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How to Set & Track Your Content Marketing Goals

Set and track your content goals.

You Are Tracking Your Content Marketing Wrong

11 Content Marketing Performance Indicators & How to Track Them

No matter what kind of business you are in, there is a pretty good chance that content marketing is a part of your marketing strategy.

But are you doing it well? Are you tracking your efforts to see what is working? Are you using what you learn to create better, more useful content?

For many businesses, the answer is no.

According to Content Marketing Institute’s B2C Content Marketing 2018 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends-North America, 86 percent of brands are using content marketing, yet 34 percent of brands who are using it are not even tracking ROI.

It’s time to stop cranking out content with no clear goal or way to track what you are doing.

Why Tracking Your Content Marketing Matters

For starters, how in the world are you going to justify the budget spend if you don’t know what works? Thirty-seven percent of respondents to Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 Benchmark survey stated that their businesses were planning to increase budget on content marketing in the coming year.

There is a good chance your business is either maintaining or increasing your spend on content marketing, and you need to be tracking your efforts to justify the money.

Seeing what works will also give you insight into what your readers want to read and will point to gaps in your content.

Measuring content marketing is complicated; it can feel very ephemeral. You may find yourself thinking “Well, a lot of people read it, isn’t that good enough?”

Maybe, but maybe not.

Start By Defining Your Goals

Before you can say whether or not a piece of content is working, you need to define your goals. Many marketers skip this step in content marketing, and I think I know why. In many other areas of marketing, the goal is self evident or one of a handful of options.

For example, the goals in PPC are usually pretty straightforward. You might be watching click-through rates or cost per conversion, but what you are really looking for is sales.

In content marketing, the goal can be more complex, and thus harder to define. But there are still metrics you can track.

For example, your main goal might be to educate your customers so they come to you well-informed about your product, which will allow you to reduce call center volumes.

In this example, you might track downloads of an eBook overall, you might also track where those downloads came from. But you also want to look at how eBook downloads correlate to call volumes over a period of time.

Tracking content marketing starts with setting a hierarchy of goals, then figuring out how to track your results. Here are some of the top ways to see if your content marketing is working.

How to Set Your Goals in Content Marketing

What do I mean by “hierarchy of goals”? Content marketing (and all inbound marketing, really) has a longer funnel than most other types of marketing. It is unlikely that someone is going to download your white paper from an ad on Facebook, be convinced you are just brilliant, and then purchase your thousand-dollar marketing course.

In reality, they might sign up for your newsletter, download your white paper a few weeks later, then buy your (lower cost) marketing checklist, attend a free webinar, and then buy your thousand-dollar marketing course two months later.

This is where I think a lot of people get confused or overwhelmed.

So, how do you track all that? If you have a large budget, you could track and retarget a customer across all those touch points. It can be done using Google IDs in Google Analytics, as written about by Mayank Chandan.

You can also set goals through Google Analytics, which I will get to later.

Alternatively, you can set multiple goals based on how you want your customers to move through your content.

Here is an example:

Let’s say you are a business coach and you’re looking to sell a course on Pinterest Marketing. Your final goal, of course, is to sell your course. Your content marketing plan includes an informative blog post promoting a webinar, a free webinar that promotes your white paper, and then a white paper that promotes your course. (I am keeping this somewhat simple for the sake of an example.)

Your goal (sales of your course) is actually three different goals, and it might look something like this:

  1. Early Goal: High traffic on blog post
  2. Mid-Range Goal: Download of white paper
  3. End Goal: Increase sales, of course

Tracking each goal separately gives you more insights and better data to make decisions.

TL; DR: Stop assuming you can only have one goal, and consider multiple goals and how they interact with each other.

11 Metrics to Track Your Content Marketing Efficacy

The metrics below will help you determine what pieces of content are most effective. Choose the one that fits based on your specific goals for each individual piece of content.

UTM Codes

UTM codes are custom URLs you can use to track the source, medium, and campaign name of a specific link. This allows you to see where your traffic is coming from.

For example, if you posted your newest blog post on Facebook, sent it out in your newsletter, and also shared it in a LinkedIn group, a separate UTM code (and link) for each medium will allow you to see where your traffic came from.

This information provides insight into where to best reach your audience.

How to Build UTM Codes

There are dozens of UTM builders.The simplest to use in my experience is Google’s campaign URL builder. Simply add your URL and the source and generate your code. You can choose to add additional parameters if you want.

Build UTM codes to track goals.

They also lay out what each parameter means, which is useful if you are just getting started.

Parameters for building UTM codes

Unique Pageviews

Many people track pageviews when they should really be using Unique Pageviews. Plain old pageviews counts one person visiting your page 10 times as 10 separate visits, which is not an accurate view of how your content is performing.

Unique pageviews, according to Google “represents the number of sessions during which that page was viewed one or more times.” Counting Unique Pageviews versus Pageviews gives you a more precise measurement of how many people are viewing your content.

