28 January 2020

Measuring Content Performance: The SaaS Marketer’s Dilemma

No matter what type of content you create, its overall quality will be judged on how it affects your SaaS company’s bottom line. However, publishing your content shouldn’t signal the start of your data collection. A key part of SaaS marketing is implementing methods for measuring content performance on an ongoing basis. 

In this post, we’ll focus on the steps you need to take when measuring content performance: 

1. Define a measurement framework for your content

2. Track, measure and manage your content data

3. Turn content data into actionable insights 

1. Define a measurement framework for your content

With technology these days, you’re able to measure and track just about anything, but it doesn’t mean you should. It’s all too easy to go down a rabbit hole with the myriad of possible metrics out there. This can become time-consuming and complex, especially if you’re measuring content performance against too many goals at the same time.

The key is to define a measurement framework. This is a short document that defines exactly what you need to track. There are 4 steps in defining a measurement framework for your content:

A. Identify your content performance goals

B. Identify your key performance indicators (KPIs)

C. Figure out what metrics you need to track

D. Build your measurement framework

A. What are your content performance goals?

Figuring out what to track when measuring content performance can be tough, but it should be guided by the overall goals of your content marketing. What does successful content marketing look like for your SaaS company? While you likely expect your content to pull its weight in a number of ways, often we equate success with one priority goal above all others. Maybe your goal is to:

  • improve brand awareness
  • increase engagement
  • grow sales
  • strengthen customer retention
  • boost opportunities to upsell or cross-sell

Getting consensus from your team on where your content marketing priorities lie is critical in determining which goals to focus your content marketing efforts on. 

B. What key performance indicators (KPIs) will demonstrate your success?

Once you agree on the goals you want to hit with your SaaS content performance, you need to determine the KPIs that will help you when measuring content performance. In the same way that you wouldn’t track how fast you run by the number of pounds you lose, you shouldn’t track the success of a case study on cost per click or open rate. 

Let’s look at a couple of examples:

  1. If your goal is to increase sales, one of your KPIs should be the number of leads generated from your website. 
  2. If you want to increase awareness, then organic search traffic should be one of your KPIs. 

C. What metrics do you need to track?

Once you know your KPIs, identify the metrics associated with them. These are the things you measure that tell you if you’re successful. In our first example with the goal of increasing sales, the metrics that indicate you’re generating more leads are things like:

  • inquiry form submissions
  • e-newsletter sign-ups
  • white paper downloads

The Content Marketing Institute created a great chart that matches content marketing goals with the metrics you can use when measuring content performance. 

Source: https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2018/04/measuring-content-performance/

D. Build your measurement framework

Once you’ve landed on what goals, KPIs and metrics you’ll measure your success against, you need to set up a framework in which you can track and compare the performance of each piece of content you produce. Here’s a snippet of the framework we use to organize what we’re going to track.

© Uplift Content Inc 2020

Track your costs of producing content

In addition to determining content performance goals, KPIs and metrics, you should also track the cost of producing your content. 

  • How many hours to write a case study at what hourly rate?
  • What’s the search engine marketing and social media ad spend to promote a piece of content? 
  • What’s the cost to produce associated graphics or video?
  • Don’t forget editing and project management

With these numbers, you’ll be able to calculate the ROI of your content.

2. How to track content performance data

Now that you have established your measurement framework, you’re ready to start tracking. There are 5 steps:

A. Choose a measurement schedule

B. Build a metrics dashboard

C. Establish benchmarks

D. Track metrics 

E. Share your reports for better content performance

A. Choose a measurement schedule

Before you start to track content performance data, you need to think about what a sustainable measurement schedule looks like for your company. Measuring content performance too frequently means you won’t be able to see meaningful patterns in your data. But if you wait too long, valuable time will have passed during which you could have optimized your content for improved results.

At Uplift Content, we recommend a quarterly reporting schedule. It’s important to have time to make updates to your site and for them to take effect. Three months gives you enough data to identify if something is working or not, and for search rankings to settle. Also, if you’re new to analytics, you’ve just added to your workload; quarterly updates are manageable and shouldn’t feel overwhelming. 

Once this feels comfortable, try a monthly schedule. Is it enough time to demonstrate results for your business? Can you handle the additional effort? 

B. Build a metrics dashboard 

Once you’ve got your measurement framework built out, you can then expand on it to form a metrics dashboard. The goal of the dashboard is to display all the pertinent data in a digestible format in a centralized location. This will make it much easier to see both positive and negative performance outliers. 

Here’s a snippet of what your metrics dashboard could look like:

© Uplift Content Inc 2020

C. Establish benchmarks

When your metrics dashboard is set up, go into your Google Analytics and take measurements for the time period you decided on in Step A: Choose a Measurement Schedule. Record those measurements in your dashboard. These numbers will form the benchmarks you measure against moving forward. (Don’t optimize  your content until after you establish your benchmarks!) Record the benchmark data in your dashboard. 

If you don’t have goals* (like form submissions and email sign-ups) set up in Google Analytics (GA) for each of the metrics in your dashboard, not to worry. You can set up the goals in Google Analytics now. You’ll be able to track these metrics moving forward allowing you to get an accurate picture of your content performance. (*Note that GA has its own definition of goals; these are different from the goals defined in your measurement framework.) 

