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How to measure the true performance of your content

  We’ve all heard the stats: This year, marketers plan to produce 70 percent more content than they did in 2015. Content marketing has become the most significant part of the marketing mix and is showing no signs of slowing down. However, brands and agencies often still struggle to really define their ROI. One primary […]

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We’ve all heard the stats: This year, marketers plan to produce 70 percent more content than they did in 2015. Content marketing has become the most significant part of the marketing mix and is showing no signs of slowing down. However, brands and agencies often still struggle to really define their ROI.

One primary challenge facing many organizations is the lack of understanding of what they should be tracking in the first place. As content marketing has continued its growth and popularity, the technology used to track and measure performance has exploded. Marketers now have hundreds of different data points they can be looking at around one piece of content, but not all metrics are created equal.

What are your content campaign goals?

The key to solving the content performance challenge starts with having a very clear understanding of what you hope to accomplish with each campaign. For many organizations, main goals typically include brand recognition and exposure, increased sales, user registration or lead generation.

Often, you will find these goals can lead to or impact other key organizational objectives. For instance, writing really great, engaging content that is highly shareable increases your brand recognition, which, in turn, drives an increase in consumer purchases or lead acquisitions.

Understanding the goals and key organizational objectives you hope to achieve with each content campaign will help to identify which specific metrics are critical and which ones are just nice to know.

Are you still clinging to vanity metrics?

The term vanity metrics has been sweeping the marketing world for the last few years and has become even more notable with the increase in content marketing and rise of influencers. While these numbers might look great on paper and can be a sign of traction, they are not a true indication of success for the organization or campaign.

Vanity metrics can include:

  • likes;
  • shares;
  • page views;
  • downloads; or
  • subscribers

In the case of content and influencers, many brands can be wooed by a large number of page views, believing page views equal audience. While this might be true in definition, it is not relevant for gauging actual engagement from that audience.

For instance, let’s say you have hired two influencers to represent your brand. Influencer X may present you with a monthly page view count from their website of 30,000, while Influencer Y reports only 9,000. However, once content is live on both of their sites, you can see much more traffic coming from Influencer Y. With deeper analytics reporting, using off-site tracking, you would be able to report on which influencer is generating true engagement.

Unfortunately, there are still marketers and executives who cling to these vanity metrics when reporting on their content campaigns. Due to this, you will likely find you are still asked for these numbers when pulling together a campaign report. The good news is that these metrics are easy to obtain using free tools such as Google Analytics or through the native analytics of each social network. If this is the case with your team, take the opportunity to balance out your report using more meaningful data in the hopes your organization will start to see the value in it.

How do you track deeper metrics?

Deeper metrics, which explore engagement and retention, will paint a much better picture of how real the audience is and help you to capture a more accurate ROI. Creating a report based on deeper metrics will help you to identify the true performance of your content and enable your team to make smarter, more informed decisions on strategy moving forward.

Deeper metrics can certainly vary depending on the goals of each campaign, however, below is a good starting point for engagement analytics.

  • Time on content: Rather than get caught up in total page views for each piece of content, pay more attention to how long the reader stayed with the content.
  • A total timeline of engagement: A look at how each campaign has performed over a certain period of time. This will give you an indication of the typical life span of engagement on new content and help you decide if additional promotion is needed to extend the power and reach of the campaign.
  • Content by engagement: Which piece of content within a campaign has had the most engagement? Answering that question will help you understand what is resonating with your audience.
  • Channels by engagement: Does you content perform best on Twitter or LinkedIn? Comparing engagement across all channels shows which ones you should invest more time and resources on.
  • Influencers by engagement: This metric is a critical one for any brand working with influential members of their audience or industry. As previously mentioned, with vanity metrics, the size of an influencer is not everything. Looking at influencers by engagement will highlight which influencers really have pull with their audience and are driving their readers to your site or content.
  • Conversion rate by content: In order to track conversion rates by content, you will have to follow the rule of “no stranded content,” meaning a link or CTA in your content leads to another page, which ultimately leads to a point of conversion. This could be gated content (i.e., a how-to guide) or a path to purchase. The most effective way to do this is to set up full conversion paths to highlight the desired path and gauge how many readers follow it.

Tracking for deeper metrics involves looking beyond the scope of your regular analytics tool.

Many brands use content on their websites and track it using embedded analytics (i.e., Google Analytics); however, tracking the content performance and engagement that lives outside of your website can be more difficult. Using smart URLs will help to provide in-depth insights into engagement with your off-site content. You can find out what content is working best, by channel, by influencer, by campaign and more.

A smart URL is a unique link (usually shortened and white-labeled for branding and/or campaign recognition), which contains additional tracking parameters and analytics behind the scenes. When a smart URL is created, it can be engineered to report on various data points based on the creator’s requirements. Content tags can be added manually and/or collected dynamically as the URL is engaged with (i.e., clicked on).

gShift-Content-Perfomance-By-ChannelOur smart URL system, kontextURLs, gives you the ability to view engagement data with unlimited taxonomies and content tags.


The use of these URLs is relatively transparent to the user, as they require no additional action beyond a simple click. However, while the interaction looks the same to the end user, the clicking of the specific smart URL triggers the collection of multiple data points behind the scenes. These data points lead to an extensive reporting system, allowing you to arm your team with a wealth of knowledge on the performance of their content and distribution strategy.

What are you doing to measure content performance now?

As yourself what you are doing today to track and measure the true performance of your content. What are you using for insight into engagement? Are their metrics I didn’t mention that are important to your brand?

About the author

Sponsored Content: gShift
gShift's industry leading Web Presence Analytics Software Platform helps brands and agencies efficiently understand and improve on the impact and engagement of content across its web presence. gShift is passionate about simplifying the lives of digital marketers and have built the Content Performance Cloud, a collaboration of modules and integrated technologies in one single sign-on platform. gShift delivers this data along with insights on influencer marketing, audience development and smart URL tracking for on-site and off-site content, enabling marketers to gain a deeper understanding of true content engagement and performance.

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