Marketing teams are under more pressure than ever. 50% of small and mid-size businesses have in-house content marketing teams that are struggling to overcome challenges, according to UpCity’s Content Marketing Survey.
Some find it difficult to measure ROI, while others struggle to identify strategic collaborations. Even among those that are effectively measuring content marketing KPIs related to their goals, there is always room for improvement — especially when management wants to know how you will attain that next best result.
To secure budgeting, resources, and cooperation from internal partners, you need to get those stakeholders to ‘buy in’ to your content marketing strategy. You can do that by setting clear content marketing goals that guide you toward more optimal performance. According to Marketing Week, nearly 39% of SMB (Small and Midsize Business) marketers now focus more on performance because of pressure from senior leadership to achieve specific targets.
Whether you seek buy-in from the C-suite or are interested in presenting data to your stakeholders, here’s how to bridge the gap between your team and those with decision-making power.
What are content marketing goals?
Content marketing goals are strategic initiatives that marketing teams set and track in pursuit of their overarching content marketing objectives.
It’s no longer enough to produce quality content, click the publish button, and hope for the best. Content marketing is a strategic approach for creating and distributing content to achieve business goals. These goals look different for varying businesses. For some, the core objective may be to attract new customers and boost brand awareness, whereas another company may focus solely on lead nurturing and conversion. These goals will change over time and in response to varying target audiences.
Regardless of the primary objective, content marketing goals allow teams to gauge progress and communicate to those most interested in that progress. SMART goals provide direction, allowing you to prioritize content creation to allocate your budget effectively.
Think of content marketing goals as a roadmap to achieve success. For example, you may want to increase conversion rates by X% in six months. This clear goal helps you track KPIs to adapt accordingly.
But you shouldn’t run before you can walk. Instead of collecting as much data as possible, set a clear goal and start small. Measure the elements that will provide actionable insights so you can pivot quickly.
For example, if your primary goal is to increase brand awareness and rank higher in the SERPs, you may focus specifically on new website visitors or inbound links, and alter your strategy and approach as further information becomes available.
Top 3 content marketing goals
Content marketing goals can help you grow, engage, and retain your audience. However, you must determine your primary goal to optimize your next campaign and choose the most relevant KPIs. The following three content marketing goals can help you take your strategy to the next level and achieve real, measurable results.
Create content to fill a content gap
After conducting a content audit, you may notice that the performance of your content doesn’t align with your current goals. This audit will be highly specific for some, such as uncovering a keyword gap with competitors.
When you’re ready to review the data, leverage an analytics tool like Google Analytics to look at engagement, traffic, conversions, or other indicators. Based on that data, identify gaps where your content misses the mark concerning your goals, your audience’s needs, or your competition’s standards.
You may discover you lack content for a particular stage in the buyer journey, or you may not have enough content for a specific persona. From insufficient keyword-driven content to the absence of content for an industry trend, there are many reasons why a gap exists. Identify it and act fast to ensure the most significant impact.
Moz’s Keyword Gap tool is particularly useful for identifying content gaps relative to a website’s competitors. Simply plug in your site’s URL (either domain or subfolder) and those of your competitors, then voila! You will see which keywords your competitors are ranking for in comparison to your own rankings. Narrow down your results by using the “Your Rank” filter and inputting your desired rank minimum or maximum to only show keywords that are most attainable for you to go after.
To hone in on the most viable opportunities, you can use Volume and/or Difficulty Score metrics. By setting a Difficulty Score <20, for example, you’ll find keywords that any well-established website should be able to target and ultimately rank for, versus aiming to create content and rank for keywords with higher difficulty.
In the above example, I compared UpCity’s B2B marketing blog against two industry-leading marketing blogs, HubSpot and Digital Marketing Institute. The Keyword Gap tool reveals that UpCity has content ranking in position #8 for the keyword “ppc on google,” while the other blogs are ranking in position #3 and #5 for that keyword, respectively.
With this data, UpCity can optimize its existing content to rank higher for these competitive keywords, and see new content opportunities by looking at phrases for which they are ranking in the 51st position or higher (which, in terms of SERP placement, “higher” is not always a good thing.)
Create content for link-building initiatives
If you have not prioritized link-building strategies, you’re leaving significant growth opportunities on the table. While link building was all about quantity in the past, quality has the upper edge in 2023 and beyond. The quality and authority of the pages where you build links play a major role in ranking.
