Starting With The End In Mind – Choosing Goals And Outcomes For Your Content Strategy

The flow of content never stops on the internet. How could it? The internet is built on content. It’s a global market of ideas and opinions all fighting to get heard and noticed. Brands are no exception, and content marketing is one of the best ways to get noticed.

However, as you probably know, it’s not a matter of throwing content up onto your site or your social media pages and hoping you get attention. Content must be backed by a strategy and aimed at an outcome.

If you’re posting content simply for the purpose of posting content because you think you have to, your content marketing strategy will not be effective. You have to start with the end in mind.

What do you want your content to do for your brand?

Choosing Goals

Your business wouldn’t make a product without a purpose, or offer a discount without a reason, right? Business decisions are motivated by goals, even something as simple as “generate more revenue”. What are some standard goals for content marketing campaigns? They include:

  • Increasing market share
  • Promoting a new product or service
  • Brand promotion
  • Improving SERP placement
  • Improving perceptions of your brand
  • Push visitors further down your funnel
  • Educating the public

These goals aren’t mutually exclusive, and content can serve multiple purposes. But each campaign should focus on just one or two of these at a time. Content for one goal may not work for another.

Take this piece, for instance. We’re educating our readership about the basics of content strategy, but it’s also a promotional piece for an e-book on the topic. You can download that book here, by the way. A side goal is that we hope readers will come back to our other pieces and be interested in what we have to say. We do have some opinions on content marketing strategy!

Measuring Outcomes

Goals are necessary, but today’s businesses run on data. Without the data to back up your marketing goal, you’re flying blind. It’s not the 1950s anymore!There are a lot of different metrics you can use to measure your content strategy. In order to make your strategy an effective one, choices need to be made about which metrics are the most important for your goals. This is an individual choice for each business, but here are some suggested ones for the goals above:

  • Increasing market share: SERP placement, VOC measurements on popular topics vs. competitors
  • Promoting a new product or service: Number of visits to promotional pages, number of conversions through those pages, number of comments on social media about the new offer
  • Brand promotion: Increased hits on your site, increased social media activity, increased dwell time
  • SERP placement: Change in ranking from baseline, position on new keywords
  • Brand perception: Increased engagement with your brand, more positive comments on your content, increased sharing
  • Lead Nurturing: Conversion rate changes, tracing content contacts from the first visit to conversion points

As long as the metrics are a reflection of the goal, move the needle so to speak, they can be used for measuring the success of your campaign. In fact, it’s best to reformulate your goal in terms of these outcomes once you’ve decided on which metrics you’ll use. So instead of “promote our brand”, you could say “increase the number of hits per month by 5,000.”

Avoiding Metric Flaws

In addition to measuring the right things, there are a few gotchas to know about that could affect the interpretation of your metrics. The first is getting a good baseline. A baseline, for those who aren’t familiar, is a measurement of where you are before you make a change. It is what you measure future changes against to see what is happening. Any content marketing campaign should start with a baseline measurement before you put up content.

A more subtle flaw is misjudging how fast it takes for a change to reflect in your metrics. Some metrics are immediate. If you put up a new page and wait a week, you can get an accurate count of how many hits that page received. But many metrics have a delay between the change and when they reflect in the metrics.

SERP placement is a good example. It takes time for Google to notice your changes and re-rank your pages. It could take days or even weeks for big changes to sort themselves out. Knowing about these delays can keep you from giving up too soon on your campaign and helps you set realistic goals. These delays may be frustrating in a business culture that demands immediate results, but there’s little that can be done about it. Better to be realistic.

Staying Reasonable

Another thing that having good goals and good measurements for outcomes is that it keeps your marketing goals reasonable. No matter how good your campaign might be, there’s only so far that your content marketing will budge the needle. Marketers may promise huge viral success, but virality is rather rare.

Popularity can be a goal. Over time and with good content, you can build a regular readership that’s interested in what you have to say. That’s different than hoping to hit it big with one good post or one good mention from an influencer. Content marketing is a long game. It can take months before you see the results you want.

But no matter how slow you’re going, as long as you’re moving forward you’re making progress. Again, this is why you need goals and outcomes. They give you a direction and a speed. Over time, as you make more campaigns and add more content, you can watch the changes and see how well you’re improving over time. Tools like Concured can tell you how well you’re doing in your niche and how well your content is doing versus your competitors.

By now, we hope that you know why it’s crucial to have a goal as part of your content strategy and why you need to have a way to measure outcomes to see if your content marketing strategy is moving in the right direction. As you build your campaigns over the next year, make sure these are clear!