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Content Marketing Measurement Guide: 23 Definitions To Know

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Every time I use the words “analytics,” “metrics,” or “KPIs” in a discussion about the impact of content, a little voice goes off in my head. It’s the voice of Inigo Montoya from the movie, The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

While content marketers may recognize these terms relate to content measurement, it’s easy to confuse their distinctions. Read on for explanations of 23 common measurement terms and how they fit into your content’s performance strategy.

Content measurement definitions

Analytics

Marketo defines analytics as the practice of managing and studying metrics data to determine the ROI of marketing efforts like calls to action, blog posts, channel performance, and thought leadership pieces, and to identify opportunities for improvement.

Bounce rate

According to Google Analytics, a bounce rate is a single-page session divided by all sessions on your site. A bounce is a session that triggers a single request to the analytics server, such as when a user visits a page on your site and exits without taking further action. While a site exit doesn’t tell you much about your content (everyone leaves your site at some point), a page with both high exit and bounce rates may need changes to the content.

The bounce rate is a single-page session divided by all sessions on your site, says @joderama via @CMIContent @Acrolinx. Click To Tweet

Click-through rate (CTR)

A click-through rate is the percent of total viewers or recipients who clicked a link in a content asset (clicks divided by total recipients). It’s commonly used to gauge success for email campaigns, newsletter-driven website visits, and content promotions (e.g., display ads, native advertising), where the total number of recipients can be quantified (rather than estimated).

Conversion/conversion rate

A conversion happens when a consumer takes an action after engaging with your content. The action is what your organization designates as meaningful – purchasing a product, registering for an event or a gated asset, subscribing to a blog or newsletter, or joining a social media community. Calculate the conversion rate by dividing the number of visitors to the content who converted by the total interactions with that piece of content.

Customer acquisition cost

A customer acquisition cost is how much the company spent to obtain that customer. Take all the expenses – product research, development, manufacturing, marketing, advertising, etc. Divide that total by the number of customers within a designated time frame.

Calculate the customer acquisition cost by adding up all expenses and divide by number of customers in the time frame, says @joderama via @CMIContent @Acrolinx. Click To Tweet

Downloads

The download metric is commonly used to gauge performance for lead-magnet content assets like white papers, e-books, and infographics. It indicates a deeper level of engagement and interest than a view or visit because the user found the content valuable enough to save a copy to explore in more detail or share with others in their networks.

Engagement

Engagement is considered both a fundamental content metric and a content marketing goal. As a metric, it’s broadly defined as an act of content consumption –opening an email newsletter, reading a blog article, clicking on an ad or an interactive asset, or liking/commenting on a social media post. While engagement indicates at least a passing interest in your content, it’s not a particularly informative indicator of why the content captured audience interest. It’s often best used to contextualize other metrics rather than as a definitive decision-making tool.


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Entrances/exits

Entrances are the number of times visitors enter your site through a specific page or set of pages. Likewise, exits indicate how often visitors end their site visit on that page. A page with a high entrance rate could indicate it’s well-optimized for search. However, neither entrance nor exit rates are clear indicators of content success (or failure) on their own. It’s a good idea to correlate this data with other insights – bounce rates, time on site, user flow, and referral traffic sources – to get a clearer picture of what it indicates about your content performance.

Goals

Goals are the desired business outcomes to be achieved through your content marketing strategy. While the stated goal of content marketing is to drive a profitable action, your goals should be more specific and quantifiable, such as increasing sales conversions, saving the company money, building (or growing) a subscribed audience, or driving greater customer loyalty and brand satisfaction.

#ContentMarketing goals should be specific and quantifiable, says @joderama via @CMIContent @Acrolinx. Click To Tweet

KPI

KPI stands for key performance indicators. They are standard, agreed-on measurements for assessing progress against your content marketing goals. Potential KPIs might be average conversion rates, number of leads, quality of leads, or revenue per new customer.

Marketing-qualified lead (MQL)

MQLs are leads generated by the marketing team that satisfy the criteria to pass along to the sales team for further outreach.

Metrics

In contrast to KPIs, metrics are the business-as-usual measurements for things that add value to your organization but aren’t focused on the most critical goals. They might include website page views or likes on social media posts. Think of these as the “what-needs-to-be-true” numbers that can help you achieve or optimize your KPIs.

Objectives and key results (OKR)

OKR is a method to determine which metrics best gauge performance against your goals. It starts with designing a measurement pyramid that includes goals, key performance indicators, and metrics. CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose details the OKR process here. The end result should be your business mission segmented into strategic objectives. Each segment should connect to the OKR pyramid and be a source tool for each metric that goes into it.

