By Matthew Klein

August 11th, 2015

In the Content Marketing Institute’s annual study of B2C content marketers, respondents were asked about ten key content marketing challenges like “producing engaging content,” “finding trained content marketing professionals,” “lack of budget,” or “gaps in knowledge and skill.” The highest percentage of marketers (51%) rated “measuring content effectiveness” as very challenging.

It’s no surprise—more and more businesses are creating tons of different types of content, and there are so many possible channels of distribution. Video, photos, text, downloads, and more can be distributed on social media, owned websites, apps, a nearly infinite variety of paid channels, custom or programmatic, and they can be shared, engaged with, or repurposed across and between any of these spaces.

Everything is tracked differently, and people across teams are responsible for doing so for many brands. It makes sense that measurement is a challenge.

A lot of brands really want to do better, but aren’t sure where they’re going wrong.

We’ve identified three of the core ways in which companies aren’t getting measurement right, and what they can do to fix them and measure better.

#1 – Measurement is missing focus

Companies that don’t know how successful their content strategy is might be measuring plenty. The issue is that whatever’s measured isn’t able to tell them if their content is doing what they want it to do.

You can measure a dozen metrics for a single piece of content. For a Facebook video, you can see total views, you can get a breakdown of autoplay vs click to play views, of how many people watched through different time intervals—if it’s an ad, cost metrics come in to play too. 

When teams are considering how and what to measure, content marketing metrics on this level get a major amount of attention. Metrics for specific channels, specific pieces of content, or other micro-level concerns are hugely important for optimising individual elements of your content strategy.

But they won’t necessarily allow you to understand how successful you are overall.

How to solve it:

The best way to gain a real perspective on how well your content is doing is to set clear goals for your content strategy and assign a few core metrics to them.

Individual teams, and the people responsible for measurement and reporting on them, should determine more specific goals and metrics for their efforts, but there needs to be a crystal-clear line between those objectives and measurements and those for your overall content strategy.

If it is obvious where individual metrics fit into the bigger picture of your content strategy’s success, not only measuring, but evaluating success and improving outcomes become much easier.

#2 – Measurement’s a priority on paper

Making content a priority requires dedicating time, resources and money to producing content. This makes sense, logically. You can’t create something from nothing. Measurement, on the other hand, especially for people who don’t come from a data background, can seem like something that takes care of itself. That approach doesn’t lead to the most effective content measurement.

How to solve it:

Before kicking off a content campaign, it’s critical to determine what the goals are, who will be involved, the timeline, the budget, and what tools and outside resources will be necessary for success.

It’s no less important to figure out what the metrics are for determining success, who will be responsible for tracking those metrics, what tools and budget are available to do so, and what other resources can be made use of in order to track performance.

When measurement is focused, and made a priority across a department, teams and individuals have a better understanding of their role and how to perform their best in it. 

#3 – Brand-level goals are different

Many companies can still find it a challenge to measure content’s effectiveness around what could be called brand-level goals.

Goals like increasing brand awareness and recall and improving positive customer sentiment can be measured, but it can be harder to agree on exactly how than it is for say, revenue. 

It’s clear that these elements are critical to the health of a brand: The number of people aware of your brand and how positively they feel about it can impact sales immensely. And your content can have a huge effect on these things. But knowing the exact effect means determining the best measures for them.

How to solve it:

Website traffic, mention volume, press coverage—there are lots of content marketing metrics to go by, and a lot of different ways of looking at them.

By defining your brand-level goals clearly, and taking the time to figure out exactly which metrics are the most appropriate for them, you can set up a strong brand-level measurement base.

For brand-level goals especially, consistency is key—by tracking positive brand associations through sentiment, for example, having a baseline that you continue to monitor from over time gives you a strong idea of how well you’re doing.

Making it stick

Measuring performance accurately can make or break a marketing department. In a complicated content landscape, measurement could continue to be a challenge. But the benefits to defining and aligning goals and measurement across teams are huge: you can see what’s working, what needs to be reevaluated and where your biggest opportunities lie. For the companies that are able to get it right, and stick to it, content can do even more to drive success as strategies and channels evolve.

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