How to Know if Your Content Marketing is Working Early On

If you’re anything like me, you are impatient when it comes to figuring out whether or not your content marketing is working. So in today’s article, I’m going to be sharing with you a real-world example that I’ve been building in terms of a new blog and how it’s going in terms of some early results. This way, you’re going to be able to pick up on some trends that I like to identify when trying to assess whether or not my content marketing is working.

First precursor, I wanted to give you today when it comes to assessing whether or not your content marketing is working is it’s honestly, actually really hard to figure that out within the first three months. The reality is that if you are just starting your content marketing, a lot of variables are at play.

The first variable that is at play is just simply building out your content base. In many cases, businesses don’t have enough content. So as a result, Google can’t figure out exactly what it is that your site does. In other cases, your site doesn’t have enough domain authority or relevance. And so you need to actually build out enough content to signal to Google that you are an authoritative source around that particular topic that you’re serving.

Early on, though, what I tell people is just give it at least three months and then reassess. So it’s always good to assess things at three month increments. Even when I was pitching this content marketing effort to my boss right now, I told them that three months was the minimum that it would take to start seeing results and to actually start gauging results closer to the six to 12 month mark.

The reason why is because you need the content to actually age on Google before you can actually see the results or your dividends from your content marketing.

For example, today, we’re going to be using the blog that I’ve been building for work. We started from a constant base of nothing, and we have been publishing about two posts every single week and occasionally three posts in the week. Each of our posts are at least 1500 words long with some posts ranging as high as 2,500 to 3000 words. What this means is that within our last three months, we have written at least 36,000 words on our blog.

Observe the trends

So now that you have that background context, let’s take a look at exactly what this looks like when we start to dig into our results in Google Search Console as well as in Google Analytics.

To figure out whether or not your content marketing is working, you first need to observe the trends. The easiest way to do this is with Google Search Console. The first thing you’re going to want to make sure you do is that you have your site map updating. The reason why is because if your site map is not updating, then you’re not making it easy for Google to index all of the new pages that you’re creating around your content marketing. So first make sure your site map is updated.

But assuming that you do have a site map, that’s updated, your pages should start to get some organic traffic being generated or in general organic impressions in Google Search Console. So what are you going to want to do is you’re going to want to hop into Google Search Console and then filter things based off of your efforts.

So let’s go ahead and take a look at a search console results here. What I’ve done is I’ve isolated for the last three months and I’ve isolated for all the things that are related to the content marketing efforts that I’ve built in the last quarter. And what you can see here are some of the initial trends.

First thing that you want to look for is whether or not there is a line going up into the right for both your clicks, as well as your impressions. If you’re getting clicks and you’re getting impressions more and more, as you add more content, it means that you’re probably onto something with your content marketing. So, what you can tell here from my chart is that in the last quarter, since starting to republish two times a week on this particular blog, I’ve gotten 874 clicks and about 34,000 impressions. That’s pretty good, but there’s still room to grow. There’s tons more out there in terms of the number of clicks and what you’ll notice here, as well as I’m getting about 20 clicks out of the 243 impressions that Google has served for this top phrase of mine and around 20 clicks as well for this other one, that’s around 280 impressions.

So you want to look for your click through rate and see whether or not people are clicking through to your posts and from there, whether or not you’re optimizing your titles and meta descriptions in an optimal way.

Now I know that Google is now using some auto-generated titles. That said, though, you can still try to work in the title and meta-description to see in the cases where Google doesn’t auto replace your things what if you can optimize for that click-through rate. So as you dig into your Google Search Console, the main things I want you to look for is there a noticeable trend that is forming. If there is not in those small trend, it may be too early in terms of your content marketing efforts.

However, the second you notice a trend, you should start to either choose to double down or to back off of your content marketing efforts. Sometimes this will take three to six months to truly actually formulate a trend. However, what you can tell from my example is that there’s clearly something up into the right here, which is the perfect place to be when it comes to measuring content marketing results.

Something separate I’ve been working on this quarter has been paid advertising. And so what I know is that the 284 clicks that I have generated organically from Google would result to around a 2,500 or so spend in paid advertising if I had paid for each of those clicks. So that’s another way that I can gauge the ROI of my content marketing is just try to gauge in comparison to my paid efforts exactly how much it would have cost me to get that same number of visits from the paid acquisition channels that I’m working.

Track conversions via first and last interactions.

