Keep up with the content measurement revolution

Measuring the impact of content is crucial, but the traditional ways of determining success are becoming ever more outdated

Big Data, ROI, KPI – knowing what they stand for is one thing, but trying to navigate them is quite another. For each piece of content produced there are umpteen means of measuring its effectiveness.

With the Content Marketing Association’s recent report focusing on the theme of measurement, it’s a hot topic in content marketing circles. Mapping a way through the maze of facts, figures and statistics is tricky business but salvation could be on the horizon.

The problem

What are the traditional measures of content success? ROI (return on investment) has always been at the centre. Content marketers must prove their worth to clients by demonstrating that they can attract more traffic, heighten brand interest and, ultimately, generate sales.

Researchers pore over likes, shares, page views, bounce rates and innumerable data in a quest to find out what went well in the past and what could be done better in future. But can these tried and tested methods cut the content marketing mustard as the industry continues to grow?

In a recent survey by the CMA, only half of respondents said measuring ROI accurately was possible, even though there was unanimous agreement that measurement was crucial to content marketing strategy.

Rebekah Billingsley argues that obsession over tracking the evolution from “a click to a purchase” is obscuring other ways people may react to content, for example in terms of long-run brand loyalty and prestige.

Anna Howells notes that outmoded digital measurement tactics revolving around direct interaction are being used in a world of modern audiences and channels – damaging brands whose audiences react to content differently.

All of this suggests content marketing has reached a tricky crossroads, with traditional modes of thinking under threat from the bustling traffic of our changing industry.

The solution

But hope is not lost! For one thing, there are ways of using the data already available more effectively.

This may involve looking at some metrics more frequently, for example time spent on particular pages and growth in new users, and others less often, such as month-on-month page views to track seasonal spikes.

Increased analytical rigour can give a new lease of life to unwieldy banks of data. Chris Rayment points out that moving from inferences about sales via analytics to full on econometric analyses can nail down the efficacy of printed content in a ruthlessly digital world.

Beyond this, technological innovation could revolutionise content marketing in years to come.

Can you imagine what content marketers of five years ago would have said to the notion that heart rates and facial movements could be tracked to determine content’s influence on individuals? Far from the stuff of wacky science fiction, the future is here thanks to developments in wearable technologies.

Almost 70% of respondents to the CMA’s survey believed content marketers should measure emotional engagement to their output. With every fitness tracker and smartwatch purchased, the prospect of personalising content through minute physical data becomes more tangible.

This report by the CMA, although trailblazing, is not quite a death knell for traditional methods of measuring content’s success. The need to convert investments into cold hard cash is the number one concern for clients; ensuring an upward trend in the statistics will remain a key priority for businesses.

But new ways of looking at the data, alongside the growth of wearable technologies, could equip content marketers with an emotional mastery that will make agonising over numbers a thing of the past.

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