December 11, 2019 | Justin Champion

11 Inbound Strategy Performance Metrics You Should be Tracking

Every effective content marketer knows that reporting and analyzing their efforts is vital to their success. 

At some point, you’re going to have to communicate the performance of your work to your manager and the rest of the team. To set yourself up for success, we’re going to review 11 performance metrics you should consider tracking. 

There are a lot of possible goals for your content marketing efforts. For example, you may want to build brand awareness, develop search engine authority, increase lead generation, or influence customer loyalty. 

There are two types of metrics you should be tracking:

  • Organic (non-paid) metrics
  • Paid metrics

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Let’s start with the organic metrics you should be tracking.

Regardless of what goal you have attached to your content, organic metrics will play a large role in your content’s success. With organic metrics, you can track the performance of your non-paid content strategy efforts. These metrics fall under web page traffic, social media, email, and conversion.

Organic metrics provide insight into two key areas:

  1. They show content performance across your non-paid channels;
  2. And they reveal the greatest opportunities for paid promotion. 

Adding paid promotion to a piece of content that has already proven effective will maximize your return on investment and optimize your content’s performance. But you have to understand how your content is performing organically first. 

Here’s an example. Let’s say an ecommerce outdoor company wants to increase traffic to their blog to support a new product line targeting traveling remote workers. A SMART goal for this business might be to increase monthly blog visitors from 500 per month to 800 per month before the sale starts. One way to support this SMART goal is to write a blog post on “ten must-have digital nomad gadgets for the traveling remote worker.” 

To analyze how this blog post or any other piece of content is performing, here are the four key types of metrics you should consider tracking. 

 

1. Web page traffic metrics show you how your content is performing on your website. 

The key web page traffic metrics to track are:

  • Page views
  • Traffic sources
  • Bounce rate
  • Referrals
  • Keyword ranking

All of these metrics work together to tell you the story of how website visitors are responding to your content. 

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Page views and unique page views measure how effective your content is at bringing in new visitors and returning visitors. Unique page views tracks how many visitors come to your web page, while page views counts all visits. By tracking how much traffic this blog post generates, you'll understand how this blog post compares to others and supports your overall goal of increasing blog traffic. 

Traffic sources break down page views by the sources your content is being discovered from. By analyzing traffic sources, you’ll understand how each element of your content promotion strategy is working together to drive traffic. There are many sources where visitors could come from, like paid search, organic traffic, email marketing, and more. This analysis shows how visitors are discovering your content. In this case, if you promoted a blog called “ten must-have digital nomad gadgets for the traveling remote worker” on social media, paid search, and email, you would see all of these sources and the amount of traffic from each. 

Bounce rate is an important metric to track because it is representative of how well your content is living up to your visitors’ expectations. Is your content relevant, helpful, and engaging? Does your content offer a good user experience? If so, you will see a low bounce rate — and a low bounce rate is a good thing. The longer someone stays on your site, the more your search engine rankings will improve. If visitors are spending a long time on your blog post on digital nomad gadgets, you’d know that this is a valuable and effective piece of content for your audience. This might indicate that creating more content around this topic will be an effective future content strategy. 

Hotjar is a great tool to see how viewers are interacting with your web pages. With this heat mapping software, you can identify what parts of your web pages are causing viewers to drop off, resulting in a high bounce rate.

hotjar screenshot

Referral traffic is another great metric to track. Referral traffic will tell you how well your backlinking and content syndication strategies are working. Plus, an influx of referral traffic from sources you didn’t proactively communicate with indicates an effective piece of content. To be able to see this you need to create a tracking link for each referral source. In your tracking link, you need to include a:

  • Website URL
  • Campaign source
  • Campaign medium
  • Campaign name

You can add additional fields like campaign term or campaign content as needed. 

The last web page traffic metric you should track is keyword ranking. Keywords and phrases play a large part in the content creation process. By tracking the performance of your keyword strategy, you’ll understand how your content is ranking for your chosen keywords. Use this metric to determine what keywords are working well for your business and spot opportunities for additional content. Moz and Ahrefs are two great tools you can use to track your keyword performance. For our example blog post, you’d likely be going after phrases like “remote working tools” or more specific keywords like “digital nomad phone case.” 

There are a few tools you can use to track these web page metrics. Google Analytics is a great place to start. Or, marketing automation software like HubSpot can be used to easily analyze all of your content. 

 

2. Social media metrics are used to understand how the content you promote on social media is performing. 

Are you expanding your reach on social media? Are viewers engaging with your posts? There are a lot of metrics you can track across social platforms to answer questions like these, and more. Let’s go over a few general metrics to keep track of on social. 

Reach and impressions measure how well your content is spreading throughout the social platform. Reach is the number of unique people who view your content, while impressions measure the total number of times your content has been viewed. A great piece of content can spread like wildfire on social media, and the reach of a successful piece of content will be significantly higher than average. When sharing video content, views are important to measuring reach. For example, on Facebook, a view occurs when your video runs on autoplay for at least 3 seconds. By tracking these social media metrics you’ll be able to identify those posts that are viewed by more people than usual. You’ll find your content’s reach in the analytics dashboard of the social platform you’re using. Use this data to optimize your social posts by publishing content types with a large reach. If your social posts for a blog about fashion trends has a large reach, you’ll know that this blog topic is effective and relevant to your audience. 

