This blog post was originally published on July 24, 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and relevancy.
There’s no doubt that content marketing is a powerful strategy for business growth. In fact, one study found that for every dollar spent, content marketing generates 3x more leads than paid search.
The downside is that content marketing is a long-term strategy; it takes time and effort to generate results.
The good news? When done right, it generally pays off.
Why Content Marketing Works
Content marketing can help you to increase your traffic, build trust with your audience, and even provide a separate stream of revenue for your business.
For example, someone may be searching for something on Google and, because they’ve developed some sort of relationship with you, may be more likely to click on your listing over a competitor of which they aren’t familiar. You may also show up higher in personalized search due to the fact that someone has already visited your site or viewed your content.
Or you might receive higher search rankings in general as a result of earned backlinks from your content marketing efforts.
Content marketing is also powerful due to the principle of reciprocity which is the idea that people tend to feel an obligation to give back once they have received something.
Think about the last time that your friend treated you to dinner. Chances are, you felt some sort of obligation to treat them back. The same goes for your leads. When you give them something (like a free piece of content), they tend to feel more inclined to give back (and buy from you).
In short, there are a number of reasons why content marketing works. The only problem is that the results of content marketing can be very difficult to measure in terms of ROI. But measuring certain vanity metrics can at least give you an idea of what content is working and what’s not working.
What Are Vanity Metrics and Why Do They Matter?
Vanity metrics are metrics that can’t be directly correlated with profit. Think: The number of Facebook likes, web page visits, social shares, blog comments, search impressions…
While vanity metrics obviously aren’t as important as your actionable metrics, they still deserve attention, as they can give you an idea of how your content is performing.
Vanity Metrics You Should Pay Attention To
So with that, here are three vanity metrics that you shouldn’t ignore:
1. Page Visits & Time On Page
First, note that publishing content is almost never enough. It’s important to develop a proactive plan for promoting your content through outreach, social media and even paid ads.
Knowing the number of (unique) visits to your pages and the average time that users spend on each page will help you get an idea of how many people you are reaching and how interested people are in your content.
Time on page of more than two minutes is a solid indication that your users are not only visiting your page, but that they are actually sticking around to read or view the entire piece (or at least a fair portion of it).
2. Social Shares & Comments
Social shares and comments can also be a good indication as to whether or not your content is resonating with your audience.
What are people saying about your brand? How are they responding to your content? Which content do people engage with the most?
Knowing the answers to those questions can help you to create content that’s better tailored to your audience—and ultimately increase your conversions.
3. Top Exit Pages
Just like it sounds, an exit page is the last page that your visitor sees before leaving your site. If your “Thank you” or “Contact” page has a high exit rate, then this obviously isn’t something to worry about.
But if you find that users are leaving on a certain blog post page or your homepage, for example, then that’s probably not the greatest sign. You might discover that there’s something on those pages that’s causing visitors to bounce.
For example, maybe your visitors are leaving the page because there’s no call-to-action encouraging them to take that next step. Or perhaps it’s due to your confusing website hierarchy. Or there could be too much or too little information on the page.
Here’s the thing: A high number of page views and social media comments aren’t going to make you any money. Period.
Who cares if 1,000 people visit your page but nobody converts?
For that reason, you should take your vanity metrics with a grain of salt. Because there are many more KPIs that are far more important.
At the same time, taking notice of the aforementioned vanity metrics can at least give you an idea of what content or web pages are performing well and what needs improvement.
Who knows, you might gain valuable insights that will help you to increase your conversions and sales.