Social Share Count Voted as Most Important KPI for Content Marketing

Social Share Count Voted as Most Important KPI for Content Marketing
Key 'Takeaways' From This Post

In our latest weekly poll we asked our SEO community which KPIs they considered to be the most important for a piece of blog content.

We had 398 participants, with 91% from North America & the UK. (See full details of participant geography).

KPI of blog content

Key Findings:

  • Social shares are considered the most important content KPI (24%)
  • Unique visits (23%), CTA Conversions (20%) & Backlinks (19%) also highly regarded
  • Pageviews (8%) & Positive comments (6%) considered less important


The survey results show that the majority of Digital Marketeers are wisely looking at a spread of metrics when they evaluate the success of their content marketing.

Social Shares came out as the top content KPI in results. Is this really the most important metric? We discuss the pros & cons of monitoring shares below.

Hot on the heels of Social Shares are 3 other metrics –

  • Unique visits – 23%
  • CTA Conversions – 20%
  • Backlinks – 19%

This result is very encouraging. It shows that Marketeers are alert to the significance of different KPIs and what they mean when evaluating the success of a piece of content.

The ugly ducklings (sisters?) of content marketing metrics are Total Pageviews & Positive Comments, which get just 8% & 6% of votes respectively.

It’s clear that although social shares are the top choice, SEOs who took part in the poll rated the top 4 metrics as all being important to some degree. It reaffirms that we cannot rely on one or even two metrics to measure our content, but like most marketing efforts, multiple channels are to be monitored closely.

How valuable are Social Media Shares?

The answer comes down to 2 things –

  1. How engaged are users when they share your content?
  2. What is the objective of the piece of content?

There is increasing evidence that people share content without properly reading it. In fact many people set-up bots to auto-share content from sources they trust. So they share this content before they even get time to read it themselves, without even knowing if it’s any good!

They do this for many reasons. But it boils down to 3 key reasons;

  1. They’re time-poor (TL/DR)
  2. Sharing content takes <60 seconds
  3. They want to appear active & connected on social media so their followers think better of them

Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat, which is a company that measures real-time traffic, has evidence that supports this –

NB – i didn’t actually read Tony’s research as I didn’t have enough time – but it sounds interesting!! 🙂

To pour more doubt on the value of counting Social Shares, in October (2015), Twitter redesigned its Tweet and Follow buttons and at the same time removed its share count information. This means that the total amount of social shares on any one blog post no longer contains Tweets – just ‘likes’ from other networks such as Facebook, G+, LinkedIn. This makes it harder to truly monitor the social share success of content as Twitter accounted for a high (HIGH) percentage of shares on many posts.

But having said all that, monitoring Social Shares does have value.

Firstly, it’s a good measurement of the reach, or distribution, of a piece of content. You can see how far is spreads within your network. This is important because it can get your content under the noses of all important Influencers who will hopefully share with their own networks and start to follow you directly.

Secondly, share count itself is a self-fulfilling metric. Many readers who come across an article will firstly look at the number of shares it has before deciding to read the piece or not. The more shares a post has the more likely it is to be worth reading, and the more comfortable the reader is with sharing it with their own network.

Social Shares create Buzz around content.

Content Marketing – Buzz vs Impact

So if Social Shares can create Buzz around a piece of content, what creates Impact?

At this year’s BrightonSEO conference, Christoph C. Cemper, CEO of LinkResearchTools, identified social signals as good for creating ‘buzz’ but not necessarily ‘impact’.

He also talked about other metrics which create Impact.

Metrics such as Backlinks, CTA Conversions (e.g. sign-ups, downloads) & Comments all demonstrate greater engagement by users with a site or content. And Cemper points out that Engagement takes effort and thought, which has a longer lasting ‘impact’ on the relationship between publisher & reader.

Hopefully that’s a relationship which leads to a sale for your business.

Adding to this, inbound marketing expert Neil Patel defines content engagement as “real people responding in measurable ways to your content”.

So which Metrics have a Lasting Impact?

Unique visits don’t have a long lasting impact themselves, but they are the first step towards engagement that does. They represent the ‘top-of-the-funnel’ which leads to other important actions such as conversions, sales & comments, so they’re useful to measure.

CTA Conversions are explicit interactions by users on your site. A user has taken the step to ask for more information or sign-up for your services, which gives you a chance to engage them deeply & build a lasting relationship.

Backlinks whilst not as directly important as Conversions, do carry a lasting impact. It takes effort & time for someone to place a link from their site to your site. They wouldn’t do this unless they genuinely like your content and want to alert their own readers to it.  That’s good impact and also has a lasting effect on your site’s search rankings.

Blog comments also demonstrate engagement – unless of course they’re hideous spam comments but i’ll gloss over those here. For someone to take the time to publicly comment on your post means they’ve really engaged with your content and want to be part of the conversation around it. Commenting is a sign of a healthy community which often attracts other readers & commenters to get involved – all around your content. Great interaction!

Conclusion – Monitor Reach, Buzz & Impact to Get Full Picture

As with most marketing activities we can’t get an accurate picture of success by looking at 1 metric in isolation.

By monitoring multiple KPIs you can evaluate the reach, buzz & impact of your content so you know its true value to the business. Knowing this allows you to plan your future content with much greater certainty and even greater success.

However, make sure you properly understand the significance of the metrics you monitor otherwise you might draw the wrong conclusions & take the wrong next steps.

I hope you enjoyed this post. We certainly enjoy receiving comments on our blog (hint hint) 🙂 and shares of course!

Please leave a comment and tell us which KPIs you personally measure for your content marketing success? And do you agree with the results & analysis above?

Poll participants:

  • 70% United States
  • 12% United Kingdom
  • 9% Canada
  • 4% Australia
  • 5% Rest of the World

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Ross Marchant
About the author
Ross is the former Marketing Manager for BrightLocal. With 9+ years SEO and content experience, Ross spearheaded the marketing and CRM initiatives which focus heavily on creating useful and informative content. Ross coordinated the research program at BrightLocal which delivers unique insights into both the SEO industry and local consumer behaviours.