Document everythingOnly when you know how much something truly costs can you work back and look at ROI.Content creation can be tricky to quantify, so you have to combat a tendency for woolliness with excellent documentation that takes into account every blog brainstorming session, every edit, and every freelancer used. You need to know how much it costs you to create content per word, and how much time is spent on ideation, creation, and promotion.It’s a good idea to allocate financial or inventory codes to content costs. Content is just as much a product, as it is a medium. Use these tracking codes as part of your financial system — something like Xero will make this easy for your organization, but it can also be managed manually with spreadsheets.Content audits aren’t painful — they’re fun! Audit all your current content marketing efforts, including content on external domains. Having a clear picture of the current landscape will help inform your measurement strategy.Budgets are important and need to be stuck to — any extra budget for content needs to be justified in advance. Without strict rules and procedures in place, measuring ROI will quickly go out the window. Being clever with content budgets isn’t as hard as it may seem — you may need to invest in a more robust outsourcing strategy, or spend more time on pure content promotion.Forget vanity metricsFollowers, number of views — is that’s what’s driving your content marketing team? Stop now. Focusing on warm and fuzzy vanity metrics is not accurate content measurement and will cloud your judgement.If you are ‘raising brand awareness’, tie that to solid metrics. How many repeat customers is that a year? Is that a 22% increase in customer lifetime value? Does that mean that the average reach of your posts should double? Try to forecast into the future and find metrics that are achievable, but challenging.It’s OK to care about vanity metrics, but only if they are your only goal. If you are running a campaign that’s only meant to boost follower count — go ahead. But most commercial content marketing should have more ambitious goals in mind.Tie content marketing to salesSounds easy, right? Though it’s not always that simple, using content attribution modelsand getting to grips with your web analytics are some of the ways in which you can accurately track which pieces of content are actually driving commercial actions and sales. After all, if you can’t attribute a concrete action to a piece of content, why create it?Use tracking codes to track a customer’s journey through your content and store. You can use custom URLs for specific pieces of content, and track users through referrer IDs and cookies for campaign content.The first port of call for tracking is Google Analytics: it’s easy to use, and there are hundreds of videos and guides out there to help you set up proper content and conversion tracking using it. People running their businesses on platforms like Shopify should also use Analytics and not fully rely on the in-built reporting system. The same actually applies for any ‘plug in and play’ content management system: be ready to invest in some add-ons and plugins to get more data. Quantcast might be an option for people needing more powerful data, or working at enterprise scale.Talking to people on the phone? Make sure your sales team are prepared to probe into where customers first heard about you.A content attribution model assigns a commercial value to the content that customers interact with — this can help you decide which formats are most valuable to you. Keep investing in those high-value formats.Track your micro-conversionsSometimes a customer needs a little more convincing. They may tweet you, download a whitepaper, or subscribe to your blog — way before they are ready to sign up as customer. This is when they are using your content for reconnaissance: finding out more about you and your brand. This is especially true for B2B environments, where the lead time for a big software purchase may be months and years, not weeks.In order to measure content marketing ROI effectively, smaller micro-conversions should be tracked, analyzed, and celebrated. Attributions will help, but you also need to go deeper than that and build comprehensive customer personas. Social media analytics, and marrying that with web user data, will help create a bridge between ‘casual’ and commercial customer interactions.Over the years, using your company data, you should be able to build a comprehensive picture of what small actions and engagements eventually lead to macro-conversions. You may discover that out of everyone who follows you on Facebook, only one person has ever actually become a customer. When analyzed at scale, micro-conversions are incredibly powerful.Reap the SEO benefitsCreative content is great, but content that drives qualified web traffic is even better. For any business seeking to make the most of their content, they need to focus on SEO in order to ensure that they are getting maximum benefit from the content they publish. This is especially true for content that is published on your own domain. A proper inbound marketing strategy aligns the customer journey with a tightly-bound sales funnel that’s supported through content. A lot of people don’t understand blogging, and treat their blog like an organizational news channel. In order to get the most out of blogging, you should implement an inbound sales funnel.Here is how it might work in action:Identify the main three problems that highlight an awareness of need. For an HR tracking software that may be things like: low staff productivity, high HR costs, and high staff turnover. These ‘direct’ problems then lead to more general problems like cash flow, low morale, and company culture problems. An inbound marketer would start their content funnel by creating content that maps onto these issues, using popular search terms. (A stellar keyword tool: AnswerThePublic).The next stage is where there is an awareness of a product that can solve these issues (yours). Here the marketer must create content that addresses the user’s main challenges and pain points, bringing the content in align with search terms and user questions. These would include some ‘top of the funnel keywords’.The final stage is when content must actively look to dominate the branded search and ‘end of the funnel’ keywords. In-depth guides, testimonials, and detailed reviews are good content formats to explore at this stage.Following an inbound content funnel will ensure that all your content is bringing in qualified and relevant web traffic. You can easily track inbound content success by mapping it onto your SEO KPIs like web traffic, keywords in Google, number of unique visitors, and even referring domains if you are leveraging blog content for link building (which you should).SegmentationYou need to segment off different elements of your marketing to see which specific channels and tactics are working. Trying to measure everything at once and lumping campaign content in with regular sales funnel blogging will mean that you end up comparing apples with oranges.You need to stop marketing to all your customers, and market to specific segments instead. The segmentation of your customers will help determine where your most high value customers are. Focus on them in order to increase marketing effectiveness.Measure the different stages of content production. Look specifically at content creation v.s. promotion — what costs more, and which one drives more results? On average, companies spend too much time and money on content creation, whereas promotion is what drives views, engagements, and ultimately, sales.Platform specificity is also important — what you want from a YouTube video is very different to what you want from a downloadable. Be clear on what you can realistically achieve on each platform, and segment out your measurements accordingly.So you see — ROI measurement doesn’t have to be painful or elusive. Content can be tracked and analyzed just in the same way as products can. As an organization, you need to be clear on what great content looks like for you, and implement a measurement strategy that matches your goals. Whether it’s social media, SEO, blogging, or video — make sure you always measure, measure, measure — and then adjust your strategy accordingly.
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