Beware of this Content Strategy “Best Practice.”
The Scene: Monthly Marketing Operations Review
“So what is the total marketing contribution our content strategy is giving to the business?”
I paused. I was about five slides into my monthly marketing operational deck, thinking everything was going smoothly. We had a 50%+ ARR contribution to business, site traffic, pageviews and content generation all seemed to be on the up and up.
But the SVP across from me had a different perspective.
My whole team was in the room, prepped and ready to give their update but I saw this opportunity to stop and pivot to questions with the goal of starting a healthy dialogue.
We could have given accurate pipeline attribution, inbound numbers, closes, etc., anything to help diffuse the situation or overcome the frustration, but the issue was that we just couldn’t answer the fundamental question “what is the total marketing contribution our content strategy is giving to the business?”
Healthy debate, but for all intents and purposes our operations review was dead in the water. I recapped the discussion with my team but I kept wondering ‘what the f**k just happened?’
The Core Issue
To be honest, it took a year and ultimately a job shift to realize that there was an answer to that question staring me, really staring all of us in the face. Sure this SVP was grumpy, really all the time, but he wasn’t wrong in his line of questioning. While we did our job as a revenue-growth marketing team, generating a pipeline that resulted in a ton of closed-won ARR, there was more to our campaign output that we needed to apply.
There are TONS of different ways to break down the success of your content strategy but in this post I want to address why this question, er ‘best practice’ around the defining the true value of content should be addressed and really avoided.
At the time of the meeting I referenced, we were a pretty well-oiled content marketing->demand gen producing team – a Hubspot + Salesforce shop with a ton of MarTech inbetween. For content performance we relied heavily on the all-in-one measurement solution that is Google Analytics.
GA is the big player when it comes to digital analytics software. It’s free web analytics at your fingertips that allows you to analyze in-depth detail about the visitors on your website. That was all well and good and our measurement and monitoring was directionally accurate but when it came to how we applied our content analytics to GA that’s where the buck stopped.
After getting a high level overview of our digital footprint we simply felt overwhelmed with all the bells and whistles (buttons and apps) in the GA platform. Little did we know the best practice of measurement and monitoring needed to stop and engagement needed to take over.
As a team I’m sure you take the time to do research, develop a strategy, fill out an editorial calendar, and establish a publishing cadence. Usually this process is aligned to some sort of company Key Performance Indicator (KPI) then ultimately you’re writing to your target audience. The question becomes, how do you know if you are in fact reaching them? How do you know where their eyes are on the page and really what the impact of that content is having on that audience.
Let me give you an example, if your content is sometimes starting to feel like checking a box, instead of lighting a fire, it’s time to refresh your commitment to high-quality, strategic content. More often than not growth marketers start to ignore the fundamental rules of targeting intent and most importantly measuring the true analytics of how that content performs and are you using those results to get better. As the landscape continues to change, so should content marketing strategy as the right content can help establish thought leadership, build brand awareness, nurture potential customers, and ultimately drive revenue.
Enter the Best Practice to Start: Engagement.
Engagement is the most elusive web analytics metric. Traditionally, it has been difficult to track because it usually encompasses several different metrics. Google Analytics has historically used metrics like bounce rate, conversion rate, pageviews, and sessions to calculate your website’s engagement rate — but Parse.ly has been tracking it in a more accurate way for years.
We encourage our customers to focus on metrics like total engaged minutes, average engaged minutes, and average engaged minutes for new and returning visitors to get a sense of the real impact their content is making.
Our analytics platform uses a web analytics feature known as a “heartbeat” pixel. With this feature, we can determine user engagement with your content by producing a signal that lets our system know whether a user is actively engaged or not.
Ok, now that I’ve set that up, I won’t lie to you, ‘Content is hard!’ It just is. There’s a TON of data to keep track of. There are platforms to manage, schedules to keep, teams to mobilize and I’m not even talking about the diversification of content, types, channels, etc.
What I learned is while the content may be hard, the content analytics don’t have to be. Let that sink in for a bit. Every day we as growth marketers are expected to measure the true impact of our marketing efforts. Fixed and variable costs, campaign impact equal a dollar amount. That dollar amount divided by the output gets you a cost per lead.
Then we stress ourselves out wondering if that output will turn into a positive contribution by marketing in order to produce gains in the cost per acquisition. For years, content as a channel, not form fills, not visits, not clicks, was a channel I’ve had trouble measuring contribution from. That’s until I got a look under the hood here at Parsely.
This platform gives you accurate, reliable reporting on the true impact of your content and most importantly provides a guide rail for how to improve your content as you go along.
So I’ll leave you with this. Stop the high level measurement and metric analyzing and get a consumable and engaging view of your content’s performance and apply key data-driven learnings to future strategies. Trust me, that elusive content performance question…You’ll have an answer that will satisfy the room.
Interested in seeing how Parse.ly can showcase the true value of your content? Get a demo from our team of content analytics specialists and see for yourself.