Brands now compete head-to-head with publishers for visitors and pageviews, so it's tempting to follow their lead in looking at traffic--and only traffic--as the benchmark for your content marketing success.
But you, as a brand, have a huge advantage over publishers when it comes to developing content for your own website. Your goal isn't to sell ads, and you aren't creating content for content's sake. Rather, you're trying to engage and develop a meaningful relationship with readers who may become loyal customers and evangelists for your brand. Traffic to your site is important, but it's not everything.
Whether your company is launching a blog for the first time, or evaluating the payoff of your current content marketing efforts across channels, it's critical to set up and use an analytics program. Many, like Google Analytics or Omniture, can be customized with dashboards that can tell you, almost at a glance, if you're getting measurable results from the messaging you're creating.
Check out your visitors and pageviews, of course--they're still important metrics for evaluating your content program--but don't overlook these 4 other less obvious (but essential!) measures of success.
1. Bounce Rate
It's tempting to ignore your bounce rate, the number of people who view a singe page of your site before navigating away. It's not a very sexy stat; it doesn't change dramatically each month. Still, it represents something extremely important--the percentage of people who are engaged enough by your content to take the next step by clicking another page.
No matter how many new visitors you get each month, it doesn't mean much unless those folks actually stick around to learn more about your brand, products, or services. That's why bounce rate should be used to measure how effective your content is in filling the top portion of your marketing funnel.
Many sites have a bounce rate of 45 to 50 percent; anything under 40 percent is considered a win.
2. Organic Traffic from Search
Even as you're reading this sentence, millions of people are typing questions and phrases into search engines. These queries could potentially bring people to your content--but are Google and Bing actually throwing any love your way?
You'll get your answer by looking at the number of people who arrive at your site through organic search. Just like total web traffic, you want to see this number growing by a significant amount each month. If you're not seeing a steady increase in this metric over time, you may need to audit both your website and your content (new and previously published articles) to ensure that they're fully optimized for search engines.
3. Click Through to E-Commerce or Landing Pages
Whether visitors on your site arrive through organic search, a Facebook referral, or an email link, you're ultimately going to want to guide them from the content into a sales-focused environment.
One way to achieve this is to weave contextual links to relevant e-commerce or landing pages right into your content. You can also include a "related products" module somewhere on the same page. Don't worry that customers will be turned off by product integration: at our editorial marketing company Masthead Media, we've found that customers are more engaged by, and more likely to interact with, content that contains helpful information about your brand.
You can see just how effectively your blog as a whole or individual articles are driving to e-commerce or other landing pages by setting up a custom segment in your analytics program. If you're not seeing a lot of clicks from your content into e-com, you may need to reevaluate how you're integrating brand mentions in your content.
4. Blog to E-Commerce Conversions
Once blog readers end up on your e-commerce pages, are they actually making a purchase? How much are blog readers buying--and how does that compare with customers who begin their buying journey in another way?
You can set up your analytics to track the path that readers take once they enter your blog, and learn about their buying habits. You can see exactly how many purchases were influenced by the blog, the average amount purchased per transaction, and how much total revenue that part of the site generated.
Of course, just because a reader didn't purchase something during this session doesn't mean that they weren't exposed to your brand, and the benefits of your products, though your content. Customers may very well return tomorrow--or three weeks from now--based on the information and experience they have today.