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Content Marketing: Using Metrics to Improve Content Performance

By Matthew T. Grant

Content Marketing: Using Metrics to Improve Content Performance

Chris Penn of SHIFT Communications summed up his January 22nd AMA webcast on measuring the impact of content in three tweetable tidbits:

1. No content is better than bad content. Do it well, or not at all.

Chris's point here was twofold. First, there's Google. Google's Matt Cutts recently wrote, "Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop." Put this together with other moves by Google, such as the Panda update that targeted poor quality content, and it's pretty clear that bad content can actually incur Google's wrath. 

Second, given the insane explosion of content—from in-depth analyses of things that really matter to compilations of funny Vines—people nowadays simply have a really low tolerance for bad content. Unless your content is good, it's not going to break through the noise. And if by chance you do break through the noise and it turns out your content stinks, then that's going to turn off anyone who happens to find you. 

2. The point of content marketing metrics is to tell you what to fix next.

Chris spent the bulk of his presentation outlining a useful framework for both thinking out your content marketing strategy and assessing the performance of your content. 

This framework looks at seven dimensions where content can have an impact. From a strategy standpoint, Chris laid out what each dimension can be expected to accomplish. From a "figuring out what to fix next" standpoint, he talked about what it meant if things weren't working in each dimension and what you could do about it.

Chris described the dimensions as follows:


Content has always been considered a great way to improve organic search rankings; if your content is working, the search results will speak for themselves. If your content is not moving the SEO needle, however, Chris suggested that you may not be targeting the right keywords or simply not following best practices when it comes to content creation, tagging and promotion.


Since content provides a lot of fodder for engagement in social channels, if your content is good, it should be driving likes, shares and follower growth. If it is not having an impact in any of these areas, then there may be a mismatch between your content and the interests of your target audience. It may also mean, Chris suggested, that you need to buy more audience (by paying for promotion of social content, for example).

Earned Media

Good content will be shared and, as Chris pointed out, "Sharing IS earned media." It will also get picked up by other media outlets and spread far and wide (like when something we posted got picked up by the Huffington Post). If people aren't sharing your content, and the media broadly speaking are ignoring you, it could be that your content simply isn't compelling enough. 

Owned Media

Good content should be driving traffic to your owned properties. If it isn't, Chris says, it may live in the wrong places (do you tend to publish content on other sites that don't adequately push traffic your way?) or, again, it may be a quality issue.

Paid Media

Ideally, according to Chris, your content should help boost ad performance. In fact, if your ads are good enough, they will get shared all on their own. If you are not seeing better paid ad performance, Chris recommended connecting your ads to your content (making sure they appear side by side) or incorporating content in your remarketing campaigns.


Lead generation has, too, long been a goal of content marketing; good content should prove itself in the quality and quantity of leads it brings in. If your content isn't producing on the lead front and your list isn't growing, Chris recommended more rigorously testing your content mix (curated versus original, for example) to see what really produces the highest levels of engagement. 


Finally, good content should result in more conversions and sales. If your content isn't, Chris said the problem might be that your content is too rich. That is, if customers are getting all the value you have to offer from your content, it could actually be cannibalizing sales!

3. Stop chasing easy and start chasing great. It's the only sustainable long term content strategy.

If you want to pursue a content marketing strategy and bad content is worse than no content at all, the unavoidable conclusion is that you have to produce great content. Of course, doing so isn't easy. It involves doing your research, getting your messaging correct, and being very creative. 

As Chris made clear, you may need help getting it right (by engaging an agency that specializes in content creation, for example), but the investment will be worth it since the cost of getting it wrong is obscurity (or worse!).

Watch Chris' entire presentation on measuring the impact of content.    

Image Source: Ian Muttoo. The image was altered slightly. It was cropped.

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