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As content becomes more sophisticated, the metrics need to be too

The Drum has partnered with programmatic platform PulsePoint for a series of short video primers exploring the meaning and value of content marketing. Shot in the back of a cab, they explain everything you need to know about content marketing in the time it takes you to get to your next meeting. Episode four looks at measuring effectiveness.

How much can a click tell you? A decade ago, content marketing was all about click-through rates (CTRs) and impressions. It was in an era when content marketers wrote for search engines and such measures – crude and imperfect as they were – broadly sufficed.

But content marketers and industry strategists say that in today’s more nuanced communications landscape, and at a time where marketers of all colours under greater pressure to tie effectiveness to the business bottom line, such a simplistic approach simply won’t wash.

But what must marketers consider when measuring the effectiveness of content marketing campaigns? Do they have the right tools to hand and how should the industry be evolving to tackle it?

Measuring effectiveness is the fourth topic in a series of short video primers and accompanying features exploring Everything You Need to Know About Content Marketing, in partnership with programmatic platform PulsePoint.

Take, for instance, the Content Marketing Institute’s 2015 benchmark, which reports that 49 per cent of B2B and 51 per cent of B2C marketers were challenged with measuring content effectiveness the previous year.

Back to that click. UM digital account director Nicholas Moon says: “It is a traditional and short-term measure of engagement that will tell you if someone decided to take the next step, but not what they do once they get there.”

Yet even the value of this can be called into question, he adds, when you review the ratio of ad engagers to non-engagers among the online population. Less than 10 per cent of the online population account for 85 per cent of clicks.

“Yes, the industry is still in love with impressions and CTRs. It is the simplest measurement we can make online, but it is also one that provides a sense of controlled short-term security.”

For marketers who like to hear their campaign is going to reach and engage millions of people it can keep both them and their senior management happy. However, too often delivering volume can be prioritised over ensuring robust measurement.

Edwina Lawry, general manager of King Content London, is more dismissive. She says: “Impressions are quite frankly redundant, particularly in the business-to-business work that we do. They do not translate into business objectives.”

It can be hard for brand managers to prove ROI as most people don’t measure it correctly, she says.

The agency has helped shape the forthcoming Content Marketing Association (CMA) effectiveness report, which will examine how measuring effectiveness needs to evolve. She adds: “As content becomes more sophisticated, the metrics need to be too. We need to educate brands to understand what the important metrics are.”

Adam Fulford, Mindshare managing partner of business development and integration, adds that historic metrics are “based on the old version of the purchase funnel, when in fact today’s consumption patterns are more random than that”.

It is why Ben Pheloung, PulsePoint’s EMEA head of demand, believes it is time to usher in a new era of content marketing measurement. He says: “Evaluating campaign success today means looking at new metrics, and how to use them based on campaign strategy.”

He recommends that brands need page-level consumer engagement that proves that someone both interacted and engaged with the content.

This could include, but isn’t limited to, overlaying metrics such as page-level analytics, dwell time, bounce rates, onward clicks, estimated viewing time compared to standard content view, page views, video views, average scroll depth, scroll velocity, hours in view, social actions, or website traffic in terms of the content distributed. This additional overlay can define the success of a campaign and also help shape real-time and future strategy.

Outdoor apparel brand Columbia Sportswear took such an approach in 2015. It aimed to increase brand awareness by promoting original content on the web and its blog. Eight weeks after launching the campaign, three times as long was spent reading or watching Columbia’s content and video views increased 225 per cent.

Meanwhile, behavioural metrics will allow brands to learn exactly how their audiences engaged with their content, something Moon believes will increase in importance. “The fact is consumers are complicated organisms. We do not make a snap decision to become a brand advocate and make a purchase after one touch point.”

However, Fulford cautions brands against measuring “everything” especially as data becomes more ubiquitous. He says: “It is a balance between metrics and KPIs [key performance indicators]. The art is to simplify it and drill down to what you want your campaign to do, and measure against that.”

It means brands need to be smarter about how they set about campaign measurement pre-campaign, identifying and sharing their key business objectives.

Post-campaign improvement is crucial to the overall success. Pheloung suggests brands also consider uplift and recall studies and seek out how, out of the groups that did engage, they can take that further.

Being able to harness the data and audience feedback will help determine actionable insights that shape content strategy moving forwards. Optimisation, both during and following a campaign, is an important part of content marketing success today – and a topic that will be covered in the next chapter of Everything You Need to Know About Content Marketing.

Everything You Need to Know About Content Marketing is the second EYNTK series from The Drum, designed to help readers and viewers get up to speed with some of the most important issues in today’s marketing industry in one short film – something they can watch in the back of a taxi on the way to their next crucial meeting on the subject. You can watch the first four episodes of the series at our EYNTK hub.

This article was first published in the 31 August issue of The Drum.

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