1651661024 399 Content Marketing Measurement Guide 23 Definitions To Know

An example of OKR architecture results, mapped out.

Click to enlarge

Open rate

An open rate is a metric related to content delivered via email. It measures the percentage of subscribers who opened the email regardless if they clicked on any of the links in that content. Already limited in value due to its narrow focus, its reliability has come into question even further with the advent of Apple’s iOS email tracking changes.

Page views vs. unique page views

Commonly used to gauge website traffic, page views are the total number of times a site page is loaded by all visitors over a set time called a session, usually lasting 30 minutes. If a visitor views the same page three times during a session, total page views increase by three.

In contrast, a unique page view tracks views based on the visitor’s unique IP address, device, and browser. In the example above, the visitor who viewed the same page three times in a session would count as one unique page view. However, let’s say the visitor viewed the page two times in a Google Chrome browser and one time in a Microsoft Edge browser from the same URL. That would count as two unique page views.

If your website content is configured for Google’s Universal Analytics, look for page views and unique page views for each of your site page URLs under Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. If you’re working with Google Analytics 4, you’ll find the pages report under Engagement > Pages and screens, but will need to do some additional configuration to view data by page URL instead of the page title.

Referral traffic/rates

When a visitor reaches your domain through a third-party link (other than a search engine), it’s tracked by Google as referral traffic. In Universal Analytics, you can find referral data under Attribution > All Traffic > Referrals. For GA4, click on the Reports link in the left-side menu, navigate to Acquisition > Traffic acquisition, then type “referral” in the search box and hit enter.

You can see the sources that led visitors to your site, how many visits were referred from each source, and additional data on their behaviors after arriving on your site. As a metric, it’s a useful indicator of brand awareness and thought leadership. The more sources that send traffic your way, the more highly regarded your domain likely is – an outcome that leads to better domain authority and better rankings of your content on search.

The more sources that send traffic your way, the better domain authority and ranking of your #content on search, says @joderama via @CMIContent @Acrolinx. Click To Tweet

Registrations/subscription numbers

While gaining subscribers is among the top goals for content marketing (particularly for content brands and entrepreneurs), it’s also a metric tracked to gauge progress toward other achievements in the marketing funnel.

It refers to the total number of people who completed a form or other action to gain access to your content – attend an event, download a lead-magnet asset, receive email newsletters, join your brand community, etc.

When registrants or subscribers renew, that renewal rate is a metric that can be used to gauge brand loyalty.

Return on investment (ROI)

Return on investment is a broad term to describe how a company’s marketing initiatives drive profitable actions and business growth. Knowing ROI for content campaigns enables marketers to determine appropriate budget allocations, maximize the efficiency of each marketing expense, and demonstrate the impact of their efforts to their executive stakeholders.

Though it’s (arguably) the most critical measurement of a marketing technique’s effectiveness, the complex nature of attributing conversions to a particular asset can make content ROI difficult to calculate precisely, let alone prove definitively.

Sales-qualified lead (SQL)

An SQL is lead qualified by the sales team as active in the market. These leads are more likely to become a customer than an MQL.

Subscriber count

Subscribers are defined as audience members who have taken an action around your content (and provided some personal data to do so) in exchange for an expectation of receiving ongoing value. It is a core metric for measuring content marketing value.

Time on site/time on page

These metrics indicate how long a visitor spends on the site or a page. Visits that exceed the average time on page (or site) are a positive indication of interest and engagement with that content. However, it’s impossible to tell using this metric alone whether the user actively engaged with the content all that time or simply left it open on their browser.

Video views/duration

Video views measure how many times a video asset is watched. Duration indicates the time the average viewer plays that video. Just because a video was viewed in its entirety does not mean the viewer actively engaged with all of it.

Visits/unique visitors

A visitor is any internet user who arrives on your website (or mobile website). Seems simple, right? But what’s involved in characterizing that visit and how it gets factored into content measurement is more complicated.

In Google Analytics, to track site visits, the user needs to have enabled tracking cookies. (This is why the end of third-party cookies was likened, at least at first, to the end of digital marketing.)

There also is a distinction between visits and unique visitors. Visits encompass any time a user visits your site. Unique visitors refers to the number of people who browsed your site during a session. A unique visitor who visited several times during that session would count as one unique visitor. If they returned after the session, that would count as another unique visit.

Know what’s in the measurement name

Every content marketing program requires a solid measurement strategy. By knowing the terms and understanding how they fit in your brand’s content marketing, you’re at the start of a successful evaluation of your content’s effectiveness.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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The Complete Guide to Becoming an Authentic Thought Leader

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The Complete Guide to Becoming an Authentic Thought Leader

Introduce your processes: If you’ve streamlined a particular process, share it. It could be the solution someone else is looking for.