The second example I want to share it for you today aside from looking at your Google Search Console is actually tracking conversions in terms of both first and last interactions. So the reason why this is really important is because if you’re building all your content marketing for the purposes of generating leads, but not actually generating leads and your content marketing is probably not hitting on enough pain points for the prospects that you’re targeting. So it’s really important that you’re actually tracking how many leads you’re getting from your content marketing.

In order to do so, you’re probably going to need to use something like Google Analytics or Google tag manager. For the example today, I’m going to be using Google Analytics and then I’m going to be using their model comparison tool.

In case you don’t know, Google Analytics uses the last attribution model. What this means is that if somebody were to visit your blog and then go to your demo page and then convert on your demo page. The demo page is actually the page that’s going to get the conversion attributed to it because that’s the last page that somebody was on.

So even though they initially entered your website from the blog page, the blog will not be credited using the last attribution model. It’s for this reason why it’s really important to look at things from both a last attribution, as well as a first attribution standpoint. Something important to note is that you don’t want to be summative in terms of your attribution here. So don’t sum your last interaction people with your first interaction people. That is just going to lead to some potential double counting.

Google Analytics model comparison tool result

So the model comparison tool is going to use the goals that you set up in Google Analytics. So if you haven’t already created goals for yourself, you’re going to want to that first. Goals are essentially destination links that you go to when somebody is a qualified lead. So if, for example, you have a thanks page, you might want to set your go up to that thanks page. So in this situation, I’ve got a goal set up and what I’m showing you here is a set up for a report in which I’ve pulled everything up until this point in time when I’m recording this video and it’s everything for the quarter.

So it’s starting from July 1st to September 24th. I’ve gone ahead and set my look back period to 90 days. That means that I want Google to look at the last three months worth of data in terms of when it’s reporting all the things here, and then I’ve gone ahead and also only selected the goal that I have set up around qualified leads. That way I can filter for all the people that are directly attributed to qualified leads coming from my blog posts.

From here, I’ve gone ahead and added two new respective things to consider in this model comparison for first interaction, as well as linear. The last attribution is the default method of how Google Analytics tracks things. First attribution is essentially going to tell you exactly where they first came in and give attribution there. And then linear is actually going to distribute all the different forms of channels into equal points in terms of what each of those channels should get credit for.

So from here, what I’m going to see is from all these blog posts, these eight blog posts that have actually seen some form of conversion, I have no last interactions attributable to my blog post. So from a primary level, that would be really concerning, right? It would mean that literally none of my blog posts have led to qualified leads. But when you think about that, it makes sense because in many cases, people aren’t going to be converting directly from a blog post.

They might be going from a blog post to a landing page where they would then convert into a qualified lead. So it’s for this reason why the first interaction section here is actually really important. Because what I see here is that these blog posts have actually generated four leads already so far. So in this case, you can see that the last interaction model would not have attributed any leads from my content marketing.

However, in this situation, when I look at the first interaction, I actually see that four leads here initially interacted with my blog before they converted later on in the funnel, in terms of other pages on my site. So, this is really important because what this tells me is that I wouldn’t have given any credit to my content marketing efforts if I had only looked at things from a last attribution standpoint, instead of also considering the first attribution as well.

Aside from tracking your blog posts, you also want to check out how your freebies are doing. This quarter, I’ve released one freebie so far, and I haven’t done a full on distribution push yet. However, I can go ahead and use the model comparison tool to still pull in key insights around how this particular freebie might be doing. So what I see here is that by using the same settings, in terms of model attribution, this one freebie has one attributable last interaction that is a conversion to a qualified lead.

And then three that can be attributed to coming in originally from this freebie. So again, the same logic here applies, and that if I had only looked at things from the last attribution standpoint, I would have only been able to account for one lead coming in from this freebie whereas in this case, when I start to look at it from a first interaction standpoint, what this means is that three people initially came in from this freebie and then later became a qualified lead for my business.

So, again, this is why attribution is really important because if I’d only looked at it from the last attribution standpoint, I would have only seen one lead convert from this freebie.

Big takeaways

If you take nothing else from this article, I hope you remember two things:

  1. The first thing is that it’s really important that you are showing up on Google in terms of getting more impressions and clicks when you are in your early days of content marketing.
  2. The second thing that’s even more important is to make sure that you are tracking conversions for your content marketing efforts. If you’re spending all this money in content marketing and not getting conversions, then there’s no point in you actually content marketing. It’s not working. So you need to prove out your channel, and one of the best ways to do that is using the model comparison.

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