How do we measure success and failure

Introduction of content KPIs: measuring the success of content

Good, targeted, effective content is becoming increasingly important, but measuring its success is often neglected. One of the hurdles is finding the right key figures, measuring them and finally evaluating them. In this article, Jan Tißler gives you an introduction to the broad field of content KPIs. He introduces you to various thinking and explanatory models that will help you with your first considerations.

The content industry is growing up

"As is well known, content marketing is just growing up - and that also includes becoming more strategic and doing content marketing less from the gut." - Karsten Lohmeyer at LEAD digital

Content marketing is now growing up, says Karsten Lohmeyer. And one could even go further and claim: This applies to all forms of content - or at least it should.

Because the topic of content is often limited to content marketing alone. A comprehensive content strategy takes care of all content that your prospects, customers and fans come into contact with. This includes not only blog posts and white papers, but also product descriptions and landing pages, as well as things like navigation points or error messages. All of these elements should fit your audience, branding, and goals.

Speaking of goals: Before you can measure the success of content, you must of course be or become clear about it. A strategy can only be derived from your objectives and the appropriate formats, platforms and channels can be selected.

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In my own article, I have already described how you can come up with a future-proof content strategy step by step. If you are new to the post and are not sure about the topic, you should take a look at it now before reading further here.

Once the content has been published, ask yourself (or a manager) whether it is actually fulfilling its intended role. As we will see in the course of this post, it is often not that easy to find out.

A key element here is the choice of suitable and meaningful key figures. As Miriam Löffler writes in “Think Content!” (Rheinwerk Verlag) (Affiliate-Link), however, there is a fundamental problem in many organizations: “It is frightening to see how little knowledge or understanding of numbers is in almost all online companies there. ”And that applies to both small companies and large corporations.

Key Performance Indicators: The Difference Between Data and Information

“Key performance indicators (short form: KPI) are key figures that reflect the company's performance and serve as targets. Operational parameters that depict successes or failures are summarized. In companies, processes can be evaluated, controlled and, if necessary, regulated or optimized in a further step. ”- via online marketing practice

The topic of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is too complex to explain in this article. Fortunately, Marco Hassler has already done so here in UPLOAD magazine: “Define key performance indicators and track them in dashboards” is an article that you should definitely check out. You will learn a lot about how to choose KPIs and how to stay updated on them efficiently.

Nevertheless, I would like to highlight a general problem with KPIs: There is an important difference between “data” and “information”. What that means: You can measure a number of things without being able to deduce anything from them.

And that's exactly what happens in many organizations. Robert Rose sees one reason for this in his article for the Content Marketing Institute, as does Karsten Lohmeyer above in the lack of strategic goals. "Pieces of content" are then produced, which are treated in the same way as advertisements and other marketing elements. He describes the result as follows:

“The team is therefore often condemned (or determined) to measure the content using“ vanity metrics ”such as clicks, shares, visits, etc. In other words: It's really cool to know that a blog post or an infographic has been found and read was changed, but what behavior did it change? You don't know. ”- Robert Rose at the Content Marketing Institute

The important thesis in his contribution is: The real value of content lies in the changed behavior of the target audience.

His example: It is not relevant if your newsletter has 5,000 subscribers. The decisive factor is whether and how these subscribers behave in comparison to other people who you can reach in other ways.

Andreas Köster also made it clear in a blog post from 2012 that is still well worth reading: The numbers that are easy to find are often the ones with the least amount of information. Conversely, the more targeted you want to measure, the more difficult it becomes. It does refer to the measurement of success for social media marketing. His statements can also be applied to the subject of content (marketing).

He arranged KPIs in the model of a pyramid with three levels:

“The levels understand each other additively, i. H. Even the most elaborate KPI of the third level consists partly of the key figures of the first level, ”he writes. On the first level there are the already mentioned KPIs, which are easy to find and therefore ubiquitous. They do have a certain expressiveness, but only in a very general form.

On the second level, the survey effort and the gain in knowledge increase significantly, writes Andreas Köster. “This is where combined values ​​are used that require professional social media monitoring and other analysis tools. They are based on specific goals of different company areas and require a certain setup at the start, but can then be automatically collected and evaluated. "

The third level is ultimately about “developing comprehensive KPIs to measure the success of individual company areas or parts of the group.” At this point, combined methods are necessary to combine findings from web analysis with classic market survey methods and to incorporate data from business intelligence . "At this level, the KPIs are strongly oriented towards specific questions and goals and are accordingly individual and complex (and unfortunately also abstract, as the generality of the terms in the pyramid display shows)."

