Any marketer can tell you that it’s not enough to say you have a good campaign running; you have to prove it. The obvious place to look is your overall return on investment (ROI), but in content marketing, ROI is a complicated value that comprises dozens of individual variables, and some benefits that aren’t easily quantifiable, such as brand recognition. That’s why many content marketers drill down to individual metrics, like site visitors, to gauge the effectiveness of a campaign.
On the surface, visitor counts seem like a good point to measure — it tells you how many new people you’re attracting to your website, which is one of content marketing’s main goals — but is this really the right metric we should be measuring?
The Value of a Visitor
Visitor numbers look pretty — big numbers are often appealing to marketers — but how much value do they really have? What are they worth?
· Brand visibility. An incoming visitor gets to see your brand fully — not just a blip or a mention of it — which means you’ll earn a higher reputation with that individual. Repeated enough times, the mere exposure effect starts to set in, whereby visitors feel a preference for something simply because it’s familiar.
· Conversion potential. Every new visitor represents some degree of potential for conversion. For example, if your average conversion rate is 5 percent, each new visitor you receive represents 1/20th of a transaction (if you choose to see value this way). This is the simplest way to quantify visitor value.
· Followership and loyalty potential. You should also count each new visitor as a potential long-term follower who could become loyal to your brand — some percentage of them will. There are many benefits to this, including increased opportunities for conversion and the possibility for brand evangelism.
Reflection of Effort
Obviously, visitors are valuable, but how well do they reflect the results of your effort? Content marketing can draw visitors in from a number of different angles:
· Direct visits (from reputation and awareness)
· Social visits (from syndicated posts)
· Referral visits (from inbound links in external content)
· Organic visits (from search result visibility)
However, each of these angles could draw in visitors from other means. For example, you might earn social visitors from your regular posting efforts, or you might earn referral visits from a sponsored link you have on a partner’s site. Because of this, visitors are a helpful — but not an entirely reliable — way to monitor your overall campaign growth. You can use Google Analytics or a similar platform to dig into specifics and get a more accurate picture, but that also takes considerably more time and effort.
Other Variables to Consider
In addition to visitors, there are a number of other campaign variables you need to consider:
· Specific channel origin. The origin of your visitors plays a huge role in the eventual behavior of those visitors, and contains significant clues to your campaign’s success. For example, if you spend a disproportionate amount of time on off-site content and link building, but your referral traffic isn’t as strong as your other areas, it means either your off-site efforts are inefficient in some way or your efforts are better spent elsewhere. Glancing at your overall visitors doesn’t give you enough information to make the call.
· Indirect effects. Studying your visitor counts also doesn’t give you any insight to the peripheral effects of your content. For example, let’s say a reader sees your name attached to a piece of off-site content and thinks more highly of you as a result; they never visit your site, but they become more aware of your brand. Brand awareness, visibility, and reputation are notoriously difficult to quantify, but they’re all significant in the overall performance of your content campaign.
· Conversion rates. Though conversions can help you judge the value of a visitor, you also need to measure your conversion rate as a separate variable. Is your content encouraging people to sign up for your services or buy your products? Is your content keeping people onsite long enough for them to become acquainted with your brand? Even if your visitor counts are high, if your conversion rates are low, your total ROI may be worthless.
· Visitor impressions. Finally, knowing how many people are visiting your site doesn’t tell you anything about what those visitors actually think about your brand. Did they like what they read, or did they walk away frustrated and annoyed? Did they remember your brand name or did they bounce, never to think of you again? These are important subjective variables you’ll need to consider.
The Bottom Line
Visitor counts are not a perfect metric, nor can they possibly tell you everything you need to know about a campaign. Visitor growth isn’t enough to prove your campaign is working, and alternatively, visitor declines aren’t enough to prove your campaign is failing.
However, visitors are an important metric that you need to be considering — in fact, I wouldn’t consider your content marketing audit to be complete without it. Instead of polarizing its importance one way or the other, include visitors as one of several metrics to measure as part of your overall “picture” of your content campaign.