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Measuring and improving content marketing success

Recent research shows 90 percent of marketers place either a medium or high priority on content marketing. However, total spend on it does not reflect this importance, as allotments for content marketing represent only 10 percent of marketing budgets, according to the IMN Content Marketing Survey. One way to rectify this disparity may be to demonstrate to decision-makers within an organization that content marketing has measurably positive results.

The reach of content marketing
Content marketing efforts can influence many other areas of online marketing. Search engine optimization can see increased page rankings with the intelligent use of content, particularly under Google's new algorithms that emphasize useful and engaging material over a proliferation of keywords. Well-written content can also drive social media engagement with likes and shares. Measuring the impact of a content marketing strategy on these other areas may be difficult to do in a concrete, quantitative way, but the effects of improvements across the board can be measured.

Key metrics to measure content marketing success
Just as in any other area of online marketing, there is a lot of data available on how content performs. This list, adapted from Search Engine Watch's guide to measuring SEO success, can help guide analysis efforts. For each component, it's useful to be able to analyze data from before and after content became part of a company's marketing strategy.

  • Search engine rankings: As all marketers know, SEO is vital. The vast majority of Internet users never click beyond the first page of search results. A well-deployed content marketing strategy can improve search rankings. Being able to show that this has occurred makes a great business case for investing more in content.
  • Website traffic: If content is driving engagement on social media, it should also increase the number of visitors to a business' website through linkbacks. This is easy and essential to measure. Another component of this measurement is how much time visitors tend to spend on the website. Good content can increase the length of time users stay as they are entertained and informed by the material they find. A low bounce rate, too, can indicate that content has improved a website.
  • Conversion rates: Of course, the point of online marketing of any kind is to increase conversions. If it can be demonstrated that conversions have increased since content was integrated into a business' marketing strategy, the organization will inevitably place high value on it. This can be defined in a number of ways, whether in terms of actual sales made or other actions taken like newsletter signups.

Improving content marketing
Regardless of whether a company is willing to allocate more of its marketing budget to content, there are steps any marketer can take to improve the content that is already being produced. A simple training for copywriters on how to write for the Internet with search engine algorithms in mind can be of great help to SEO efforts, for instance. Implementing a consistent content schedule can also streamline production. Another important part of content writing is ensuring that every published piece is up to editorial and company standards. If there is currently a structure in place for editing and pre-publication review, companies should consider whether it could be refined.

All of these strategies can improve written content to the degree that a business is able to implement them. Other improvements can come from diversifying content. With the profusion of free online tools available for visual content creation, like Instagram and Twitter's Vine, companies can create photos and videos that can supplement written material. Diversifying what is written can also be valuable. From how-to articles to quick lists of top industry news, the possibilities for engaging content are endless.

Hiring help for great content
If a company concludes that the return on investment of content writing is enough to justify increased expenditure on it, there are several ways to proceed. One of these is to outsource content production and management to an outside business. Such a business may be an interactive marketing agency, a digital advertising agency or one devoted solely to the production of content. Guidance published by Search Engine Land on working with an agency indicates businesses must first ask themselves what they need of an agency and only then seek out a partner.

If marketers or advertisers decide to work with an agency for content production, measuring the success of the outsourced effort can be done in the same way it would be for in-house content marketing. Wherever content comes from, its impact on the metrics above should be consistently measured. The great importance of this kind of marketing means not only that it must be an area of focus for marketers but that it must also be analyzed to ensure it is performing well.

Sheila Kloefkorn

With more than 25 years of hands on marketing strategy and operations experience, Sheila Kloefkorn is dedicated to developing marketing strategies and plans that help clients succeed. Some of the world's largest brands have depended on Sheila for marketing programs that delivered tangible and substantial results. Specialties: B2B marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, sales strategy, marketing strategy, competitive marketing strategy, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), mobile marketing, email marketing, website design, marketing plans.