Content marketing is a key component of any successful marketing strategy.

Just look at GE.

The company joined forces with BuzzFeed to develop branded content, and most people who saw it perceived GE as "inspiring," "creative," and "innovative," leading to a 138% brand lift on social.

But marketers can realize results like those and see how content initiatives affect them only if they're able to track metrics consistently.

Fully 38% of marketers say measuring content effectiveness is one of their biggest challenges. Only 39% of content marketers say they're at least somewhat successful at tracking ROI, and just 8% say they're "very" or "extremely" successful.

But before marketers can determine which metrics they should use to track ROI, they have to know both why they're measuring results (the reason—the goal) and how each metric ties to that overarching goal.

So, whether you're focusing primarily on SEO, lead generation, or thought leadership, read on to learn which metrics you should track to monitor content marketing success.


Many companies' primary content marketing goal is to improve SEO.

Whether visitors find you online through paid advertising, organic search, or referral traffic, you want them to engage with you, return to your site, and ultimately decide to do business with you. When you consistently publish high-quality content, it allows your audience members to start learning about what you have to offer before they're hit with a sales pitch.

But only if you track your progress can you gauge how your content efforts are affecting SEO.

First, you'll need to perform a technical website audit and keyword research. Doing so will reveal how you can improve your site to boost SEO results, and it will give you an idea of which keywords you're already ranking for and what other keywords might be good opportunities.

Then, consistently track these metrics:

  • Keyword rankings: Incorporating relevant keywords into your content is essential if your primary goal is SEO. The higher your content ranks for a keyword, the more likely your target audience will find you when searching for that topic. To monitor how effective your efforts are, track your rankings over time. SEMrush and Ahrefs can help you do that.
  • Organic search traffic: This metric refers to the number of visits your website attracts from unpaid, organic search. If you see a boost in organic search traffic, that means you're creating content that's driving audiences from a SERP to your site. This metric is simple to track with tools like Google Analytics and HubSpot.

Lead Generation

Off-site content, such as press mentions or guest-contributed articles, directs people to your on-site content through links. And when your site is full of helpful content, you can engage visitors and convert them into leads.

To ensure your content efforts are working together to lead your audience through your sales funnel, track these metrics:

  • Conversions: Your conversion rate tells you how effective your content is at turning website visitors into leads. If you're generating lots of leads but few of them are actually becoming clients, that could indicate that your content isn't aimed at the right audience. Then you can determine your conversion rate (percentage) by dividing the number of conversions by the number of total visitors and multiplying that number by 100.
  • Clickbacks: This metric tells you the number of people who click through to your website from off-site content. If this number is high, that means your audience thinks you're sharing valuable content and wants to engage with you further.
  • Average lead score: Generating lots of leads is great, but if those leads aren't high-quality, you're not going to reach your lead generation goals. Put a system in place for scoring your leads consistently. That way, you'll be able to determine the quality of your leads. Start by determining what criteria make for a marketing qualified lead, and then set and assign point values. From there, you can calculate your average. Lead management software can make this process easier.
  • On-site analytics: Finish rate, bounce rate, and time on site allow you to track your audience's engagement with your on-site content. Add in the conversion rate, and you can see which pieces of on-site content got visitors to take specific actions—a crucial component of lead generation.

Thought Leadership

Thought leaders are committed to putting their expertise out into the world to educate and engage their audiences. The results of that effort can be difficult to measure, but that doesn't mean you should just publish content and hope for the best. The following metrics can help you gauge the effectiveness of your thought leadership content strategy:

  • On-site analytics: As noted earlier, bounce rate, finish rate, and time on site can demonstrate your audience members' engagement with content on your site. If they find your content worthwhile, they'll stay on-site longer and finish reading it. If they're bouncing from your thought-leadership content within seconds, it probably indicates that content isn't resonating.
  • Sharing: If you're wondering whether the content you're creating is high-quality, look at whether others are sharing your content on social platforms or referring to them on their own sites. If high-quality publications are referring to your content, that means they've deemed your insights valuable. You can use Sprout Social to track the coverage and the social shares.
  • Speaking opportunities: Being asked to speak at events is a sign that you're sharing unique insights with the right audience. Keep a log of speaking requests, and ask how event organizers heard about you. Even if you just log that information in a spreadsheet, you'll be able to see how many speaking offers you've gotten and which content initiatives are driving those requests.
  • Social engagement: When people take the time to engage with a piece of content, that means it resonated with them. Social metrics you can track include shares, likes, and comments. As a result of your tracking, you can dig into your top-performing posts across social channels; that can help you determine how to tailor your content for each social media channel so that you might boost engagement.
  • Press mentions: Press mentions can include requests to contribute a quote for an article, co-host a webinar, or even be a guest on a podcast. Keep track of these requests; they're an indicator that your audience values your insights and wants to share them with their own audiences.
  • Awards: Industry awards aren't given to just anybody; they have to be earned through hard work. Being nominated for awards in your industry proves that you've demonstrated your expertise in your niche. So keep track of how many awards you've been nominated for and how many you've won.

* * *

Creating great content is just half the battle. You have to have a focused content-measurement strategy if you want to assess the effectiveness of your efforts. Once you've pinpointed your primary goal, track the above metrics so you can visualize and achieve your content marketing ambitions.

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image of Kelsey Raymond

Kelsey Raymond is the COO of Intero Digital, a 400-person full-service digital marketing agency that offers comprehensive, results-driven marketing solutions.

LinkedIn: Kelsey (Meyer) Raymond

Twitter: @Kelsey_M_Meyer