Which content marketing metrics are the most important? How can you prove that your content marketing strategy is driving ROI? And how much of your time should be devoted to reviewing analytics?
These are the questions keeping so many content marketers up at night.
In the past, the KPIs we now call vanity metrics were often the highest priority. But now, you’re under more pressure than ever before to attribute your strategy to revenue goals.
The only problem is that you can quickly get lost in a vast sea of content marketing metrics that all seem critically important.
Find Your Minimum Viable Content Marketing Metrics
A quick search for “content marketing metrics” gives you all kinds of lists with seemingly endless KPI options.
One practical guide gives you 30 metrics to track. An Orbit Media article gives you a ranking of 37 content marketing metrics. An SEMrush guide explains the 23 essential KPIs to measure campaign performance. And there are millions of other articles just like these.
None of these lists are wrong. They’ll point you in the right direction to start tracking content marketing performance. And all of the metrics can go a long way to proving the ROI of your strategy.
But if revamping your approach to content marketing analytics, you might bite off more than you can chew with these lists.
If you end up spending all your time wading through a complicated mess of data, you might not have much time left for content development or distribution.
As always, this is a matter of balance.
How do you build out a solid analytics strategy while keeping your content marketing initiatives on track?
Start by finding your minimum viable content marketing metrics.
Four Foundational Metrics for Content Marketing Performance Monitoring
There is so much power packed into Google Analytics, SEO platforms, and other martech tools. It’s tempting to want to make the most of every feature you can get your hands on.
But data for data’s sake isn’t going to help you prove the ROI of your content marketing strategy.
We need to strike a balance. We need to start with the minimum viable metrics that cut through all the analytical noise without blinding ourselves to opportunities for improvement.
Every team’s set of minimum viable content marketing metrics might be a bit different. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few core KPIs that apply widely across industries.
Whether you’re trying to simplify your reporting or just starting down the path of analytics, these four KPIs will help you measure the impact of your content marketing:
- Email subscriptions
- Search rankings
- First-click attribution
Let’s see why.
I know what you’re thinking. Why would traffic be at the top of this list? It’s a vanity metric. Your business stakeholders need to see real results, not just website visitors.
That’s all true. And yet, none of that explains why traffic shouldn’t be on this list.
Traffic alone is not going to convince business stakeholders that your content marketing efforts are working. But traffic is still the basic building block of so many inbound and content marketing activities.
At the most basic level, monitoring traffic gives you a general sense of your progress in generating brand awareness and interest. Beyond that, seeing spikes in traffic can reveal:
- When a particular campaign resonated with your audience
- Where your target audience is engaging with you most
- The specific pages that attract the attention of your ideal customers
Want to see what kind of traffic your website (or blog, specifically) pulls in? You can get the basic overview by going to the Behavior dropdown and hit overview.
To dig a little deeper, you can start filtering various by a wide variety of secondary dimensions. Review your traffic according to the source, referral path, landing pages, and more.
But if we’re talking about minimum viable content marketing metrics? Don’t overthink this.
More traffic means more chances to convert your target audience. Is driving traffic the ultimate goal of content marketing? Of course not. However, having this data at hand is a good first step to analyzing your performance.
2. Email Subscribers
Content marketing isn’t just about seeing that traffic graph trend upward. It’s about attracting the right people to your website and getting them to stick around long enough to convert and become loyal customers.
This is why it’s so important to collect emails and track subscriptions as a minimum viable content marketing metric.
Your email subscribers are the people who truly love your content. Especially when those subscribers come from your blog posts (as opposed to gated assets), you know that email subscribers are your most loyal audience—the people who you can contact about new posts and potentially earn both backlinks and social shares from.
If you’re seeing upticks in email subscribers, you know your content marketing efforts are having an effect.
You can track subscribers through your email provider of choice. But if you want to keep everything in one place, you can track them in Google Analytics, too.
Here are the simple steps to getting Google Analytics to track your email subscribers through the Conversions function:
- Create a new page on your website for new email subscribers. This can be a simple “Thank You” page.
- Set new rules through your email provider for new subscribers to be redirected to that page after confirmation.
- Establish a goal in the Conversions tab of Google Analytics that tracks any visits to that specific URL.
An email subscriber might not be a genuine lead at the start, but it can be the first step to nurturing prospects toward a sale.
3. Search Rankings
Write for humans, not machines. This is a great mantra for content marketers to live by.
However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore organic search traffic as a key to B2B content marketing success.
As pay-to-play becomes the norm in content marketing, organic SEO continues to be the free source of content distribution that you need. It’s not the only thing that matters to content promotion, but it’s certainly something you need to be tracking.
This is usually where platforms like Ahrefs, Moz, or SEMrush come into play. If you haven’t invested in one of those yet, you can take the free approach with Google Analytics.
The most basic Google Analytics report will show you how much traffic you drive from organic searches. You can go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium > Organic to see a graph like the one above.
But if you want more granular insight into search rankings, you’ll need to connect your Google Search Console to Google Analytics. This will let you run query reports that show exactly which keywords drive traffic to your website.
Ranking highly for keywords that are relevant to your business can kickstart real content marketing ROI. Whether you run SEO competitor analysis or more original keyword research to drive your content strategy, seeing an upward trend in search rankings will show your marketing is on the right path.
4. First-Click Attribution
Okay, here we go.
If you’ve been waiting for something to tie your content marketing efforts directly to revenue, this is the foundational metric you need.
Normally, marketing reports focus on last-click attribution. You can track the converting pages through goals and see how many customers you gain from individual pages.
Then, you can go an extra step to use the Reverse Goal Path feature to see the previous three pages the new customer visited before converting.
But this might not be entirely helpful for B2B content marketers.
Last-touch attribution is great. It just doesn’t account for the top-of-funnel content that guided customers to conversion.
If you want to tie your efforts to revenue, you need first-click attribution. Google Analytics allows you to use attribution modeling to view up to a 90-day window of interactions with your content. You can view individual pages in these models to see which blog posts have been the first interaction before a conversion within the set window of time.
Setting this up in Google Analytics is a bit more complicated than clicking a few drop-down menus. I’ll point you to this in-depth guide from Grow and Convert so you can start using the Model Comparison Tool in Google Analytics.
Walking Before You Run with Content Marketing Metrics
The goal of these minimum viable content marketing metrics is to give you some insight into every level of your efforts.
You have the very top of the funnel covered with basic traffic data. Search rankings give you some insight into the long-term value your traffic could deliver. Your email subscribers show you the power your content has to engage users. And first-touch attribution links your content creation to real revenue.
Is this the most comprehensive list of content KPIs? Not even close. But you have to walk before you can run with analytics.
When you have these reports locked down, you can start adding more data to the mix. That way, you won’t find yourself drowning in data chaos when you weren’t necessarily an analytical person to begin with.
Content marketing is both an art and a science. If you want to ease your way into the data-driven side, focus on these foundational metrics first.