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Top 17+ Metrics to Evaluate Content Marketing Success

Once upon a time, measuring content marketing success was a challenge because it relied on assumptions and fuzzy conclusions.

The birth of the digital world – where many aspects of content marketing could be tracked and measured – was supposed to change that. It did, kinda. But it created a new problem. There’s now so much that can be measured, not everyone agrees on which numbers matter the most.


We asked the experts presenting at Content Marketing World 2020 to share their top three metrics. Interestingly, but not surprising, their responses varied (and some answers aren’t measurable by numbers).

Scroll through these suggestions and think about which ones fit your brand and content marketing goals. You may find some new ideas. You might feel reassured that you’re doing it right. Or you may see opportunities for improvement.

Get a reaction

Depth of engagement/resonance with ideal prospects. Increasing sign-ups/subscriptions to get your content. Money!

– Doug Kessler, co-founder, Velocity

Make a spike

A measurable, engaged audience. A consistent approach to content that uses style guides, standards, and governance tools. A spike in sales, revenue, or other measurable activities that relate to profit or monetary goals.

– Ahava R. Leibtag, president, Aha Media Group

Take the leads

Focus on marketing-qualified leads (MQL), sales-qualified leads (SQL), and revenue! Likes, comments, and shares are great for creating greater brand awareness. But it comes down to this: Is your content marketing qualifying your marketing leads and your sales leads?

While it’s the sales team’s job to convert those leads, if you are not creating the right content and are attracting the wrong type of leads, you’re not qualifying those leads. Sales doesn’t really have a snowball’s chance in … that really hot place … of being successful.

– Viveka von Rosen, chief visibility officer, Vengreso 

Sales can’t convert leads if you’re not creating the right #content and attract the wrong type of leads, says @LinkedInExpert via @CMIContent. #CMWorldCLICK TO TWEET

Measure audiences’ reactions

  1. Does it directly address a question or concern that matters to your buyers?
  2. Are your salespeople using that content to inform buyers about your unique ability to solve their problems?
  3. Do your buyers take the next step in their journey after seeing your content?

– Adele Revella, CEO, Buyer Persona Institute

Check awareness and sales

Content consumption and sentiment. If nobody knows about your brand it’s going to be hard to sell anything, so that does matter.

Sales over time. Marketing can only take you so far. For example, if you are marketing a crappy product, sales are not going to stay up long term. It is a collaboration. At the end of the day we have to sell something if we’re doing marketing as part of a business.

– Christoph Trappe, chief marketing officer, The Authentic Storytelling Project

Start and end with the S word

Sales, sales, and sales. OK, yes, those are the same three things. But if you have to identify just a few metrics to determine effectiveness, you might as well get to the heart of things.

The job of any marketer is to fill the conversion funnel with warm leads. We do this through creating relevant, quality content that engages audiences and subsequently encourages them to learn more about a brand or service. If a content marketer can tie their campaigns to sales, they will become invaluable for the organization they work for.

– Amy Balliett, CEO, Killer Visual Strategies

Avoid the fluff

  1. Generating subscribers
  2. Attribution to business goals (e.g., leads, opportunities, revenue)
  3. Increasing customer loyalty, retention, and advocacy

Why? Because most other metrics can be considered fluff compared to results that connect to business outcomes. Please don’t tell me about “page views.” ????

– Dennis Shiao, marketing consultant, Attention Retention

Metrics are fluff unless they connect to business outcomes, says @dshiao via @CMIContent. #CMWorldCLICK TO TWEET

Measure this one thing

What is the difference (in behavior) between those who engage in your content versus those who don’t? Answer that and you’ll have all the ROI you need.

– Joe Pulizzi, founder, Content Marketing Institute

Who, how, what

Measure who is consuming the content, how often, and what do they do after consuming it. If you’re attracting your intended audience, they are coming back, and they’re doing the things that could lead to positive outcomes – your content is doing its job.

