how to measure content marketing

How Do I Know if My Content Marketing Is Working?

leonie waldron
Leonie Waldron
Head Strategist


  • Set small, measurable, achievable goals for your content – and ensure you have the resources to deliver this content over the long term. Tracking a whole stack of metrics in Google Analytics is useless if they don’t tie back to your actual business goals. 
  • Content marketing isn’t a silver bullet and most likely won’t show a clear, direct link to sales for industrial businesses. Instead, its purpose is to influence people’s behaviour and position you as a trusted brand. Ensure your management team and anyone else involved in the process understands how much can be achieved with content. 
  • Monitor your metrics but view them as continuous improvement experiments. Think long term – it could be 6 to 12 months before you see serious results.

Content marketing is the key that unlocks the door to conversions. But how do you tell if your investment in content marketing is paying off?

The obvious measure that most marketers use is traffic: website visits, page views, and sessions. However, traffic on its own doesn’t tell the whole story.

Driving traffic to your site is great. But unless the traffic is targeted, relevant, and engaged, it won’t help you grow your business. Forward-thinking marketers use various content marketing metrics to gauge the performance of their content marketing campaigns.

According to the 2020 Content Marketing Institute report, a promising 80% of marketers said they use content marketing metrics to measure the success rate. However, that number drops to 65% when asked if they have KPIs to measure performance.

Are you measuring the right content marketing metrics? Most importantly, do you have the right KPIs to measure your marketing performance?

If not, fret not. This guide will introduce you to the right content marketing KPIs to track to gauge performance. But first, a quick crash course on how to tell whether your content marketing is working.

Copywriter writing content

How to Know if Your Content Marketing Is Working

Research shows that 88% of B2B marketers use content marketing.

However, 70% of marketers don’t know whether their content marketing is effective or not. The good news: You can win as long as you know what to track and how to track it. For starters, you’ll be able to tell if your content marketing is working if:

1. You Understand What “Working” Means

First, you’ll need to set goals that give your team a clear vision of what should be happening if your content marketing strategy is effective.

What does a successful marketing strategy for your company look like? Does it mean an increase in sales, email subscriptions, quote form submissions, or more traffic? Once you know what you seek to achieve with content marketing, you’ll be able to tell whether your strategy is driving results.

It’s incredibly important to understand this at the outset: ask yourself ‘what does success look like?’ and ensure this conversation involves anyone who will be part of the content production, approval and monitoring process.

If your management team will be involved and want to understand the effectiveness of your digital marketing efforts, they need to be on board from the beginning so that both you and your content marketing agency can ensure that expectations meet reality.

Man writing website content

2. You’ve Set Measurable Goals

You might have heard the saying “what gets measured gets done,” attributed to the management guru Peter Drucker.

The act of measuring a task like content marketing increases the motivation to perform and keeps you focused on what you’re trying to achieve. When you’re setting goals, it’s important that they are SMART, that is:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

Setting unrealistic goals will defeat the purpose of content marketing, causing you to become frustrated at your content writer and causing your writer to become overwhelmed with trying to achieve unrealistic goals.

Your goals should start small and achievable, and give the act of content marketing itself enough time to work. It can often be 3 months – or as long as 12 months – before you see real results in the data, so ensure you’re playing the long game when you map out your goals.

3. You’re Tracking the Metrics that Matter

Metrics can give you valuable insights into your campaign performance. But only if you’re tracking the KPIs that matter.

For instance, to effectively track the performance of your content marketing campaign, you could measure metrics such as page views, content shares, and engagement. Other metrics, such as bounce rates, might not give you a clear picture of how your content marketing campaign is performing.

Remember that almost any metrics can be tweaked to support your agenda too, so data isn’t everything. Are you comparing apples with apples? Is this chart that looks like an uptick actually a small part of a larger downturn? Pick a few metrics to track and ensure both you and your content team are viewing these as an interesting continuous improvement experiment rather than a life-or-death ‘we’re all getting fired if this doesn’t work’ situation.

video behind the scenes

4. Your Prospects are Following You

A successful content marketing strategy is about influencing people’s behaviour. It is not necessarily about inspiring people to act based on a single read of a random article.

