Online Marketing: Action Over Reaction
Every marketing program needs to be measured to uncover whether it's resonating with the right audience. From direct mail and direct response television (DRTV), to online display advertising and social media, it's become commonplace to say, "If you can't measure it, you shouldn't do it." The same holds true in content marketing.
It's not just about keeping score—putting together spreadsheets or dashboards with charts that show more website traffic or a lower bounce rate won't cut it. You need to take what you learn and integrate the results into a long-term game plan that helps drive engagement, business and virality.
3 Metrics That Matter
Author, speaker and content strategist Jay Baer does an incredible job describing four key metrics that every content marketer should measure. Baer focuses on analyzing content consumption, sharing, leads and sales.
What Baer suggests can be broken down further to metrics that drive "actions," rather than "reactions." Why is this important? Because the time you spend evaluating the performance of your content marketing efforts should provide the insights you need to identify and fix whatever is under-performing, as well as help make your successes even better.
Our team has taken Baer's suggestions and drives actions with the help of Google Analytics Conversion Goals. Here's an overview of three metrics we pay close attention to:
1. Goal completions by content type. (i.e., e-books, webinars, case studies, etc.). The content we create takes time and energy to produce. Looking at how well content pieces perform by type and title allows us to adjust where we focus our attention based on what visitors actually want to consume, rather than what we think they want.
2. Visits and goal completions by traffic source. Although we don't require registration for visitors to access everything we create, each asset that is "gated" gets its own landing page. We use some basic URL tracking parameters to source traffic from tens of thousands of visitors, which helps us understand where to spend more time and money to promote our content.
3. Abandonment rate and goal conversion rate. We're always testing different elements of our landing pages in an ongoing effort to improve the more common key performance indicators (KPIs) that we track, such as the percentage of website visitors who don't complete a goal (abandonment rate) and the overall percentage of visitors who complete a goal (goal conversion rate).
If you haven't started using the power of your analytics program to track conversions, you should immediately make it a top priority.
3 Tips to Put Content Marketing Metrics to Work
Here are three additional tips that help us focus on driving more actions instead of reactions when evaluating and refining our content marketing efforts.
1. Know when to look. It's important to examine key metrics on a regular basis so you can react as quickly as possible. If your only interaction with metrics is on a monthly basis, you'll be able to do far less with the results.
Looking at your reports on a monthly basis is often not enough, but daily analysis can be too much. You don't want to shift your team's focus from creating great content to worrying about anomalies in website traffic.
The key is to find the right balance for your organization. Figure out which metrics matter the most to your organization and reduce the number of KPIs you're looking at based on those findings. It's also critical not to compare metrics such as page views or unique visitors month over month. Seasonal spikes in traffic—like the holidays, for example—can skew your data.
2. Know what to look for. Reactionary metrics such as "length of visit" or "number of page views per visit" will be difficult to change. The key is to understand your customers' purchasing process and how your content affects lead generation and sales. Pay attention to where the customer entered the sales funnel as a result of your content efforts.
Another popular reactionary metric involves worrying too much about the overall number of Twitter followers. For example, as an enterprise software company, if we only add 12 Twitter followers this year, but those 12 all go on to become customers, it would result in significant revenue.
Instead of looking at the increase in followers on a weekly or monthly basis (a reactionary metric), figure out how you can nurture followers who are qualified leads through the sales cycle and convert them into customers.
3. Know where they're coming from. Inbound referral traffic—or how much traffic gets driven to your site from other websites—is one of the most critical metrics for content marketers to monitor because it provides a window into how your content is resonating with your target audience.
For example, if you see Mashable consistently driving more traffic to your website than other comparable sources, find additional ways to increase your exposure to the Mashable community by contributing a blog post or looking for other ways to deepen your partnership.
Don't get hung up on metrics you can't act upon. Focus on how many leads and how many opportunities you're influencing. Your goal is to close business, not just increase your page views or followers. Make sure you or someone within your organization can act on the metrics in a way that improves your results moving forward.
Rob Yoegel is the content marketing director at Conshohocken, Pa.-based website testing, personalization and targeting platform provider Monetate. Reach him on Twitter @RobYoegel.