Oct 13, 2015

A Practical Guide to Content Marketing Metrics

by Digital Marketing Institute

An accomplished content marketing strategy can facilitate relationship building and cultivate a sense of community that encourages steadfast loyalty to your brand. It can allow you to position yourself as a thought leader, an authority, within your industry. It provides you with the opportunity to sell your brand and simultaneously provide value and insight to your target audience.

Being able to evaluate your content marketing activity, from creation to distribution, is critical to iterating its success. You can use analytics to identify and address both issues and opportunities in your content strategy. Yet with this in mind, only 8% of marketers consider themselves very successful at tracking the ROI of their content marketing. Digital professionals can find the effectiveness of their content difficult to measure, especially if there’s an underlying uncertainty about its role within an overall marketing strategy.

The single most important question a content marketer can ask themselves is this: why am I creating this content? Not to get too existential about it, but it’s important to recognise that the metrics you measure will depend entirely on the goals you have assigned to your content. You should never create a piece of content without first setting objectives; they are intrinsic to defining your parameters for measurement. What are you trying to achieve? Typical content marketing objectives include increasing brand awareness, lead generation, customer retention or upselling. Whatever they may be, never forget to outline your goals from the very outset.

Basic Metrics (Consumption)

Sometimes, the prospect of having to produce a performance report and the sight of an analytics dashboard can trigger a justifiably paralysing fear. What exactly are you looking for? And how do you find it?

Basic metrics are those that deal with consumption, or how many people have viewed or accessed your content (depending on its format). Not all content marketers are masters of measurement, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed, basic metrics are a recommended starting point. They will answer your most fundamental content questions and provide you with an overview of how your strategy is performing.

Key consumption metrics include:


  • Users: this provides the total number of unique visitors to a particular page on your website.
  • Pageviews: records the total number of times a particular page on your website, be it a product page, or a blog post, is viewed.
  • Unique Pageviews: this metric combines pageviews that are generated by the same user during the same session, so you can gain an insight into the number of sessions during which that page was viewed.

Top tip: you can create an advanced segment to split out particular types of traffic within your Google Analytics reporting to take a more precise look at the performance of your content. I like using advanced segments feature to compare the performance of blog content in comparison to the rest of the website (but only when it’s doing well enough to validate my bragging):

Basic Metrics (Consumption) - Google Analytics | A Practical Guide to Content Marketing Metrics

Don’t forget to analyse these consumption metrics in combination with additional insights on Google Analytics:

  • Location: This can really help to inform your content creation process. For example, if the majority of your blog traffic comes from the United States, maybe you should focus on trying to reach out to prominent American influencers to contribute to your blog.
  • Source/Medium: Provides information on what channels assisted with the consumption of your content, so you can create content to complement those channels.
  • Mobile: How many users are consuming your content on mobile devices? This will dictate whether or not you should be focusing on long-form content, or formats that are easy to view on mobile, such as infographics or video.


According to iContact, customers who receive email newsletters typically spend 82% more money, so make sure to measure the effectiveness of any email content via your Email Service Provider:

Basic Metrics (Consumption) - Mailchimp | A Practical Guide to Content Marketing Metrics

  • Open rates: Email headlines are content too! Don’t forget to A/B test them to increase the likelihood of a high open rate.
  • Clicks: How many clicks do your emails acquire and where do they go? This is especially useful if your email newsletter contains links to different blog posts, so you can ascertain which posts are most attractive to your subscribers.

Engaging Metrics

Consumption metrics, as we’ve established, can provide an incredibly comprehensive introduction to measuring content effectiveness. It could be tempting to cap your measurement at content consumption, but if you drill just a little bit deeper you can gain a much more detailed understanding of how your audience is interacting with your content, and for how long they are paying attention to it. Engagement metrics are essential to fostering a relationship with and sense of loyalty from your audience; according to Chartbeat, “visitors who read an article for 3 minutes return twice as often as those who read for one minute”

Key engagement metrics include:


  • Average time on page: if the average time spent on one blog post is two minutes, and another is six minutes, this gives you a strong indicator of the type of content that your audience most engages with.
  • Pages/Session: the total number of pages a user visits whilst browsing your website. This is a good indicator of the extent to which they are engaging with your content.
  • News vs. Returning: this one sums itself up really… the number of new visitors to your website vs. the number of returning visitors. It can help you to figure out how many people are engaging with your content for the first time, or on a regular basis!
  • Referral traffic:provides you with overview of the websites that are sharing and linking to your content.

Top tip: You can use Content Grouping within GA to segment your content and streamline your insights with regard to the kind of content users are engaging with. For example, you can create content groups based on topics, content formats, and the average length of posts.


  • Shares: this encompasses Retweets, Repins or any channel-specific social share metric that demonstrates the reach of your content and the fact that it resonates with your audience and they find it… pinteresting (sorry).
  • Comments: It takes more effort for a reader to post a comment on a blog post than it does for them to like it, so this is often a strong gauge of how engaged your community is. For Twitter, this could include both Mentions and Tweets linking to you.
  • Follower growth: Take into account any new followers in your regular reporting; they have made a conscious decision to be exposed to the content that you’re posting

Top tip: Collecting social engagement metrics by utilising the native analytics of each of your social channels can be painstaking if you need to produce a high level overview on a regular basis (albeit this is indispensable for a deep analysis). I recommend checking out a tool like Buzzsumo that will provide you with data on social shares based on content type, length and the channels from which those shares came. It also provides information on backlinks that highlight the reach of content and which other sites are sharing it.

