Content KPIs: Which Parts of my Content are Actually Successful?

Jan Tissler Last updated on 20.10.2020
8 Min.
content KPIs
Last updated on 20.10.2020

Especially in times of crisis, keywords like controlling, content KPIs and
ROI (Return on Invest) is particularly important. After all, you are probably even more motivated at present to use your financial and human resources in a targeted manner. In this article I will show you how you can measure the success of your content - as a freelancer or in an agency.

In some situations the control of success in digital business is comparatively simple: A landing page should for example have a clear Call to Action have. Whether this is actually used or not can be clearly measured. In this case you would take the number of leads or purchases you have won and compare it to the number of visitors on the landing page. If this value turns out to be too low, then it goes to the troubleshooting. Or, to put it more positively: to optimization.

This procedure becomes more difficult the further forward in the customer journey a content is positioned. Think about the topic of content marketing - its content should not sell anything at all at first. Read my contributions content marketing for agencies & freelancers as well as for target-oriented Content strategy. With this kind of content you want:

  1. Attract the right target group and then
  2. Achieve a positive change towards your products and services

Here it becomes much more difficult to determine and record the correct key figures. And still you want to know how your content is received by the target group.

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Finding the right key figures

A major problem: typical and simply available measurement figures such as page views are usually of little significance. After all, how does it help you to know that your new blog post has been viewed 10,000 times? What value does it have for you that 5,000 people have subscribed to your newsletter? And are 200 new fans on Facebook enough or not?

Such indicators are sometimes called "vanity metrics": They are essentially designed to flatter one's vanity. As an example: Those responsible for social media channels are probably familiar with the pressure of having more fans and followers than the competition. But that's as if a shop is primarily concerned with having more visitors than the shop next door. Of course it is important to attract interested parties. But rent and salaries are only earned from sales, not from visitor numbers. It's much more important to attract the right visitors - and to convince them of what you have to offer.

social media followers
Followers - for example on Twitter - are important. But what exactly do they bring?

This example also shows you that comparisons with others often do not help. Because if you have a jewellery shop and there is a supermarket next door, then of course you have completely different requirements. And even two jewellery shops do not necessarily have comparable offers and customers. One might focus on mass-produced goods, the other on exclusive unique pieces.

Therefore, instead of comparing yourself with others, you should focus primarily on measuring your own progress. After all, who can tell you that your outwardly successful competitor is actually making better sales than you? And: Only through your own experiments, measurements and conclusions can you discover and find out something that your competitors may not even know about.

The first thing you need to do is set out your goals

Which key figures are "the right ones" for you depends on your goals. It would go too far to explain the topic of corporate goals here. Therefore only in a very brief way: They should be formulated as "SMART" as possible. This abbreviation stands for specific, measurable, achievable, result-oriented, time-bound. For example, your declared goal is not "more sales". Instead, your goal states exactly how much more turnover you want to achieve, how much more turnover you want to achieve, and by when. Based on this, your further considerations look something like this:

  • What do you want or need to achieve in the short, medium and long term?
  • What ways can you do this?
  • What steps and measures would make this possible?
  • How great is the probable effect of a measure compared to the effort involved?

Little by little, you use it to create a prioritized list of goals and measures. Your content on your own website, in social networks or for your newsletter distribution list is also included.
And because your contents and activities now hopefully have clear goals and tasks, it is much easier to derive the appropriate key figures from them.

The KPI Finder

That's the good news. The bad news is that the more interesting and meaningful a key figure is, the more difficult it often becomes to measure it. See Andreas Kösters on this topic, still very worth reading Contribution to performance measurementin which he examines this phenomenon for the field of social media marketing. He divides possible measurements into a three-level pyramid. Some of the most important findings cannot be read from analytics tools. Instead, you will have to ask your prospects or customers directly.

In order to find the decisive key performance indicators (KPIs) in the content area, the Federal Association of the Digital Economy BVDW e.V. has also developed a important guide as a free PDF file. It also provides the KPI Finder at your disposal. Both refer primarily to content marketing, but are also interesting for other content.

KPI Finder
Create Content Marketing KPIs with the KPI Finder

The BVDW divides the KPIs into the three broad objectives "interaction", "reach" and "conversion and costs". So here you must already be clear about what you actually want to achieve (see above).

In the next step you choose which platform you are interested in (website, online shop, newsletter, Facebook ...). The KPI-Finder is limited to listing possible measured values. You have to find out for yourself what is behind each of these, what the KPIs can tell you and whether they apply to your situation. Nevertheless, I find the tool helpful to search for possible KPIs and to be stimulated.

