After you've created your content, your work is far from over. To improve and continue building the best content possible, you need to have a way to track how it is performing.
There are several ways to measure and analyze your content performance, but you'll need to determine which metrics are most relevant to your business's goals. Read on to learn why, how and when to track the performance of your content.
Importance of measuring how content performs
Measuring performance is part of the content creation process. If you don't review this data, you won't know whether your content is serving the intended purpose, how your audience is receiving it or if anyone is reading it at all. Here are some other reasons to measure the performance of your content:
- Data doesn't lie. While you may have an idea of what content will work for your business, you won't truly know if your hunch is correct until you test it out. You can rely on different data points to see whether your content is effective.
- You get insight into your audience. Do readers spend more time reading how-to guides? Does your audience share your news stories the most? Analyzing the data gives you a better understanding of what kinds of content your audience connects with most.
- It will improve your strategy. By paying close attention to what is and isn't working, you can make improvements. For example, if you find that your audience isn't reading lengthier posts with long paragraphs, you can find new ways to present the content, such as adding bullet points and subsections.
- You get a clearer understanding of your sales funnel. Measuring and analyzing your content performance can give you an overall picture of your sales funnel. It can reveal any shortcomings, such as not converting visitors into customers or not generating enough leads.
- You can see developing trends. As you create and test content, you can see trends as they develop, thereby allowing you to proactively build content around the topics or story formats that work for your audience.
How to measure content performance
Measuring content performance involves more than just gathering data; you need to have a plan. Here's a step-by-step guide to measuring content performance:
1. Set goals.
Your content performance goals will likely be tied to your business's overall goals. For example, if you want a more engaged audience, you might set a goal of increasing the average email click-through rate by 20% after one year.
You might also consider breaking down larger goals into quarterly or monthly goals and tracking your content against those objectives. That way, your bigger-picture goals seem more manageable and align more clearly with your day-to-day tasks.
2. Choose the right metrics.
There are many metrics you can monitor, but you'll need to select the ones that are most relevant to your business. Here are a few metrics you may consider:
- Social media performance. Looking at how many likes, shares and comments your posts receive is a good way to tell if your social media posts engage your audience.
- Social media followers. Growing your social media accounts can help your content go further, not only because more users see your content but also because more users are likely to engage with and share that content.
- Blog traffic/engagement. If a big part of your content marketing revolves around your blog, you'll want to know how it performs. How many page views does your blog receive? What are the best-performing pieces? Which posts do people spend the most time reading, and which pages have high bounce rates? Where are most users coming from to land on your blog pages (e.g., Google, social media or other referring sites)? The answers to these questions can help you double down on what works and adjust what doesn't.
- Inbound links. Inbound links (when other businesses or organizations link to your content) are important because they increase your credibility and, in turn, help you rank higher in search results. This is especially true if the pages that link to your content have a high domain authority of their own.
- Click-through rates for calls to action (CTAs). Your content will likely feature multiple CTAs. For example, at the bottom of a blog post, you might prompt a reader to sign up for your newsletter, or on a service page, you might offer visitors a free trial.
- Cost per lead. Cost per lead = total spend / total new leads. This gives you an idea of how much it costs to get one new lead in your sales pipeline.
- Search engine rank. Aim to rank on the first page for relevant keywords on search engines like Google. The farther down in search results you end up, the less likely people will be to find your content.
- Average email click-through rate. Open rates are important, but a more effective indicator of whether your message is resonating is the click-through rate, or how often your audience clicks on the links in your emails.
- Conversion rates. Conversion rates explain how effective your content is at prompting users to take a specific action. If your conversion rates are low, determine if your content can be revised or if that channel is appropriate for your content.
3. Set your cadence.
When publishing content on a blog or social platform, consistency and balance are key. Establishing a content calendar can ensure you post consistently enough to keep your audience engaged, without flooding their feeds and inboxes and prompting them to unfollow or unsubscribe.
Make sure you check your metrics at the same time each week, month or quarter. This helps to eliminate variables and gives you more consistent, regular information. Look for patterns, whether positive or negative, that show you how well your content is performing. You should have a way to document your metrics so you can easily look back on the information.
4. Decide what changes you need to make.
Based on your findings, you should have a good idea of what works and what doesn't. Then, you can use that information to rework or eliminate the underperforming content or create more of the kinds of content that have proved successful.
