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How Do Content Marketers Measure Meaningful Web Traffic? And Get the Credit?

At Content Marketing World, I invited content marketers to ask questions about How to Speed the Journey from Content to Cash. One great question was: How do you measure meaningful web traffic? And give content credit?

First, let’s parse the word “meaningful.” Meaningful to whom?

To executives, what’s meaningful are these measures:

  • marketing-qualified leads
  • sales-accepted leads
  • sales pipeline
  • customers won
  • revenue.

Why? Each is a step on the critical path to revenue and profitability.

For marketing, it’s meaningful to take a deeper and more diagnostic look. Track key measures that help you advance towards what executives care about — marketing-qualified leads.

Track buyers’ behaviors, ask insightful questions and look for patterns. Figure out what’s working – your bright spots – and how to increase the number of bright spots. Stop the activities that don’t help you meet content marketing goals.

Do you have a clear idea of what success looks like for content marketing? When people come to your website, what exactly do you want them to do? Formulate clear answers to these questions before you decide what’s important to measure.

In the case of low-dollar purchases, the answer may be easy. You want to complete a sale and to capture enough information for follow-on sales.

In the case of carefully considered, high-ticket BtoB purchases, you’ll need to measure each critical-path step leading up to a sale. Focus on providing the right content to advance buyers through the buyers’ journey.

Here are some of the critical measures to look at for websites:

  • Traffic. Is overall website traffic growing? If so, where is growth coming from? Does your website traffic come from email, social media, organic search, paid search, ads, news, direct? How do visitors from different sources behave differently?
  • Content. Which topics, and which types of content draw the most attention? How long do visitors spend with each type of content? Do you have content to “ladder up” your buyers’ attention span from 7 seconds to 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 20 minutes or longer? How long do visitors dwell on the site, and how can you increase time spent on the site?
  • Soft conversions. Think of soft conversions as taking baby steps towards the goal. When visitors finish a piece of content, is it clear what you want them to do next? For examples, soft conversions may include reading a blog post, reading a magazine article, watching a video or reading an ungated white paper.
  • Subscribers. How many subscribers are you gaining? How many are you losing? Focus on converting website visitors into subscribers. Subscribers give you valuable permission to address them regularly by RSS, email or postal mail. Subscribers may be your most responsive audience – particularly those who subscribe to 2 or more of your content streams.
  • Buyers’ journey. Of your overall visitors, how many are in each step of the buying journey? What content will they need next? How can you move them along to the next step? What offers and calls to action are working best? Is there a step in the process where you’re losing buyers? What’s not working?
  • Hard conversions. How many buyers convert  — for example, by registering for a webinar? Registering for a gated white paper? Viewing 6 to 8 pieces of content on the same topic in a short time frame? How many buyers turn into marketing-qualified leads? How many leads does sales accept into the sales pipeline, so you can connect the dots from content to revenue?
  • Sales. Can buyers contact sales directly through your website? Who makes contact and why? How well are these contacts being handled? How many marketing-qualified leads turn into sales-qualified leads and ultimately into sales? Are sales to existing customers or new customers? In existing or new market segments? How much revenue do these customers produce? At what profit margin?

Use these questions to brainstorm hypotheses about what’s working and what’s not. The more hypotheses you discover, the better. Test them empirically by making changes to the website and observing changes in buyers’ behaviors.

Over time, you’ll gain insights into what makes buyers synch up with your content marketing. And you’ll see ways to link content marketing inputs and outputs more directly to sales.

What’s “meaningful” varies by industry, company, degree of purchase consideration, size of purchase, buying cycle and customer-related factors. These questions are designed to help you discover the measures that are most meaningful for the all-important path to revenue.

Other content marketing questions addressed in this series include:

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