Recording and evaluating key figures regularly

If the control is to be effective, it must be carried out regularly and as often as possible. To check once a year what the own content work has actually brought is clearly too little. Depending on what you look at, you should also keep an eye on certain values on a weekly or daily basis. The frequency depends on the respective key figure. Some can change at short notice (page views), some develop over a longer period of time (Facebook fans).

Also make sure to select meaningful comparison periods. In most cases, it is a good idea to use both the previous period and the same period a year ago. Finally, there are sometimes seasonal differences. However, as mentioned above, the comparison with competitors is of limited use. This is simply because you will most likely not even see the actually interesting key figures of your competitors. Further tips:

  • To make your figures comparable, you should only use one data source per measured value. Because even seemingly unambiguous things like a page impression can be judged differently depending on the measurement tool.
  • Also make sure that the numbers are as clean as possible. A typical problem is, for example, counting your own visits to the website. This of course falsifies the results.
  • Speaking of falsified results: Some measurement figures, such as the retention time, are subject to technical errors. You must always be aware of how exactly something can be measured. And some values like the "bounce rate" can have different statements depending on the situation, like this contribution .
  • Last but not least it is important that the measured numbers can be easily evaluated by displaying them in a dashboard, for example. Is it difficult for you or your colleagues to gain insights from the measured values? Then there is a high risk that the task will be left in the daily routine or that long-term changes will be overlooked.

Even a simple tool such as Excel or Google Spreadsheets can be used as an aid here. Furthermore, there are specialized tools like Clipfolio , Geckoboard. But make sure that they GDPR-compliant are. Another important point in the evaluation is one that I mentioned briefly above: How much effort was necessary to achieve the result? It is sometimes noticeable that there are comparatively small activities that can have a large leverage effect.

Tools such as geckoboard should enable uncomplicated dashboards

At the same time, there may be content projects and products that seem far too elaborate at first glance, but make up for the effort with long-term success. And yet other content may be prestige projects that are celebrated internally, but in reality have little impact externally.

Draw conclusions

A target-oriented and sustainable measurement of success has to do above all with drawing the right conclusions afterwards. These fall roughly into three categories:

  • Learning from mistakes: In line with the lean startup approach, you should not see "mistakes" as defeat, but as a gain in knowledge. Even failures provide valuable data! They can give you insights that your competitors don't have because they don't experiment as much as you do.
  • Marketing budget: Therefore, you should always have a budget for experiments. Because only then will you come across new tools and methods that will move you forward. If you try something out and it doesn't work, then at least you don't have to worry about leaving potential lying around.
  • Optimize: Sometimes something will neither fail nor succeed. The decision is not always easy: invest further or leave it alone? That depends entirely on how important the measure is and what you expected from it. Sometimes even seemingly small things can be decisive. You may have created a great whitepaper, but its title is not appealing to the target group. But it is also possible that you missed the central question.
  • Research: Here it is important that you research well in advance. If you are sure that your content should actually be much more successful, then invest the time - and keep experimenting.
  • Strengthen strengths: You are in the lucky position and have scored a hit? Try to find out what exactly made this success happen - and repeat it. However, that sounds much easier than it is, as many one-hit-wonders show ...

Important in all this: Those who record their figures and then trust their own gut feeling, or ignore them for other reasons, can save themselves the trouble. Those who ask questions must also live with uncomfortable answers. Favorite projects should not be taboo if they prove inefficient. And just because a lot of time and effort has gone into something, it doesn't have to be kept alive (see "Escalating Commitment"“).

Lean Startup Approach

If you take a close look at the success of your content as described, you will certainly find a lot of potential. At the same time: Content Controlling should not be at the bottom of your to-do list. The sooner you find out what works well and what doesn't, the less time and energy you waste. Here I would like to come back to the topic of lean startup, which can also be applied to content: Test your ideas with simple means before you create a complex white paper, for example. For RAIDBOXES example, create simple blog posts before they become a complex e-book:

Interested parties may then perhaps subscribe to a newsletter distribution list to be informed about its publication. Only when the feedback suggests that there is a need for information do you get down to work. Or use channels such as social media to find out what your target group actually wants - and incorporate this into your planned content. Once your content is published, the work starts. You need to make known and disseminate and continue to work on it - as long as he hasn't turned out to be a total tube burst.

What questions do you have for Jan to measure your success?

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Jan is an online journalist and digital publishing specialist with over 20 years of professional experience. Companies book him as an author, consultant or editor-in-chief. He is also the founder and one of the editors of UPLOAD magazine. Photographer Author's picture: Patrick Lux.

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