– Chris White, senior manager, marketing, Capital One

It’s all about this

Customer perception, customer engagement, customer impact … sense a theme?

– Cathy McKnight, vice president strategy and consulting, The Content Advisory

Count the referrals

How often do people use your content as a reference? I don’t mean your content contributors or partners linking to your content as part of your outreach plan. [I mean] readers sharing your content in online forums because they genuinely find it useful or media quoting from it because they consider your brand to be a thought leader in your field of expertise.

– Alenka Bester, head of digital content marketing, Zavarovalnica Triglav

Talk traffic

  1. Organic traffic. This should be the largest driver of traffic to your site. If organic traffic is not more than at least half your traffic, you need to work on your content and your SEO. You’re not answering questions that your audience is asking and, if you are, you’re not doing it in a way that the search engines are finding you.
  2. Campaign traffic. If you’re not using campaigns in Google Analytics to monitor traffic, you’re missing out on insights relating to your channels and understanding how your audience is consuming your content on those channels.
  3. Earned media. Who is picking up your content or writing about you and what are they saying about you? Are industry influencers or publications pushing traffic to your content? If you’re not monitoring earned media, you don’t know how much effort you need to put behind it to optimize results.

– Brian Piper, director of digital content strategy, University of Rochester 

Earn engagement

In video, social, and even written content, engagement is the key success metric I care about most. You can buy visits and views, but (for the most part) you have to earn engagement.

– Jennifer Jordan, vice president and head of content (U.S.), Babbel

You can buy visits & views, but you have to earn engagement, says @jenastelli via @CMIContent. #CMWorldCLICK TO TWEET

Focus on three must-haves

  1. Reach. Are you getting your content into the hands of your audience? Is the content provided in the right formats through the right delivery channels? Do you meet your community with your content where they are?
  2. Engagement. Are they spending time reading/listening/watching? Are they sharing your content with their friends or colleagues? Are they talking about your content with each other or in comments and feedback to you? Are they following through on the content’s included next steps?
  3. Sentiment. Does anyone care about your content? Are people worried that their email isn’t working if they don’t receive your newsletter? Are you getting positive word of mouth about your content?

– Erika Heald, founder, Erika Heald Marketing Consulting

Recall resonance

Jay Acunzo talks about resonance-over-reach, and I think this is the biggest metric worth focusing on. Is your content resonating with your audience? If so, keep doing more of that. As long as you’re creating content that resonates, you’ll be able to meet any metric.

– Lindsay Hotmire, CEO, Lindsay Hotmire Creative

Pick a consumption fundamental

If you build it, will they come? From various content consumption measures – visits, unique visitors, attendees, time on page, percent consumed (scrolled/viewed) – choose the one most aligned with your goals.

– Rich Schwerin, senior content strategist, Autodesk

Measure everything

Macro conversions, micro conversions, and engagement metrics. Every piece of content should have a purpose and be measured on key performance indicators that reveal whether that purpose is being completed.

– Paxton Gray, CEO, 97th Floor

Every piece of #content should have a purpose and be measured on KPIs that reveal whether that purpose is being completed, says @paxtonmgray via @CMIContent. #CMWorldCLICK TO TWEETOK, that’s a lot to measure. But remember, you only need to pick the few that are most valuable to your company’s business goals and your content marketing goals. That way you can prove to executives what’s working and learn for yourself what needs to be revised in your content marketing strategy.

What are the top metrics for your content marketing program? Please share in the comments.

Join these and dozens more experts at 2020 Content Marketing World Oct. 13-16. Watch the keynote talks live and enjoy the breakout sessions during the event or any time before the year’s end. Register today! 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Ann Gynn

Ann Gynn edits the CMI blog. Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. Former college adjunct faculty, Ann also helps train professionals in content so they can do it themselves. Follow Ann on Twitter @anngynn or connect on LinkedIn.

Other posts by Ann Gynn


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Top 17+ Metrics to Evaluate Content Marketing Success