Between algorithms, likes, shares and ratings, content marketing often becomes a numbers game. However, it’s important to remember that people, not numbers, are reading your content and so you should allow for more subjective measures of success. I’ve put together a list of some key objectives to consider that can’t necessarily be measured by metrics.
Produce High Quality Content
Quality is subjective, so it can be difficult to get an accurate measure on, but it’s important that you make it a priority. Often, marketers are tempted to chase SEO rankings and high sales conversions, and so they end up with keyword-stuffed articles and social media feeds full of calls to action. Sometimes it yields results, but they’re often artificial. In the long-term, you’ll earn more loyal and engaged consumers by giving them content they are genuinely interested in than you will by catering purely to numbers and sales tricks.
Not only can customers tell when you’ve created content purely for sales purposes, we’re reaching an age where search engines can too. With Google’s Hummingbird update comes the first inclusion of context in search rankings, and it’s not long before that develops even further. Making high quality content will bring more positive reactions on all fronts, and it means that you can feel proud of the content your company is putting out. After all, your content will give many people their first impression of your brand – and the impression you want to put out is one of competence and credibility, rather than looking like you’re taking shortcuts.
Gain Your Consumers’ Trust
One good way to know that you’re putting out high quality content is to hear that your customers trust your brand. If your content is well written, well thought out and well presented, people are much more likely to return to your content and to seek it out in future. They’re also much more likely to recommend it to friends if they feel like they can verify your credibility.
As well as trusting your brand to deliver good quality content, you want consumers to trust in the advice and recommendations you make. To achieve this, you need to establish yourself as an authority in your chosen industry. Instead of copying already popular trends, come up with new ideas and become the leader. Make sure your thoughts are well researched and where possible link to sources you can verify.
Of course, the challenge to gaining your customers’ trust is that they know you ultimately need to drive sales in order to make sure your business is successful. This is particularly hard to overcome in sales-driven posts, where you’re talking about your own products or services or comparing them to other industry competitors. Instead, make sure that you include a balanced amount of interest posts that are relevant to your customer without being so direct.
Find a Recognisable Voice
If you’ve successfully executed your branding strategy, customers should be able to recognise your company without needing to hear its name. Heinz Ketchup’s imaginary bottle advert is a great example of this. Think of this technique as an extension of your brand’s logo and tagline.
There are many ways to go about achieving this objective. Some companies make design and visuals the centre of their branding. For example, the McDonald’s yellow arches are recognisable worldwide. Similarly, Buzzfeed’s bright red banners and pop-art stickers are naturally associated with the website. For other companies, the most important tool is tone of voice. Innocent Drinks is a good example of this – their social media pages in particular reflect the brand identity well and are easily recognised as being written in the company’s signature style.
By creating a signature look, sound or feel, you not only make your brand more marketable and keep it fresh in your customers’ minds, you also help develop a clear identity. At a time where consumers are more and more interested in the people behind the brands they buy from, it’s important to have a coherent brand image that’s compatible with your customer base.
Become a Reference Point
One of the most notable measures of success is when your brand becomes a cultural or industry reference point. For example, instead of calling bullet pointed articles “listicles”, many people will refer to them as Buzzfeed-style. This evidences the way that Buzzfeed has established itself as a household name and reference point.
The other obvious example of this happening is what’s commonly known as a “brandnomer” – a take on the dictionary entry “misnomer”. This is where a brand of one particular item is in such frequent use that people use the brand name instead of the item name. Commonly cited examples include Sellotape – which is actually a brand of sticky tape; Hoover – which is a brand of vacuum cleaner; and Xerox – which is a brand of photocopy machine.
This style of recognition is often a sign that you’re doing something right, because marketing rooms are talking about your brand as something to emulate. It also means that you’re fresh in your customers’ minds, and you’re likely to receive extensive word of mouth even accidentally.
Increase Customer Loyalty
Customer loyalty is a great sign that not only is your brand drawing people in, but it’s delivering a good service. This is a measurement typically applied to product and logistics; if a customer buys from you twice, they were presumably satisfied with their initial purchase. However, it’s also a good factor to consider in regards to your content marketing.
It’s easy to see how many people are actually following your social media pages, subscribed to your blog or signed up to your site. It can, however, be harder to account for people who might check in regularly but without actively engaging. You can keep an eye on your page views, but you won’t always be able to tell which are new viewers and which are repeat. While you can attempt to track your figures through tools such as SQL, you could also encourage feedback and interaction as a more personal means of identifying your regular customers.
Let Customers Come To You
Content marketing is inbound marketing, which means that customers should be seeking you out rather than you targeting them. One of the most obvious ways to see whether your strategy is effective is to figure out whether your customers are coming to you because of your advertising or whether they’re searching for you because of something they’ve seen or heard.
Of course, this can be a difficult thing to uncover, but there are methods you can use to help you work it out. You could consider adding a short questionnaire to your webpage or blog that asks customers how they heard about you. It’s also a good opportunity to utilise your social channels, which have interactive and feedback features built in. By listening to what your customers are telling you, you can ascertain whether they’ve arrived on your page by chance, by word of mouth, by paid advertising or because they’ve sought you out.
Create a Community
If you’re able to build up a community around your brand, it suggests that you’ve both brought together people with shared interests and that you’ve answered a problem or need that existed in the market. These measures can be considered successful results for any content marketer. It also means that you’re more likely to acquire loyal customers, and you’ll get favourable word of mouth and organic traffic.
The most likely place to create a community is online. This could be through your blog, where you might see regular commenters interacting in your feed, or it might be on your social media channels. Devices such as hashtags help strengthen these communities and provide a focal point that brings people together. You might also find that communities brought together by your brand spring up on external sites. For example, a parenting store like Mothercare might be the subject of a popular thread on a parent-focused website such as NetMums.
Gain Positive Feedback
It’s an oldie but a goodie – listen to customer feedback. While it might seem obvious, companies often miss the opportunity to make valuable changes because customer messages are either lost somewhere along the chain or simply overlooked because of a strain on time, resources or both.
As well as looking out for suggestions and ideas, you should keep an eye on customer feedback to see how your brand is being perceived. If you’re receiving regular, positive feedback on your content, it’s a great sign that you’re delivering high-quality and interesting ideas. It’s easy to check up on your feedback through social media channels and blog commentary, and you should try and collate this with your customer service emails and calls to get a clear picture from all platforms.
This can be tricky to work into metrics because there’s not necessarily a black-and-white definition of good and bad feedback – and also because algorithms will rarely be able to categorise them for you. If you’re keen to keep track of the numbers, you could create your own logging system to be used by all departments. This could also come in handy for employees to be able to access – whether for reference, for ideas, or simply for a morale boost.
Tell me what you think the most important aspects of content marketing are in the comments below. How do you balance out these factors with traditional numerical measures?