This is the final part of a six-part series on how to create an effective content strategy, a critical piece of marketing for organizations in every industry, whether your focus is B2B, B2C, B2G or all of the above. Having an effective content strategy and content marketing plan can yield great benefits that reach audiences you might not otherwise reach and provide sustained brand benefits beyond a short-term marketing or advertising campaign.
To recap our series so far, your content strategy is not just about a placing text or images on a single channel. An effective content strategy takes all of your marketing and communications channels into account and ties them to business-level goals using meaningful measurements that help you calculate your return on investment.
Your content strategy can be split into the following 5 pieces:
- Content Creation
- Content Marketing
- Content Management
In the last article in this series, we discussed the last step in the process: Content Management.
After you’ve created a great strategy and plan, great content assets, and even brought them to market, how do you organize them all and categorize them in a way that is easy for both your external and internal audiences to use most effectively?
A website content management system (CMS) does this for your web-based content, but there are often other types of assets you will be creating. An effective content management plan and strategy will help you keep track of what you have so that you can be nimble and provide audiences with what they need, where they need it.
In this article, we’re going talk about the next step in the process: Measurement. This is where the results of all of your hard work are put to the test and you have the opportunity to see how you are able to reach your target audiences and ultimately achieve your goals.
In our walkthrough of the content strategy process, we finally come to the ultimate way to determine if you have had success. No marketing effort would be complete without a measurement plan. While the plan itself is created much earlier in the process, the measurement part of your content strategy is where you begin to report on how your efforts are performing across audiences, channels, campaigns and tactics within those campaigns.
We will revisit this area in more depth in a future article as well, though to be exhaustive, a book could be written about the different methods and applications you can use to measure and report. For this article series we will talk about measurement in terms of ensuring that the things you are reporting on are giving you insights on how your marketing efforts are contributing to the KPIs that your success is ultimately based on.
If you work measurement into your content creation and marketing process, it will never feel as if it is an afterthought. The last thing you want to do is be halfway through your content marketing efforts and have to determine how you will determine if it is effective.
As you are working on your content strategy and beginning to develop content, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is the target audience?
- Where will this content be viewed or consumed?
- What is the desired action (download, view, etc.)?
- What type of measurement is available?
- How will you report on the success of this piece of content?
When you can answer these questions, you know that your measurement plan will be successful. As you are probably aware, it is easier to measure some things than others, and if your content will be hosted or viewed on a third party platform or website, it may be harder to determine its effectiveness. Despite this, there is always a way to determine effectiveness.
The measurement tools you are able to use will depend on whether you have direct access to the property where the content is displayed.
On properties you either own (your website) or “rent” (your social media properties) you will be able to directly view at least some of the statistics about who is viewing your content and when or how often. When you have direct access to measurement, you can use tools like Google Analytics for websites, or the built-in tracking/reporting tools in platforms like Facebook, or subscribe to other third-party services that are able to aggregate statistics from a variety of sources.
Sometimes your content is not somewhere that you have direct access to view analytics or statistics from. While this may sound like a bad thing, having your content on a high-traffic website or publication can give you great visibility you may not otherwise be able to get on your own properties.
When you don’t have direct control over where your content is placed, you will need to find ways to drive traffic to places that you are able to track. This is where a call to action to download content, links to your website or other prompts can help you capture some of the traffic that is viewing your content. You can also pay attention to your organic search traffic to determine if you have a spike in traffic from searches based on the content you have created.
While you may not be able to see the direct search terms audiences are using, you may see a bump in traffic. Another way to help here is by buying keywords using paid search advertising that are related to your content marketing efforts. This will help capture some of the traffic from people who are seeking more information.
When you ask the questions suggested earlier in the “Process” section, your evaluation of the success of your efforts becomes much easier.
To summarize, we’ll evaluate our efforts based on three major things:
- Audience: who is viewing our content?
We can ask ourselves if the audience interacting with our content is our primary audience. If so, we are able to reach the right people with our message, and we are successful so far.
- Action: what are they doing once they view our content?
Once the right people are viewing our content, what are they doing with it? Are they quickly viewing and then moving on, or are they spending time with it? Do they share it with other colleagues, friends or family?
- Result: what has their action achieved?
Ultimately, once we have reached the right audience and they are interacting with it, what do is the end result? Do they contact you for more information, purchase a product, give you their contact information, or take a survey? This will be the true test of the success of your efforts and will most likely be the easiest to track.
Based on your evaluation, you will be presented with a number of options. If things are performing well, you may keep things as they are or only make minor adjustments. If, however, there is a lot of room for improvement, you may make more substantial changes to your content and even how it’s measured. This will result in a need to compare your initial results with your revised ones. Through an iterative process such as this, you will get closer and closer to the results you desire and hopefully begin to quickly exceed them.
At this point, we’ve covered the entire content strategy and marketing process from start to finish over the last 6 articles. Beginning with your initial strategy which sets the blueprint for who you’re targeting, what your message is, and what action you want to be taken, we end with the measurement phase. This is the time to see the fruits of your efforts and, if necessary, make adjustments to continue to optimize your campaign.
Also, remember that even if you feel your are too far along in your content marketing efforts to make adjustments based on what you’ve just read, it never hurts to re-evaluate how you got where you are.
It doesn’t always require starting from scratch to revisit a step in the process that you might have rushed through. Simply reviewing your planning and creation might allow you to make a significant improvement to an effort that is currently underway.
Finally, may your content strategy and content marketing efforts always be intentional and truly successful!