Page views? Time on page? Video views? Are these real content marketing performance indicators? No. Why not? If you know how much time was spent on a page, and that more time was spent on one page of content than another page, is that actionable information? Does it give you any insight into content ROI?
It does not. Chartbeat has shown that even number of shares has virtually no correlation to actual visits/reading. But thousands of marketers are still measuring their content this way.
So how do you measure B2B content marketing? Not the ads, but the organic stuff shared by employees, distributed in emails, linked to in 3rd-party communities, or distributed on social networks. The answer is that it is not simple, but it is extremely powerful.
First, you must have metrics that allow you to separate content popularity from content performance. I ran my first content marketing program as a one-woman marketing department for Robert Herjavec of Shark Tank fame in 1998. We were selling firewalls and intrusion detection systems to banks and other F500 companies. But the tech was so new, people didn’t know what it was called, much less what it did.
So we decided the most effective thing we could do was educate them. We called customers and got permission to add them to our email distribution list. And then we mailed them useful information every month: tips, tricks, bugs patches and fixes, new tools they needed to know about, important vendors coming in to the market. High value, hard to get elsewhere.
The goal, like it almost invariably is in B2B, was leads. Robert didn’t care about views or clicks or time on page. He cared about results. If people who joined the email list bought contracts, he wanted more people on the list. If people who downloaded a white paper then attended an event, he wanted more white papers. But only the ones that worked. He wanted bums in seats at events and leads for his inside sales team to follow up on.
It was simple, a clear way to demonstrate content ROI, and it led to great business. But in 2014, we are still not paying enough attention to the content marketing performance metrics that matter and the content that drives them.
How do we change this? How do we distinguish between content popularity and content performance? By falling out of love with numbers that matter more in B2C like views mentions and shares. Look for action and conversion. Harder to capture, but far more important to a business.
What should you be measuring to determine performance? ROI. Simple. Any result generated by content that has monetary value within your company is ROI. ROI is driven by actions. Is your most important metric email opt-ins from content, because email leads to subscription revenue? Is it white paper downloads, because those lead to software trials? Is it webinar registrations, because those lead to sales calls? Is it all of the above?
In all likelihood it is all of the above. Mapping where these clustered, often sequential microconversions occur, what subsequent buying actions they led to, and the content that drove them is where an understanding of content marketing performance and ROI will come from.
Want more Shark lessons? To learn how to apply these practices step by step, read the next article in the series, Applying the Lessons of Shark marketing.