As our ability to collect data grows, so do the different ways we can measure content marketing strategy performance. With that said, what I see most is that B2B marketers tend to stick to traditional vanity metrics rather than doing the work to rethink what we’re measuring—and why.

Email metrics are a great example. For years, we’ve measured opens and clicks, deliverability and unsubscribe rates. Each of these metrics feeds into a narrative, but we often assess success by viewing them as standalone numbers.

If you get a 40% open rate, do you consider your email a successful send? Don’t say yes just yet.

A well-crafted email is designed to do one thing: get the recipient to take you up on its call to action (CTA). If your open rate is 40%, but your click-through rate is 5%, how successful is your email now? If you sent to a list of 1000, this means 400 people opened it, but only 20 people were interested or curious enough to follow your CTA.

According to the latest email marketing benchmarks by MailChimp, I’m being generous in the example above.

It’s hard to inform anything about your content marketing strategy with such low results. Yet, we seem content to continue to send email campaigns with mediocre performance. We’ve accepted that outcome since it’s the norm—it’s good enough. We pat ourselves on the back if we beat the benchmarks, even though the response rate is still dismal.

Well, it’s not good enough.

But, let’s pull the narrative thread a bit further. What happens next for the 20 people who clicked on your CTA?

  • How long did they engage with the content at the end of your email link?
  • Did they dwell long enough to actually read it?
  • Then where did they go? You did give them a “see also” opportunity to continue the story they engaged with, right? What’s the click-through rate from the content where you sent them?
  • Then what?

Measuring individual clicks doesn’t tell enough of the story for a complex B2B buying journey. We need to focus on pathways and progression to use data to inform our content marketing strategy.

Don’t Let Your Content Become a Dead End

Depending on whose research you believe, anywhere from 60% to 90% of your content can sit unused.

We tend to look at content as standalone assets and evaluate performance in a vacuum, cherishing those assets that perform well and discounting those that don’t. But there’s more to consider. We need to look at content metrics that reflect how well our content is at playing nicely with other content. In essence, how good it is at guiding progress—becoming a conductor for engagement and intent.

Research from Spiceworks finds that B2B IT buyers view 17 pieces of content and business buyers access at least 12 content assets to inform buying decisions. Given the quantity of content it takes to drive a B2B purchase decision, we’ve got to evaluate our content marketing strategy based on much more than standalone views and popularity.

Informing Your Content Marketing Strategy to Create Connected Experiences

A content marketing strategy is a documented process for using content to achieve a business goal.

Let’s take an example (fictional) of a premise statement for a content marketing strategy:

We’ll create and share content with Controllers in enterprise companies that enables them to learn how modern processes and tools can help their accountants shorten time to close—monthly, quarterly, and annually—and do so accurately and reliably.

This statement includes the target audience, the “what” we will help them learn, and the result they will get from the information.

When you look at the body of content you’ll develop to achieve this goal with this specific audience, it becomes easier to define the content metrics that inform your content marketing strategy.

Once you have a premise or goal in place, then determine what your audience will need to learn to achieve that goal. Identify which questions you’ll need to answer at each stage of their learning and how you can use that content to create meaningful, connected experiences that signal intent as they cross buying-stage thresholds.

Relevance

How much engagement is your content achieving? Evaluate your content’s relevance to potential customers with:

  • Dwell time
  • Unique visits
  • Return visits/frequency
  • Ascending lead scores

Reach

How many assets (of those made available on the page) are buyers also engaging? Consider:

  • If you offer three additional resources from the content they viewed, how many or which ones are they also viewing during the same session?
  • When they view additional content, then what? Do they view more shared from that page?
  • Are they progressing forward in their journey or backing up to learn something they may have missed previously?

Resonance

How many engaged buyers are also sharing this content? Determine how well your content resonates based on:

  • Buyers sharing the content with their peers via social networks
  • Buyers sharing with their colleagues via an email sharing function
  • Are additional stakeholders from a buyer’s company also viewing the content?
  • What type of feedback are they adding when they share your content?

Responsiveness

How many rich interactions is your content generating? Ask yourself:

  • Are potential or current customers asking questions on blog posts or during webinars?
  • Are they motivated to watch a demo?
  • Are they using your ROI calculator or some other interactive content like a quiz?
  • Are they forwarding your nurturing emails?

While it’s good to evaluate the contribution each content asset makes to the performance of your content marketing strategy, it’s more important to measure its impact as a part of the whole against the premise you’ve set.

If one asset isn’t performing well, it could inhibit the use of other content that it leads to. Perhaps the question that piece of content answers isn’t valid. Maybe a new question or alternate perspective could be more engaging. Switch it out. Change up the links if they’re not performing.

Orchestrating progression is a key goal. This won’t happen with one content asset—at least not to the extent needed to produce a profitable B2B customer relationship, which is the ultimate goal of a content marketing strategy.

Flipping content metrics from what you want to achieve to what your audience wants to achieve makes much more sense for informing content marketing strategy. It’s not really about clicks and views, but about what the culmination of those clicks and views will help your audience to achieve with your help. Take your marketing strategy to the next level and create a content operation that delivers results.

Ardath Albee

About Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist and CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions. She’s written two books, the latest is Digital Relevance: Developing Content and Strategies That Drive Results. Ardath helps B2B companies with complex sales use persona-driven content marketing strategies to turn prospects into buyers and convince customers to stay. Follow her on Twitter at @ardath421.