Content Marketers Shouldn’t Forget About Traditional Ad Metrics Just Yet

Michael Foster

June 2, 2016

The only way to optimize your content marketing and maximize engagement is to take a close look at the metrics you get from your content distribution efforts. But there are many metrics out there, leading marketers to struggle. What metrics should you use, and where can you find them?

The answers to these questions have become increasingly complicated as the content marketing industry has matured. New metrics have emerged that tell marketers more about how users engage with the actual content, rather than just how well the ad for that content performs. But the emergence of new metrics doesn’t mean we can forget about the old ones anytime soon.

On-Page Metrics

This relatively new category of metrics has undoubtedly provided a big boost to content marketers. Content marketing is all about creating true engagement with the audience – and on-page or page-level metrics measure just that. Metrics such as time on page, shares/likes, scroll depth and scroll velocity measure a visitor’s engagement with the content and how interested they are in sharing it.

These data points are great at measuring how powerful and effective your content is. They tell you how much visitors like it, what types of content are working best and so much more. But they don’t tell you everything.

The 5 Click-Based Metrics

There are five traditional ad metrics that you still need to look at when determining how effectively your marketing strategy is attracting users to your content. Frequently-published lists of metrics content marketers need to use may not include these more old-school entries, but they certainly still matter.

So what are they?

1. Clicks

Clicks are the broadest measure of how effective you are in garnering attention. They tell you whether your headline and teaser image are working in driving users to your site. Looking at clicks is a helpful way to improve your headline and image testing. Eye-catching headlines and images are going to generate more clicks. It’s as simple as that. When looking at the performance of headline variant testing, for example, see if you can find patterns and try to replicate the headlines that receive the most clicks.

2. Click-through Rate (CTR)

Click-through rate (CTR) is another way of measuring the efficacy of an ad since it tells you how many clicks per ad views your ad is logging. There is no standard CTR for all channels and verticals, and many variables go into CTR, so it’s not always a perfect indicator of the effectiveness of a headline and image. Fortunately, there are baselines for each channel that you can use to determine the general effectiveness of your ad. If your CTR is below that baseline, something probably isn’t quite right. Maybe you aren’t identifying the right audience, or maybe you aren’t using the right channel for your content.

3. Cost-per-click (CPC)

Cost per click (CPC) is a measurement of how much it costs you to get a click on an ad. This is the main metric used by Google, Facebook and many smaller sites and ad exchanges, so it’s unavoidable. Like CTR, it may not always be the best indicator of the success of a content marketing campaign because of the different variables involved, but CPC is still a widely used metric for buying ads. It’s the language the industry speaks, so it’s crucial to continue paying attention to CPC and understanding how it can vary.

4. Impressions

Impressions are the counterpoint to clicks – an impression just means that the ad was served on a site, whether it was clicked on or not. This is the denominator in the CTR formula, where CTR = clicks/impressions. More impressions are not necessarily good if they aren’t accompanied by clicks, though, because delivering more impressions can mean it took more attempts to hit your goal. But a large number of impressions can be useful in identifying the overall reach of your campaign – that is, how large of an audience you’re able to reach in a given period of time. So content marketers should have a nuanced approach to impressions and keep in mind that a large number of impressions could be good or bad, depending how you look at it and what your specific goals are.


In an age of on-page optimization, traditional ad metrics are still important for content marketers looking to build relationships with their audiences.

Even with all of the new ways of measuring engagement, these ad-level metrics remain crucial because they help capture how effective your overall content marketing strategy is. The most successful content marketers are those who take a holistic approach – there’s no one individual metric, or even a category of metrics, that tells the whole story.

Michael Foster is a full-time freelance writer and media analyst who has written on advertising and digital media for six years. He has worked for IAB, PulsePoint, Quantcast and several other major players in the marketing world.

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