This week I gave a talk at the Content Marketing Association’s breakfast meeting about measuring content marketing. I aimed to convince those present that measuring the performance of content is simple.

When I read crap like Enabling conceptually rich insights to be filtered through sophisticated layers of analytics’ on the websites of analytics providers, I can’t help but remember what Einstein told us.

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself” – Albert Einstein 

What would someone who understood content measurement tell us?

People who want to get better know three things

World-class athletes, sales people, and marketers make incremental improvements throughout their careers by knowing three things:

  1. What they did today that worked
  2. What they did today that didn’t work
  3. What they should change or try tomorrow

The answers to these questions provide the basis for which we can make intelligent decisions on how to be better. If we’re to be better content marketers next week, and even better the week after, we must learn what does and doesn’t work in the meantime.

So how do we know what worked or didn’t work?

What gets measured, gets managed

Simply put, you will get better at whatever you decide to measure. So measure the things that matter the most to you.

Vilfredo Pareto told us that 20% of our input typically drives 80% of the results. Apply this to your content measurement. Measure the small number of metrics that will have the biggest impact on getting what you want.

For me, these three things are 1) enquiries 2) links and 3) email subscribers. Therefore, all of my content measurement is based on increasing these three things.

Your goals are different to mine. You may prefer to increase ad impressions, or to drive ecommerce sales. The Content Marketing Institute released this chart showing the variety of measurement criteria for content marketing among organisations. There’s a lot. Don’t measure them all – just what makes the biggest impact for you.

 

  

How should we measure this?

There is a plethora of content analytics tools available to you. Most of them are excellently comprehensive. Frankly, though, we often don’t need comprehensive. Einstein taught us “simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication”.

I’ve worked on the digital marketing strategies of some of the world’s largest brands and smallest startups. I’ve used analytics tools with price tags comparable to that of Lamborghinis.

These tools charge a premium for delivering more and better answers; more accurate answers, more segmented answers, prettier graphs. Many sell their solutions as “more actionable”, which is usually true, but the ‘actionable-ness’ of data is only a good thing if the action is aligned with what we want in the first place.

Our time is a zero-sum game, so there is an opportunity cost associated with where we dedicate our ‘action taking’.

All this to say, without the right question to begin with, the tool is irrelevant to a large degree. What matters is starting with the right questions, and then finding the tool or data that provides you with the best answers to your questions. No amount of answers will ever suffice, without a good question to begin with.

For me personally, everything that I need to know to measure the content marketing performance across all of my clients can be done in Google Analytics, Open Site Explorer, and Social Crawlytics (all free). 

Any outcome such as downloads, enquiries, or subscriptions can be measured using event tracking or goal tracking. Below is a screenshot showing how I measure contact form enquiries from my content marketing. At a glance, I know that this post has generated the most leads this month, whereas this one hasn’t performed nearly as well.

 

If I wanted to get into the depths of content ROI and the quality of enquiries generated from my content marketing, I can merge my analytics data with my CRM system. In doing so, it becomes clear that the content that has driven the most enquiries through the Venture Harbour website is not our most profitable content.

For measuring the link generation performance of my content, I can look at the top pages report on OSE.

  

For many sites I worked on, social engagement is very important. For measuring the best performing content across social media channels, we can use Social Crawlytics.

  

An example of the most shared content on BinaryOptions.com

 

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

There is nothing complicated about measuring content. Remember, this all boils down to you as a marketer understanding what you did today that worked, what didn’t work, and what to try tomorrow.

Once you’ve defined what ‘worked’ and ‘didn’t work’ mean for you, you can find the tools that allow you to evaluate the performance of your content and make improvements - and that’s all there is to it.

Do not underestimate simple solutions; they’re usually the most sophisticated.