Technology Is Your Friend

The bad news is that it can be downright difficult to get from A to B: that is, deciding on the most impactful metrics and developing processes and strategies to track them. The good news is that plenty of worthwhile technology exists to get you from B to C.

“I always start with Google Analytics, but additional software we use for ourselves and our clients include AddShoppers, Springbot, Sprout Social, and Hootsuite,” says Seth Rand, founder and CEO of Rand Internet Marketing.

When it comes to web analytics tools, Google Analytics is the household name, although plenty of viable alternatives exist, such as Adobe Analytics, Kissmetrics, Clicky, Piwik, Heap, Mint, and Moz Pro. Aside from measuring KPIs such as traffic per page, these can help track the user journey to see where they fall off after entering a website.

CRM software that helps you manage customer data and interaction and automate marketing and sales efforts is another must-have tool for many content marketers. Popular brands in this space include Salesforce, Insightly, Pipedrive, and Silverpop. Additionally, marketing automation platforms such as HubSpot, Pardot, Eloqua, and Marketo help measure key metrics such as downloads, sign-ups, and trials-which are especially important for B2B content marketers whose biggest priority is lead generation, but are also valued by business-to-consumers (B2C) marketers.

“We use Marketo, integrated with Salesforce, to track the user journey from the point at which they download content and how they interact with the site and other content after that,” says Lucey. “This allows us to personalize email campaigns and other outreach.”

Keyword search analytics tools such as SpyFu and KeywordSpy are also popular; they allow you to learn more about your competitors’ most profitable keywords and content. Using customizable bars and plug-ins that display messages at the top of your website can aid your content marketing efforts too. Hello Bar, for instance, enables you to integrate an email sign-up bar and measure how many users visit your site or blog and sign up to learn more-an ideal way to collect email addresses.

“You’ll also need a good social tracking tool, like TweetReach, to monitor how large of an audience is reached by your social efforts,” says Sharon Mostyn, CMO for Creativation Marketing.

Suggestions for a Higher Content Marketing Yield

To ensure that you’re measuring what’s most important and to demonstrate a more accurate return on your content marketing investment, consider these tips from experts in the field:

• Work closely with sales and marketing and determine what’s worth tracking. “Have a conversation with the team as a whole and decide on the specific KPIs that are most important for your business, while also factoring in the culture of your company,” advises Daniel Orseno, ecommerce manager for

• Evaluate your expenses. It’s hard to quantify ROI without knowing how much money and resources you’ve put into your content/content marketing first.

• Conduct external market research via focus groups, ethnographic research, and polling. “Going directly to your customer by conducting consumer-facing surveys can tell marketers what they care about the most and what content encourages them to engage,” says Paul Parreira, founder of Company Cue.

• Ditch dead-end content and count on more customization. Creating quickly consumed content that is easily discarded and forgotten about does little more than achieve brand awareness. Instead, personalize your content for individual personas and journeys, offers Lucey. “In 2016, personalization is going to be even more crucial. Create unique content that is highly relevant to your target audience.”

• Offer downloadable content in exchange for an email address to help measure and convert customers. “Measure how many inquiries you get, and have a specific lead capture methodology,” says Jodie Shaw, CMO for The Alternative Board. For instance, at the end of a webinar, have attendees fill out a form. At the end of a white paper, include a link to a specific and trackable form for people to get more information about your product or service. “That way, your content has an element of traceability and can be attributed to putting leads into your sales pipeline,” she says.

• Pay attention to what your emails say to your leads. “Email marketing is still one of the best ways to nurture leads after they’ve downloaded or interacted with a piece of content,” Lucey says. “But work with your email team to ensure that the follow-up emails offer more relevant content.”

Big-Picture Approach

Trying to calculate the financial effect of your content can certainly be challenging. But even if you’re successful in quantifying value, beware of putting too many eggs in the analytics basket. “If everything you do is a reaction to your numbers, there’s a danger of your content becoming calculated and mechanical, and your audience will sense it,” cautions Rachel Parker, founder and CEO of Resonance Content Marketing.

Also, remember that, despite your best intentions, not all content marketing components can be measured in terms of their impact to your bottom line. “If, after performing analytics, I learn that no one is listening to my free podcast, then I’ll know to change the content, promote it differently, or abandon the channel. But there would be no way for me to assign a revenue value to the podcast,” says Mike Porter, president of Print/Mail Consultants. “You need to evaluate the effectiveness of individual content components based on their contribution to the overall buyer journey, not as a direct link to sales.”

Lastly, remember to pace yourself when applying a content marketing strategy and attempting to measure ROI. “The main key is consistency and patience,” says Mostyn. “You can’t expect to launch a content marketing plan and see results immediately. It’s a time-consuming process, but if you develop a better relationship with your audience and give them the content the way they want it, it helps cultivate loyal customers.” And that can yield a better-and hopefully quantifiable-return on your marketing dollar.