Engagement on social media involves a handful of metrics that are important to track depending on the platform. These metrics include likes, shares, comments, retweets, video views, and so on. One of the main goals of sharing your content on social media should be to push these metrics in a positive direction. Track these metrics to understand how your social media audience responds to the content you share with them. Analyze what works and what doesn’t to improve your long-term social media strategy. Great content on social media gets a lot of buzz in the form of engagement. If your blog post about “ten must-have digital nomad gadgets for the traveling remote worker” sparks conversation and receives a lot of likes and shares, then you’ll know that your social media audiences like this type of content. Promoting more content like it in the future will optimize your social media performance. 

You’ll also want to track the click-through rate of your content on social media. Click-through rate is the total number of people who view your social media post divided by how many people click on the link. For example, if 1,000 people viewed your social media post for the “ten must-have digital nomad gadgets for the traveling remote worker,” and 100 people clicked on the link, then you’d have a 10% click-through rate. By tracking this metric, you’ll be able to optimize your posts on social media with content that drives traffic to your website. 

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3. Email metrics also play a role in the performance of your content. 

By analyzing email metrics you improve the performance of the content you share with your email database.

Open rate shows you how many people open your email. Clickthrough rate shows how many people are clicking through in the email to view your content. These metrics work together to show you how your email database responds to the content you share with them. To get you started, here are a few benchmarks. An open rate of between 15% to 20% is strong across industries. And a clickthrough rate around the 2% mark is a good goal to shoot for. But again, these numbers will vary. It is best to test your own email performance and optimize. You can also analyze this data to figure out what type of content this audience likes. Do you see higher email engagement with blog content? Webinars? Sales or product announcements? Tracking your open rate and clickthrough rate can tell you what content to send to which audiences. For your digital nomad gadgets blog post, you’d likely only send this post to those who have subscribed to your blog. If your email database contains engaged contacts, comparing your open rate and clickthrough rate for this promotion compared to the promotion of other blog posts will tell you if this audience likes blog posts on the digital nomad-themed topic. 

Growing your subscribers, or the number of people in your blog or email database, is another email metric to track. By producing great content and improving your content promotion, you can increase the number of emailable contacts for your business. But remember, while you want to see this number grow, you also want to keep your database clean. If it has been a while since you’ve tidied up your emailable contacts list, consider removing contacts who don’t engage with your content anymore. Having a smaller database of engaged contacts will result in better performance across your metrics. In this example, equipping your blog post with a “subscribe to our blog” form will grow your subscribers to include people who’ve found your blog post about fashion trends but were not previously familiar with your brand. 

 

4. Conversion metrics show how your content is impacting your business.

The key conversion metrics to track include leads generated, conversion rate, and close rate. By tracking these metrics, you can understand: 

  • How many leads your content is generating;
  • How well your content converts visitors into leads;
  • And at what rate the leads you generate become customers. 

Combined, these metrics tell the story of the customer lifecycle. With this information, you’ll understand which content to prioritize to generate more sales for your business. For your blog post, “ten must-have digital nomad gadgets for the traveling remote worker,” you might be interested in how many leads converted after engaging with this blog post, and how many of those leads eventually made a purchase. You can use this information to create effective blog posts that drive revenue in the future. 

By following this type of reporting process for your content, you’ll discover how your content is actually performing. I recommend doing this for each campaign that you launch. Over time, you’ll begin to see trends and will be able to benchmark your performance if you haven’t already. 

There are many more metrics that you could track to gauge the performance of your content. By setting SMART goals and selecting the metrics that support your goals, you’ll be able to determine the success of your content and promotional efforts. 

Let’s move on to the paid metrics to track. 

When you have a high-performing piece of content from your organic promotion, supporting it with paid promotion can be a great way to supplement the success of your content. The metrics that are important to track in your paid promotion will vary depending on the type of advertisement you are running. 

Here are a few key metrics to consider when reporting on your content’s paid promotion. 

 

5. Quality score is the way Google measures the effectiveness of your ad in Google Ads. 

Achieving a higher quality score will lead to lower prices when bidding on ad placements and a better ad position. The more descriptive your content offer is, the better your ad quality score will be. Plus, optimizing your ads for different devices and adding ad extensions, which are additional links to other areas of your website, will improve your quality score, too. Tracking this metric will show you the most effective ads that use your paid resources efficiently. For example, you might want to run an A/B test with different copy for your blog post about digital nomad gadgets. After running them for a few weeks, selecting the ad with the highest quality score will improve other areas of the ad’s performance. 

 

6. Cost-per-click, often referred to as CPC, and cost-per-thousand impressions, or CPM, are two metrics that are important to track depending on the type of paid promotion you are using to support your content. 

