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    January 24, 2012 // 5:16 PM

    Everything Marketers Need to Measure and Prove Content ROI

    Written by Pamela Vaughan | @

    measuring tape intermediate

    Marketing content creators have a lot of potential content assets at their disposal. But whether they're drafting an ebook , writing a blog post, or producing a webinar, they usually have different goals in mind for the content they're creating. And just as each content asset is associated with different goals, each must also be measured by different metrics.

    After all, if you're using an ebook to generate leads , landing page submissions, not page views, should be your top priority metric. Let's examine some of the most popular marketing content assets -- ebooks and whitepapers, webinars, and blog posts -- and how you should be measuring their success.

    What Does Content 'Success' Mean?

    Before we dive into each individual content asset, the first question you'll need to ask yourself is, "What does 'success' mean for my particular business and each of its content assets?" This can depend on a number of factors, from the results your competitors are achieving, to benchmarks in your industry, to how each piece of content is being used in your marketing program. For example, a webinar or an ebook can be used as either a top-of-the-funnel offer to generate new leads, or a middle-of-the-funnel offer to nurture existing leads , all depending on the subject matter the content covers and when it's introduced to prospects. For the former, net new leads would be the focal metric, whereas for the latter, reconversions would likely be the end goal.

    Before you create a new piece of content, keep in mind what your goals for that content are so you can effectively tailor it to suit those needs and be sure you're measuring its success as accurately as possible.

    Ebooks/Whitepapers

    Possible Goals: An ebook or a whitepaper is a long-form piece of content, usually offered as more premium content used in lead generation or lead nurturing. Typically, a visitor to your website must complete a form on a landing page to acquire the ebook/whitepaper, thus converting them (or reconverting them) into a lead for your business.

    Metrics to Track

    • landing page analytics Landing Page Visits: Tracking the number of visitors to your landing pages is a great way to see how much traffic you're driving to your content. If you notice your landing pages aren't driving a significant amount of traffic, you maybe need to increase your page's visibility in social media, search, and in calls-to-action on your website. To do so, make sure your landing pages are equipped with social sharing buttons and that you're actively sharing it via your social channels, optimize your landing pages with the keywords you want your page to get found for, and make sure every web page and blog post you create includes a relevant call-to-action for your landing pages.
    • Conversions/Submissions: This metric refers to how many people actually completed the form on your landing page and downloaded your content. Depending on the goals of your content, submissions can also be categorized as new leads (if lead gen is the goal) or reconverted leads (if lead nurturing is the goal). This number is probably the most telling indicator of your content's success.
    • Conversion Rate: This metric provides insight into the percentage of visitors that turned into conversions/submissions. It's important to track this percentage to identify problems with your landing page. For example, if it's generating a lot of traffic but isn't converting visitors into submissions, your landing page may need to improvements, such as better communication of the offer's value some A/B testing to identify problem areas. In addition, boosting your conversion rate will help you generate more submissions from existing traffic.
    • Social Media Shares: How many people are sharing your ebook's landing page on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+? Social media shares is a great secondary metric to analyze how well your ebook offer resonates with your audience and the sentiment of your audience toward your content. Plus, the more social shares, the greater its reach! If your ebook isn't generating a lot of shares, again, make sure you're sharing it yourself in social media and that your landing pages include social media sharing buttons.

    Live & Archived Webinars

    Possible Goals: Webinars are typically live, online presentations about a particular topic. Businesses can use them to educate attendees about a number of things, from industry best practices to the capabilities of their products/services. Webinars can be recorded and archived to be distributed to those who could not attend the live event.