Content helps to build trust and supports your sales team in their outreach efforts, and when they’re ready to buy, you’ll hopefully be front of mind. Whilst tying a specific URL to a specific action is very neat and tidy (and would provide undeniable proof that your piece of content ‘worked’), in reality, this rarely happens.

The customer journey is much more complex – Google refers to it as the messy middle.

A prospective customer might read your article, follow you on social media, happen across another article 3 weeks later, sign up to your email list, download a brochure, unsubscribe from your email list, read another article 2 months later, and then finally send their initial enquiry. They may not actually send you a PO till 6 months later.

Did that first article inspire the sale? Which specific activities caused that person to actually take action? We may never know because people are complex, contrary creatures that don’t always act in logical ways!

When your prospective customers do eventually contact you, your content helps to build trust and can eventually elicit them to take action.

How to Track Your Content Marketing KPIs

When planning your content marketing strategy, start by figuring out how often you’ll collect your data. Ideally, you’ll want to start by collecting data monthly, though you may want to watch some metrics on a weekly basis to ensure your monthly goals stay on track.

Once you have determined your data collection frequency, create a shared document that tracks the following.

  • Your marketing goals – Goal setting should always precede any marketing initiative you intend to take. In this case, you’ll want to set content marketing goals that tie back to your business goals. And as mentioned, your goals should be SMART.

  • The key performance indicators (KPIs) – Determine the KPIs you’ll use to measure the effectiveness of your marketing content. You might like to set stretch goals and something more modest if you’re just starting out.

  • Short and long term time horizons – once you have a few months of data, start looking at your metrics as a whole. Monthly numbers might not be too impressive, but are you seeing an upward trend over time? This longer-term view will help you ride out the smaller peaks and troughs of tracking that can occur because of algorithm updates and changes to your site.

Success in content marketing lies in delivering the right content and tracking the right metrics. Don’t just track metrics for the sake of the numbers. Only track the metrics directly tied to what you’re trying to achieve in your business.

Content Marketing KPIs You Should Track

Even before you start creating content, you should first establish your KPIs.

So, what are KPIs, and how do they differ from metrics?

A key performance indicator is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a business is achieving its objectives. KPIs help define your strategy and align your marketing goals to business goals. Metrics, on the other hand, are quantitative measures a business uses to track performance.

Hence, every KPI is a metric but not every metric is a KPI. Here are some content marketing KPIs that are often tracked by content marketing agencies – remember they may not be right for your business!

man filming in building

Content Marketing KPIs You Should Track

Even before you start creating content, you should first establish your KPIs.

So, what are KPIs, and how do they differ from metrics?

A key performance indicator is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a business is achieving its objectives. KPIs help define your strategy and align your marketing goals to business goals. Metrics, on the other hand, are quantitative measures a business uses to track performance.

Hence, every KPI is a metric but not every metric is a KPI. Here are some content marketing KPIs that are often tracked by content marketing agencies – remember they may not be right for your business!

1. Pageviews

An increase in traffic to your content marketing assets, measured by page views, is one of the easiest and most impactful metrics to track.

Pageviews measure the number of pages that are viewed on your website. You can segment by channel to see where each visitor is coming from. This can give insights into what channels are driving traffic and which ones need to be worked on.

When measuring pageviews, it’s important to separate the organic page views from paid pageviews. The cheapest and most sustainable way to kick off your content strategy is with organic content, so measuring organic traffic is a good idea.

Paid traffic is like turning on a firehose: it’s likely to bring a lot of traffic to your site but is usually expensive and when you decide to turn off the tap – or stop your ads – traffic will fall accordingly. Paid advertising can be useful for short term gains but is expensive over the long term.

Organic Pageviews

Organic page views come from natural traffic sources, such as organic search, referrals, and social media. The traffic doesn’t include paid promotions.

