You told yourself that this was your year. You were going to take your brand to the next level, growing your audience and authority like never before.
Empowered and energized, you dove into the wide world of content marketing with a splash.
You strategized, planned, and produced. You revolutionized your brand’s content, forever changing the way you market to your target audience.
Congratulations! You’re one of the 70 percent of marketers actively investing in content marketing (according to HubSpot).
But did it … work?
Are you sure?
Does it seem like maybe it didn’t…?
Here’s how to see the results from your content marketing, and tell if what you’re doing really works.
First: What to Do When You Know You’re Headed Nowhere (Hint: Your Customers Are Your Guiding Star)
Content. Content strategy. Content marketing. Content marketing strategy… just getting those straight can be a chore!
It’s a lot. You could write a book on it. (Actually, I did – hey, one more book for your reading list! ⭐️ )
That’s not to mention all of the metrics, tools, tutorials … and EVEN WHEN you manage to cut to the chase and dive right in, it’s super easy to get lost in all the details…
… in the editorial calendars and the brainstorming and the SMART goals… until one day you look up from your sea of strategy documents and wonder, “Just where am I going with this???”
I’ve been there. It’s not fun. Here are two things to do when you find yourself stuck in the weeds and are not sure where to go.
1. Stop and Listen: Your Brand Grows When Your Audience Grows
In traditional advertising, your brand grows when your brand reach grows. The more feelers and obnoxious ads you put out there, the more people will know about you. Eventually, some of them will be interested enough to bite.
Content marketing is the exact opposite. It assumes that your interested audience is already looking for you and encourages you to produce the content they want to consume.
In other words, content marketing is customer-focused. That’s where you must keep your focus when you’re planning, creating, and distributing your content.
So, are you listening to your customers? Are you giving them the expertise and experience they’re expecting when they consume your content?
That’s the only way you’re going to grow your brand.
2. Stop and Learn: If Content Marketing Feels Endless, You’re Doing It Wrong!!
As a $412 billion industry, content marketing has as many champions as it does critics. It seems that people either love it or hate it (though when we consider the research proving the effectiveness of content marketing, the haters just look jealous).
However, there are also a lot of people out there who frankly don’t know what they’re talking about. Separating the good advice from the bad can be a chore, and you’ll probably apply a bad idea or two before figuring it out (I definitely have).
So, if it feels like you’re just spinning your wheels, stop and take note.
Content marketing feels endless when you’re not seeing results. In my experience, that happens because one or more are true:
- You don’t have a content strategy. Content strategy is the backbone of content marketing. Without it, your content marketing is useless. (Your editorial/content calendar is NOT a content strategy.)
- You aren’t aligning your content strategy with your business strategy. In other words, you either have no idea why you’re creating a piece of content, or you’re creating content for reasons that have nothing to do with business growth.
- You’re tracking the wrong metrics. There are over two dozen metrics and KPIs for you to consider. You have to pick the right ones for your business and audience.
- You aren’t committed to consistency. Consistency is key – publishing content three times in one week and then not again for a month doesn’t work.
- You’ve got bigger problems with your business model. Some 42 percent of businesses fail due to a lack of market need. Your content strategy and marketing may be on point, but it’s not a magic bullet to fix a general lack of interest in what you’ve got on offer.
- You just started. Content marketing generally yields results much faster than plain SEO – but it’s not an overnight thing. If you’re within the first two months of your content marketing and have yet to see results, it’s simply too early to tell. Keep going!
Reams of data show that it consistently delivers higher-quality leads, more site traffic, and lower costs associated with marketing. If you’re not seeing any of that, you’re doing something wrong. Keep reading for the fix.
How to See Content Marketing Results (and Tell If Your Efforts Are Paying Off!)
At its very best, content marketing is the most powerful tool in your content hacking arsenal. But like with any powerful tool, there’s a learning curve. (That’s why taking a course can save you much time and many migraines. I have three that will teach you everything you need to know.)
Here are four things to keep in mind when you’re trying to see the results of your content marketing … especially if you’ve identified any of the problems above.
Without further ado, you’ll get the absolute most out of the powerhouse that is content marketing when you…
1. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
And when I say prize, I mean people – specifically, the people you want to turn into raving fans and customers. Without them, your brand isn’t going to grow.
Nothing – no metric, piece of content, snazzy email campaign – is more important than them. Without them, your brand is nothing, so treat them like the treasure they are.
Fortunately, content marketing can help!
One of content marketing’s biggest strengths (and part of the reason behind why it’s so effective) is that it forces you to take a more customer-centric approach to your operations and content. That’s because content marketing assumes that people are already looking for your thoughts and expertise.
It helps you better deliver that to them. In the process, it also improves the customer experience and their relationship with your brand by proving that you’re a trustworthy, authoritative source of knowledge.
That's not all, though. Customer-centricity pays off. How?
Customers value great experiences so much, 86% will pay more if it means they'll receive a better customer experience.
Remember: you may be the one building the brand, but the brand isn’t about you. Let your customers be your guiding star and create an experience that puts them on center stage.