    Metrics to Track

    • Landing Page Visits: Whether you're trying to gather registrations for an upcoming live webinar or encouraging downloads of a recorded, archived webinar, landing pages will again be the primary page by which you can track success. (Tip: Use the same landing page to capture registrants and archived downloads; just re-purpose the page to include the recording when it's available. This eliminates the need to create a brand new landing page and also capitalizes on the traffic the page will already generate organically through search and social sharing.) Evaluate webinar landing page visits just as you would ebook landing page visits (see above).
    • b2bsm hashtag Social Media Shares & Hashtag Engagement: Social media shares can give you a pulse of how much visibility your webinar is getting in social networks. Hashtags allow you to monitor the conversion happening before, during, and after your webinar, and helps you identify the audience's sentiment toward your webinar in terms of topic, production quality, and content value. It's a best practice to create a hashtag for your webinars so you can track this conversation, join in, and enable attendees to engage with each other. It also enables you to generate some buzz around your event and encourage non-attendees to catch the archived version later.
    • Registrations: Registrations is the number of registrants for your webinar. These are people who completed the registration form on your landing page to secure their spot in your upcoming live webinar. You want to generate as many registrations as possible, since only a fraction of registrants will end up actually attending your webinar.
    • Live Attendees: Live attendees are the number of registrants that actually attended your live webinar. You can also calculate your registrations-to-live attendees conversion rate to identify the percentage of registrants who actually showed up. This can show you how well you were at getting registrants not just to register, but also to attend. It's important to identify which registrants actually attended so that you can nurture these leads differently than those that registered but did not sign up. For example, in your follow-up email to non-attendees, you might want to include the webinar recording and mention that it could be useful since they weren't able to attend live.
    • Submissions/Downloads: For archived webinars, this number shows how many people downloaded your webinar after the live showing. Offering archived webinars is a great way to extend the life of your webinar content and generate more conversions and views post live event. (Note: For some middle-of-the-funnel focused webinars such as group demos or product-focused webinars, it might not make sense to put this content behind a lead gen form, as views, not leads, is likely the goal.)
    • Conversion Rate: A webinar's conversion rate could refer to the rate at which landing page visitors converted into registrants (for live webinars) or the rate at which landing page visitors converted into downloads (for archived webinars). Again, as with ebook conversion rates (see above), this percentage can pinpoint problems with your landing page, and an improved conversion rate could help you generate more submissions without increasing traffic.

    Business Blogging

    Possible Goals: Business blog posts include any content you publish to your business blog and usually serve as shorter-form content. Business blogging can contribute to a number of goals -- establishment as an industry thought leader, improved search engine optimization, lead generation, social media reach, or lead nurturing.

    Metrics to Track

    • blog analytics prod page Page Views and Overall Traffic: Because each blog post you publish lives on its own web page, page views will give you an idea of how many visitors viewed a specific post. This can provide some powerful insights into the types of content -- subject/topic, format, etc. -- that resonates with your audience. It can also help you conduct deeper analysis into which factors make killer blog posts for your blog. Use this knowledge to write more about the topics your audience responds to and less about the ones they don't. In addition, track the traffic to your blog as a whole. You'll want this to steadily increase over time to ensure that your blog is effectively contributing to an increase in traffic to and exposure for your business' website.
    • Keyword/Search Rankings: One of main benefits of business blogging is an increase in your website's search engine rankings. Be sure you're tracking if your business increases its ranking for the keywords you're targeting over the course of your blogging career. And make sure you're optimizing every blog post you publish for those keywords to ensure you're steadily moving the needle. Increased search rankings lead to increased traffic, and increased leads! 
    • Inbound Links: While also a driver for SEO success, inbound links into your blog content can give you a powerful indication of which posts were valuable enough to link to from another website. Analyze which of your posts received the most inbound links to get an idea of what types of content generally gets rewarded with an inbound link. Then apply the lessons learned to future content.
    • Submissions/Conversions: How well is your blog contributing to lead generation? Again, submissions/conversions can be segmented into new leads or reconverted leads. Both are valuable, but depending on your goals, you may want to track one more closely than another. If you can attribute few leads to your blog, make sure each post you publish includes a relevant call-to-action (CTA) to a landing page for one of your more premium content offers like a webinar or an ebook. If you've already done so, conduct some A/B testing on your CTAs to maximize conversions from your blog.
    • Comments and Social Media Shares: Just as with ebooks and webinars, social media shares can be a great way to gauge your content's success. Shares as well as blog comments can also serve to indicate your audience's sentiment toward your content. Be sure you leave comments open on your blog and make sure every blog article published includes social media sharing buttons to encourage visitors to share you content with their networks.

    Pulling It All Together

    As we all well know, a marketer's job doesn't stop at lead generation. So it makes sense that marketers should also analyze how their content assets work both individually and together to achieve their business' bottom line: customers and revenue . Using closed-loop data , marketers should analyze which content assets are most successful in generating customers. Is one content format (e.g. ebooks vs. webinars) more successful at generating customers than the other? Does one content topic tend to produce more customers?

    Using  lead intelligence , marketers should also identify whether leads who consume multiple types of content become more qualified customers. That analysis in itself is fodder for a more advanced post, which we discuss here , but at the very least, marketers should understand that many prospects and leads will likely engage with your content in more ways than one.

    Marketers who effectively leverage the data at their fingertips to gather insights about their content's performance have the opportunity to significantly improve their content strategy. Are you making the most out of the data available to you?

    Image Credit: Jamiesrabbits

    analytics-ebook

    Topics: Analytics

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