Measuring Content Marketing ROI: Show Me The Money

Content Marketing Masterclass: Part Nine

There was the one time where I landed a six figure project because of a single blog post and I could see the exact ROI of that post in my checking account – every single penny of it, that is. Usually, however, it doesn’t quite work this way.

I see a lot of content creators left wondering what their hard work of making and distributing their content is actually doing for them.

So how do you measure the ROI of your content marketing efforts?

In this post, I’ll teach you how to measure your content marketing ROI and what metrics you need to start tracking to gain a better understanding of how your content pays off. I’ll also discuss other ways your content marketing can benefit your business and how to actually measure those benefits as well.

This post is Part Nine (and the last one) in a brand spanking new Masterclass Series on Content Marketing. We believe it’s an incredibly important topic – and according to a little survey we did, you do too. Trouble is: there is so much content on content marketing out there (talk about meta) and a lot of the intel is conflicting.

We bring this Masterclass to you in partnership with Anouck Meier, Chief Storytelling Officer at Ampersand. Anouck is a conversion copywriter and a content marketing strategist who has worked with numerous brands, big and small, to help them achieve their business goals through strategic content. Let’s get the story on content straight once and for all in a comprehensive guide. Ready to dive in?

– Jeroen Corthout, Co-Founder Salesflare, an easy-to-use sales CRM for small B2B companies

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A Word of Warning

If you Google “content marketing ROI” (and, if we do our job well, there is a good chance that is exactly how you stumbled upon this article), you’ll find a gazillion articles with as many formulas and methods to calculate the ROI of your content marketing.

Turns out, even though the invention of tracking URLs and other technology has definitely helped marketers to determine the success of content, determining the exact ROI of a specific piece of content or a content marketing campaign is still incredibly hard. 🧐

How do you tell if your blog posts, podcasts, or videos are leading directly to a purchase — especially when the content isn’t on or linked directly to a landing page?

Even if you find some way of measuring this, a lot of methods are flawed: they don’t look at the bigger picture, don’t take into account non-financial gains (including audience growth) or only consider ROI in the short term.

So while measuring ROI is important – don’t forget to put your findings in perspective.

Some loss-leading campaigns might be good for business. Over time, they might contribute significantly to building your brand. Sometimes there is a considerable lag time before you see results. And often it’s extremely difficult to attribute results to a particular piece of content or one single campaign.

So don’t just look at each piece of content like an expense that helps you meet short-term business objectives. Consider treating your content – and the audience you’re creating – as a long-term asset that builds increasing value over time.


Content ROI 101: the Basics

What is Content Marketing ROI?

First things first: when we’re talking about content marketing ROI, what are we talking about exactly?

Content marketing ROI is a figure that shows you how much money you earned from content marketing in comparison to what you spent.

While measuring the ROI of your content and the success of your content aren’t synonymous, they are interdependent. ROI focuses on the actual money and time spent on creating and promoting content.

The success of content depends on the goals you set for your content in the first place, whether that’s social shares, qualified leads, building brand awareness or something else still.

 

What is a good ROI?

Determining one overall marketing ROI benchmark is challenging – if not impossible – because no marketing tactic is created equal. What’s considered a “good ROI” can vary based on your industry, your type of marketing strategy and your distribution channels.

Some companies will consider a good ROI making more than a dollar for every dollar they spend on their content. Or, in other words: if they spend spend less on producing content than they earn in sales, then it’s worth it.

Others will set (much) higher benchmarks.

For most businesses, though, a good way to set a benchmark is to look at the return from similar content in the past, as well as current sales numbers. That information should help you too to create ROI benchmarks and goals that are realistic for your company.

content marketing ROI being measured
There’s no one-size-fits-all content marketing ROI benchmark.

 

How to Measure Content Marketing ROI in Three Simple Steps

As I’ve mentioned, there are many ways to measure content marketing ROI. Let’s take a look at a straightforward formula to weigh the cost of your content against the revenue you earn from it.

Here’s how you work it out.