2. Have a Clearly Documented Content Marketing Strategy
The Content Marketing Institute publishes B2C and B2B content marketing statistics reports each year. They track the way businesses are engaging in and executing content marketing from year to year. It’s fascinating to look through to gain a sense of what people are doing right or wrong.
The more successful respondents were much more likely to have one. Meanwhile, only 21% of the least-successful did.
That’s pretty telling.
If you haven’t already written down your content marketing strategy and you’re not seeing results from your content marketing, make documenting it a priority before you do anything else.
- Force you to think about your content strategy. Whenever you find yourself asking “why am I doing this?” you’ve got an opportunity to talk strategy.
- Help you make sense of content strategy and marketing. Explaining things helps us understand them. A documented content marketing strategy is a great opportunity to really get the concepts down.
- Highlight potential blind spots or areas where your business and content goals don’t align. Sometimes, you don’t even know you’re doing something until you step back and look at the big picture.
- Make you more likely to succeed in your efforts. The CMI’s findings around documented plans aren’t unique. Actually writing down your content strategy "sets it in stone" and makes it real – which means you'll be more likely to follow through.
Does it seem like there’s a pattern? That’s because there is one.
3. Simplify the Metrics
For all the gurus out there waxing poetically about the magic of content marketing, there’s actually not anything super mystical about it.
That’s because content marketing is remarkably data-driven. In other words, we can point to real numbers and hard data that prove whether or not it’s working – no guessing or extrapolating required. (If you’re trying to convince your boss of the value of content marketing, data is a great place to start.)
Of course, with a few dozen trackable metrics, more than a few of them will mislead you, at best. Watch out for vanity metrics.
Vanity metrics are numbers that look good (and often make you feel good) but don’t really mean anything when it comes to evaluating performance. Follower count on social media is a great example of this. It sounds great to have a few thousand followers on Instagram, but how many of them are engaging with your content and converting?
Vanity metrics aren’t necessarily worthless. They aren’t helpful when used alone, but they can enrich your understanding of how your content is performing when used correctly with other metrics. (For example, follower count is helpful to know when you’re gauging whether those 50 likes a post got indicates high engagement or not.)
But they’re not what you want to focus on (you want to focus on your customers). Therefore, when you’re picking out metrics, err toward simplicity. It’ll help you stay out of the weeds.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start by defining success. According to HubSpot, most marketers see sales, web traffic, and lead generation as the three most common ways to measure success:
How do you define success? It also determines what metrics you track. Source: HubSpot
From there, figure out what specific things you need to track. For example, if you choose an increase in web traffic as an indicator of success, you may also choose to track:
- Traffic origins and destinations. How are people finding this content and what content are they landing on the most?
- Bounce rate. How many people are clicking on your page in the SERPs then clicking away?
- Average length of visit. Are people sticking around to actually read things?
In many cases, your metrics will remain pretty straightforward. Compare the chart above to the one which shows the most common specific metrics that marketers use to measure the success of their content marketing:
If increased SEO performance is your measure of success, then search rankings are a metric you want to track. Source: HubSpot
4. Learn to Calculate the True ROI of Content Marketing
Metrics help you gauge the performance of your content marketing in the moment, but they aren’t a replacement for the true ROI of all your efforts. If you want to stay in the value zone with your content marketing, you need to know its ROI.
Believe it or not, it’s possible to have a high-performing content marketing campaign with a low ROI. You’ll come across this situation in instances where your content generates lots of traffic but no leads. In that case, it’s not bringing any money in but you’re continuing to spend. (It probably feels endless at that point, and yeah. Something’s wrong.)
Here’s how to measure your content marketing ROI. You’ll need to know:
- Your total number of monthly visitors
- How many leads generated (average is 16% of total visitors according to Marketing Sherpa)
- Total number of sales (average is 14.6% of leads according to HubSpot)
- Total revenue (Find average sales price by dividing revenue by number of sales)
- What you’re spending on content marketing
The equation looks like this:
((Total Leads x Lead-to-Sale Rate x Average Sales Price) – Costs) / Cost x 100.
You’ll want to perform the calculations twice – once before you start content marketing and again periodically to see the change. What you’re generally looking for is that it’s:
- Costing around 60 percent less your outbound marketing
- Generating 125 percent more leads than before
- Tripling your close rate on your SEO content
If you’re hitting all three, then congratulations – your content marketing is working!
Want to See Results from Your Content Marketing? Focus on Growth
There’s an overwhelming trove of content marketing statistics out there that proves it works. Whether you’re looking just at my tremendous success with Express Writers or at the reports put out by HubSpot and the Content Marketing Institute, I hope I’ve provided some tangible reassurance that your content marketing efforts WILL pay off.
If you have yet to see results from your content marketing, there could be a few things happening. I’ve covered some of the most common problems that I see with students and clients, plus given you loads of tips on how to correct each. From taking a more customer-centric approach to ensuring your content strategy works for your business, you’ve got a lot of moving pieces to master.
You can do it. I believe in you. Just remember…
Stay focused on your customers. More customers mean more growth.
Ready to take your content and content marketing to the next level? Check out the Content Hacker™ Academy and discover how you can become a growth-focused content hacker today.