5 Questions to Ask Before Measuring Your Content Marketing Campaigns

Katie Paine
Katie Paine

For some of us, the term “content marketing” is just a highfalutin term for things we’ve been doing for years: writing and producing interesting content and trying to earn the eyeballs and loyalty of our target audiences. For many others, it’s a whole new ball game that you just can’t buy a ticket to. Whatever the state of your understanding, your boss still is going to come in and ask you if it’s worth it.

Here are five questions you need to answer and steps you should take to answer them in ways that are going to enhance your value as a PR professional.

1. What for? Organizations adopt content marketing as a strategy for many reasons: to generate leads, build influence in a market or simply because they can’t afford to buy sufficient advertising to achieve their communications goals. You can’t even begin to measure anything until you know the answer to the ‘What for?’ question, because that will drive your entire measurement program.

If the goal is to increase leads, and/or build your email list, you will need to tightly integrate metrics with your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system or whatever system manages leads.

If the goal is to position or reposition your organization as a thought leader in a particular marketplace, and/or increase your search rankings on a particular subject, you’ll need to integrate closely with social listening and PR monitoring and your SEO group. If the goal is to reach a new customer base or market, you’ll need awareness and perception studies to make sure you’ve accomplished that goal.

The key is to get your management team to agree on how content marketing contributes to the business goals of the brand or organization.

2. What data do I have in place? Does your organization use a CRM system? Can you get access to your web analytics platform, such as Omniture, Google Analytics or Webtrends? Do you have access to your social analytics via Facebook, Insight, Hootsuite or other platforms? Is any current or prior market research data available? Are you monitoring the media? If so, can you get access to a full data feed?

Then there are basic parameters you need to know. Is there a budget for measuring your program? How often does management expect reports? Does management prefer PowerPoint or simple text emails for reporting? You may snicker at the simplicity, but I’ve had to turn too many fancy PowerPoint decks into text emails; it’s much easier to find out up front.

3. It’s great, but compared to what? Typically, organizations compare results with the competition or a prior period. For content marketing, the definition of your benchmark will be driven by your goals. If you are doing content marketing because you have a tight budget and can’t afford anything else, then you’ll want to compare the effectiveness of different content at generating exposure or leads, and show that you are continually growing your marketing universe.

If your organization is starting a content marketing program and wants to know how it’s working, you’ll need to benchmark it against other marketing strategies and compare your program to others based on cost effectiveness.

4. What really matters? If you Google “content marketing measurement” you’ll find dozens, if not hundreds, of suggestions on various metrics you can measure, from time on site to download to leads to email addresses added to your list. All of which are perfectly valid, but they need to tie back to the goals you established in Step 1. There’s little value in measuring just Unique Visits when the true intent of content marketing is qualified leads. And similarly, there’s no point in measuring downloads if what you’re trying to do is get your CEO’s thoughts and writings in front of an entirely new market audience.

One key rule: Limit your metrics to no more than seven. The maximum number of things any human can keep top of mind is seven. The Key Metrics that define your success should be and will become what you focus on every day.

5. So what? Measurement doesn’t end when that pretty PowerPoint with all the arrows going up and to the right lands on the boss’ desk.

The point in every measurement report should be to determine what is working and what isn’t. What are the most cost-effective tactics you’ve used and what are the least? So, to create this chart you force-rank every piece of content you’ve produced in the last month or quarter based on what you defined in Step 4 as your measures of success.

Every time you sit down to write, edit or produce a piece of content, you should ask: Is this going to appeal to that new audience? Will it be interesting enough that people will give up private information in order to get it? Is this the most efficient way to get out the message?

Augment these questions with the more fundamental ones above to generate decent ROI for your content marketing effort.

CONTACT: Katie Paine is CEO of Paine Publishing. She can be reached at measurementqueen@gmail.com

This article originally appeared in the July 27, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.