A Segmented Approach to Measuring Content Marketing Success

Many companies struggle with measuring content marketing effectiveness. Unlike other marketing activities, there’s not a single set of definitive metrics. This is due largely in part to the variety of outcomes content marketing is expected to deliver.

According to Content Marketing Institute’s 2014 benchmark report, B2B content marketers named their top goals as brand awareness, lead generation, customer acquisition, and thought leadership, respectively. These top four goals were named by more than 65% of respondents.

How do you condense four or more unique goals into a single set of KPIs? The simple answer is, you don’t. When the vast majority of content marketers are seeking multiple unique goals, a holistic approach to measurement simply doesn’t work. It’s entirely possible for efforts to succeed in one area and falter in another. Success in content marketing has to be viewed in terms of each goal.

Across each of the four most common content marketing goals, success criteria (and by extension metrics) are entirely different. Looking at each goal individually reveals a unique set of key questions and performance indicators.


Brand Awareness

Brand awareness is the most basic content marketing goal. Successful content marketing leads to recognition of your brand name and imagery. Improving brand awareness involves creating and growing an active following. Brand awareness is linked closely with a company website and social media accounts.

Key questions:

  • How many people are consuming my content?
  • How big is my overall reach?
  • How many people interact with each piece of content?
  • At what rate is my audience growing (or shrinking)?
  • Is my content searchable?

Brand awareness encompasses total following, following per post, and follower growth. Generally, key metrics for brand awareness are quantitative – things like unique visitor counts, unique pageviews, and views per post. Most brand awareness metrics can be found in free tools, like Google Analytics and Social Mention. Social media followers and mentions are additional examples of such basic quantitative metrics. Search engine optimization (SEO) is another component of brand awareness. Measuring SEO requires more advanced metrics, such as Google’s PageRank. PageRank is a numeric value between one and ten, which indicates the weight given to a particular page in a Google Search. Moz provides similar metrics, at both the page and domain level, with its Page Authority and Domain Authority ratings.

Thought Leadership

Content marketing’s success in thought leadership is marked by its ability to influence the attitudes and options of its audience. Where brand awareness seeks to achieve reach and audience size, thought leadership seeks to build authority.

Key Questions:

  • How much trust is placed in my content?
  • How engaged is my audience?
  • What is the sentiment around my content?
  • Where am I viewed in relation to my competitors?

Measurement of thought leadership is focused on audience engagement, sharing, and sentiment. Discerning this information requires a combination of qualitative and quantitative metrics. Engagement is demonstrated through downloads and comments. More detailed engagement information can be found by comparing the frequency and recency spreads of visitors. Sharing can be benchmarked in terms of social shares and email forwards. Sentiment is slightly more difficult to measure. It usually requires and external sentiment analysis tool. Tools, like Trackur, provide sentiment scores from various social media sites, blogs, and forums.

Lead Generation

Obviously, a steady quantity of leads is an important factor for content marketing’s success; however, there are several other attributes that contribute to successful lead generation, namely quality and affordability. Leads that don’t convert are of little use to a company, while overly costly leads diminish returns.

Key Questions

  • How many leads are generated?
  • What percentage of these leads convert?
  • How much does each lead cost?

Effective measurement of lead generation accounts for quantity, quality, and affordability. Lead totals can be compared from a variety of sources, including form completions, content downloads, webinar registrations, and newsletter subscriptions. Using a CRM and/or marketing automation platform, the quality of these sources can be compared by conversion rate or average lead score. Cost per lead is a simple calculation of campaign costs over leads generated. What's even more valuable is to track leads all the way through the pipeline and attribute KPI data back to the lead source.

Customer Acquisition

Customer acquisition is arguably the most important goal of content marketing. Content marketing’s success in customer acquisition is not only defined by its ability to bring in new business, but also the costs and lifetime value associated with customers. A small group of loyal customers can be as valuable, if not more valuable, than a larger group of one-time customers. As in the case of lead generation, cost per acquisition is an important factor in maximizing returns.

Key Questions

  • How much revenue is tied to content marketing?
  • What percentage of leads are closed?
  • What is the lifetime value of a customer?
  • How much does each new customer cost?

The success of customer acquisition is measured by revenue, conversion rate, cost, and customer loyalty. Most important customer acquisition metrics can be collected from purchase history data. Content marketing revenue can be collected on both a per-campaign and per-conversion basis. Other important factors, like conversion rate and cost per conversion, can be similarly sourced. Loyalty can be measured through customer retention rate and customer lifetime value.


Content marketing bridges channels and objectives. Brand awareness, thought leadership, lead generation, and customer acquisition are just a few of the outcomes content marketing is asked to produce. With a wide array of goals and tactics, valuable insights are often obscured. Effective measurement of content marketing segments and analyzes on a goal-by-goal basis.

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