5. Repeat the process.
Measuring and analyzing your content performance is an ongoing process. Even if you have made improvements, you should continue tracking your metrics to learn about your audience and see what's resonating.
When to measure your content performance
Creating a schedule for tracking your content performance will allow you to get a more accurate and consistent picture and give your content enough time to perform. Checking too early might make you think your content is ineffective when, in reality, it hasn't been given the proper chance to gain traction.
Here are some metrics to track weekly, monthly or quarterly:
Track these metrics at the end of every week:
- Social media performance. Social media platforms do not always display content in chronological order, so it may take a few days to see how your post truly performed.
- Campaigns. Checking on a campaign every day will not help you see any patterns. This is especially true if you are using different channels to promote the campaign. You may not send out or publish emails, social media posts and blog posts on the same day, so you'll be missing critical information if you look each day. If you check weekly, however, you will give your campaign time to build and be better equipped to pivot. If, for example, your campaign performs better on one channel than another, then you'll know the best way to promote it.
- Blog traffic/engagement. Just because you published a blog post doesn't mean it will generate traffic immediately. If you check on your overall blog traffic and individual posts weekly, you can see how both perform over time, which gives you a better picture. You can also see how long visitors spend on a page or if they click away after viewing only one page. If you're struggling to meet your traffic goals, the data will be able to tell you which types of posts work quickly and which ones need time to drive traffic.
- Inbound links. As with blog traffic, it takes time to increase your inbound links; you may not see the needle move too much if you check daily. This metric will also give you an idea of what kind of content performs the fastest.
- Click-through rates for CTAs: Your website and blog will have CTAs sprinkled throughout. By checking the click-through rates weekly, you will be able to tell if CTAs are consistently effective. For example, perhaps you run an accounting firm and you see a spike in your "get free tax advice" CTA because it's tax season. If this CTA doesn't perform well other times during the year, you might want to try a different CTA in the weeks after tax season.
- Cost per lead. If you look into cost per lead per month, you can compare it against your monthly budget and determine whether your lead generation efforts were in line with your expectations. This metric can also tell you whether your marketing strategies are paying off.
- Search engine rank. A weekly look into search engine results doesn't offer enough information about developing trends. You are competing against other businesses, after all, and they may have time on their side. Even if your content is the best on a certain topic, you may not see much traction within a week. But after a month, that piece of content may make its way toward the top of search results. Checking in monthly can give you a better idea of which content is doing well with search engines.
- Average email click-through rate. While one email will give you information on how your audience engages with your content, you really want to look at the average click-through rate of all your emails to gauge whether your email marketing efforts are working. If interest in your emails has waned, consider implementing an email retargeting campaign.
- Social media followers. You will gain and lose new followers every day, but these daily metrics are too narrow. Instead, check your follows and unfollows monthly. If you see you are losing followers at a faster rate at the end of each month, you should evaluate your social media strategy.
- Revenue. If your content efforts tie to your revenue goals, reviewing this metric every quarter will give you an idea of where you stand. It also gives you enough time to make any necessary changes.
- Conversion rates. Similarly, you should monitor your conversion rates quarterly, because you don't want to rush into decisions about changing CTAs or ad campaigns without having time to evaluate performance.
Tools to help track content performance
There are a variety of free and paid tools you can use to track content performance. You can mix and match several or use the one that best fits your business's needs. Here are some popular tools for tracking metrics:
- Google Analytics: With Google Analytics, you can track how many users are on your site in real time, where your visitors are located, what channels drive the most traffic, how your marketing campaigns are performing and more.
- SEMrush: You can use SEMrush to research keywords, track where you and your competitors rank and perform backlink analysis.
- Hotjar: To better understand engagement, consider using Hotjar, which shows you a heat map of where and how visitors spend time on your website.
- Buffer: Although many social media platforms have their own tracking tools, you can also use a tool like Buffer, which allows you to build reports based on your goals.
- SimilarWeb: This tool lets you track how your web traffic compares with your competitors'.
- Moz: With Moz, you can see how your content performs on search engine results pages and what is and isn't working in the long term.
- Supermetrics: This tool lets you look at different types of data – such as SEO, social media engagement and website analytics – and import the data into a spreadsheet.