How we navigate content marketing measurement

Published Jun 19 2023 Last updated Apr 17 2024 8 minute read

When driving, GPS is a lifesaver in preventing me from getting lost. Similarly, content marketers must have SMART goals and a data-driven approach to avoid driving in circles. But for new content marketers, the amount of data points they have at their disposal can feel like a maze.

Some tips to help you find your way when trying to measure and track your content marketing efforts include: 

  1. Determine what's essential to your business.
  2. Get support for your goals.
  3. Regularly monitor and evaluate progress to ensure success.

Whether you view the process as easy or complicated, striving for simplicity and consistency is important. At Funnel, we use a unique measurement approach that has helped us to find success. And now, we’d like to share some of our secret shortcuts with you.

Metrics that matter in content marketing

Based on our experience, each organization has its own values, approaches, and methods for measuring and reporting.

Before embarking on your content marketing journey, it’s important to take the time to understand what matters most to the leadership team. As content marketing agencies prioritize listening to their clients, listening to your organization's needs is the key to delivering the right strategy.

At Funnel, we’ve adapted our approach to measuring content for our specific organization. We don't prioritize traditional metrics such as marketing qualified leads (MQLs), content leads, or return on investment (ROI). These metrics simply don't hold much weight for us, and there are good reasons.

Related reading: Which marketing KPIs should I report on?

The reasons why we don’t focus on MQLs, content leads, and ROI

We avoid a strong focus on MQLs because the team can manipulate numbers by running ad-hoc campaigns, engagement programs and changing lead scoring to generate more MQLs. This is actually done in more organizations than you might expect.

Instead, a better metric to consider is sales-qualified leads (SQLs), as those are the leads deemed worthy by the sales team to chase after. Even here, though, you must have a close dialogue with your sales team to understand why certain leads aren’t qualified enough. And you will have to have a service level agreement in place to ensure they follow up on all the contacts your team generates.

The amount of SQLs and revenue pipeline you create is a better indicator of how well you support sales – versus how many MQLs you delivered in a particular month. However, that is a marketing-wide responsibility and isn’t something that is typically assigned solely to a content team to achieve.

Content marketing ROI

Regarding content leads and ROI, our approach is to not rely on attribution, as it is increasingly challenging to accurately measure – thanks in large part to the rise of privacy regulations and the deprecation of third-party cookies. 

Our goal with content marketing is to reach 95% of potential customers who might not be in the buying market, but could be in the future. It is about gaining attention, demonstrating our expertise, and nurturing relationships over time so our product is top of mind when needed. Essentially, content marketing in B2B is a long-term strategy for generating demand. If you seek quick leads, you may be disappointed with your conversion rate from lead to customer.

To accurately measure ROI in B2B marketing, it's vital to consider the duration of the buyer cycle, which can last from 12 to 15 months following a content marketing campaign. Timing is an important factor when aiming for accurate ROI measurements, and attributing it to a particular marketing initiative or activity can be challenging. Therefore, we suggest evaluating your overall marketing efficiency across all your marketing activities to determine whether you're receiving a satisfactory return on your marketing investments. This is something our own performance marketing team here at Funnel does. 

When evaluating the effectiveness of your content marketing in generating leads and ROI, don't be disappointed if it's difficult to pinpoint the exact impact of each piece of content. While potential buyers typically interact with eight to 15 pieces of content before making a purchase decision, it's challenging to attribute a specific activity or content to a customer conversion. Instead, it’s preferable to look at the bigger picture. 

Rather than focusing solely on ROI, it's more beneficial to consider how your content contributes to increasing reach, visibility, engagement, and trust overall. Remember, investments in your owned media are a long-term strategy; if you succeed in building an audience, it will eventually pay off. 

For example, generating more organic traffic on your website can reduce your spending on digital advertising and potentially bring in more inbound leads. This, in turn, reduces customer acquisition costs. Think of content marketing as a marathon rather than a quick sprint – so give yourself time to succeed, and don’t be too impatient.

Related reading: Multi-touch attribution models explained

How we look at our content marketing success

As previously suggested, we consulted with leadership (our CMO and VP of Growth) to determine our priorities. This ensured that we were all aligned and working toward the same goals. Our main priority was to boost organic traffic, so we decided to focus on our blog, resources, and other important pages as our primary content marketing channels. Our main strategy for achieving this is focusing heavily on search engine optimization (SEO).

We refer to the content on our blog as "owned content." This allows us the freedom and flexibility to publish frequently. Our blog is similar to a library or publication house, where we continuously add new material and updates. We make sure to post or update at least twice a week to maintain consistency, which is crucial for content marketing. This approach has greatly contributed to the success of our website.

This graph shows the YoY trend plus the monthly traffic forecast.

To measure the success of our content marketing, we analyze the number of organic sessions we generate through search engines, social media, referrals, and direct visits. Additionally, we consider engaged sessions according to GA4.

We do not include any paid traffic in our analysis, even if we advertise our content. This is because we specifically want to gauge the effectiveness of our inbound marketing strategy, which involves people discovering us rather than us seeking them out.

Measuring content marketing and social media

Our next priority is to focus on our social media channels for maximum reach and engagement.

At present, we are concentrating on LinkedIn and YouTube. We calculate total LinkedIn engagements, including likes, comments, shares, and clicks. On YouTube, we measure views and watch time. Again, we exclude any paid or boosted activity to determine how much we can achieve without relying heavily on our digital advertising budget.

