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The Most Important Part of Your Content Marketing Strategy: Developing the KPIs

BY: Robin Riddle

If I asked you to join me on a road trip but you learned I had no idea where I was going or how I was going to get there, you might think I was slightly unhinged, or, at the very least, an adventurous traveler. Yet we hear lots of stories about marketers who have embarked on content marketing programs without setting KPIs (the program goals) and creating milestones (how they will achieve their goals).

These same people then wonder why they struggle to justify the investment they have made. And this is supported by data1. According to SEMrush, while 84% of the more than 1,500 clients who responded to a recent survey have a content marketing strategy, only 61% measure their content marketing ROI. Furthermore, only 11% rate their strategy as “excellent.” I suspect not measuring, or being able to prove, ROI is one of the main reasons for dissatisfaction with their strategy.

What to do about this?

It’s actually a relatively easy problem to fix.

Firstly, before you can begin to establish your KPIs, you need to consider what your content marketing program is really setting out to achieve. Research1 consistently tells us that an overwhelming number of businesses are seeking to generate quality leads and increase traffic to their website. Relatedly, and after that, we see “softer” goals like improved brand reputation and increased engagement. Content marketing is great at meeting these top-of-the-funnel objectives. And as you can see below, it also justifies itself across the entire consumer journey. As John von Brachel, SVP, Content Marketing Executive at Bank of America puts it: “it’s really just as important to set a measurable goal for your content, as it is to ensure its level of quality.” John goes on to add, “without data-minded goal-setting, you really can’t say you have a strategy--and there’s little chance you’ll be able to deliver your content to audiences in a personalized way, when and where they need it.” 

So, let’s address the obvious and easiest metrics to put in place and measure—website analytics. Some marketers consider these to be mainly vanity metrics, arguing that they don’t really give you a picture of the ROI your content is generating. However, we’ve heard it said often enough that marketing is really just a big funnel. The goal for marketers is to introduce enough customers at the top of the funnel, so that you can work them through the buyer journey / funnel, and so you have enough left at the bottom (conversion) to hit your sales targets. Ultimately, the more traffic you can bring to your website, the more leads you can convert, or hand off to the sales team.

Ultimately, measuring success is really a yes or no question. Did it succeed or not? What we learn and how we react to those learnings is what makes marketers better. If you want to dig deeper into some more tactical ways to measure content performance, Michael Brenner’s5 article here is a really good additional resource for you.

At the end of the day, for me, your KPIs should really be used to measure progress on three things, increasing awareness (top of the funnel) building preference (mid-funnel) and delivering leads (bottom of the funnel). Keep these points in mind and you won’t go far wrong.


Robin Riddle is the lead content marketing strategist at Foundry 360. He works across B2B as well as B2C and specializes in financial services, insurance, and health care. Prior to his time here, he led content marketing businesses at both The Economist and The Wall Street Journal.

A passionate advocate for the value of content marketing, Robin is also heavily involved in industry issues and speaks at many events on the topics of content marketing and native advertising.


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