 

1. Calculate the cost of content creation and distribution

Include all costs of actually producing and distributing your content:

  • cost of labor: the creator’s salary or the fee for work done by others (whether they’re contractors or in-house staff)
  • cost of external assets: photos, videos, audio,…
  • paid promotions: PPC advertising, social advertising,…
  • subscriptions: fees for tools or software to create or distribute your content
  • any other costs you may incur (e.g. hosting fees, technical equipment,…)

Let’s say, as an example, that you’re spending $1500 in total on a piece of content like a podcast episode.

 

2. Calculate the return

If there’s a clear link between content and revenue (like when people read a piece of content and then click on your call to action to buy), you’ll know how much you earned.

Let’s assume, for our example, that you get 150 downloads per month of the white paper that come directly from your podcast. You know this because you use a tracking URL on the show and in your show notes which leads to your landing page where listeners can download the white paper.

Your conversion rate from a lead (someone who downloaded the white paper) to a sale is two percent.

As a result, every episode of the podcast is responsible for three new customers.

You know that your average customer is worth $1,500 to your company. Your podcast brings in an average of $4,500 per episode in net revenue to the company. That is your return.

If the relationship between content and sales isn’t as direct, consider some of the less obvious content marketing metrics later in this guide.

 

3. Compare cost and return to calculate your ROI

To calculate your final content marketing ROI, apply the formula “return minus investment, divided by investment, expressed as a percentage”.

Here’s an example of how that breaks down:

If you spend $1500 on creating a piece of content and get leads worth $4500, then your ROI is 200%.
(Revenues) $4500 – (Investment) $1500 = (Return) $3000
(Return) $3000 / (Investment) $1500 =
(ROI) 2 or 200%

That wasn’t too painful, was it?

know your content marketing ROI numbers
Know your numbers: tracking your ROI will help you make solid choices about what type of content or channels to invest in.

Content Marketing Metrics: To Track or Not to Track?

Now that you understand how to work out your content marketing ROI, let’s look at some key metrics – including some less tangible ones – that help you understand content marketing ROI even better.

Don’t try to track all of these all the time. Instead, set specific goals and choose just a few meaningful metrics to track.

 

Goal: Actively Engaging Your Audience

Website traffic is essential for content marketing to work: no traffic, no revenue. But you need more than just traffic. If website visitors don’t actually engage with your content, you won’t be successful.

Use the following metrics to quantify the opportunity to connect with potential customers at the top of your funnel:

  • Traffic to highest-traffic pages – Check which content is attracting the most content to your site. Look at how your traffic is growing over time and where it’s coming from. If you identify the main source(s) of your traffic, you’ll know which channels to double down on, and which ones you should ditch.
  • Repeat visits and time engaged – Some important stats you’ll want to analyze are pages per session, average session duration, and bounce rate. If people land on what you thought was an epic blog post and leave again within seconds, you’re in trouble. However, if your analytics show they are reading to the very end, checking out other related posts or subscribe to your newsletter, then you know you’re doing something right.
  • Offsite engagement  – If people are digging your content, they’ll share it with their peers on social media. Social proof is a huge driver of purchase decisions, which is why you should keep an eye out for social media engagement and referral traffic. Use Google Analytics and Buzzsumo to do so.
is your content marketing generating leads for your pipeline
Is your content engaging throughout your sales pipeline? Or are you losing potential customers at the top of your pipeline already? Check your engagement metrics.

 

Goal: Making Money With Content

There are two metrics in particular to track if you’re trying to figure out whether your content has money-making potential.

