Have you ever clicked on a web page only to leave it a second later? Shared an article on Twitter without actually having read it? How about made up a phony email address when downloading a piece of content so that you wouldn’t wind up on a mailing list?

Most of us have done things like this at one point or another. Heck, maybe you even do so all the time. And, in today’s content-driven world, who could blame you? After all, it’s not like we have the time to read everything that’s put in front of us, especially if it isn’t relevant. And it’s not as if there’s any harm in sharing content that you haven’t read (hey, the title looked interesting) just so that you can be active on social media. And, let’s be honest, who wants to fill their inbox with even more stuff to read? Virtually no one.

While there may be no harm in any of the above, it’s important to be aware of it. Particularly if you’re a marketer. That’s because all too often content marketers get hung up on trying to measure their success based on metrics that don’t always mean very much. My landing page got 5,000 views! It’s been tweeted 270 times! There have been 416 downloads of my eBook this week!

And while metrics like those can certainly make you feel good, how meaningful are they really? I mean, who cares about any of that stuff if your audience immediately decides that your content isn’t worth their time, or blindly shares your content without having actually consumed it, or would rather not sign up for your newsletter thank you very much. And yet we ascribe all of this value to things like page views, social shares, and downloads. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but just remember that they also aren’t necessarily true indicators of success.

Metrics That Matter

If I want to know whether or not my content is doing its job, there are other metrics that I can rely on. They’re metrics that show real engagement so that you have (at least to the extent possible) a much better idea of whether your audience actively consumed your content or just decided it wasn’t for them.

These include, but aren’t limited to, things like:

  1. Average Time on Page. Are your visitors spending three minutes reading your blog post or three seconds? If it’s the former, then you can assume that they actually spent some time reading your content (yes, perhaps they got up for a quick run to the bathroom instead; we’ll just never know). If it’s the latter, then you know that their visit was effectively meaningless.
  2. Number of Comments. While you can mindlessly share content just by clicking on a social sharing button, it takes a much higher level of commitment to leave a comment. The folks who do are generally the ones who are most interested in and engaged with your content. If you’re creating content that’s consistently generating lots of comments, that’s a big win. These are the folks who are most likely to come back to your site time and again, to view you as an industry expert, and to ultimately buy from you.
  3. Number of Backlinks. A backlink is when another website links to your content. What better indication of someone really thinking your content is worthwhile than to link to it on their own site? Admittedly, backlinks aren’t always a good thing. Sometimes spammers can be behind them, so you do need to be vigilant and monitor who’s linking to your content. Having said that, high-quality backlinks can be a good proxy for the success of your content.
  4. Number of Legitimate Downloads. Make no mistake about it: Conversions, including downloads, are a good thing. But make sure that you’re filtering out all of the bum email addresses that some people tend to use or the ones that are clearly their spam accounts (yes, I’m looking at you Hotmail, AOL, and maybe even Yahoo!). One way to do this is to require a business email address in your download form, dramatically limiting people’s ability to provide anything but their actual work address.

No matter what metrics you choose to measure yourself by, my one piece of advice is this: Make sure that they’re actually meaningful and help to drive your business forward. Vanity metrics like page views and shares don’t always add up to actual results.

Getting Results

Speaking of results, how can you maximize your chances of outperforming on all of the metrics above? The easiest way is to focus on the quality of your content. Make sure that you’re creating interesting, useful content that answers your customers’ questions or meets one of their needs. Beyond that, pay attention to how you’re writing. You want to adopt a style that’s engaging, demonstrates a distinct personality, and that people enjoy reading. If your content is a chore to get through, people aren’t going to engage with it. It’s that simple.

Good luck creating and measuring your content this year!