Talk with enough people about content marketing, and you’ll hear a common question: What metric really matters? Truth be told, everyone’s desperate for that number that’ll tell you everything—the singular “god metric” above all others.
Unfortunately for those folks, that magical god metric simply doesn’t exist.
No matter your goal, you need to understand your results on a number of levels. This is easier said than done, however, and because it’s so difficult, you begin to see a familiar, damaging pattern in the way that brands approach metrics.
Take the type of marketer who tends to focus only on editorial metrics, either because she hails from a media background or because she uses Google Analytics. The most forlorn of these folks will just look at pageviews—a metric that only really matters for publishers selling display ads—and social shares. More advanced marketers in this vein will also measure metrics like engaged time, average finish, and return visitors to get a richer sense of how people are interacting with their content. But they’ll stop there.
The other main type of marketer tends to focus on conversions, but not care too much about audience-building metrics. To them, conversion is king. All that really matters is how many people are getting driven into the funnel, and everything that comes before isn’t as important.
Both of these types of marketers are putting themselves at a disadvantage. If you truly want to succeed at content marketing, you need to look at conversion and audience metrics together.
Say your goal is lead generation. After all, you’re creating content because you want people to buy something from you, and for many—particularly digital, B2B businesses—it’s relatively easy to track how many people who come in contact with your content subsequently become customers. However, fixating on lead generation means you’re making the assumption that nothing important happens before someone becomes a lead.
You’ve probably heard the cliche that content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. There’s a lot of truth to it. Often, a prospect will be a reader for months, maybe even years, before expressing interest in becoming a client. But you’ve held their interest through great content, and now that the stars have aligned, they’re eager to work with you because of the strong relationship you’ve developed. That’s something you won’t see if you’re only tracking lead gen metrics.
In reality, strong audience metrics often correspond with strong lead gen metrics. That’s especially true for content marketing operations that are less than 18 months old because encouraging audience metrics are often an indication that a lead windfall is on the horizon. Getting people’s attention for the right reasons pays off.
On the flip side, if your goal is brand awareness, conversion metrics still matter. Even a cereal brand that does most of its sales in-store should be concerned with how many email newsletter signups or social follows come from its content, and which pieces of content are performing best. It’s another important data point when trying to determine which content performs best.
In 2016, smart content marketers will look at all of these metrics in concert. That’s our bet, at least. And that’s why we’ve been building our Analytics platform to show our clients how their content performs both in terms of audience and conversion metrics so they can demonstrate clear success and, more importantly, keep improving their content over time.
Marketers who embrace that holistic view of content measurement will be at an advantage, and when the debate starts raging between conversion and audience metrics at the next marketing conference… well, you can just rest easy at the happy hour bar.
Michael Enriquez is the product manager for analytics at Contently.