5 Things to Look at When Evaluating Your Content Marketing ROI

Gabrielle Sadeh
Gabrielle Sadeh

You can research, create and publish all the content you want, but all your hard work will be pointless if you don’t promote it successfully.

That’s why you put at least as much energy into content promotion optimization. You can check metrics on Google Analytics and the social media reporting platforms of your choice on a regular basis. But that’s not always enough to deliver a clear and thorough evaluation of your content promotion efforts.

It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of metrics, but metrics on their own can’t give you a full understanding of the extent to which your content promotion is serving you well.

Image source: https://www.orbitmedia.com/blog/blogging-statistics/

For example, if you’re seeing a lot of traffic from Facebook, it could mean that you bid too high for your Facebook ads, that your organic Facebook posts were very effective, or that the influencers you’re paying are sending you too many irrelevant audience members.

But what happens once these people are on your pages? What actions are you hoping they’ll take?

You need to correlate both negative and positive metrics against promotional activities, including messaging creative, target audiences, channels and timing, to arrive at the right answer.

Here are three simple steps to setting the stage for a fuller evaluation of your content promotion choices:

  1. Collect data on your social media shares, reactions, and comments.
  2. Gather Google Analytics data that show traffic sources and destination pages for all the URLs you want to track.
  3. Compare traffic, conversions, bounce rate, and other relevant metrics for different sources, checking them against your promotion campaign decisions.

Now that you’ve got your Google Analytics and social media data in the same place as your content promotion history, there are myriad questions to ask. For example, examine your promotion channels to see which ones performed best for engagement and which had the highest clickthrough rates (CTR).

Continually ask yourself whether you’re putting the most effort into the highest-performing channel, if you need to direct more thought to a channel that’s under-performing despite high investment, or if you are under-investing in a high-performing channel.

Here are five specific things to look for when correlating performance metrics with promotion tactics.

1. Sales conversions

Content metrics can mislead you into focusing on getting a higher CTR or raising engagement, but the real issue is conversions and sales.

Imagine your email newsletters generate only 23 leads, but 20 eventually become loyal customers, while your Facebook content generates 50 leads, of whom 18 become loyal customers.

An 87% conversion rate through email is more valuable and shows much more effective content promotion than your 40% Facebook conversion rate. Tracking visitors throughout their customer journey reveals the real impact of your promotions. Close the loop in your analytics by incorporating customer lifetime sales data, and you’ll see the patterns that matter.

2. Micro-conversions

You might or might not be using a complex attribution model that takes multiple touches into account. If you are, then you might be in over your head. If you aren’t, then your analytics aren’t going to show you the full picture. Closing a sale when someone comes to your site for the first time is extremely rare, which is why it’s important to look closely at all the different micro-conversions that take place when people are referred to your content pages by various promotion efforts.

Tracking what percentage of visitors joined an email list, returned to your blog a second time, followed you on LinkedIn or scheduled a demo, for example, can reveal richer insights into the ROI of your promotion efforts. If 3.5% of your contact form leads ultimately become customers with an average of $2857 in lifetime value, then you’d do well to assign $100 as the value of contact form micro-conversion goals in Analytics.

Image source: https://www.klood.com/blog/analytics/tracking-goals-google-analytics

With this level of reporting in place, you might find that most of your native ad-referred traffic subscribed to your email list, but most LinkedIn visitors started a live chat conversation. Next, you’ll need to look back through your marketing campaign to see which content brought them to your site in order to perform these micro-conversions. This puts you in a better position to tweak your content for the micro-conversions that move the needle most.

3. On-page engagement

If you think of the content on your web page as a monolith, you could overlook the relative efficacy of different lengths, styles, and sections of content at converting visitors from particular traffic sources. Instead, look at heatmaps, scrollmaps and clickmaps. Heatmaps can reveal whether visitors read the entire page before subscribing to your email list and leaving your site, or if they left before they read a word. Google Analytics, mind you, would merely show both sessions as bounces.

Correlate heat scrollmaps with traffic source and device to see if visitors from certain traffic sources are more likely to read the whole thing, and refer to clickmaps to see if visitors click on particular CTAs rather than others. These reveal highly granular insights into which promotional campaigns are targeting the right content at the right people.

About 70% of people’s digital media time and 79% of social media time happens on mobile devices. So your heatmaps might show that your Twitter ads are effectively sending people who scroll to the bottom of your articles, but that you need to add another CTA near the top of the page to capture mobile users who don’t scroll all the way down.

4. Proxy metrics

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how much you invest in optimizing your measurement mechanisms, because the data signals simply aren’t out there. In these cases, it’s important to take all reporting with a grain of salt and to look instead for signs that there’s more happening than your sensors are picking up on.

For example, Facebook ads might be telling you that thousands clicked on your promoted post, but Analytics is showing you unusually low social referral numbers and much higher “direct” traffic numbers. This could be a sign of “dark social,” which includes traffic sources like social, texting apps or even email. Among other causes, dark social happens when people click through from third-party apps that they use to consume content.

Image source: https://imgflip.com/i/34ex5k

In this case, your number of direct page entrances is a “proxy metric,” because Analytics simply attributes all cases of unknown traffic sources to “direct.” For this reason, it’s important to look under the surface if your direct traffic or any other metric seems unusually high or low.

5. Assisted conversions

Traditional content performance evaluation assumes a linear attribution model. This, of course, only makes sense if visitors arrive at your site, pass one micro-conversion after another through your marketing/sales funnel, and finally make a purchase.

But if you’re only measuring people’s journeys according to conversion paths that you yourself have set up, then you could end up overlooking plenty of high-value referrals. Plenty of people probably leave your site without doing anything that you’re set up to track, only to return later to buy something.

Bear in mind that not everyone who leaves is lost. You can use Analytics to track audience cohorts and assisted conversions, which allows you to see the performance of return visits.

Evaluate your content promotion accurately

It’s crucial to evaluate your content promotion efforts, but if you don’t use the right means and assess the right issues, you’ll end up with a false understanding of your content and your content promotion.

Keep your content marketing evaluations on the right track, and you can avoid jumping to the wrong conclusions.

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Gabrielle Sadeh

Gabrielle Sadeh

A consultant, social media specialist and blogger based in Tel Aviv, Gabrielle helps brands share their voices and scale their businesses through powerful digital marketing strategies

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