You can view Unique Pageviews in Google Analytics by signing into your Google Analytics dashboard then navigating to Behavior>Overview.

View unique page views in Google Analytics

Average Time on Page

In addition to knowing how many visitors viewed your content, you also want to look at how long they engaged with your content. Average time on page is one way to measure engagement.

In general, a longer time on page indicates higher engagement.

If a reader skims your content and exits a page in less than 50 seconds, there’s a good chance they didn’t find what they were looking for or didn’t like what they read. (Bounce rate also plays into this.) This is why Average Time on Page matters.

You can view average time on page right next to your unique pageviews outlined above. Start by logging into your Google Analytics account, then navigate to Behavior>Overview, and you will see Average Time on Page displayed in the center of the page.

Most Popular Blog Posts

If you publish regularly on your business’s blog, one of the simplest ways to figure out what is working is to look at the most popular blog posts. How you define the most popular posts may vary, but start by looking at Unique Pageviews, Social Shares, and Time on Page. (Also be sure to only look at posts that have been up for a week or more, you won’t get an accurate view by comparing a post from yesterday with an evergreen post from last year.)

The posts with the highest rankings in these three areas are ones that your readers are spending the most time reading and engaging with.

Conversely, look at your least popular blog posts to see what isn’t working. Comparing the most and least successful content you have will give you a good idea of what does and doesn’t work.

Compare your top and bottom performing content based on:

  • Number of images in each post
  • Word count
  • Topic
  • Internal links pointing to the post
  • External links pointing to the post
  • Inclusion of multimedia elements like video, lists, etc.
  • Meta description quality

Also consider whether you did paid promotions, like Facebook boosts, for each piece of content.

Webinar Registration Sources

Measuring webinar registrations is pretty straightforward; whatever platform you use likely provides you with these statistics.

But you can also measure where your registrations are coming from. Are you getting more sign-ups from Facebook or blog posts? If your webinar software doesn’t allow you to track this information, you can use the UTM codes we discussed earlier.

Simply create a new UTM code for each place you share your registration link, including your website popup, Facebook post, Tweet, blog post, etc. Be sure to label each code clearly so you know exactly where the traffic came from.

Next time you host a webinar, you’ll know where to focus your promotion efforts.

Goal Completion (Google Analytics)

This can be complex to measure, but it is one of the most effective ways to see if your content is actually working. In case you are not super savvy in Google Analytics, I will outline how to do this below.

How to Set up Goal Completion to Track your Content Marketing

  1. Log in to your Google Analytics dashboard, then choose the website you want to work on (if you have multiple sites.)
  2. Choose the ADMIN option from the left sidebar.                                                                                                                                                           Click admin on the sidebar for goal completion.
  3. From the far right column, labeled All Website Data, choose “Goals”.                                     Click new goal
  4. Click “New Goal.”
  5. Next, you will be provided with a ton of options for goals. These include making a reservation, creating an account, interacting with media, or viewing contact info. There is also an option to create a “custom” goal. Choose the goal that you want to track, or choose custom. For this example, we are going to build a custom goal. 
  6. Name your goal and choose whether you want the goal to be a destination, number of session, etc. New your new goal
  7. Set goal details. You can also assign a monetary value and even specify that path you expect people to take using the “funnel” option.  Set your goal details.
  8. Save the goal. You can now track if your readers follow specific paths.

Other Metrics to Consider

The most accurate metric to measure your content marketing efficacy will depend heavily upon your specific industry and approach. Here are a few other metrics you might consider measuring:

  1. Bounce rate: This measures the percentage of visitors who leave your site after viewing just one page. A high bounce rate could indicate visitors are not finding what they are looking for.
  2. Social Shares: Measuring social shares gives you insight into how engaged your readers are.
  3. Comments (on social or on your blog): Blog comments seem to be getting less popular (many high-traffic sites have turned them off entirely), but you can also look at social comments for insight into how your content resonates with your audience.
  4. Lead generation: Use a UTM code or a trackable phone number to see how many people are contacting you for a quote after reading your content.
  5. Email sign-ups: This means they are interested in finding out more about your business and giving you permission to contact them directly.

Final Thoughts on Measuring Your Content Marketing

There is no one-size-fits-all way to measure your content marketing. While measuring your content marketing can be complex, it is not impossible. The biggest mistake most marketers make is allowing themselves to get overwhelmed and assuming there is “just no way to track it!” You can’t directly track, for example, education or how people feel about your brand.

But you can break your goals down into smaller segments and measure this. Doing so will give you a much more accurate view of what works and what doesn’t.

Now, take what you have learned and start using it to inform your marketing plan!

About the author

Danielle Antosz

Danielle is a Chicago-based content marketer and writer who enjoys long walks through Ikea, defending the necessity of the Oxford comma, and drinking coffee with more cream and sugar than is strictly necessary.