Is your content marketing strategy working? How do you know?
It’s crucial for organizations to see that the financial investment, time, and effort spent on content creation is worth it. Otherwise, it’s money lost, and nothing gained.
Sales teams and business owners aren’t looking to waste time or funds on ineffectual content that doesn’t increase the bottom line or improve customer relations. You may be doing all the right things to position your brand within your industry, but if your labors aren’t reaping the rewards, it’s time to reassess.
That’s where tracking content marketing ROI, or return on investment, can help.
Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran to developing a content marketing strategy, the viability of your approach greatly depends on your understanding of content ROI. This guide breaks down the most salient topics related to content marketing ROI and discusses how to apply them to your business.
What is content marketing ROI?
Let’s start with a definition of content marketing. The Content Marketing Institute defines the term content marketing as follows:
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
It’s worth noting two important take-aways from the quote above:
- The content created should be valuable and relevant. It’s easy to put out tons of low-effort content, but if it doesn’t have any meaning or bring value to your customers, it’s pointless.
- The end goal of content marketing is to drive sales or increase revenue. It’s an effort in futility to put out valuable content that doesn’t reach your audience and doesn’t translate to sales.
Your investment in relevant content should reward you with increased revenue. In today’s digital world, where everyone has easy access to information, content marketing is the mode by which organizations can increase leads, expand sales, and attain loyalty.
In recent years, companies have become acutely aware of the benefits of adding value-rich content to their messaging, marketing, and branding. Content rules supreme to such an extent that 9 out of 10 companies use content as part of their marketing strategy. 78% of marketers cite better, more efficient content creation as the main reason for the increase in their content strategy success.
With those kinds of numbers, it only makes sense to track your content ROI to see if you are producing the right type of content for your audience—and whether that content is translating into conversions and sales.
Why is content marketing ROI important?
Investing in your content marketing strategy is no longer just something you should do, but something you must do for your company to succeed.
From top to bottom, every level of your sales funnel needs to include compelling content. Having valuable content and a strong content marketing strategy can position you as a leader in your industry. Measuring your content marketing ROI is the best way to see if the content your producing is having the desired effect, which includes increases in:
- website traffic
- lead generation
Content marketing ROI is vital because it allows businesses to quantify the investment they’ve put into the production of content.
But measuring content marketing ROI is not about a quick turn around or immediate results. It’s about playing the long game.
When you run a campaign, put up a new blog, or post a video, it can often take weeks if not months to get a complete understanding of the numbers and to see if those efforts reached your targeted audience and resulted in conversions.
Key Performance Indicators
So what exactly are you measuring? The answer depends on how you utilize the content to achieve your business objectives.
Maybe you want to measure how many new followers you have on social media, or how many new people have signed up for your newsletter or made direct purchases. These types of measurements are called metrics, and they will help you track key performance indicators (KPIs) such as traffic, conversions, engagement, authority, and SEO performance.
Have a look at this table from the Content Marketing Institute, which shows key content marketing KPIs and the metrics used to measure them.
That’s quite the list. Thankfully you don’t need to measure all of those metrics, but it’s wise to concentrate on at least a few for campaigns or content pieces you want to measure.
While the above table shows the abundance of metrics that can be measured, the focus here will be the four important content performance metrics, as described by James Duffy, plus an additional point. They include:
- Consumption metrics
- Sharing metrics
- Lead generation metrics
- Sales metrics
- Retention metrics
Depending on what content you’re analyzing, you will need to look at metrics obtained from your social media accounts, website, email, and any other channels you may have. Knowing which metrics to use can seem daunting, but it all depends on what you want to measure. Let’s have a look at each category and see which metrics might be best suited for your goals.
1. Consumption Metrics
Consumption metrics are the easiest to understand and can be used to measure traffic and brand awareness. They answer specific questions like: How many people consume your content? To what extent and frequency is your content consumed? Through which channels or platforms is your content being consumed?
Some metrics best-suited for measuring consumption include:
- Page views
- Video views
- Average time on the website
- Unique visitors
- Email open rates
- Abandonment rates
2. Sharing Metrics
These types of metrics measure the relevancy of your content and will help you gauge brand awareness and engagement.
You’ll want to know if your content resonates with people enough that they want to share it. Sharing metrics can help answer questions surrounding social media and your content. These include: What is the reach of your content on social media platforms? Which materials are shared, and by whom? How frequently is your content shared, and on what channels?
Metrics that measure sharing include:
3. Lead Generation Metrics
Lead generation metrics will tell you if your content leads to sales. Use lead generation metrics to measure lead creation, conversions, lead management, and lead nurturing.
