In a digital world oversaturated with content, how do you stand out from the crowd? Columnist Jim Yu explains why you need to know exactly how your content is performing and what will engage your target audience.
Since John Deere published The Furrow in 1895, content marketing has been right in front of the consumer eye. Fast-forward to the modern-day search marketing era, and content marketing has exploded. The key challenge for marketers, however, is finding ways to maximize the opportunity and win on the digital content marketing battleground.
It is estimated that by 2020, the digital universe will grow 300 times, from 130 exabytes to 40,000 exabytes. That is 40 trillion gigabytes. This incredible rate of growth will be largely fueled by digital content, search and social marketers. In fact, IBM found that as much as 90 percent of the world’s global data had been produced in just the past two years.
Businesses have begun to take note of the incredible power of content, and their marketing budgets reflect that change.
As many as one in six enterprise organizations now spend more than $10 million annually on their content production. You would recognize many of these names:
- As one of the major content producers, Coca-Cola now spends more money on content creation than it does on TV, according to Contently.
- Nestle has an editorial team that includes almost 20 community managers and designers who are responsible for producing this valuable digital content every day.
- Red Bull reportedly employs approximately 135 people just for its media house.
For many companies across all industries, the value of high-quality content has become apparent, changing the way businesses approach marketing and the process of engaging their customers.
A New Era Of Content: Budgets Rise
The importance of global content marketing continues to grow, particularly for millennial and Gen-X consumers. PZ Media recently analyzed the impact that this trend has had on business and found that it has been profitable and influential.
The survey included all forms of branded content. They found that content marketing revenues grew by 14.4 percent in the first quarter of 2015. This was after a 13.3 percent rise, to $26.7 billion, over the course of 2014. Digital-only content, the fastest-growing category, rose 27.7 percent last year.
This incredibly strong growth was likely due to many marketers re-targeting their content towards the critical Gen-X and millennial generations, as these groups have had an increasing influence on business progress.
While people are producing content, they are not measuring it. Although 86 percent of organizations are using content marketing, less than a quarter say that they are successfully tracking the ROI of their content. A full 15 percent of B2B marketers say that they do not track at all, and another 10 percent would rate their tracking attempts “not at all successful.”
Organic search is the primary content vehicle that drives over 51 percent of B2B and B2C website visitors. Other media, such as email, referrals and display, account for 34 percent of traffic; paid search accounts for 10 percent; and social just 5 percent of traffic. It is through search that users are able to discover relevant content on the internet and find the answers to their questions and needs.
Kraft, for example, estimates that it generates the equivalent of more than 1.1 billion ad impressions a year and through content marketing experiences four times the ROI that it does through targeted advertising.
As digital marketing and content have begun to take hold in the modern business arena, competition is becoming fierce. For companies to get the attention they need, they must be able to stand out above the noise. They need to know what customers are responding to and what they would like to see from industry brands.
To accomplish this goal, businesses must invest their time in measuring valuable content metrics. They need to refine their efforts so that they can focus their time on producing successful, engaging content that advances their business objectives instead of wasting time with meaningless content that customers do not appreciate.
Engagement and performance metrics are vital to a successful content strategy.
Consumers Are Only Engaging With 20% Of B2C Content
After analyzing billions of pieces of content from across FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 brands, a BrightEdge Engagement research report (disclosure: BrightEdge is my employer) found that only 1 in 5 B2C brands produce content that their target audience engages with.
Understanding Metrics That Matter
For many getting started in content marketing, it is easy to focus on vanity metrics and not true engagement metrics: How many “likes” did my content receive?
In practice, however, a piece of content might do well with vanity metrics but not do much for the organization. It might not engage with its target audience in the right way and send the right messages. Without the right metrics, the brand would never know until it starts to measure performance.
To identify the right metrics, you must first determine what your goal is for the content. Are you looking to increase traffic and brand reach? Are you primarily concerned with leads? Identify the metrics that will matter most to you and the leaders at your organization.
There are several types of metrics you can use to gauge your content performance.
- Traffic: Monitor the number of people who come to your website and what they do when they get there.
- Bounce: See how engaged people remain when they arrive on your website. Do they remain long enough to read your content, or do they click right off?
- Conversion rates: How many people who arrive on the website to read content end up converting? This typically does not happen the first time a person arrives on the website, so you will have to monitor return customers and how they interact with the brand each time.
- New vs. return customers: How many visitors are seeing your site for the first time? How many customers are returning?
Content and Engagement Metrics
- Length on the site: How long to do people spend on the website when they arrive? Do they spend enough time to read the content in full? Do they look at other parts of the site?
- Sentiment: How do people feel about the content? Do they share it with others? Do they take the time needed to comment and offer their feedback?
- Amplification and social impact: Are people sharing your content online? How is this sharing impacting the other metrics?
- Sentiment: Are people saying nice things about the brand online? How many followers does the brand have?
- PR: Do your content marketing efforts bring in journalists and influencers? How often are articles bringing in people interested in speaking about the brand?
- Reach: Is the content produced expanding the brand reach and awareness?
- Competitors: How is your content performing compared with your competitors? Are you a leader or a follower in the industry?
Business and Engagement KPIs
- Leads and sales: Where are your leads coming from, and what percentage convert? How much are people spending? How has this affected your overall cost-per-lead and cost-per-sale?
- Email subscribers and members: How are your email lists performing? How many people are signing up for accounts on the site?
- Retention: How many repeat customers do you have? What type of content appeals most to your most loyal customers? What type of content appeals most to the top one percent of your customer base?
Tips on Maximizing Your Content Strategy
- Identify the end goals for your content. These goals should be shared across all the platforms where the content will appear.
- Develop a content strategy with these goals in mind, understanding that organic is the largest driver of traffic
- As your content is published, monitor the content’s success according to your preferred metrics. Share the content across the various social networks and promote it as much as possible. See how well the content is received by the audience and what is engaging with the target audience.
- As you gather your necessary data, use it to refine your content campaigns. Scale content according to the response. Adjust your marketing content and strategies to improve your weaker metrics.
Once you have established the most important metrics for your content, you then have the tools you need to identify the types of content that are reaching your intended audience and what they are responding to.
As the digital ecosystem becomes increasingly saturated with content, the challenge of becoming noticed continues to grow. To be successful with content, you need to know exactly how your content is performing and what type of content is engaging with your target audience.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.
(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)