Paid Pageviews

As the name suggests, paid traffic comes from paid campaigns, such as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising or paid social media ads.

2. Content Shares & Social Media Engagement

One of the best ways to know whether your content marketing is working is to check for content shares and social media engagement.

Not all content marketing campaigns drive engagement, but when you see people sharing your content, that’s a clear signal that what you’re advertising is resonating with people.

This metric can come in handy, especially if you have brand awareness goals you want to reach with content marketing. Say one of your blog posts was shared 100 times on social media. The content will reach new audiences from the sharer’s followers.

3. Ranking for Key Landing Pages

SEO rankings are a top-of-the-funnel metric to track when evaluating the performance of your content marketing.

Tracking rankings and pageviews for the pages that drive the most revenue can be an important metric to measure if content marketing is driving those results. Examples of pages that drive traffic and revenue include buyer guides and comparison pages – these often indicate that the reader is aware they have a problem to be solved and they’re evaluating your product or service alongside others.

4. Returning Visitors

A higher rate of returning visitors shows you’re producing valuable content for your audience. This not only signals to Google that your content is relevant; it also helps to increase your ROI.

A recent HBR study found that marketers who prioritise retaining existing customers see an ROI growth of up to 15 times. Looking after returning website visitors is important too.

5. Revenue and Conversion Rates

Conversions are the Holy Grail of content marketing performance every marketer wants to see. Content drives conversions, especially when that content is part of the purchase research process.

As such, you’ll want to track the effectiveness of your company when it comes to driving sales. If your site could rank organically for highly searched keywords, that could result in more revenue directly attributed to content.

Of course, this is much easier in the e-commerce world and much harder for companies that sell complex engineered products with a long buying cycle. However, conversion doesn’t have to simply mean dollars: it can refer to someone submitting an enquiry form, as they have converted from an unknown user to a lead.

6. Engagement and Time on Site

Your content will only add value to your business if it’s valuable to your audience. One way to measure how valuable your content is to your audience is to track engagement metrics, like time on site, time on page, etc.

If your content marketing is working and your content is valuable to your audience, these numbers should improve over time. If you’re seeing someone only spend 3 seconds on an article, they’re probably not reading it – but 3 minutes indicates they may have read the whole thing.

7. Number of Content Marketing Pieces Published

One of the most important KPIs to track is the number of content pieces published per week. This is an excellent way to ensure consistency in content creation.

If you’re just starting, it’s important to set a goal that works for you – once a fortnight is a good interval for companies just starting out with regular blogging.

When you get into the habit of publishing valuable content regularly, search engines will recognise that your website provides useful content, and you’ll rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). In other words, you want to rank for relevant search terms, and publishing consistently can help you achieve this goal.

Companies with big marketing teams or established authority in certain niches might publish several pieces of content a week, but the important thing is to set a frequency that you can manage on an ongoing basis, otherwise content will become a complete drag and will get pushed to the bottom of your to-do list.

8. Email List Conversions

Email list conversions are also a great way to determine how your content is performing.

These conversions look specifically at visitors who convert by subscribing to your email newsletter or agreeing to give their email address in exchange for access to gated content. (Note that gated content is becoming less effective and we don’t typically recommend this strategy. We believe giving information freely and honestly is the best path to creating real trust with customers.)

The good thing about email list conversions is that they usually deliver quality leads. These are the prospects who found value in your content and want more.

Wrapping Up

Tracking performance metrics using tools like Google Analytics is a great way to know whether your content marketing efforts are paying off.

As long as you know what to track – and WHY you’re tracking it – you can determine the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts over time.

Ideally, you’ll want to start by setting SMART goals. Afterward, you can track the key content marketing KPIs that align with your company goals. This includes page views, content shares, ranking for key landing pages, returning visitors, conversion rates, time on site, and the number of content pieces published per week.

And remember – none of this will deliver positive results if you don’t have a true understanding of the role content marketing plays in your marketing mix.

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