Good digital marketing is a long-term strategy; overall, preliminary metrics are unlikely to reveal significant data worthy of closer evaluation. That said, there are some early indicators of content marketing success that can encourage you to stay the course or modify your strategy. You might not get enough data to measure your ROI at the beginning stages of your campaign, but here’s how you can get an idea of what’s working — and what’s not — without waiting months or even years for organic SEO to begin impacting rankings.
Watch Your Bounce Rate
Your bounce rate tells you how quickly people click off of a page on your website after arriving; a higher bounce rate indicates that users who are finding your site don’t feel it has what they’re looking for. Your bounce rate may be high at first, but should steadily go down as you add richer content to your site. If your bounce rate is stagnant or increases, it’s important to find out why.
Is your content poorly formatted or too short? Does your site take too long to load or does it display broken links or other error messages? A good way to find out is to conduct a user test. There are many paid services online, like UserTesting, that you can use to discover what real consumers think about your website. These tools can be used to look at pages with a high bounce rate from a fresh perspective.
Pay Attention to Time Spent on Page
One of your primary content marketing goals is to keep users on your site for as long as possible. Time on page is a ranking algorithm, meaning that search engines look more favourably at sites with high time on page numbers. As described above, a “bounce” is when someone spends next to no time on the site. Low time on page scores often mean that you might be piquing consumer interest, but they’re not engaged enough to stay very long.
This often happens with short-form content and few related articles or calls to action that keeps users reading. The content may be too difficult to read or may not have enough headings, bullets, and images to break up thick blocks of text. Add links to related reading at the end of your content to increase both overall session duration and number of pages per session values.
Review Unique Visitors
Ideally, your content marketing efforts are bringing in new traffic. Keep an eye on your new user stats — if your content is visible, this number should rise steadily. If the number of new users to your site is low, this could indicate that you’re simply not engaging in the promotion of the content as well as you could be.
For example, if you’ve forgotten to share your latest three blogs on your social channels, your new user value is likely to go down. However, if you launch a paid ad on Facebook for one of them, your new user value should increase. This is because your blog is being promoted to new audiences who haven’t seen your content before.
Assess Lead Quality
When you first launch your content marketing plan, you’re unlikely to see a high volume of leads. In fact, you may only get one or two, so assessing the volume of leads isn’t a very accurate way to assess how you’re doing in the beginning. Instead, look at lead quality for whatever leads you do get. If it’s just one, but the lead produces a sale, you can consider it a success. However, if the only leads you’re getting are spam, your content marketing strategy might have a weak link in the chain.
Make sure your content does a good job of funnelling users through the buyer’s journey to a single call to action. If users get confused and aren’t sure where to go or if there are multiple places for them to navigate, you could quickly lose interested leads.
Monitor Social Media Activity
Social media is a great content marketing tool not only for its granular targeting capabilities but also for its instant gratification. When you start to see activity on your social channels, this is a good sign that your content is seen by your target audience as informative, useful, and engaging. Pay special attention to shares — they signal better audience engagement than likes and comments to social media algorithms.
While social analytics will give you more information about how well your content marketing and social strategies are doing over time, monitor activity on your channels as best you can. This will help give you a feel for how users are responding to your content in real-time. Don’t be afraid to promote content on social with paid ads — your organic reach is limited otherwise.
Track Inbound Links
It’s important to also look at inbound links as you start to promote your content across various platforms and other influencers and bloggers begin to share it. What websites are linking to your content and why? How are they talking about your content and what kind of reach do they have?
It’s also critical to ensure your inbound links are of good quality. If not, you could be flagged by Google Penguin algorithms for spam content. Don’t publish your content on third party content hubs and link back to your site — search engines are wise to this tactic now and doing so could hurt your efforts to rank more than help it. If your inbound links leave something to be desired, this can indicate that the quality of your content isn’t up to snuff.
Not Seeing the Impact of Your Content Marketing Efforts? Patience is Key
Content marketing takes a lot of time, effort, and resources, so it can be disappointing when you don’t see results right away. As with all digital marketing strategies, consider yourself to be playing the long game. Content marketing strategies often take years to see the payoff in organic rankings, while paid marketing tends to produce results a little faster.
While the above indicators of early content marketing success can help steer you away from content catastrophes and in the right direction, it’s important not to give early data too much credit. The internet can change drastically from day to day, but trends in data over weeks, months, and even years can give you a more accurate picture of where you stand in relation to your competition. Instead, monitor your analytics over time and watch for trends in the right direction.
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