Engaging Metrics | A Practical Guide to Content Marketing Metrics


  • Subscriber growth: As with follower growth, subscriber growth gives you a view of the users that have actively chosen to receive your email content.
  • Unsubscribes/opt-outs: Was it something you said? Probably. Although not desirable, unsubscribes are still representative of how your audience is engaging with your content. Or not, as the case may be.
  • Forwards: Forwards cannot always be tracked effectively, especially if people email direct links to content or use their email client’s forward button. However, if you incorporate a “send to a friend” button or if they share a link that’s embedded in your email, you can at least capture some of this engagement.

Conversation Metrics

According to the Content Marketing Institute, sales, lead generation and lead nurturing are among the top organisational goals for content marketers, so it should go without saying that incorporating metrics that track the ROI of your content marketing into your reporting is essential. I’ve already mentioned that this can be a pain point for a lot of marketers, but when broken down in correlation with your content goals, conversion metrics aren’t as overwhelming as you might think!


Lead Gen:

  • Goal Completions: setting up goals in Google Analytics will enable you to measure to what extent you achieve your target objectives through your website’s content. For the purposes of lead generation, you could set up goals such as a newsletter signup, brochure download, or contact form completion and track the total number of conversions accordingly.
  • Goal Conversion Rate: this will give you the sum of all individual goal conversion rates. It’s calculated by dividing the total number of goal completions by total number of sessions.


  • Transactions: if you apply a filtered view, you can see very easily what percentage of revenue for online transactions your blog, for example, was responsible for and the total amount.
  • Time to purchase: this metric shows you the total number of days it took for a user to complete a purchase, which could help inform your content creation and map it to different stages of the sales funnel.
  • Assisted Conversions: You can filter this to view assisted conversions in relation to your content on a goal by goal basis (from a lead gen perspective), as well as for transactions. This will provide you with information on the monetary value of the conversions assisted by your content and the number of conversions for which your content was the final conversion interaction.

Top tip: Access the funnel visualization report to view the steps a user took to complete a particular goal. This will allow you to assess the percentage drop off at each stage of the conversion journey, and endeavour to minimise it with your content.


  • Lead capture forms: For gated assets such as ebooks and whitepapers, the number of contact forms that are filled out is a very easy way to ascertain how many leads have been generated by a specific piece of content.


  • Blog/newsletter subscriptions: As with gated content, the number of newsletter or blog signups will help you to establish an insight into the leads generated as a direct result of a desire to engage with your content.


  • Conversion tracking: conversion tracking on Facebook and Twitter can help you measure the ROI of promoted content by reporting on the actions users take after this promoted content is viewed.

The Metrics that matter to: Eric Enge - Stone Temple Consulting

Eric Enge is the founder and CEO of Stone Temple Consulting, an SEO aficionado and digital industry thought leader. He’s the lead author of the book The Art of SEO, and a columnist and contributor to prominent publications including Search Engine Land, Marketing Land, Moz and Copyblogger.

What are the metrics that matter most to you?

The right metrics depend on the overall organisational goals for the content marketing effort. However, even if your goals are purely SEO focused (organic search traffic and search rankings), we recommend that you make your highest priority the building of your reputation, visibility, and audience. This the general approach that will result in obtaining the best links over time anyway.

So, for that reason these are the metrics we like to consider:

a. Measurements of reputation and visibility, such as brand searches and unaided awareness

b. Measurements of the reach of sites where you successfully publish content on 3rd party sites

c. Social share counts, and total audience reached

d. Links and Domain Authority of the links obtained

e. Rankings

Are there any metrics relevant to content marketing that you feel are often overlooked?

Most brands don’t measure unaided awareness. This is a measure of the number of people who express knowledge of a brand or product without prompting (brand recall). This is a great way to see if your content marketing campaigns are increasing your overall visibility. A truly successful content marketing campaign will have an impact at this level. If you are moving unaided awareness, then you are likely driving a lot of other things as well, including your overall SEO results.

What are your favourite tools to analyse the performance of content?

  • We use Survey Monkey to help people measure unaided awareness
  • Google Trends can provide brand search volume over time
  • We use Buzzsumo to collect social metric data
  • Open Site Explorer is the source for Domain Authority information. We also use Majestic SEO to expand the information we can get on link to the site


The most successful content marketing strategies are those that see beyond the transactional element to the relationship between brand and customer, and recognize that through content marketing, you can inform, engage and entertain. You have the opportunity to really mean something to the people that mean the most to you – 78% of consumers believe that organisations providing custom content are interested in building good relationships with them (cmocouncil) – and it goes without saying, if you can convince them, you can convert them!

What are your key metrics for measuring content marketing success and how have they enabled you to refine your strategy? Let us know in the comments below!

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