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Planning a vacation doesn’t mean just hoping in the car or on a train or plane and hoping for the best. First you figure out where you’re going and how you’ll get there. The same should be true of your brand’s content marketing. You don’t want to start producing content without a target or end goal in sight. Instead, you should know your content marketing goals. That way you know what you’re aiming for or what you want your content to do.

Setting content marketing goals is a critical part of creating a content marketing strategy. Goals are so important that Hubspot lists “define your goal” as the first step to take when putting together a strategy.

What is a content marketing goal and how do you decide which goals make the most sense for you? Once identified, how do you go about achieving them?

What Are Content Marketing Goals?

A goal is the desired outcome or result from a project. In the case of content marketing, a goal is the result you hope to achieve after launching a campaign.

There might be more to setting goals than meets the eye. You don’t want your goals to be vague or unclear. Instead, create something known as a SMART goal. In this case, SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable/attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Let’s break that down even further. A specific goal has clear targets in mind. For example, instead of “boost website traffic,” a specific goal calls for boosting traffic by 10 percent.

A measurable goal is something you can measure. If you know what your website traffic is now and you have a way to keep track of how many visitors you get, you can easily measure to see if traffic has increased by 10 percent or not. Some content marketers struggle with developing measurable goals, or at least with finding ways to measure their goals. According to research from the Content Marketing Institute, 31 percent of B2C marketers thought they were doing a fair or poor job of aligning their content marketing goals and their metrics.

An attainable goal is one you can achieve. What steps can you take to boost website traffic by 10 percent?

A relevant goal is one that matters for your brand. Why do you want to increase traffic? How will your brand benefit if you get more site visitors each month?

Finally, time-bound means you will work on achieving your goal over a set period, such as one quarter or six months. If there’s no end in sight, there’s no way to know whether or not you’ve ever achieved the goal.

Examples of Content Marketing Goals

The goals your brand sets for its content marketing will depend a variety of factors. What might be right for your brand might not be the best option for another, and vice versa.

That said, there are content marketing goals that are fairly common. Here are a few examples of the more popular goals marketers set for their content marketing:

Improve website traffic

Creating, posting, and promoting blog posts, videos, and other forms of website content is one way to improve your brand’s website traffic. You can track the number of clicks to your website from each piece of content to see what effect your content marketing is having.

Increase brand awareness

Increasing awareness of your brand might seem like a more “wishy-washy” goal — how can you prove that more people know about your brand? Well, one thing you can track is is how often your brand gets mentioned on social media. You can also ask people how they found out about your brand in a quick survey.

Increase leads

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 65 percent of B2C brands can demonstrate how content marketing has helped them increase leads. One way to track how content marketing helps with leads is to pay attention to the number of new leads you get from a particular piece of content, whether it’s a blog post, ebook, or video.

Increase sales or conversions

Around 58 percent of B2C marketers say they can show how content marketing has helped to improve conversions or sales. Tracking conversions can be a bit trickier than tracking leads because you need to track how many people click through from a specific piece of content then end up making a purchase.

Increase customer retention

Some content marketers hope to use content marketing to bring customers back. One way to do that is to send a customized email to existing customers full of useful links. You can then track how many people click through the email and end up taking some action, whether it’s requesting more information or making a new purchase.

How to Identify Content Marketing Goals

Which goals are right for you? It depends on where you are in your marketing and where you want to be. For example, if you’ve just launched or you’re not as well known as you’d like to be, increasing brand awareness might be the most appropriate content marketing goal for you.

If you’re somewhere in the middle and have some brand recognition but you’d like to people to take some sort of concrete action, your goal might be to increase leads or to increase conversions.

Finally, if you’ve gotten to the point where you have an established customer base and want to nurture and maintain that base, you’ll want to focus on ways to improve customer retention.

How to Set and Work Towards Content Marketing Goals

Once you’ve chosen a specific goal for your content marketing, the next steps are to work towards achieving that goal. Here’s what you can do.

Choose content that aligns with your goal

The type of content you end up producing will be in part determined by your overall goal. For example, if you’re hoping to retain customers, you might want to put together a blog post or video series highlighting how to make the most of the products you sell or highlighting new products you’ll be releasing soon.

Pick your KPIs

KPIs — key performance indicators — let you know if your content is on track and is helping you reach your goal. The KPIs you choose depend on your specific goal. For example, if you want to boost awareness, you’ll want to look at how many people are sharing your content on social or how many people are talking about your brand (such as using a hashtag you’ve created).

Track the content

Look at the numbers and data to gauge how your content is performing. For leads or sales, pay attention to the number of newsletter signups or the number of purchases. For increasing website traffic, look at the number of hits you’re getting and where they are coming from.

Adjust as needed

You might need to tweak some things or make adjustments as you go. For example, you might try promoting your content on a different social media platform or your might improve the SEO so that it ranks better in the search engine results.

You need to have a goal when you’re diving into content marketing. Without a goal (or goals), you have no way of knowing if you’re getting the most bang for your buck or if your content marketing efforts are paying off.