This goal is of the utmost importance if you are in a competitive industry and want to improve your SEO strategies. To ensure success, you must begin with helpful, quality content that people want to share. Part of this approach will be knowing where to find prospects, or websites, that might be interested in linking to your content.
Create content to rank in the SERPs
The forever-changing SERPs can make it tough to maximize the value of your keyword data. However, there are some fundamental considerations when the goal is to rank.
As you adjust your strategy to rank higher on Google, you’ll get more traffic and drive conversions. But to achieve that, you need to offer quality content. Google continues focusing more on user experience, accounting for bounce and click-through rates, and rewarding sites that publish comprehensive content with search intent, scannability, and speed to value in mind.
Content marketing KPIs
To help drive the above goals, you need insight into what’s working and what isn’t. One way to do so is by paying attention to key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with those goals. While the metrics depend on your objectives and audience, these four are critical for any team to optimize resources:
Sessions: If you want to know whether users are landing on specific pages and staying long enough to engage with the content, dive deeper into average pages per session. When using Google Analytics (GA4), you can track Events per Session or Engaged Sessions per User, which Google defines as a session lasting longer than 10 seconds, a session with a conversion event, or two or more screen or page views.
Keywords: When building a campaign based on target keywords, you must track the keywords’ ranking positions. Focus specifically on rank checking and visibility.
Revenue: You can discover how much revenue is generated directly from your content marketing efforts by determining which conversions come from content and which conversions come from ads. This data can help you compare your strategy to other marketing and sales tactics, and it’s vital for gaining buy-in from other teams.
Backlinks: For content, few KPIs are as crucial as backlinks. Think of every link as a vote. Once you start growing backlinks from authoritative sites, you’ll know your audience is engaged, and your reputation is strengthening, both in the eyes of your readers and search engines.
Mix and match your KPIs to content types
Not all content marketing KPIs make sense for every content type or situation, so knowing when and how to match them will provide more value. For example, the following content types often come with unique goals, which can help you determine the most appropriate KPIs to measure.
Commonly referred to as hub-and-spoke content, educational resources serve as a foundation of information on the given topics on which your site focuses. Having informational content around the products and services you offer plays an integral part in establishing authority and trust.
Educational resources may be centered around “What is?” and “How to” queries, and should heavily focus on targeted keywords for that topic. Not only does this help prove your knowledge and expertise to users, but it also significantly helps with your site’s SEO and ranking potential.
Tools like AlsoAsked and AnswerthePublic do a great job of visually displaying hub-and-spoke queries related to the topic or keyword you input. These tools work by scraping search engine results’ “People Also Ask” boxes to quickly show what questions users are asking, helping you to produce content that people are interested in learning about.
Keywords and backlinks will help you grow your audience and boost your ranking, whereas session data will help determine how your potential clients or customers interact with your educational content. Is one resource page attracting users for an average of five minutes compared to another resource that holds interest for 30 seconds? Determining why this happens can ensure you create more helpful, meaningful content that supports a healthier ROI.
Most vital KPIs:
Whether it’s a mortgage calculator or data scraper, a company name generator or a three-question quiz, users love finding helpful and engaging tools and sharing them with others. That’s why online tools are arguably the most linkable assets for content marketers.
If, for example, you are a professional video marketing service provider, you might create an interactive tool that allows users to estimate the cost of making a professional video. Enabling users to add and remove options for their desired video like “music,” “live action,” or “animated” would adjust the price accordingly. This tool would prove helpful for anyone exploring professional video services, making it a great link target for link building outreach, as well as sharing on social media platforms and online threads.
Most vital KPIs:
Collecting proprietary data through surveys, carefully analyzing the results, and publishing a high-quality report is a proven content marketing strategy that works time and time again, like this survey on ‘What Diners Write About Most’. Producing survey reports and sharing results with top-tier journalists can help land your brand highly coveted media placements on strong domains.
Similarly, surveys are one of the best content types for link building outreach, as your data can often fit seamlessly into existing content on other sites that have written about the topic of your report. Website owners are typically much more willing to reference your data and link back to your content as opposed to other content types, which are more difficult to earn placements for.
Further, data reports can rank more easily in the SERPs compared to other content types. There is no shortage of users searching for “[topic] statistics” on a daily basis, so it’s wise to do keyword research to hone in on the specific keywords that are being searched for your targeted topic. By incorporating these keywords in your report, you’ll significantly increase your chances of ranking in the SERP.
