Measuring Your Content Investment


You know how great it feels to lock in that final jigsaw puzzle piece and see the entire picture. Wouldn’t you love to capture that same warm glow when you look at the website content for your hospital or health system? Of course you would! And you can—if you apply relevant metrics that will help you discover the value of this major marketing investment. So, what does it take to measure content ROI?

Business Goals Drive the Bus

Everything starts—or should start—with your business goals, which should incorporate your users’ goals too. You can figure out what’s important to measure by understanding what you and your users want to accomplish. But stay focused. Don’t bite off more than you can chew—at least, not when you’re getting started. Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean you should. You don’t want to get sucked into the big black hole of tracking data for data’s sake. You want to focus on meaningful measurements in order to get results that can truly help guide the decisions you need to make about creating valuable content.

Take the Long View

Whether your healthcare organization wants more patients to pay their bills online or you’re interested in expanding your social media relationships, the key is to set up measurements that will track your goals. And it’s important to remember that you must stay in the game for the long haul. Arnie Kuenn, experienced content marketer and president of Vertical Measures, notes: “Content marketing is different from other forms of online marketing in that it does not always deliver ROI quickly. It may take weeks or months for a piece of content to be discovered by people and the search engines.” So don’t give up too early. A week’s worth of data doesn’t tell you much; a month’s worth—or a year’s worth or more—really starts to create a valuable knowledge base that can inform your next steps and make all the effort worthwhile.

Start with ‘Why’ to Get to ‘What’

Many approaches to measuring content exist, but it’s best to start with the big picture—‘why’ certain information might be helpful. Measuring the value of content is important when you want to:

  • Improve how your content performs
  • Keep projects, budgets and launch/publish schedules on track
  • Reduce costs associated with duplicate content, frequent re-work, responding to the same question for multiple customers or activities currently done by hand/offline
  • Help your site visitors complete their top tasks quickly and easily so they’re more likely to share their positive experience with others or take an action you suggest
  • Work more efficiently and prioritize important content

Specific examples for your hospital or healthcare system might look like this:

  1. Your organization’s structure has changed—you’re moving from a single hospital, clinic or medical group to a system-wide approach—or you’re undertaking a rebranding initiative where you’ll benefit from an outside perspective to help you see the forest AND the trees.
  2. You’re making a shift in a marketing strategy for a specific offering or service line.
  3. Your website needs updating to meet the expectations of people who want to find you on a wide range of mobile devices—with access to all the same information they’d find on your desktop site.
  4. You inherited content from every old technology and legacy system ever used in your organization, and you’re not sure how to start making better sense of everything.
  5. Your staff is already overwhelmed with daily assignments, so keeping your content fresh falls to the bottom of the list.

Once you know the why, what and how—those key performance indicators (KPIs) and the tools to track them—almost magically reveal themselves. Or, at least, you’re better able to choose just the ones that actually help you uncover useful information.

Four Content Metrics That Matter

Jay Baer, a straight-shooting content/social media strategist and the driving force behind Convince and Convert, reminds us that “content cannot be measured with a single metric, because no one data point can successfully or satisfactorily tell you whether your program is working. Instead, you need to create an array of metrics that are selected from four primary buckets.” In the sequence of value, Baer identifies those buckets as:

  • Consumption metrics
  • Sharing metrics
  • Lead metrics
  • Sales metrics

Let’s take a deeper look.

Consumption Metrics

The traditional starting point, consumption metrics come from sources like Google Analytics, YouTube traffic numbers or proprietary tracking set-ups. These and other such statistical tools deliver numbers of page views, downloads and other quantifiable information that provide a snapshot of your site visitors and their interests.

Typical consumption metrics may result from looking at a variety of key performance indicators. Neil Bhapkar, director of marketing for interactive marketing start-up Uberflip, breaks down the top KPIs into three broad categories that can help you track content value, including:

  • Reach – Unique visits, geographic location, mobile traffic, device type
  • Engagement – Bounce rates and time-on-page, heat maps and click patterns, page views
  • Sentiment – Comments, social sharing

The key to using consumption metrics and KPIs as part of your content measurement program is not to stop there. You’ve just scratched the surface of the available data that can shine a bright light on the value of your current website content.

Sharing Metrics

You’ve seen those ubiquitous buttons – Like, Follow, Tweet, +1, Pin it, Share. And maybe you actually do. The current content-focused frenzy seems to equate success with how often your site visitors share something you’ve created with others. All good. Definitely important. But, as Kuenn says, “Social media sharing metrics are less easily quantified as a dollar value.” Regardless, put them in perspective, capture the data and stay focused on your goals. “Social profiles provide value for customer relationship management, customer service and customer engagement, among other purposes,” says Kuenn. Jay Baer notes that “you can impact this metric considerably by making social sharing easier and more obvious” for site visitors. In other words, put the sharing buttons on the page!