The difference between CPC and CPM is simply how you bid and pay for your ad spots. In CPC, you pay every time someone clicks your ad. For CPM, you pay one price per thousand impressions. For CPM, it doesn’t matter if a viewer clicks or not. CPM is generally used with awareness campaigns, but if you’re looking for conversions or acquisitions, a CPC pricing model is probably your best bet. Track these metrics to identify which ads yield the largest return for the lowest cost. For a blog post on digital nomad gadgets, for example, you might be only interested in driving traffic to your website. Therefore, tracking your cost-per-click will be an important metric to track. Achieving a low CPC will maximize the use of your budget and drive more traffic than an ad with a high cost. 

 

7. Cost-per-acquisition is another paid metric that you can use to identify how much you are paying to acquire a new lead. 

This type of promotion aligns with content that is goaled with lead generation. Understanding how much you are paying to acquire a lead will allow you to optimize your lead generation ads and acquire more leads with less money spent. Determining cost-per-acquisition can take some time to set up correctly. For our winter camping blog post, analyzing how much you are spending to acquire a new subscriber can show you how well this blog post converts subscribers. If you’re paying more money to acquire a blog subscriber than a content lead from a downloadable ebook, for example, it might make more sense to use paid on a different piece of content. 

 

8. Close rate is another metric that is important to track for your paid promotion. 

Paying to acquire leads that don’t close because they’re not a good fit for your business isn’t an effective strategy. By tracking the rate at which your paid leads become customers, you’ll have a better sense for what types of content attracts high-quality leads that ultimately pay for the product or service that your business sells. 

As you run your own paid ads, continual evaluation of your performance will optimize your ads to yield the highest return on investment. For example, you can explore promoting new content, experimenting with different ad styles, or running A/B tests with different copy. Regardless of how you optimize your paid performance, achieving the highest return on investment should be your top priority. 

There are many methods you can use to determine the success of your content on paid advertising. Let’s go over a few popular ways to determine the return of investment for any type of paid promotion. 

 

9. Return on ad spend, also known as ROAS, is a simple way to gauge the success of your paid promotion. 

This calculation is the difference in money generated by conversions from the advertisement minus the total spent on the advertisement. If your promotion is goaled on something like lead generation where there is no direct income generated by achieving the goal, you can use an estimated value. Calculate this by multiplying your lead to customer conversion rate and the average value of the initial purchase. 

 

10. You can take this one step further and also take into consideration the total content investment into your calculation. 

How much time did it take to produce this content? How much money was spent? By considering these questions in your return on investment calculations, you’ll have a more holistic view of the types of content that yield the highest return. Regardless of the method you choose, be sure to pick one and stick to it across teams. This way, you’ll have one unified way to measure your content’s success.

 

11. It's important to consider how your paid advertising efforts impact organic performance. 

There’s some psychology that goes into this one, but running paid ads can actually boost the performance of your organic efforts, particularly in search. Here’s how. Shopify is a company that offers tools for ecommerce businesses. It’s not surprising that Shopify has content that ranks on the first page of Google search results for the search term “how to start an ecommerce business.” But what might surprise you, is that they’re also running paid search ads for this same keyword.

google screenshot

You might be wondering, “Why would they pay for a place on the first page of Google search results when they’re already ranking on the first page organically?” Well, there are a few reasons for this. 

First, Shopify is paying to increase their listing real estate on Google’s search results page. Instead of having just one slot, they now have two: one from organic and one from paid. 

Second, since ads have priority over organic results, they have also claimed the top results of the search engine page. 

And third, even if people don’t click that first result, they might be more inclined to click the second result from Shopify that appears in the organic results. Having that brand recognition in the first ad can influence people to click your organic link because they see the brand twice in the first few search engine results. 

So, now that we’ve gone over 11 different performance metrics, and how and why you should track them, remember to try to give equal consideration each. As you analyze your paid metrics, don’t forget to connect this performance to your organic results. You might be surprised by how paid performance can impact your content’s organic metrics. 

For a quick recap, remember that:

  1. Web page traffic indicates performance on your website
  2. Social media metrics show you how your content is being received across platforms
  3. Email metrics can also give insight to how your content is received
  4. Conversion metrics show how your content impacts your business
  5. Your quality score indicates how effective your ads are on Google Ads
  6. CPC and CPM should be considered in each case
  7. Assure that your cost-per-acquisition makes sense
  8. Make sure your close rate isn’t too high
  9. Analyze your return on ad spend (ROAS) for efficacy and cost-effectiveness
  10. Additionally, look at the total cost
  11. Think about how your paid efforts impact organic performance

And that’s about it — happy tracking!

Justin Champion

Justin Champion

Justin Champion is the author of Inbound Content, Principal Content Professor for HubSpot Academy, Adjunct Lecturer for the University of Florida, and one half of Wild We Wander. Justin created HubSpot Academy's Content Marketing Course, which has awarded over 40,000 certifications to professionals across the globe since November 2016. You can find him on Twitter @JustinRChampion.

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