Jump on trends and news: If there’s a hot topic or emerging trend, offer your unique perspective.

Share industry insights: Attended a webinar or podcast that offered valuable insights. Summarize the key takeaways and how they can be applied.

Share your successes: Write about strategies that have worked exceptionally well for you. Your audience will appreciate the proven advice. For example, I shared the process I used to help a former client rank for a keyword with over 2.2 million monthly searches.

Question outdated strategies: If you see a strategy that’s losing steam, suggest alternatives based on your experience and data.

5. Establish communication channels (How)

Once you know who your audience is and what they want to hear, the next step is figuring out how to reach them. Here’s how:

Choose the right platforms: You don’t need to have a presence on every social media platform. Pick two platforms where your audience hangs out and create content for that platform. For example, I’m active on LinkedIn and X because my target audience (SEOs, B2B SaaS, and marketers) is active on these platforms.

Repurpose content: Don’t limit yourself to just one type of content. Consider repurposing your content on Quora, Reddit, or even in webinars and podcasts. This increases your reach and reinforces your message.

Follow Your audience: Go where your audience goes. If they’re active on X, that’s where you should be posting. If they frequent industry webinars, consider becoming a guest on these webinars.

Daily vs. In-depth content: Balance is key. Use social media for daily tips and insights, and reserve your blog for more comprehensive guides and articles.

Network with influencers: Your audience is likely following other experts in the field. Engaging with these influencers puts your content in front of a like-minded audience. I try to spend 30 minutes to an hour daily engaging with content on X and LinkedIn. This is the best way to build a relationship so you’re not a complete stranger when you DM privately.

6. Think of thought leadership as part of your content marketing efforts

As with other content efforts, thought leadership doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It thrives when woven into a cohesive content marketing strategy. By aligning individual authority with your brand, you amplify the credibility of both.

Think of it as top-of-the-funnel content to:

  • Build awareness about your brand

  • Highlight the problems you solve

  • Demonstrate expertise by platforming experts within the company who deliver solutions

Consider the user journey. An individual enters at the top through a social media post, podcast, or blog post. Intrigued, they want to learn more about you and either search your name on Google or social media. If they like what they see, they might visit your website, and if the information fits their needs, they move from passive readers to active prospects in your sales pipeline.

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How to Increase Survey Completion Rate With 5 Top Tips

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How to Increase Survey Completion Rate With 5 Top Tips

Collecting high-quality data is crucial to making strategic observations about your customers. Researchers have to consider the best ways to design their surveys and then how to increase survey completion, because it makes the data more reliable.

→ Free Download: 5 Customer Survey Templates [Access Now]

I’m going to explain how survey completion plays into the reliability of data. Then, we’ll get into how to calculate your survey completion rate versus the number of questions you ask. Finally, I’ll offer some tips to help you increase survey completion rates.

My goal is to make your data-driven decisions more accurate and effective. And just for fun, I’ll use cats in the examples because mine won’t stop walking across my keyboard.

Why Measure Survey Completion

Let’s set the scene: We’re inside a laboratory with a group of cat researchers. They’re wearing little white coats and goggles — and they desperately want to know what other cats think of various fish.

They’ve written up a 10-question survey and invited 100 cats from all socioeconomic rungs — rough and hungry alley cats all the way up to the ones that thrice daily enjoy their Fancy Feast from a crystal dish.

Now, survey completion rates are measured with two metrics: response rate and completion rate. Combining those metrics determines what percentage, out of all 100 cats, finished the entire survey. If all 100 give their full report on how delicious fish is, you’d achieve 100% survey completion and know that your information is as accurate as possible.

But the truth is, nobody achieves 100% survey completion, not even golden retrievers.

With this in mind, here’s how it plays out:

  • Let’s say 10 cats never show up for the survey because they were sleeping.
  • Of the 90 cats that started the survey, only 25 got through a few questions. Then, they wandered off to knock over drinks.
  • Thus, 90 cats gave some level of response, and 65 completed the survey (90 – 25 = 65).
  • Unfortunately, those 25 cats who only partially completed the survey had important opinions — they like salmon way more than any other fish.

The cat researchers achieved 72% survey completion (65 divided by 90), but their survey will not reflect the 25% of cats — a full quarter! — that vastly prefer salmon. (The other 65 cats had no statistically significant preference, by the way. They just wanted to eat whatever fish they saw.)

