Which Metrics Matter Most for Content Marketing?

Jul 26, 2018

Given all the time and creative energy that goes into brainstorming, crafting, editing, publishing, and sharing content, you’d probably love to have a direct finger on the pulse of how it’s doing with readers. Fortunately, you have everything you need, right at your fingertips.

Why Web Analytics Matter

You’re probably familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the diagram that exhibits the basic human psychological cravings in relation to one another. Bruce Clay, a pioneer and leading thinker in the SEO field, has created his own version of the Maslow pyramid which he termed the SEO Hierarchy of Needs.

At the base of the pyramid is the category keywords and content. Just above that come site architecture and on-page elements, usability and web design, and link development.

But interestingly, Clay builds the entire pyramid on the foundational element of analytics and web intelligence. In other words, he believes every facet of a company’s digital strategy should be dependent on analytics.

“You can almost think of it as the backdrop for all of your digital marketing efforts -- it basically encompasses all levels of the hierarchy,” web marketing firm Ella J Designs explains.

“At a minimum the data you are collecting tracks visitor engagement on your site, and without that there is no way for you to tell if your website is helping you hit your goals and your marketing efforts are delivering results that matter.”

In other words, you could be wasting your time with content marketing, SEO, and every other aspect of your digital marketing approach if you aren’t tracking analytics. More specifically, you need to be tracking the right metrics. But are you? 

Five Content Metrics You Need to Track

Many marketers avoid analytics because they’re intimidated by them, but you really have no choice. If you want any future in this industry, you have to learn how to track, analyze, and use analytics to optimize your efforts.

In terms of content marketing, certain metrics count more than others. If you set up a marketing dashboard, you should focus on the following:

1. Average Time on Page

On the surface, you might assume that a blog post that scores 3,000 views is better than a one with only 1,000 views, but this isn’t necessarily the case. If the average time spent on page in the first case is 10 seconds, but the latter has an average of 90 seconds, then you’d have a pretty good argument that the blog post that garnered fewer views may actually be more effective.

Too many content marketers focus only on clicks or page impressions. Though they’re important, such figures may not mean very much without the deeper context.

Specifically, you have to know the average time visitors are spending on an individual piece of content. That will suggest a lot more about engagement than simple clicks and views.

2. Bounce Rate

Is your content effective enough to move readers to action? Conversion rates obviously matter, but what you really want to know is whether individual pieces are encouraging readers to continue interacting with your brand, or if they tend to leave in pursuit of something else.

A page’s bounce rate essentially tells you what percentage of visitors are clicking out of your content without bothering to visit another page on your site. The lower your bounce rate, the more likely you’re nudging your audience through the conversion funnel.


Although this is not a traditional metric, comments are something you should be tracking, if possible. The comment section of a blog post tells you how engaged people truly are.

Whether positive, negative, or indifferent, a comment confirms that someone read through your content and was motivated to engage. If you get lots of comments, that tells you your content is doing something. An absence of comments means you aren’t making much of an impression.

4. Backlinks

If content is king, distribution qualifies as queen. On your own, you can do only so much distribution. You might share a piece of content on your blog, via your email list, and on your various social media platforms … but beyond that, you have to rely on others.

One of the signs of healthy content is lots of backlinks coming from sources other than your own pages. Try to keep an eye on who is linking to you and what they’re saying.

5. Social Lift

Are you familiar with the social lift metric? It’s a simple calculation -- shares/views +1 -- and it essentially tells you how much extra organic social traffic a piece of content is getting. It’s not a perfect figure, but as you collect these numbers, you’ll be able to prioritize distribution better. 

Putting it All Together

The only way to optimize your marketing efforts fully, and maximize your investment in content, is to track and analyze the proper metrics. Once you have this information in hand, you can optimize accordingly and satisfy more of your goals.

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