You’ve planned your content, created it, distributed, promoted it, and made sure you’re sending users to a quality experience.
Let’s look now at how you measure the impact of content marketing.
In this article, you’ll track your content, evaluate content marketing metrics, and examine a few case studies.
Tracking with UTM Codes
One important part of marketing is measuring results. If you spend time, money and effort creating content and advertising, you will want to be able to measure your results. Whether you are working as a digital marketer and are asked to report on the results of your marketing activity, or if you are marketing your own business, you will want to track what worked and what didn’t. Measuring your results can help you to improve your efforts.
Driving traffic to your site or to a landing page on a site will be an important goal of your marketing activity. Traffic coming to your site is also referred to as in-bound traffic. To track how well your different activities are performing, you will want to know which pieces of content you posted, or ads you placed, were responsible for driving traffic to your site. You can achieve this by using UTM codes, a labeling system that allows you to evaluate your inbound traffic in more detail as it relates to your marketing activity.
Later on, we will study Google Analytics, a tool that can help you track and evaluate your advertising success.
So, what are UTM codes (or UTM parameters)?
UTM stands for “Urchin Tracking Module” – Urchin Software Corporation was acquired by Google in 2005 and their software became what we now know as Google Analytics.
UTM codes are labels that Google Analytics and other analytics tools can read and recognize. They consist of little snippets of text added to the end of your URL to help you track the success of your content on the web. An example of UTM codes is highlighted in the URL below in orange:
Whenever you share content, such as the shared post on Facebook in the example above, you’ll want to include UTM codes. Adding UTM codes to a URL can help you gather information without having any visible impact on the user. The UTM codes enable an analytics program to track and know that someone arrived at your landing page from a specific source as part of a specific marketing campaign, in this case, your post on Facebook.
The UTM codes are structured in categories that the analytics tools will recognize. The categories are standardized (you have to use these names), but you can choose what you fill in after the equal sign. Make sure it is something you will recognize.
Hubspot summarized the five things (categories) you can track with UTM codes as follows:
- Campaign: Groups all of the content from one campaign in your analytics.
- Ex: utm_campaign=20percentpromocode
- Source: Which website is sending you traffic.
- Ex: utm_source=Facebook
- Medium: The type of marketing medium that the link is featured in.
- Ex: utm_medium=socialmedia
- Content: Used to track the different types of content that point to the same URL from the same campaign, source, and medium codes. Often used in PPC or with two identical links on the same page.
- Ex: utm_content=sidebarlink or utm_content=headerlink
- Term: Used to identify the keywords you’ve paid for in a PPC ad.
- Ex: utm_term=marketing+software
The best part about UTM parameters is that you can make any combination you like of these code — use the bare minimum (campaign, source, and medium) to track all of your links, or use all of them to get super specific about your tracking.
You can use a categorization that makes sense for you. Often people will stick to the definitions of these categories used by Google (in their categorization, medium is typically used for the type of marketing medium, which in this case would be social media).
Remember that you don’t have to use all the categories. Choose which categorization make the most sense for you. While source, medium, and campaign are the most used parameters, many marketers also use ‘content’. The ‘content’ parameter tells you what content was used. For instance, you could use it to indicate whether it was a video, blog, etc.
Here is another example, this time from HubSpot itself:
As you can see, they use the content parameter. They assigned their content a number which aligns with their internal legend that allows them to understand exactly to which content the link referred. That is another possible use of the content parameter.
Writing UTM Codes
Google has a helpful tool you can use to help you write UTM codes, the Google URL builder.
This tool allows you to create all the parameters in a UTM code easily, so that you can track your campaigns later on in Google Analytics or in other analytics platforms. When you fill out the fields in the URL builder, Google will provide you with the UTM code that you can append to your landing page URLs. Note that in this tool, Google refers to the UTM code as “campaign parameters.”
URLs with UTM codes are lengthy. It can take up most of a post or a tweet if you were to type out the entire URL.
That’s why most marketers use URL shorteners.
This is an example of a long URL that has been shortened.
There are a number of free tools you can use to shorten your URLs.
Some of the most popular are Bitly and Google.
All you need to do to shorten a URL is copy the URL of your content and then paste it into one of the tools.
After you hit Submit, you get a shortened URL.
Each of these tools also gives you stats on clicks for all the URLs you shorten using the tool.
For example, Bitly shows you how many times your link has been clicked, where the link has been shared, and how other Bitly shortened links are driving traffic to the same content.
In addition to these shortening tools, many social networks and social media management tools also provide a way to shorten long URLs automatically.
For example, Twitter uses its own t.co shortening service often on links shared on mobile devices.
Finally, you can also customize your shortened URL to include your brand or company name.
Rebrandly is a free tool that integrates with Google’s URL shortener you can use to do this.
Not only then do shortened URLs make your links more manageable, but also they can make your links more memorable. Be sure to use them in your marketing.
You can track how many people visit your website or landing pages with Google Analytics.
You can also set up event tracking in Google Analytics to track how your customers are interacting with your content. For example, you can track whether a visitor scrolled down a blog post, played a video, or clicked through gallery images.
You can also set up goals in Google Analytics to see how your content pieces impact your objectives.
For example, do people who download a PDF spend more?
Or are people who read your blog more likely to buy?
We cover how to use Google Analytics in more detail in a later course.
Certain content formats have built-in tracking.
For example, if you use YouTube videos, you can track how often the video is viewed and how long it’s viewed.
If you use the publishing platform Medium, you can track how many people share a post and how many responses the post engendered.
You can get even more detailed content engagement metrics by using third-party tools like Chartbeat and Momently.
These tools help writers understand which parts of a piece of content get the most attention from a user and where the more engaged users come from.
They also examine the time a user spends looking at the content rather than just the clicks.
Tracking your content will allow you to analyze the performance of your content. Now that you have data, what do you measure?
In general, you’ll look to measure traffic— how much traffic did a piece of content generate to your website or landing page?
Engagement– how engaged your audience was.
This is defined by things like the time a visitor spends on a page and the number of pages visited.
The more time spent, the more highly engaged the user is.
Social shares– how many times a piece of content was shared and what content led to conversions.
When evaluating these metrics, you want to look for trends and build on those content pieces that are doing well.
Also, be sure to look for gaps. Sometimes the content you need is the content you’re missing.
Next, you’ll take the insights from your analysis and use them to repeat the whole process, but with changes to your content, from the message to the format to the distribution, depending on your results.
Successful content marketing is always testing to see what works, because what works today to garner attention for your product, service, or offering may not work next month.
The more you repeat the content process, though, the better you’ll get at meeting your audience’s needs.
Track your content.
Measure your results.
Continually change your content to get the most out of it.
Finally, content strategy and content marketing are never done, but they are a key piece of the marketing map and worth the time and investment.