Most vital KPIs:
Publishing quotes — especially unique, thought-leadership quotes — can help you gain backlinks. You can create an “expert roundup” content piece quoting leaders or influential parties in your industry, also using this opportunity to build collaborative relationships.
You can also combine quote roundups with other content types, like data reports or educational pieces, by adding expert quotes to support the information in those pieces. Adding expert quotes to an article can improve its authoritativeness (an integral part of E-E-A-T) and increase backlink opportunities.
Leveraging reporter-supported platforms like HARO and Qwoted can make putting together quote roundups a breeze. It is more common than not for expert contributors to expect a backlink in return for sharing their insights, and the site publishing the piece shouldn’t stray from asking the featured individuals to return the favor. Expert roundups can truly be a win-win.
Most vital KPI:
Measuring up: How to report against your content marketing goals
Once a piece of content is published, you need to track its performance to have actionable data to report. Without that information, your team will be left in the dark.
Results should align with ongoing content marketing goals to ensure progress and growth. Based on the common goals and content marketing KPIs discussed above, here is how you should approach each scenario.
When the goal is to fill content gaps, the optimal result is relatively black and white — you filled the gap, or you didn’t.
There are several ways of looking at content gaps, ranging from outdated information to fluctuating keywords and shifting customer interests. So, when gaps appear, it doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong in the past. However, if you want to stay ahead of the game and remain competitive, you must identify and address any new gaps, as they will quickly become missed opportunities.
Keyword research will be imperative here to ensure your content ranks high. To get started, focus on a competitor keyword analysis or leverage a tool like Moz Pro, which includes the Keyword Gap tool described above.
Quick Tip: If you are experiencing a lull with your target keywords, it’s time to incorporate more long-tail keywords. These keywords, which are keyword phrases of three words or more, are less competitive and are often highly effective because they represent customers further along in the buying process.
While link quality is of the utmost importance, quantity still matters too. To put it simply: the more quality backlinks you get, the better.
To measure the success of any link-building campaign, you must consider the number of backlinks your site has and the quality of those links, or the number of referring domains acquired within a set period (often month over month).
However, patience is vital before you make significant shifts to your strategy. On average, it takes anywhere from three to 12 months from when you build links to when you see major changes in SERPs. You can also dive deeper into the organic growth of traffic.
Lean on the tools available, like Link Explorer, to make this process as accurate and efficient as possible.
Quick Tip: When the goal is to collect data from your campaigns to measure your link-building success more efficiently, set a benchmark. This benchmark will act as a reference point so that you can pivot and better contextualize your results.
Content that ranks
SEO campaigns are crucial for businesses across varying industries and niches, ranging from retail to technology. While organic search and visibility go hand in hand, ranking is one of the most significant advantages of investing in SEO. Showing up on the first page of Google has massive implications. According to First Page Sage, the average click-through rate for Google’s first three organic results is 68%. By the tenth position, that number falls to 2%.
The first step is determining if your content already appears in the SERPs. The SERP Analysis tool in Keyword Explorer can help you with this process as you tweak SERP features. Pay attention to whether your content is optimized after determining whether it is ranking. Again, this is when you start associating the connection between content marketing and SEO. Focus on keywords and user intent, but don’t overdo it.
From a content marketing perspective, remember that content should serve the user first and the search engine second. The best approach here is to create research-driven content that is high quality and reliable. That way, you’ll cover both bases.
Some of the most valuable metrics to consider include:
Organic traffic, which you can access in Google Analytics or Moz Pro
Keyword rankings, which will help you determine which keywords drive traffic to your website. Moz’s Rank Checker is ideal for this process.
Quick Tip: Always implement best practices to optimize for technical, off-page, and on-page SEO. Know what to prioritize and when based on your initial goal and ongoing KPIs.
Adjust content marketing KPIs to your business goals
Whether you want to sit down with your management team or present figures to stakeholders, you must know how to translate your content marketing goals into actionable KPIs.
As you select clearly defined metrics to track, you will better understand if your marketing spend is producing an attractive ROI. If not, you’ll now have enough information to make more informed decisions. Well-presented data will make decision-makers “buy in” to your initiatives, especially if you have already adjusted and refined your strategy to show improvements.
Whether you have an in-house or outsourced content marketing team, be sure to align and establish KPIs based on your unique objectives. Learning how to measure and report against your chosen KPIs effectively could make or break your next campaign.