Gartner analyst Kirsten Newbold-Knipp and I recently published a research note called “Content Marketing Comes of Age” (Gartner for Marketing Leaders subscription required), which set out to identify and shine light on the patterns of progressive content marketers.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, one very conspicuous pattern emerged: the highest performing content marketers know how to measure content performance.
The truth is that digital marketing is a content-hungry beast and sustaining a content supply chain is a full-time effort. There are plenty of valid reasons for making an investment in content marketing—but, left adrift without a measurement strategy, it really is a bit of a mug’s game.
Measuring content performance is a closed-loop discipline: It begins with audience insights to inform which content to source in the first place; extends to the actual business impact of that content out in the wild; and it ends where it began, with the data-driven optimizations to tune and tweak your efforts.
The good news is that market is responding to the need for performance analytics as a precondition for any sustainable content marketing practice. I recently spoke with Jung Suh, VP of integrated digital marketing for SAP, about how content performance figures into her thinking as a practitioner. SAP and SEO and content vendor Brightedge recently partnered on a whitepaper on this topic. I figured I’d take a closer look.
Here’s an excerpt of my conversation with Jung:
JAKE: What inspired a focus on content performance? What was the impetus to invest here?
JUNG: Today, customers get 60% of their information online before they ever speak to a vendor, so it’s critical to provide them with relevant information at every stage of the buying cycle. We could guess at what is truly relevant—but guessing is not SAP’s game. It’s data-driven insight and innovation that truly matter. We spend a great deal of time and effort creating content so it only makes sense that we would want to measure its performance.
JAKE: What are your operational content KPIs? How closely can you connect these operational metrics to SAP’s strategic KPIs?
JUNG: Our vision is to provide the best digital experience in the world and the only way to do that is to ensure our digital content is targeted, optimized and measured. We have three strategic mantras that run through the SAP business that we closely align with content performance strategy and execution.
1) Insight—the utilization of data-driven insights to understand the competitive environment and consumer demand.
2) Customer experience—providing users with highly relevant, optimized and engaging content tailored to the customers’ expectations, needs and goals.
3) Agility—having the flexibility to adapt quickly to changes in the market and change content strategy in line with competitive market trends.
To measure our content marketing progress, we track various indicators at each stage of the buying cycle—including bounce rates, time on page, downloads, demos, trials, and conversion rates—as well as SEO rankings for key search terms.
JAKE: What have you instrumented and learned and what types of decisions have been informed by these insights?
JUNG: We’ve put both processes and technologies in place that help us continually assess and optimize our content performance. It’s a job that’s never “done” because customer needs are constantly shifting.
Ultimately, they key is the end user and their intent. It doesn’t help them to hear us bragging about our offerings if that’s not what they’re looking for at the moment. Instead, we strive to understand what they are looking for each time they click—so that we can deliver relevant information that helps them meet their goals. As a result of our efforts, we’ve been able to zero in on the right metrics, fill content gaps, and take action to improve the ROI of our content marketing efforts.
JAKE: How do you measure and respond to content performance metrics?
JUNG: We rely on a robust set of tools. We are always scanning the marketplace for new partners who offer niche tools that extend the capabilities of our own software. Today, we use technologies for keyword identification, competitive SEO ranking, creative and message testing, web analytics, and personalization.
JAKE: In what ways will this content performance orientation impact your thinking about your content marketing programs? Specifically how will you organize, invest and make decisions differently as a result?
JUNG: When content quality is measured based on opinion, debates and tug-of-wars can slow the content creation process. But when numbers speak, you can act quickly to pinpoint areas of weakness, identify opportunities and trends, and publish content that moves the needle. We are also constantly testing to see what works best. Learning is sacred—not preconceived ideas of how things “should” be. From an organizational point of view, we march to our operating principle: “Run Simple.” That means breaking down barriers, using our collaborative tools to bring our people together, and streamlining our processes to better meet customer needs. Like content performance, it’s an ongoing effort.
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