Now, the Kitty Committee reviews the research and decides, well, if they like any old fish they see, then offer the least expensive ones so they get the highest profit margin.

CatCorp, their competitors, ran the same survey; however, they offered all 100 participants their own glass of water to knock over — with a fish inside, even!

Only 10 of their 100 cats started, but did not finish the survey. And the same 10 lazy cats from the other survey didn’t show up to this one, either.

So, there were 90 respondents and 80 completed surveys. CatCorp achieved an 88% completion rate (80 divided by 90), which recorded that most cats don’t care, but some really want salmon. CatCorp made salmon available and enjoyed higher profits than the Kitty Committee.

So you see, the higher your survey completion rates, the more reliable your data is. From there, you can make solid, data-driven decisions that are more accurate and effective. That’s the goal.

We measure the completion rates to be able to say, “Here’s how sure we can feel that this information is accurate.”

And if there’s a Maine Coon tycoon looking to invest, will they be more likely to do business with a cat food company whose decision-making metrics are 72% accurate or 88%? I suppose it could depend on who’s serving salmon.

While math was not my strongest subject in school, I had the great opportunity to take several college-level research and statistics classes, and the software we used did the math for us. That’s why I used 100 cats — to keep the math easy so we could focus on the importance of building reliable data.

Now, we’re going to talk equations and use more realistic numbers. Here’s the formula:

Completion rate equals the # of completed surveys divided by the # of survey respondents.

So, we need to take the number of completed surveys and divide that by the number of people who responded to at least one of your survey questions. Even just one question answered qualifies them as a respondent (versus nonrespondent, i.e., the 10 lazy cats who never show up).

Now, you’re running an email survey for, let’s say, Patton Avenue Pet Company. We’ll guess that the email list has 5,000 unique addresses to contact. You send out your survey to all of them.

Your analytics data reports that 3,000 people responded to one or more of your survey questions. Then, 1,200 of those respondents actually completed the entire survey.

3,000/5000 = 0.6 = 60% — that’s your pool of survey respondents who answered at least one question. That sounds pretty good! But some of them didn’t finish the survey. You need to know the percentage of people who completed the entire survey. So here we go:

Completion rate equals the # of completed surveys divided by the # of survey respondents.

Completion rate = (1,200/3,000) = 0.40 = 40%

Voila, 40% of your respondents did the entire survey.

Response Rate vs. Completion Rate

Okay, so we know why the completion rate matters and how we find the right number. But did you also hear the term response rate? They are completely different figures based on separate equations, and I’ll show them side by side to highlight the differences.

  • Completion Rate = # of Completed Surveys divided by # of Respondents
  • Response Rate = # of Respondents divided by Total # of surveys sent out

Here are examples using the same numbers from above:

Completion Rate = (1200/3,000) = 0.40 = 40%

Response Rate = (3,000/5000) = 0.60 = 60%

So, they are different figures that describe different things:

  • Completion rate: The percentage of your respondents that completed the entire survey. As a result, it indicates how sure we are that the information we have is accurate.
  • Response rate: The percentage of people who responded in any way to our survey questions.

The follow-up question is: How can we make this number as high as possible in order to be closer to a truer and more complete data set from the population we surveyed?

There’s more to learn about response rates and how to bump them up as high as you can, but we’re going to keep trucking with completion rates!

What’s a good survey completion rate?

That is a heavily loaded question. People in our industry have to say, “It depends,” far more than anybody wants to hear it, but it depends. Sorry about that.

There are lots of factors at play, such as what kind of survey you’re doing, what industry you’re doing it in, if it’s an internal or external survey, the population or sample size, the confidence level you’d like to hit, the margin of error you’re willing to accept, etc.

But you can’t really get a high completion rate unless you increase response rates first.

So instead of focusing on what’s a good completion rate, I think it’s more important to understand what makes a good response rate. Aim high enough, and survey completions should follow.

I checked in with the Qualtrics community and found this discussion about survey response rates:

“Just wondering what are the average response rates we see for online B2B CX surveys? […]

Current response rates: 6%–8%… We are looking at boosting the response rates but would first like to understand what is the average.”

The best answer came from a government service provider that works with businesses. The poster notes that their service is free to use, so they get very high response rates.

“I would say around 30–40% response rates to transactional surveys,” they write. “Our annual pulse survey usually sits closer to 12%. I think the type of survey and how long it has been since you rendered services is a huge factor.”

Since this conversation, “Delighted” (the Qualtrics blog) reported some fresher data:

survey completion rate vs number of questions new data, qualtrics data

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The takeaway here is that response rates vary widely depending on the channel you use to reach respondents. On the upper end, the Qualtrics blog reports that customers had 85% response rates for employee email NPS surveys and 33% for email NPS surveys.