D. How to track content performance metrics through tech 

At the end of each measurement period, you can populate your metrics dashboard manually. As your comfort and knowledge increases, you’ll likely decide to add more complex metrics to your dashboard. When this happens, you’ll likely find that manual tracking can become a full-time job depending on how much data you want to capture. 

Take a load off by letting technology do some heavy lifting. Good tracking and measurement software can give you the opportunity to focus less on charts and more on creating and optimizing the right kind of content. Automating the tracking process can provide ongoing analysis and a chance to correlate your findings. Having a tool that makes it easier to collect data across different types of platforms can result in more informed findings. Google Analytics enables you to create custom reports, as does Google Data Studio.

© Uplift Content Inc 2020

E. Share your reports for better content performance 

Getting all of your data in one place on a dashboard is only half the battle. The reports—and the insights they hold—need to be shared with your writers and editors for the information to be truly valuable.

You could email the report to key stakeholders, but for maximum impact, book an in-person review of the results, including what worked and what didn’t. Like the measurement schedule, the frequency of sharing these reports and who should receive them will depend on your company culture.

3. Turn content performance data into actionable insights

SaaS marketers know the value of content comes, not just from its performance in raising brand awareness or generating more leads, but from how it affects their company’s bottom line. Yet, tracking and measuring content performance data is only part of the story. Such information isn’t valuable unless you know how to interpret it and put it into use by taking advantage of the meaningful opportunities it reveals.

To optimize the performance of your content, you need more than just the right data at your fingertips. You also need to understand what this information is telling you—and what to do as a result of it. In this section, we outline proven best practices for analyzing your content performance data and turning those insights into action.

Use analytics for insights

Google Analytics is the software all marketers know but don’t often use as a tool to support decisions that impact content performance. To reap the benefits of analytics, you need to take action based on the insights you find. 

In the analytics, you’ll be able to see how many people are converting—carrying out those coveted tasks such as buying a product, registering for an event or booking a consultation. Use Google Analytics to learn more about the behaviors and types of people that are converting so that you can attract and engage more of them.

Google Analytics has 4 key sections of analytics reports to help you better understand who converts and how: 

  1. Audience: Who are your site visitors?
  2. Acquisition: Where did they come from?
  3. Behavior: What are they doing on your site?
  4. Conversions: How well is your content working?

Check out this excellent analytics report chart to see each of these categories further broken down. 

The key is that you act on the data—make changes in your content based on what you find in order to improve performance. 

Let’s look at a couple of examples: 

Example 1

Goal: Increase sales

KPI: Lead generation

Metric: How often your lead gen form is submitted

How to analyze: Look at which channels result in the most form submissions. Do your LinkedIn posts have a high conversion rate, or is it your Facebook ads? What keyword phrases? Also, look at which pieces of content on your site generate the most click-throughs to your lead generation form. 

Action: Invest more in the platform, channel or activity that is resulting in the most form submissions. Identify other content on your site similar to those pages that perform well and add clear calls to action.

Example 2

Goal: Increase awareness

KPI: Organic search traffic

Metrics: Number of sessions from organic search, number of non-branded keywords that deliver traffic, click-through rates

How to analyze: Look at what keywords the post ranked for in the search engines. Which keywords resulted in a high number of impressions but a low click-through rate due to a low ranking? 

Action: Optimize the content for that keyword phrase to try and boost your ranking, and thus your click-throughs.

When you can identify what activities perform best you can do them more often, and increase performance even more. Here’s an example of how we track the content optimizations we want to make:

© Uplift Content Inc 2020

After you’ve made the updates to your site, when the next measurement interval rolls around you can determine the results of the actions you take against the benchmark data you gathered previously.

Turn insights into ROI

Return on investment (ROI) is the ultimate goal of content marketing—and ROI plays an important role in measuring content performance. But how do you calculate it?

To calculate content ROI, you need to itemize the resources that you’ve put into its creation. Outline the baseline costs involved in producing, distributing and promoting the content. Be sure to factor in all the minutiae of production from contractor fees to the cost of office resources. 

After you know your costs, you can apply an easy ROI formula

  1. Determine your return.
  2. Determine your costs.
  3. Subtract the costs from your return.
  4. Divide by the cost. 
  5. Multiply by 100.
  6. Express the answer as a percentage. 

Example

Say you spend $2,000 producing a piece of content. This piece of content then yields $10,000. Your ROI would be an impressive 400%.

  • Return: $10,000
  • Costs: $2,000
  • $10,000 – $2,000 = $8,000
  • $8,000/$2,000 = 4
  • 4 x 100 = 400
  • 400%

Learning how to track and measure content ROI is incredibly valuable in showing upper management the importance of content on the company’s bottom line. It also allows you to make smarter decisions about how to allocate your budget on different tactics, priorities, content messaging, formats and more.

Let your methods evolve

Once you have all your methods in place, don’t just monitor the data and insights gained. Be sure to check on the overall usefulness of the systems you created. Don’t be afraid to go back to step one and evaluate the choices you made. This will keep your methods fresh and timely, which, in turn, will give you more opportunities to increase the effectiveness of your content’s performance. 

What’s next?

Are you ready to boost the performance of the content you already have, but you just don’t have the time to do it yourself? Check out our Content Performance Optimization Services to increase your bottom line by improving existing content.

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Emily Amos
Emily Amos

As the founder of Uplift Content, Emily leads teams in creating done-for-you case studies, ebooks and white papers for high-growth SaaS companies. Check out her bio.

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