To get that bird's eye view of performance, we use Funnel to collect the data on the key metrics that matter to us and feed that into our dashboards. We even created a custom metric in Funnel to calculate total LinkedIn engagements and special segments on data for Paid versus Organic. I’ll touch on this further under the topic of revamping your reporting routine.

This graph shows cumulative progress on LinkedIn engagements. 

Related reading: Using the PESO framework in digital marketing

Four tips for setting effective and achievable SMART targets

With metrics and measurement covered, let’s move on to setting targets.  

Targets are like destination points on a GPS map, giving direction and purpose. We recommend using the SMART approach to set effective targets, ensuring they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely.

At Funnel, we add a stretch target to our current run rate to achieve small, incremental improvements. It's important to account for seasonality and holidays, but the key is to show progress year-over-year. For example, if your blog reached 28,000 sessions in May, aim for 28,100 in June, and so on. The focus should be on what inputs are needed to generate the desired output. 

The key thing to remember is that business leaders want to see progress and improvement over time, so stay committed and persevere even if you don't hit your goals every month. With hard work and determination, success will come.

To set targets effectively, follow these four simple steps:

  1. Evaluate what you are currently achieving.
  2. Set a monthly growth target for that result.
  3. Consider potential strategies to reach your target.
  4. Regularly review and adjust your goals on a quarterly basis.

This graph shows a baseline average and MoM traffic growth. 

Related reading: Three approaches to SEO goal setting

Don't break the bank: how to earn attention without paying a dime!

As you’ve probably gathered by now, our team is focused on organically building and expanding our audience. While we use paid distribution to increase content exposure, our ultimate goal is to attract an audience who naturally discover us.

Over the past two years at Funnel, we have achieved impressive results thanks to our collective patience, teamwork, and commitment to creating quality content. Our SEO specialist and content team have been especially instrumental in helping us double our organic traffic.

Still, there is more work to be done. We are currently exploring ways to increase our subscriber base on platforms such as Youtube, LinkedIn, and our blog. Gaining subscribers for our blog and resources is crucial for long-term demand generation and community building. While Youtube and LinkedIn are used primarily for reach and engagement, we aim to meet marketers on the channels they already spend time on.

Remember, it's essential to gain subscribers in a permission-based way. Your content must be exceptional to get the attention of your target audience. The aim is to surpass mediocrity and achieve something extraordinary by providing extremely valuable and relevant content.

Revamp your reporting routine: say "goodbye" to the grind and "hello" to automation!

Review essential metrics with your coffee to start the day.

Even though we are a B2B SaaS company, and we work with a few marketing platforms, Funnel as a marketing data hub has been a valuable asset for our content marketing.

Funnel seamlessly collects data for us from Google Analytics, LinkedIn, YouTube, and even Hubspot, then delivers it directly to our dashboard. Additionally, it provides us with two years of historical data, which is particularly valuable for looking at year-over-year performance on LinkedIn and YouTube. 

Funnel allows us to track our progress daily, weekly, and monthly. This eliminates the need to manually compile reports or check each platform individually to see how we're doing. Funnel collects all of our data and sends it to our Looker Studio dashboard, where the team can monitor progress and targets. Additionally, we can easily navigate to the Data Explorer in Funnel or browse content performance on Youtube or GA4 when we want to delve deeper into how a specific content piece is doing.

How to gain actionable insights from your data

Within the Growth team at Funnel, we have established a dedicated group to assess our performance in crucial areas. Every week, we convene to review our progress in capturing new leads and generating revenue pipeline. We also gauge our organic reach, engagement, and long-term demand creation. While we may not always understand the context behind our results, we remain focused and committed to experimenting with different tactics to improve our performance. Our ultimate goal is to continuously move the needle forward.

Our weekly meetings follow a specific agenda. We begin by reviewing any incomplete tasks from the previous week and then discuss our progress toward our goals, sharing any useful information. During these discussions, we may encounter new questions requiring further investigation. For instance, we may wonder why there is a discrepancy in conversion numbers between GA4 and Hubspot or if a tracking issue needs to be addressed. We could also question why we are generating fewer SQLs this month compared to last and whether it is because of a lead quality issue.

Additionally, we may need to follow up with the sales team for more insights or brainstorm new experiments and initiatives to improve performance. In whatever way you choose, it is crucial for you and your team to analyze and interpret data regularly to gain those business-critical insights and determine the appropriate next steps. This is what data-driven marketing is all about.

Weekly Target Forum: What's on the menu?

  • Follow up actions points from the previous week 
  • Insights from the leadership team 
  • KPIs (fixed KPIs to look at every week) 
    How we are performing against our targets, run rate vs. targets.
    • Insights around the table
  • Other metrics & insights
    • Insights shared by each team on things that need our attention.
  • Decide on action points and who to take the lead
    • These action points will have the focus during the upcoming week
  • Open discussions
  • Prepare a potential slide for the weekly marketing meeting

Welcome to our WTF meeting!

Revolutionize your navigation experience 

At Funnel, we use a system that works like a GPS to help us achieve our goals. Just like a driver who sometimes needs to adjust their route, we may need to tweak our strategy to stay on track. Occasionally, we might even discover faster ways to reach our destination.

To succeed, it's crucial to create SMART goals, automate marketing data and reports, and regularly review and act on the information displayed on your dashboards. Neglecting these steps could cause you to miss out on opportunities. Without a clear plan, you might get lost and never reach your desired destination. 

Remember that while there are various routes to success, achieving it without a solid strategy, plan, and process can be challenging. However, with these in place, the journey will be enjoyable, and you'll have fun along the way.

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