Most brands engage in content marketing, and they have for a long time. Famous examples date back to the start of the last century – consider the origins of the Michelin Guide, for example.
What’s changed today is that the number of companies producing content for marketing purposes has grown enormously. We can all now publish content on our own digital platforms and, with a little bit of craft applied, find ourselves rewarded on search engines, social media and other platforms. As such, content has become crucial fuel for a brand’s marketing engine.
That’s not to say it’s easy to get your content right. A recent study by SEMrush found that almost half of marketers feel their content is under-performing – 48% said they would rate performance as merely average or less. And, when you take a closer look at the survey’s other findings, you soon start to see why many are being left frustrated.
The first observation is that while some are spending millions on their content, 46% spend less than $10,000 per year. If you’re playing with a small pot, you’re going to be at a clear disadvantage against a big spending competitor.
But even with a smaller budget you can make an impression – especially if you’re aiming to reach a niche market. You just need to be strategically astute with what you produce, and ensure your promotional activities are extremely targeted. This will ensure a solid ROI from the budget available.
However, the SEMrush study also revealed that when it comes to content marketing, strategic nous is too often missing. It found there is a major disjoin happening between the tactics being deployed and the way success is being measured. For example, search engine traffic was found to be the number one metric used to track performance, despite search engines not even ranking in the top six channels for content distribution.
If the metrics don’t match the objective, people will struggle to see the true value of their content. If you want to avoid this situation and conduct more meaningful measurement, here are three things to remember when measuring content:
- Set a clear goal
Be clear on what you want to achieve as it will impact your tactics.
For example, a tech start-up may struggle to convince people they have the most innovative solution on the market – especially if they are a new business with a limited number of case studies to support their claims. The goal in this instance may be to produce content that establishes brand credibility. This could well involve collaboration with a third party, such as a research company or an authoritative industry influencer, to help build trust in that brand.
For a market leader, however, maintaining visibility (staying front of mind) may be a more important goal – and a well-placed paid promotional campaign could be a better way to meet this brief.
- Go beyond digital data
If your objective is to influence industry thinking, you’re going to struggle to find clear evidence of success on Google Analytics or Console alone. You could claim increased searches on a brand name shows this and, yes, it may well have contributed, but this alone doesn’t tell the full story.
"Many old-school SEO agencies have rebranded themselves as content marketing agencies (due to content being so influential in search engine results). But don’t be fooled into thinking that content marketing is all about SEO. Content can do much more – and those other things need to be measured too."
Digital data can only show you so much – and if you’re looking to measure a shift in perception, awareness or reputation, you may be left disappointed. You may need to go further and search for anecdotal evidence from within the business – as we’ve mentioned in our previous measurement pieces. For instance, has the content helped the sales teams start conversations with prospects?
While this evidence of success is not as easy to capture, it will give you a more holistic picture of the impact your content is having.
- Don’t move the goal posts
It is not unusual for people to move the goal posts after content has been produced.
For example, if you’ve produce a paper to influence industry thinking it doesn’t make sense to gate it on a website, and lower the number of potential readers. However, you find things like this happen all the time. They may reason, “this content is so good we should really be looking to capture email addresses in return for people downloading it.”
There is nothing wrong with creating content to swell a CRM system, but if the content was created to educate and sway an industry, let it do that. Judging success on the number of downloads it achieves instead would be unfair.
Rather than asking a single piece of content to be all things to all people, it’s better to stay focused – especially if budgets are limited. Instead of trying achieve everything, it’s better to aim for one target and make sure you hit it.
Paul is Fourth Day's Head of Content , based in Manchester