When the concept of “content marketing” first took hold in the B2B world in the mid-to-late 2000s, the process of measuring content impact and effectiveness was a little bit like blindfolding a squirrel in 2,000-acre forest and giving it one minute to find the only acorn.

Sure, the squirrel might get lucky and find that acorn. But chances were better that it would wander aimlessly, wasting precious time and resources in the process.

Until recently, gauging B2B content marketing value wasn’t much different. Yes, we could track basic high-level metrics to help us loosely determine if the content we produced led to some sort of customer action. But that analysis was cloudy at best, and it did very little to answer two very important questions:

1. Which content formats, subjects, and channels are resonating most with specific subsets of our target audience?

2. What could we be doing to better optimize our content production and distribution so that prospects receive the right message at the right time, and feel naturally compelled to take the next step on their buyer journey?

Today, thanks in large part to the emergence of various tools and technology, it’s a little bit easier to answer those questions. Yet, at the majority of B2B businesses, the process of gauging content marketing effectiveness remains largely unchanged.

Instead of tracking and digesting the kinds of rich, insightful data those technologies and external marketing channels can provide, many companies continue to rely on mostly discrete, reactionary metrics (web traffic, blog comments, length of visit, etc.) to evaluate the value of their content. And, even worse, they typically evaluate those metrics in a vacuum — failing to piece them together to acquire a more complete picture of content effectiveness.

To be fair, those metrics do still matter and they can allow B2B businesses to validate certain aspects of content marketing value. But, as this Content Marketing Institute post points out, those numbers are only helpful if they’re properly sewn together with a handful of other metrics and KPIs — such as lead generation volume, customer acquisition growth, or content’s role in influencing a prospect’s sales funnel advancement.

So, how can you do a better job of gauging content value? Here are eight great content-specific KPIs that should provide a better insight into the performance of your content:

• Content throughput: Publishing volume and rate
• Content engagement: Views and comments across all channels
• Content dispersion: Likes, tweets, +1s, pins, etc. (i.e., how, when, and where your content is being shared)
• Content connection: Number of content interactions in the sales cycle
• Search lift: Keyword ranking improvement relative to indirect content exposure (i.e., social sharing)
• Traffic: Across all properties (Web, social, etc.)
• Content conversions: New subscribers, leads generated, opportunities created, deals closed, etc.
• Content value: Rough measure of revenue expectation from each content post

By tracking each of the measurements above, you’ll develop a richer perspective for how, why, when, and where prospects engage with specific pieces of content, at specific stages of the sales funnel. You can then use that information to determine which content levers to pull to drive greater impact and value, and determine when (or how) the sales team should use specific pieces of content.

If that process sounds too daunting for your smaller team, the good news is that tools already exist that can help you automate and manage that entire process. Whether you leverage that technology or not, however, the key going forward will be to expand the way you think about content measurement and evaluation. Because, frankly, if you’re not working to advance your content measurement efforts, you’re going to find it exceedingly difficult — if not impossible — to justify the value of your content program at all.