Some essential metrics for lead-generation include:
- Bounce rate
- Click-through rate
- Subscriptions (blog and email)
- Form downloads and submissions
- Comments on blogs
- Rate of conversion
4. Sales Metrics
Sales metrics will tell you if your content is contributing to your sales. From these metrics, you can see if your content is impacting the sales funnel negatively or positively.
Key metrics used to measure sales include:
- Online sales
- Offline sales
5. Retention Metrics
Your most valuable customers are the ones you already have, so you want to hold onto them. Retention metrics let you know if current customers are consuming and engaging with your content, and whether that content contributes to customer loyalty and securing renewals.
Metrics to use here include:
- Return rate
- Pages per visit
Free Content Marketing ROI Calculator
Now that we know what we want to measure, we can figure out how to measure content marketing ROI.
For your convenience, we’ve created a simple ROI calculator in spreadsheet form that you can save or download a copy of to determine your content strategy’s ROI. Just input the amount you’ve invested in your content as well as your average returns—our free calculator will take care of the rest.
How to Measure Your Content Marketing ROI
If you’d rather manually calculate the ROI of your content marketing, here are three steps for finding it out.
Step 1: Determine the amount of your investment.
To figure out this number, include all the expenses associated with producing your content. Depending on the size of your company, some of these costs may be related to freelance workers or salaried employees. For employees, break down the cost by the number of hours they contributed to the initiative.
Costs may include any of the following resources:
- Stock images
- Video production
Step 2: Know your profit.
For this step, you will need to calculate the return from your content. This is where content marketing tools that track your metrics come into play. Gather these totals and have them at the ready to perform the ROI calculation.
Step 3: Calculate your ROI.
Use this standard equation to calculate your content marketing ROI for a single piece of content or a campaign.
Let’s test out the formula.
If you created a YouTube video that generated $5,000 in sales and it cost you $1,500 to produce, the ROI on your content would be 2.33 or 233%. That means the net value of the video is twice as much as the video cost to make.
Assessing and Evaluating Your Content Marketing ROI
The reason you want to know your content marketing ROI is to make sure money allocated to content is being spent wisely and on the right kinds of materials. Additionally, you need to know that your content is doing what it was designed to do, that is, raise awareness of your brand, secure interest, and generate sales.
As mentioned before, obtaining numbers from content marketing campaigns can be a slow process. It takes time to see the effects of the content on your audience, and because of this lag in time, it’s not uncommon to see low or even negative numbers in the initial stages of rolling out new content.
But if your ROI continues to bring back low results (percentages lower than 1), take this opportunity to change tactics. Reevaluate your content, your distribution channels, or your strategy.
How to Track Content Marketing ROI
So, where do you get the data to plug into your equation?
There are a plethora of analytic tools and resources that can help you acquire the numbers you need to calculate your ROI. Here are just a few of the different benefits you can gain from these tracking tools:
- Brand monitoring
- Trending information
- Tracking engagement
- Keyword information
- Backlink research
- SEO analysis
- Website audit
- Measure user interaction
- Increase conversions
Let’s have a closer look at some popular tracking tools.
If you’re running a business, you should already be familiar with Google Analytics.
This free and comprehensive analysis tool can provide you with essential information on your audience, as well as help you analyze, strategize, and gauge the success of your content. You can review information over a range of time or get real-time coverage too.
Here’s a look at the Google Analytics dashboard, where you’ll get an idea of the useful information available on the site.
Clearly presented data like this makes it easy to see how well your content is performing.
Social-Media Built-in Analytic Tools
Use these tools to measure engagement, reach, followers, and visitors. They can also provide detailed insights about your audience and help you gain a better understanding of them.
Various tracking tools like these come with a price but also give you more detailed information than you would get elsewhere.
These tracking tools, and others like them, allow you to gain access to a world of data and insights that would otherwise be unavailable to you. With analysis tools like these in your arsenal, you have a more than fair chance to improve your marketing content and thereby your content ROI.
According to a survey by the Content Marketing Institute, only 47% of organizations measure their content marketing ROI. That’s a missed opportunity for a staggering amount of companies—don’t let your business be one of them.
The fact is, content marketing isn’t going anywhere soon. It continues to be a prominent strategy in lead generation, lead maintenance and nurturing, brand authority, and sales. So why not get the most out of it? Plan to increase the use of content in your business—but make sure it’s relatable, usable, and aligns with your company objectives.
Use the tools on your channels and other analytic resources to obtain metrics that will help you strategize, set goals, and market your content. Then determine your content marketing ROI by utilizing the simple ROI calculation provided in this guide. With a clearer picture of your content marketing ROI in your back pocket, you’ll be steps ahead of the competition.
This article was written by Compose.ly writer Sophia Murphy.