Content KPIs: Example of value creation in content marketing

Content strategist Mirko Lange from Scompler has summarized some of his key findings on the subject in this interesting presentation. He also shows you how you can use the same model to set your strategic goals for content marketing.

One point from this: From “We produce content” to “We make more sales and profit” it is a long way with several intermediate steps, which can only be shorter in a few exceptional cases.

The main steps are as follows:

  • Content: We produce "content". Exemplary KPIs according to Mirko Lange: Fulfillment of the qualitative requirements, internal satisfaction, ratio of output and budget use ...
  • Contact: Our content is present and visible on all channels relevant to our target group. Initially, only the technical range is meant here. Exemplary KPIs: number of touchpoints served, number of published articles with a defined quality, achieved reach ...
  • Attention: Our target groups become aware of our content and take advantage of the most important messages and offers. Exemplary KPIs: Increase organic traffic, reduce the proportion of purchased traffic ...
  • Engagement: Target groups deal more intensively with our content, interact, share and request further content from us (leads). Exemplary KPIs: number of shares, reading depth, length of stay, reduction of the bounce rate, number of backlinks, number of subscribers, number of leads ...
  • Brand trust: We reliably meet interests, needs and expectations through user-friendly content as well as through dialogue and service (= benefit). Exemplary KPIs: share of the dialog, number of returning users, direct query of trust in market research, few unsubscribes ...
  • Top of Mind: When it comes to the topics we have defined, target groups think of us first and seek advice and solutions from us - also through content. Exemplary KPIs: number of direct hits, number of brand searches, TOM index in market surveys ...
  • Brand Preference: Target groups perceive us as competence, innovation, service or sympathy leaders and therefore prefer us. And it is precisely this point that Mirko Lange sees as the “real goal of content marketing”. Exemplary KPIs: lower churn rate, higher customer satisfaction, higher NPS, higher price stability, requests for quotations ...
  • Company success: We make more sales and more profit! Exemplary KPIs: sales, turnover, price ...

As you can see, this is also essentially about a change in the perception of your company and, as a result, a change in the behavior of the people addressed.

As you can also see from this list: There are a number of KPIs that are relevant for different situations. To make this point even more complex, some of the KPIs mentioned as examples are ambiguous. For example, a high bounce rate is not necessarily bad, as this article explains. Other measured values ​​such as the dwell time are very error-prone for technical reasons. And other numbers are generally only of limited informative value, as we have already established above.

The many faces of the content KPIs

The Federal Association of the Digital Economy BVDW e.V. was not deterred by this complexity of the topic and recently presented a "KPI framework". There is also a free guide (PDF) and the online tool “KPI Finder”.

The BVDW experts have defined three levels for their key performance indicators: reach, interaction and conversion / costs. These can be assigned to the respective media and channels within the customer journey.

It is important not to understand this framework as a dictation for the market, explains in a press release Dr. Sepita Ansari from Catbird Seat, deputy chairman of the focus group on content marketing at BVDW. “We deliberately designed the project in such a way that we continuously take feedback from the industry into account in the key figures. From our point of view, this is the only right way to establish meaningful KPIs that are relevant for practical work. "

One suggestion from the BVDW guideline is not to focus on the return on investment (ROI) when setting goals, because the goal here is to achieve monetary key figures. Rather, it should be about the return on objectives (ROO). Here, too, it is emphasized how important it is to be clear about the objective in order to be able to make meaningful decisions.

According to a BVDW survey, the most frequently cited goals for content marketing include increasing brand awareness, generating leads, and strengthening and building a reputation. That goes well with Mirko Lange's model.

According to BVDW, these strategic goals of content marketing can in turn be divided into three target fields:

  • Brand-oriented goals (Increase awareness, increase brand loyalty, brand differentiation, among other things)
  • Relationship-oriented goals (Increase in employer attractiveness, reputation, customer satisfaction, among others)
  • Economic goals (Increase turnover / sales, among other things)

According to the BVDW, in accordance with a simplified funnel logic, a distinction is made between attention, interaction and conclusion-driven key figures in content marketing:

  • Attention Driven Key performance indicators focus on success factors such as high reach or increasing awareness.
  • Interaction-driven Key performance indicators are aimed at performance indicators such as an increase in the engagement rate, likes, length of stay, etc.
  • Degree driven or action-oriented key figures rely on conversion. This includes metrics such as the number of new registrations for newsletters, the number of app downloads, the number of new leads, higher sales, etc.

As already explained above, these target fields and key figure categories mentioned here are not to be considered separately from one another. They build on each other.