Lead Generation Metrics

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Your snappy phrases, Vine videos and other cool content may attract visitors, but what happens next? Anything? This is where you set up opportunities to gather serious information about who your visitors are and what they’re interested in doing with the incredibly engaging information they’ve just found on your website. Jay Baer describes lead-gen metrics as the place “where we start determining whether the content marketing effort is making financial sense.”

Any time you use a call to action that asks site visitors to share their personal information by filling out a form, you should be capturing their basic contact information. Most of the time, you don’t need more than the name and email address. By keeping the form short, you raise the chances that people will actually fill it out. That gets them into your prospect database and begins what you hope will become a long and positive relationship. Over time, that relationship will allow future touch points where you can collect more information.

Keep the barriers to entry low. If your forms request a lot of information simply to view a piece of content, download a whitepaper or eBook, watch a video, sign up for a newsletter or do something you want them to do, visitors are more likely to click away. You need to give to get.

Whether you set browser cookies, route people to a call center or use another type of lead-tracking system, be sure to identify your goals, connect them to appropriate online calls-to-action or events and gather the information. The resulting data tells you how often visitors turn into leads, which also helps you determine the cost for each lead. This lead-value price calculation provides information about how many leads you need to offset your content investment. It also quantifies the lifetime value of each customer. Good to know.

Sales Metrics

The whole purpose of creating valuable content and tracking what people do with it is to convert viewers into prospects (leads) and leads into sales. Yes, “sales” means different things to different organizations. No worries. But, the overall goal of any business is to create relationships that develop into customers. Happy customers. Long-term customers. Satisfied customers who share their love for you with everyone they know. Yes!

And here’s where we get into the world of databases and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. You need some kind of process that lets you track each site visitor from start to finish—from the time they view a piece of content until they turn into a paying customer.

As Jay Baer says, “You want to note in the prospect record [database, CRM] that the potential customer consumed [content] pieces X, Y and Z. Then, when your crack sales team turns that prospect into a sale, [you can] determine the projected revenue and profit (lifetime value if you can) of that customer, and assign it to the content pieces.”

Arnie Kuenn explains it as ensuring “your system can track what path a visitor took to fill out a lead form and transfer that data to your CRM system or sales software. This should help you to see over time what type of content consumption is important to that final sale.”

Measuring Content Helps You Use Your Resources Wisely

All these pieces of information help you decide where to effectively place your content efforts and what other sorts of organizational resources might be needed to provide the positive experiences that can help turn site visitors into prospects and customers. Kuenn notes that your prospects are essentially seeking you out when they access a piece of content on your website. They’ve already begun “selling” themselves on your services and value.

When prospects conduct their own research by checking you out online, they’re trying to decide if you have what they need. They want to save themselves—and, by extension, you—any wasted effort. Once they know you’re a potential match, they’re better primed for the “purchase.” In addition, your customer service costs can come down when common questions are quickly and effectively answered online.

Baer reminds us that “content isn’t just about consumption.” We need to track more items, including sharing, leads and sales. Yes, it’s going to take time to get your system up and running, but the payoff is tremendous, especially when the results help you determine what content is valuable, what’s ready to retire and what to prioritize as your next steps.

What’s Next?

Websites are built on content and content drives SEO, which is just one part of a strong content measurement system. By focusing more on content quality than content quantity, you’ll gain a clearer picture of the key metrics that can help you recognize a better return on your content investment.

While you consider all the pieces of data you might want to track—and what that information can help you learn about your audience and your content—start by installing basic consumption metrics. Put Google Analytics (GA) into the code on your website and check the results regularly. Review statistics from your social media accounts to see how, when and where your visitors share your content with others. Then, consider connecting into your organization’s CRM and sales tracking systems.

Even if you can’t get everything going at once, the time to start is now. And it’s okay to ask for help. The content, strategy and marketing experts at Geonetric pay attention to these metrics. Let’s work together to make sure your website content is doing its job—delivering the best possible visitor experience, the kind that turns viewers into prospects and prospects into customers.

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This entry was posted in Best Practices, Content, Marketing, ROI by Jill Jensen. Bookmark the permalink.
Jill Jensen

About Jill Jensen

As Geonetric’s content director, Jill’s strategic organization skills and her extensive writing/editing background help clients streamline their websites and tell their stories through clear and memorable copy. With 35+ years of experience, this digital/content strategist and wordsmith has done it all—information architecture, content strategy, creative writing, technical writing, copywriting and ghostwriting—for a wide range of clients. At Geonetric, she has worked on projects for clients such as HCA Capital Division, Avera Health, Adventist HealthCare and University of Colorado Health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in telecommunicative arts and journalism and mass communication from Iowa State University.

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