With all the advances in content marketing in the last few years, there's still an enormous, unaddressed problem relating to how marketers feel about their efforts.Consider this: 54% of marketers feel they are falling well short of their most important content marketing objectives. Surprisingly, only 15% see measurement as their biggest challenge, with 29% and 25% seeing business results and creation respectively as more pressing concerns. Data may be the marketing buzzword du jour, but understanding its complexity and how it can best deliver business results for content marketing is still a riddle to be solved.
While there are few who would argue that we need to be better at measuring the return on content marketing, it's important to unpack that idea in some more detail. Here are the most important areas of measurement digital leaders we've spoken with want to start seeing more of on their dashboards -- and how we can start closing the gap between expectations and reality:
1. Provide more insight about consumers
Measuring clicks, likes and shares is one thing, but it doesn't give us a real glimpse of the person behind them. Even measuring brand sentiment gets one step closer, but not quite close enough. Social listening often lacks the ability to read nuance, and data can be two-dimensional without the right applications. Marketers will need to employ alternatives to the typical plug-and-play methods to find the meaning behind customers' behaviors and desires. For instance, with recipe content, are gluten-free consumers showing a preference for snacks and fast meals vs. dishes that require more time and prep? For consumer electronics content, are wearables enthusiasts showing more interest in performance or style? These are the kinds of insights marketers are craving.
2. Develop more predictive metrics on what to publish next
Contextual fit is key, but getting it right requires a careful mix. Marketers should take an integrated approach, assembling a thoughtful blend of tools, surveys, scorecards and more to effectively measure what people are saying and better optimize content. It's not just about web traffic, page views, clicks, opens and shares, or even sales and leads generated. The goals for content inevitably change depending on a number of factors, including your overarching program, which channels you're activating and how each use sits in your marketing mix.
For example, it could be as simple as a CPG brand recognizing that only a small fraction of users checking out longer-form articles scroll down the page or dwell for more than 40 seconds. This might be a strong indicator for shortening that particular format to a more bite-sized length. You might also analyze per-content performance across topics -- giving you a strong basis for reweighting or fine-tuning the next wave of your publishing efforts. Elucidating these types of patterns will be critical for making content marketing analytics more actionable.
3, Establish a clearer picture of long-term relationships
Engagement is a goal, not a metric. Marketers are rapidly starting to realize that users per piece of content play an important role, but that pieces of content per user may be just as -- if not more -- important to achieving success. At SXSW back in 2010, Gary Vaynerchuk asserted that businesses are all too often acting like 19-year-old boys, trying to "seal the deal" on the first date. Four years later, his assertion is more evident than ever.
We know that helping guide consumers down a meandering path takes more than just a quick hit. It's about building a relationship that evolves over time -- getting customers to serially engage with a brand and its content is a sure-fire way of enabling richer interactions. However, it's an area of measurement few marketers have a handle on when setting goals and evaluating program performance. Getting a handle on metrics like repeat engagement rate and average number of pieces of content per repeat visitor are poised to become top-of-dashboard staples throughout the next 12 months.
Finding a correlation between metrics and results of content is still in its infancy, but there is one thing we can undoubtedly measure: how content is changing relationships between brands and consumers. When those needs are better met, we'll all have a much clearer picture of whether, and to what extent, content marketing is actually serving its intended purpose -- and we'll have better building blocks for recognizing and calculating a return on those efforts.