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How to Measure Your Content Marketing

There are plenty of ways to measure content engagement, but how do you zero in on the right metrics? Here’s how Matcha thinks about using data to inform our customers’ content marketing strategies.

How we measure content success

Perhaps the most vexing part of content marketing, for both marketers and the decision-makers they report to, is quantifying content success. Engagement and branding are long-term strategies; how do we know it’s working? What’s the ROI for this part of our budget?

In addition, one of the most common questions we hear about our reporting is this:

What’s the difference between what Matcha measures and what Google Analytics measures?

Before we dig that deep, though, let’s define a few key concepts. We are fundamentally measuring the success of two different types: marketing efficiency and content engagement. We’ll soon cover ROI calculations as well, so stay tuned.

Marketing efficiency metrics

To measure marketing efficiency, we rely primarily on insights provided by the distribution platforms themselves: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. These metrics are fairly normalized, with impressions in one place having roughly the same value as impressions in another.

We’re not just looking at impressions, though. We like to focus on four key efficiency metrics, all of which tell part of the story:

  1. CPM (cost per impression, in thousands) How hard is it to reach this audience?
  2. CPE (cost per engagement) How much does this resonate with the audience?
  3. CTR (click through rate) How did your audience interact with your content?
  4. CPC (cost per click) How much did it cost on average to drive a click to your website?

An important concept here: while some clients find themselves caught up in CPM, obsessing with one metric only tells part of the story. For example, let’s say you’re in charge of marketing at a high-end ski resort, going after the priciest segment in a very competitive marketplace. Your CPM may be rather high, but if you can also observe a low CPE and a high CTR, you’re successfully reaching and engaging with an affluent audience.

Articles which truly underperform will show poor values for all of these metrics.

Conversely, a piece of content with positive marks in all four may have a broad reach, and perform efficiently, but may not necessarily be well-targeted advertising for your brand. That’s where CPCs are interesting to watch. While we generally optimize toward low CPCs, it’s important to watch engagement as CPC drops. If too many visits are turning into bounces or show extremely low time on site, there’s probably something wrong with the targeting of the ads.

For most of our clients, the key metrics are site visits and the time on site spent with the brand once they capture a reader, which leads us to content engagement.

Content engagement metrics

Here’s where things start to differentiate between what you’ll see within the insights from each platform.

If your goal is to engage customers in a meaningful way, how do you track that?

Matcha measures content engagement.

When you look at the “Analytics” dashboard in Matcha (or dig into the deep-dive quarterly reviews that we provide clients), you will see several main engagement metrics that we think are critical for quantifying engagement:

  • Readers: We define a “reader” as a visitor who spends at least 15 seconds on the page.
  • Average reader time: Time on site, measured by how long, on average, each site reader spent with an article.
  • Average reader scroll depth: How far down the page did the reader get (as an average)?
  • Engagement rate: The percentage of visitors who spent at least 15 seconds on the page.

You may be thinking, “where’s bounce rate?”

As Yehoshua Coren explains it in this excellent article, “A measure of success for content sites is not necessary if the reader bounces or not, but whether or not they read the article and (more importantly) come back.”

Therefore, we tend to emphasize time on page and scroll depth, and we intentionally measure bounce rate differently than Google Analytics. Why? Oh, I’m glad you asked.

What do we do differently than Google Analytics?

Google only measures how many visitors left your site instead of viewing another page. Google’s metric, unfortunately, tends to be assigned undue importance. Many clients look to it as a key performance indicator. Bounce rate is a metric founded in the traditional “sales funnel” view of digital marketing but ignores the modern context in which content is distributed and consumed: typically on a social platform.

Let’s say a potential customer sees your article on Facebook, clicks the link, spends 8 minutes reading the entire article, thoroughly enjoys it, and goes right back to browsing her Facebook news feed. This is, by Google’s definition, a “bounce.” But isn’t this positive, memorable engagement with the customer exactly what you were trying to accomplish? This disconnect can make it difficult to tell an accurate story about content marketing.

We tailored our measurements in two significant ways to surface insights specifically relevant to content engagement.

First, in most implementations, GA can only measure time-on-page for visitors who don’t bounce; it’s utilizing the timestamp from the next pageview on your site to determine how long a reader stayed on the first page. The default implementation creates a huge gap in your dataset, as the vast majority of readers will “bounce” by this definition.

We use javascript on-site to actually record the time-on-page for all readers, even those who only view one page, allowing a much more complete record of how your content was received.

Second, we believe the model for bounce rate itself is antiquated. Whether or not a person visits an additional page on your site doesn’t correlate all that well with whether or not they enjoyed your content and will recall your brand! As such, Matcha prefers to calculate what essentially is the opposite of “bounce rate.” We have instead changed to ” engagement rate” and are only considering readers who leave your page in less than 15 seconds to be a “bounce.”

Readers who stay with your content for more than 15 seconds are demonstrably engaging with it, and our alternate measurement reflects that engagement.

The big picture

What happens when you combine these elements of marketing efficiency and content engagement? One way we like to look at both pieces of the puzzle is to compare CPM and engagement rate, one of our core evaluations of content marketing success.

Here, we’re looking to optimize for low CPM and high engagement rate, so we’ll analyze what’s happening with the subset of articles circled here, and optimize future content production and promotion toward those.

We’re looking for CPM to be relatively low and engagement rate to be as high as possible. Wherever we see pieces which fit that profile, we would argue that’s where you should focus most of your content marketing. The trick will be to isolate the characteristics that those articles have in common: Was it the article theme? Perhaps the targeting you chose for the promotion? While not all articles will perform equivalently, and you may have a need for some factual articles to live on your site that won’t exactly drive monstrous social engagement, we recommend focusing most of your distribution budget on the articles which perform well on these two measures.

Many marketers have been conditioned to view marketing as something that exists to fulfill impressions at a predictable rate. The power of content marketing, though, is that it’s not linear; it has a compounding effect, and it scales. While this makes it harder to establish a guaranteed CPM, it also means your brand can achieve a high level of engagement on a limited budget with a sensible content strategy.

Need help measuring your content marketing? Matcha can help.

We provide licensed and custom content to fit your budget. We built software to make publishing to your site a simple process requiring no more than a few clicks of the mouse. Matcha can help you source, distribute, and measure the impact of your content marketing program. Schedule time to chat today.

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