A good response rate, the blog writes, “ranges between 5% and 30%. An excellent response rate is 50% or higher.”

This echoes reports from Customer Thermometer, which marks a response rate of 50% or higher as excellent. Response rates between 5%-30% are much more typical, the report notes. High response rates are driven by a strong motivation to complete the survey or a personal relationship between the brand and the customer.

If your business does little person-to-person contact, you’re out of luck. Customer Thermometer says you should expect responses on the lower end of the scale. The same goes for surveys distributed from unknown senders, which typically yield the lowest level of responses.

According to SurveyMonkey, surveys where the sender has no prior relationship have response rates of 20% to 30% on the high end.

Whatever numbers you do get, keep making those efforts to bring response rates up. That way, you have a better chance of increasing your survey completion rate. How, you ask?

Tips to Increase Survey Completion

If you want to boost survey completions among your customers, try the following tips.

1. Keep your survey brief.

We shouldn’t cram lots of questions into one survey, even if it’s tempting. Sure, it’d be nice to have more data points, but random people will probably not hunker down for 100 questions when we catch them during their half-hour lunch break.

Keep it short. Pare it down in any way you can.

Survey completion rate versus number of questions is a correlative relationship — the more questions you ask, the fewer people will answer them all. If you have the budget to pay the respondents, it’s a different story — to a degree.

“If you’re paying for survey responses, you’re more likely to get completions of a decently-sized survey. You’ll just want to avoid survey lengths that might tire, confuse, or frustrate the user. You’ll want to aim for quality over quantity,” says Pamela Bump, Head of Content Growth at HubSpot.

2. Give your customers an incentive.

For instance, if they’re cats, you could give them a glass of water with a fish inside.

Offer incentives that make sense for your target audience. If they feel like they are being rewarded for giving their time, they will have more motivation to complete the survey.

This can even accomplish two things at once — if you offer promo codes, discounts on products, or free shipping, it encourages them to shop with you again.

3. Keep it smooth and easy.

Keep your survey easy to read. Simplifying your questions has at least two benefits: People will understand the question better and give you the information you need, and people won’t get confused or frustrated and just leave the survey.

4. Know your customers and how to meet them where they are.

Here’s an anecdote about understanding your customers and learning how best to meet them where they are.

Early on in her role, Pamela Bump, HubSpot’s Head of Content Growth, conducted a survey of HubSpot Blog readers to learn more about their expertise levels, interests, challenges, and opportunities. Once published, she shared the survey with the blog’s email subscribers and a top reader list she had developed, aiming to receive 150+ responses.

“When the 20-question survey was getting a low response rate, I realized that blog readers were on the blog to read — not to give feedback. I removed questions that wouldn’t serve actionable insights. When I reshared a shorter, 10-question survey, it passed 200 responses in one week,” Bump shares.

Tip 5. Gamify your survey.

Make it fun! Brands have started turning surveys into eye candy with entertaining interfaces so they’re enjoyable to interact with.

Your respondents could unlock micro incentives as they answer more questions. You can word your questions in a fun and exciting way so it feels more like a BuzzFeed quiz. Someone saw the opportunity to make surveys into entertainment, and your imagination — well, and your budget — is the limit!

Your Turn to Boost Survey Completion Rates

Now, it’s time to start surveying. Remember to keep your user at the heart of the experience. Value your respondents’ time, and they’re more likely to give you compelling information. Creating short, fun-to-take surveys can also boost your completion rates.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2010 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Take back your ROI by owning your data

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Other brands can copy your style, tone and strategy — but they can’t copy your data.

Your data is your competitive advantage in an environment where enterprises are working to grab market share by designing can’t-miss, always-on customer experiences. Your marketing tech stack enables those experiences. 

Join ActionIQ and Snowplow to learn the value of composing your stack – decoupling the data collection and activation layers to drive more intelligent targeting.

Register and attend “Maximizing Marketing ROI With a Composable Stack: Separating Reality from Fallacy,” presented by Snowplow and ActionIQ.


Click here to view more MarTech webinars.


About the author

Cynthia RamsaranCynthia Ramsaran

Cynthia Ramsaran is director of custom content at Third Door Media, publishers of Search Engine Land and MarTech. A multi-channel storyteller with over two decades of editorial/content marketing experience, Cynthia’s expertise spans the marketing, technology, finance, manufacturing and gaming industries. She was a writer/producer for CNBC.com and produced thought leadership for KPMG. Cynthia hails from Queens, NY and earned her Bachelor’s and MBA from St. John’s University.

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