Select KPIs and track them in dashboards

And if you are now wondering how you can choose the right KPIs for yourself from all these ideas: Read the article "Defining key performance indicators and tracking them in dashboards" by Marco Hassler, which was recommended above. He gives you a comprehensive introduction to the subject.

He also goes into which KPIs can be measured with what effort. Because there is not a suitable measurement method for every measurement number that makes sense in itself. At the end, he will also introduce you to the “Digital Performance Index”: a key figure that, like a stock market index, shows a fundamental trend at a glance.

Content beyond content marketing

Many of the sources mentioned here relate to content marketing. As mentioned at the beginning: This is of course only one topic among many when it comes to content.

The very naming of navigation elements on your website can influence how you are perceived, whether you seem trustworthy and whether potential customers feel addressed and find their way around at all. Does it say “FAQs” or “Frequently asked questions”? “Home” or “Home”? How do you name your products and services? Do you know what terms your target group uses to search for you? These are just a few exemplary questions. At the same time, you should have developed a tone that fits the targeted user base, your (desired) brand image and the products.

Keyword research can sometimes be a helpful tool here. Likewise, very practical tests with users. UPLOAD subscribers are recommended to take a special from usability guru Jens Jacobsen: "Targeted improvement of the website with usability tests". In it, he shows how this can be implemented with simple means and limited resources.

The UPLOAD article "Introduction to the User Experience: How to inspire your users" is accessible and useful for everyone. User and customer surveys can also help to gain more clarity. And of course the tried and tested means of A / B tests, if you have enough visitors to the site to get any meaningful figures at all. Which product image you use, where you place it, where the price can be found, what appears in the description text and how it is structured: These are all content questions that are highly relevant for the success of your online ventures.

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How often do you measure and evaluate?

“Especially in fast-moving online business, it can happen every day that you come across inconsistencies in controlling, investigate them and, in an emergency, have to react to them as quickly as possible. Therefore, every content manager should have a keen interest in website evaluation and create a content analysis concept together with a colleague from Controlling. "- Miriam Löffler in" Think Content! "(Rheinwerk Verlag) (Affiliate Link)

Those who create content do not always have a tendency towards numbers and evaluations. Fortunately, the topic can be automated well, as Marco Hassler shows in his KPI article. So it shouldn't lead you to check how successful you have been once a year. Rather, for some figures you should also keep an eye on whether there are any important changes.

See it as an opportunity: In the digital, in contrast to many other areas, you can basically see immediately whether something is working as hoped or not. You can react accordingly quickly. In the next step, you can improve content or quickly reverse unsuccessful changes. You can start experiments and learn from them for the future.

In general, controlling is often put at the very end of the to-do list. Only when everything is ready do you take care of it. It can be used much earlier - and it should be.

Take the lean startup method as a suggestion: Instead of developing the complete product and bringing it to market, the first knowledge is gained as early as possible.This feedback flows into further development.

If you would like to find out more about it: In this UPLOAD article, Gregor Groß shows you how the lean startup approach can also be used elsewhere.

Perhaps you plan to score points with your target audience with extensive content such as a white paper. But how interesting is the topic for these people? What questions do you have exactly? What are the problems that you could address and solve with your whitepaper? This, in turn, can be found out in advance with smaller content such as social media and blog posts or through surveys.

You can also read the article "Instructions for content audit: The basis for long-term online success" by Dr. Betrice Isgro in this issue of UPLOAD magazine. It shows you how you can learn from the previous content for your future work.

If you only start measuring after investing weeks or even months in content, it may already be too late.

Closing word

So see content controlling as a process. Recurring daily and weekly, it gives you an insight into what is already working and what is not yet. He will give you ideas on which direction to go next. You will learn what is not working so well with your specific target group and topic. In other words: You gain valuable insights that no outsider can give you. You don't waste time on general advice that doesn't apply to your company, your industry, or your customers at all. You will better understand which type of content, in which format and which tonality is the most important for you.

That takes time and effort. But also poking around in the fog.


This article belongs to: UPLOAD Magazine 67

In this edition you will find numerous useful tips and hints to professionalize your content. We present the business canvas for your content marketing strategy, explain how a content audit works and what it is good for, explore the complex world of success measurement for content, have good tips for better cooperation with freelancers and provide you with processes and tools for content management. We also have an event tip for you and explain what structured data for search engine optimization is all about.

Jan "jati" Tißler has over 20 years of professional experience as an online journalist and digital publicist. In 2006 he launched the UPLOAD magazine. Since 2015 he has been helping companies to inspire the right customers with content. Together with Falk Hedemann, he offers UPLOAD Publishing services along the entire content marketing process chain. Born in Hamburg, he lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Keywords content, success measurement, UPLOAD magazine 67