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Why volume isn’t the best measure of content performance success

For a better way of measuring content performance; think vision.

Marketers have a tendency to get wrapped up in the double-bind of volume and views. For meaningful content marketing measurement however, departments must look beyond vanity metrics and superficial statistics and focus on the bigger picture instead.

You’ve come across the catchphrases: content glut, the churn, the tipping point. There’s that queasy statistic too, that every 60 seconds Facebook publishes over 3.3 million posts – a number that’s probably only going to rise.

Let’s not kid ourselves: the world doesn’t need more content. Not if this content is just ‘stuff’ to push out into the void. We don’t need more: we need better. It’s the difference between splattering gluggy porridge everywhere, and baking a casserole to make Matt Preston weep. We need super-consumable, relevant content which gives value to your audiences all throughout their buyer journey. Thinking about writing another ‘how to’ that a dozen others have already unpacked? Nobody needs that.

Before deciding ‘what’, ask yourself ‘why’. The answer will come from asking your audience what they want from you. How can your content, first and foremost, serve them?

The views delusion

The anxiety over volume is bundled up with an obsession over views. It’s a lose-all game of bewildering design. Here’s the thing: views nowadays don’t give you any indication of whether anyone’s actually read or engaged with your content. Someone scrolls passed your article in the feed without even registering the headline: that’s a view. If your page returns in Google’s search results, but it’s too far down for the user’s screen to show it? Sometimes that can count as a view too.

That’s not to say views are meaningless to content performance. After all, if your goal is to grow brand awareness and your subscriber base, you have to put your work in front of a large – albeit targeted – volume of people. What’s important is to understand that from those views, there’s only going to be small percentage who engage; and from that group, an even smaller percentage who follow through to qualify as a lead.

Chasing views without plumbing those deeper levels of metrics means you’re missing out on an opportunity. And your bottom line remains, at best, unchanged.

Self-defining your metrics of success

What are the metrics of success then? It depends. They’re different for every single client, program or campaign that’s being run. Knowing which is predicated first upon defining your objectives and understanding what is is you really want to achieve – not only as a marketing department either, but as a business overall. Once you’ve identified these topline objectives, only then can you go about selecting custom metrics that align with these specific goals.

For that top-to-middle area of the buyer funnel, for instance, you’re going to be looking at things like time on page, scroll depth, site visitor numbers and how many have hit that curiosity button ‘read more’. If you’re directing your efforts at the bottom end of the funnel, maybe it’s subscriber numbers that are most relevant to you. For businesses well in their stride, ROI might be around whether or not content can be attributed to broader sales-based goals.

In short, there is no single set of metrics that content marketers should apply. Give up the pipedream, and choose flexibility instead.

Measurement tools: go direct

Subsequently, if you’re on the hunt for an all-encompassing platform to measure content marketing ROI, chances are it doesn’t exist. Some platforms will be more appropriate for some campaigns and less so for others. Again, it’ll all depend upon your business strategy goals.

It’s not all nebulous however. Here’s a piece of advice to hold onto: in most cases, rather than paying nosebleeding sums for complex ROI measurement software, it’s better to go to the source – to Google Analytics, to your CRM and to the in-built insights from owned social channels. Why? Platforms like Facebook update themselves constantly, meaning other management platforms like Hootsuite or Buffer often struggle to keep up. This puts a spanner in the works for accuracy. For the most detailed, low-risk analytics: go direct.

Content performance and attribution modelling

Attribution modelling has a tendency to be overlooked, but it can be hugely useful in understanding the motives of your prospect as they travel along the funnel. In practice, it means looking at the touchpoints that an individual has with your brand and giving them different weighting, making sure evaluation is keyed in with reality.

For instance, Google search tends to get highly valued because people often come to the conclusion that “because people have found my website through Google search, I should spend more money on Google search advertising.” Yet here, they might be only looking at the last stage of a cumulative process of interaction. After all, the person didn’t conjure up that search term from nothing. They’re inputting it because they read about you in a magazine, or saw you on a poster, or received a newsletter in their inbox. All these forces have been building up an individual’s brand awareness like air in a balloon. The search is just the ‘pop’.

Success is unlikely to result from spamming your audience with content they don’t need. For meaningful data and reliable results, choose your metrics wisely, and always put quality first.

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