Now that I am back to the front line of the challenges we face as marketing professionals, I am going to start answering some of the biggest questions I get asked about marketing in general and content marketing specifically.
One of the biggest content marketing and content strategy questions I get is around objectives and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).
This is different from the bigger “Content Marketing ROI?” question; it’s focused more around the operations of your content marketing program.
This question comes after you have built the business case, sold in the ROI and achieved the approval, and the funds, to build your content marketing program.
I know this sounds like I am not answering the question, but stay with me here.
In order to understand how to set the objectives and KPIs for your content marketing, it is important to start with a solid understanding of why your business exists.
This premise is profoundly explained by Simon Sinek in his famous very popular Ted Talk: Start With Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Action.
Simon explains that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
So your business needs to first understand why you do what you do – your higher purpose – before you can define your objectives and key performance indicators.
So there is a top-level objective that you need to define based on your business purpose and your marketing goals overall.
I have spoken about share of conversation a little bit before. Share of conversation starts with a fundamental belief that marketing is a conversation. Sure you can start one, but mainly it is about joining one. And ultimately, it is about leading one. Marketing is a conversation. This is partly why content marketing is an imperative.
And so the ultimate objective of content marketing is to increase your brand’s share of conversation.
But what is the topic of the conversation your brand should lead? Well that is answered once you understand your brands higher purpose.
Share of conversation is also an extremely customer-centric goal. It forces you to think bigger than your business and to focus on providing value to your target audience with content around your topic.
You can measure this by looking at “share of conversation” defined as the percentage of brand mentions around the topic you want your brand associated with. Begin by measuring how much share of that conversation (social + online) your business commands. Then seek to grow that share.
The next layer down gets more specific and should always involve a balanced view across these 3 main goals of any content marketing program: reach, engagement and conversion.
Reach should be measured to see if you are attracting your target audience. There is also a cost element here because you can always buy reach.
It should be a combination of paid, owned and earned reach of the right audience for the topic you want the brand to be associated with. You can look at the classic metrics such as growth in visitors, unique visitors and visits from specific search terms (your topic), visitors from mobile and social, etc.
Engagement is all about the content and whether it is proving to capture the visitors attention once they arrive on your site. This can be viewed with metrics such as pages / visit, time spent on the site, social shares and comments.
Finally there is conversion. Every site should have conversion goals, even (maybe even especially) consumer brands.
Common conversion goals for a consumer brand could include subscription to a newsletter, sweepstakes, coupons or some other offer, or even as simple as click throughs to another part of your website or piece of content (such as an advertising clip on YouTube).
For B2B brands, the ultimate conversion is leads or even direct sales, but few buyers will move from not knowing who you are to buying directly just by reading an amazing article. Because of this, B2B brands should track all the way down the buyer journey from lighter conversions like subscriptions or click-throughs to deeper conversions like offer registrations.
It is important to keep in mind that it is easy to “game” these metrics if you only focus on one. Many publishers perform tricks to game their metrics.
As I said, you can always buy reach. You can also drive up page views by adding page breaks to your content or creating slideshows with multiple pages and forcing your visitors to click through. Or you can force every visitor to some conversion action by over-promoting offers. Or you can refuse to allow links off your page even when citing some important research or other person’s idea.
But these approaches almost always come at the expense of the user experience and in the end dilute your brand value.
I recommend looking at balancing the importance of these 3 types of metrics so that you are rewarding the right behavior. When you conduct tests of your content marketing designs, content types or topics, look across all three areas to ensure you aren’t sacrificing too much of the overall picture.