, Google Analytics can help us track this information.
- Scroll depth
The scroll is a sure sign of involvement as it does not happen alone: the user must perform it.
While other metrics may be distorted by accidental actions (click or forget to have opened a window on the browser), it is not easy to simulate scrolls. Typically, if a user scrolls, they are looking for something (hopefully something we offer).
We can measure scrolls using Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics or heatmap tools.
- Conversion stage
It is one of the main moments of funnel for our activities, because it concerns the concrete possibility of making money.
Conversion tracking helps us leverage when we try to push for new content creation and also helps demonstrate the value of the content we have already created, and we can analyze these KPIs:
- Goal completions
Goal completions “can be a myriad of different things, such as form fillings, a video view, a download etc”.
Depending on the goal of our content, these goals can be considered conversions; regardless of what we hope users will do after interacting with our content, that event can be monitored as a goal, that we can track using Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics.
Purchases are much easier to understand: if a user makes a purchase, he has converted and is now a customer.
In Google Analytics we can track purchases in which users have also visited the content by adding a new segment based on a “Visited page title” condition.
Another important metric is the return on investment (ROI) on the content created: to calculate it, we need to know what/how much we have invested in creating the content and how much revenue that content has generated or helped to generate.
We can track revenue from sessions where the page was also visited using the same conditional segmentation used in the Google Analytics Purchases section.
If our transaction cycle is a bit longer, it might be a bit harder to monitor.
- The Loyalty stage
In marketing, “it is 100% true that it is cheaper to keep a user than to earn a new one,” Anderson says; so the best thing we can do as a company is to make people come back.
Tracking loyalty can easily show us how much money we have saved by keeping people in our funnel, and these are some of the KPIs to evaluate:
- Returning users
If our contents bring people back to the site, it means they are helping build loyalty.
The more a person visits our website to interact with the content, the more likely it is that we are at the Top of Mind stage (to use the terminology of the Aaker pyramid) and that we are matching a need.
Users returning to a specific page are easy to monitor in Google Analytics using the secondary dimension “Page Title”.
- Repeat business
Repeat business “it’s even better than repeat visits, it’s the ultimate loyalty vow“.
If the customer has already done business with us and actively chooses to do so again, it has found value in our brand and our business.
To keep track of repeated activities “you are likely to have to rely on our point-of-sale system or a customer relationship management system”.
The importance of monitoring and data for the business
The final piece of advice of Brie E. Anderson – which contains the message of his article – is that it is essential to set up monitoring tools for content marketing, but above all that “data are only useful if we use them“.
In concrete terms, what is needed is to choose a goal, decide which content KPIs to monitor and then make decisions based on the data collected: the only way to really move strategically and improve the work.