  • Lead Quality – Content marketing is crucial for lead generation. However – if you’re attracting leads that won’t ever buy anything from you, you’re wasting time and money.There are a lot of ways to measure lead quality. For example, if you’ve just created a blog post with content upgrade, you can tell it’s working to attract quality leads if people are actively downloading your content upgrade or if they’re checking out related resources that are part of your sales funnel. Getting in touch and asking pre-sales questions is also a sign you’re attracting the right type of leads.On the other hand, if you’re getting a lot of traffic but have a high bounce rate and low conversions, you may need to switch gears. Those are clear indicators that the leads you’re attracting are low quality, and aren’t looking for what you have to offer.
  • Sales –  If you’ve got qualified leads and you’re feeding them the right content at the right time, then some of them should be buying something.You can uncover the exact numbers in Google Analytics by navigating to Behavior » Site Content » All Pages. The Page Value column shows you the average value for a page that a user visited before landing on the goal page or completing an eCommerce transaction. This metric will give you a general idea of which pages contribute to your revenue.Bear in mind that conversions may happen over more than one session, in which case Assisted Conversions is the more helpful metric. This is particularly the case if repeat visitors leave your site after reading your blog post, only to come back a few days later to make a purchase. Just click on a channel and look at the Lead or Click Direct Conversion Value column to see how much money it generates, directly and indirectly.Again, don’t forget to put things into perspective and track content performance over time, since some pieces of content may become more or less relevant, and drive more or fewer leads and sales. Adjust the date parameters in the tool you’re using to get a better feel for what’s working and what’s not over time.

 

Goal: SEO Success

When researching a buying decision, 85 percent of users ignore paid ads and focus on organic search results. Appearing among the top results for organic search can therefore significantly impact the potential for generating leads and sales, making SEO success an important metric to track.

To analyze your overall SEO performance, you can check that:

  • you’re getting website visits that originate from search engine results pages (SERPS), not just from ads.
  • your content ranks well for your target keywords (ideally among the first three results, but in any case on the first page of SERPS).
  • you’re appearing in answer boxes for relevant terms.
  • your domain authority is high.
  • you’re getting sufficient inbound links.

The best results are achieved by tracking these metrics continually. The goal is to quickly notice things like steady declines in ranking over a period of a few weeks.

Finally, if you want to dig a little deeper still, you can calculate the cost of organic traffic vs. paid traffic. One simple way to calculate this is to look at your average cost per click from paid search. Apply that number to your organic and social traffic to get the value of these visitors.

cost of organic traffic vs paid traffic
Calculate the cost of organic traffic vs. paid traffic to inform your content marketing choices.

 

Goal: Gain Exposure and Authority

Consuming content greatly increases affinity and trust. Consistently putting out valuable content your customers love, will put you in an expert position.

The more people see you as an authority, the more they will want to share and link to your content. This in turn increases reach, and improves the potential to generate leads and sales.

To track your exposure online, you can analyze the SEO metrics we discussed above. At its most basic level, just search for a topic keyword and see where your site appears.

Take it one step further and check unbranded search traffic to your website: how many of your early-stage prospects find your company website? You can identify this by looking at search traffic from brand terms vs. unbranded search terms.

Most companies promote too much on their websites. If you write more about the trends in your industry, you will not only be seen as an authority, you will attract more unbranded search traffic.

Offline, you can assess your exposure and authority by analyzing whether:

  • You’re getting coverage from respected media outlets, including radio and television. Create a spreadsheet to track offline media mentions.
  • You’re getting referrals from existing customers or partners. Add those to your spreadsheet as well.
  • You’re asked to participate in industry events, give keynotes at conferences or participate in expert roundups. Track this by monitoring the number of invitations you get.

As soon as people start seeing you as an authority, that will lead to an increase in business referrals, leads, and sales, improving content marketing ROI.


Conclusion

There you have it—a bunch of content marketing metrics to help you assess your content marketing ROI.

Remember, don’t try tracking every single metric above – you might get stuck in an analysis paralysis.

What’s more important, is to pick the metrics that will inform your strategic content marketing decisions. Those decisions will have a direct impact on whether you meet your goals or not.

And when you can actually see that all your content marketing efforts are paying off, you’ll gain all the motivation you need to keep that content coming. 👊


Do you consistently measure the ROI of your content? What’s keeping you? Let us know in the comments!

We hope you liked this post. If you did, spread the word!

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Anouck Meier

Chief Storytelling Officer at Ampersand Copy & Content
I help companies engineer content marketing strategies to build their tribe while adding to their bottom line. I’m also notorious for writing converting copy for sales funnels that doesn’t make you want to rip out your eyeballs.