With 2017 now firmly upon us, and many organizations once again attempting to experience success with their content marketing, one of the major questions these companies (especially their leadership teams) will be asking is, “How do we know if this stuff is actually working?” In other words, what are the critical KPIs of content marketing?

At The Sales Lion, we’ve worked with dozens of unique industries over the past five years to achieve success with their content marketing efforts. So as you read the following words, know that they are based on real case studies, real results, and real conversations with CEOs and leadership teams. With that knowledge, I’m bothered by much of what I read with respect to “content marketing predictions” and KPIs lately.

Why?

Because everything is so “marketing” oriented, marketing slanted, marketing driven. Folks, successful content marketing starts and stops with SALES.

Sales teams.
Sales numbers.
Sales revenue.

Don’t ever be convinced otherwise.

Sales is the fuel that drives the engine to every organization, large or small, B2B or B2C. This is why I devote half of my book on content marketing to the sales side of the subject. So as you read this, keep that major point in mind.

Here are the seven most critical KPIs you should monitor in your content marketing campaigns.

1. Is the content “Sales Team Ready?”

Remember, we said this was about sales, which is why good content is VERY buyer focused (not fluff) and used to address the most critical issues sales teams are constantly addressing. In fact, if you’re just kicking off your content marketing and want to start with a bang – especially with your video marketing – begin with the questions that Sales gets on their first call with a prospect.

Used properly, great content will dramatically eliminate many of these “uneducated” questions, which ultimately shortens the sales cycle and can dramatically increase closing rates.

2. Is the Sales Team actually using the content?

You may think this is the same as #1, but it’s not. There is a VERY big difference between creating sales-oriented content and your sales team actually using said content.

What we’re talking about here is the essence of strong sales enablement and a culture where sales and marketing are aligned and working in unison with the core purpose of not just finding prospects, but moving them through or out of the sales funnel as quickly as possible.

3. Are the Sales Team and other subject matter experts involved in the content production process regularly?

A culture of content isn’t built simply by marketing departments doing what they do in a silo. In fact, the best cultures of content exist where members of the sales team and other subject matter experts are actively involved in coming up with content ideas and then helping to produce them – most commonly through video.

The other effect of subject matter experts participating in video is that it helps them to naturally and organically become more connected to the company, build their own personal brands, demonstrate their expertise, and better learn the products and services of the company – all of which are benefits of content marketing most folks never even consider.

4. SEO Victories

SEO is as important in 2017 as it has ever been, and although it may be difficult to rank in search engines for important phrases involving your business, that doesn’t mean you can ignore it. Fact is, Google and searchers alike are always looking for better content.

Always.

For the majority of our clients at The Sales Lion, at least 80% of the content they produce – be it text or video – has an SEO goal (i.e. a group of keyword phrases we are targeting from an SEO standpoint). These phrases are established with each piece of content and then tracked in the coming weeks or months to see the results.

A good rule of thumb is this: How did the piece of content perform toward its keyword phrase objectives by day 30, 90, and 180? Generally, we consider something a “victory” if it lands in the first five results of Google search engine results. (And don’t forget YouTube search results as well!)

5. Conversions and leads

With every conversion or lead that comes through your website, there was an original point of entry (the page of the site where they landed). As a business, it’s absolutely critical you track all leads and find out which pieces of content are generating the greatest quantity and quality of leads.

6. Customers acquired

Content is about sales. And if we’re doing things the right way, as an organization we can identify the point of “first contact” with our company for most of our customer. Was it from PPC? Was it an organic search result to a particular page? Was it a social media visit?

Regardless of what it was, once it’s tracked back to its original source and an actual customer is identified along with it, we can then start to attribute a specific dollar amount to individual pieces of content and campaigns. (Keep in mind none of this tracking can occur if you don’t have a technology stack built for marketing attribution.)

7. Total revenue generated

Just because a piece of content acquires customers doesn’t necessarily mean it was a huge success for your company. Rather, “huge” success comes when the revenue dollars are high.

To paint the picture clearer, let’s look at a few examples of how numbers, sales, and revenue can get a little misleading:
● Content Piece #1: 10,000 reads/views, 20 conversions, 0 customers, 0 revenue
● Content Piece #2: 1,000 reads/views, 10 conversions, 5 customers, $10,000 revenue
● Content Piece #3: 100 reads/views, 2 conversions, 1 customer, $1,000,000 revenue

Of the three pieces shown above, which was the most successful?

In this case, the majority of all businesses would take #3 as their preferred result, which is why the bottom line revenue numbers ultimately matter the most.

Other Numbers That Matter

As you probably know, there are more than seven KPIs that matter in content marketing. Here are a few more:

● Total views
● Bounce rate
● Inbound links
● Time on page
● Social shares

Of course, the value of each of these metrics varies wildly depending on the business. For example, when Coke puts out a video on YouTube, their major KPI is not revenue; total views is more likely to be their highest concern. As someone that has worked with small businesses and enterprise brands alike, I can appreciate the difference. But for this article today, I’m writing for the masses.

And the masses are not Coke.

Furthermore, the masses need more than vanity metrics and empty numbers to pay their bills. In this case, the masses are the SMBs and mid-market organizations who want to know whether their content marketing efforts are paying off. Thus, this list of seven is where it starts.

Hopefully this article helps in your efforts to better measure your content marketing success in 2017 and beyond. Again, please don’t forget that this list is not all-inclusive. If you feel like there are other KPIs you’d like to add to your efforts, then do it.

But the key is to track. Measure. Change as needed.

And with that, hopefully you’ll experience tremendous success with your content in 2017.

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