How to Measure Content Marketing ROI

We all know that content marketing is valuable. 

With today’s global digital population reaching over 4 billion, online content is the easiest way to connect with your audience. The right content not only earns engagement, but it also shows your customers that you’re an informed and credible authority. 

The question is, how do marketing agencies prove the value of content to their clients? How do marketing teams convince their stakeholders that content is a good investment? While stats like “people using content marketing get a 60% customer return rate” are great, they’ll only get you so far.

What today’s marketers really need, is a framework for measuring real content ROI. 

That’s what you’re going to get here today. 

What is Content Marketing ROI? 

Content marketing is harder to measure than traditional marketing. 

When you’re running a PPC campaign, you can set how much you’re willing to pay for each click and use the revenue you earn from each campaign to calculate ROI. It’s simple. 

Content marketing isn’t as straightforward. With content, you’re making a long-term investment in recurring visitors overtime. Your results are things like loyalty, engagement, and repeat investment. All of those things are a lot harder to measure monetarily. 

To determine content marketing ROI, you need to show how the amount you earn from your content outweighs what you spend on professional writers and campaigns. 

On top of that, it can also take several months for content marketing strategies to deliver real results, which means that you can’t always see the direct ROI from content from day one. 

Why Measure Content Marketing ROI?

Since content marketing is notoriously difficult to measure, you might wonder why you should bother. Can’t you just tell your stakeholders that blog posts are the most shared content online, and be done with it? 

Unfortunately, no. Even if you aren’t getting pressure from clients and shareholders to prove the value of your content marketing, measuring your results is critical. That’s because the more you track the outcomes of your content marketing campaigns, the more you can:

  • Determine which content delivers the best results (video, blogs, podcasts, etc)
  • Build a business case for content marketing for team leaders
  • Optimize aspects of your content strategy (timing, promotion, investment, etc)
  • Enable more productive marketing strategies
  • Ensure you’re spending the right amount on content marketing.

So, we’ve covered the what and why, now it’s time to get to the how. 

How to Measure Content Marketing ROI

Though measuring content marketing ROI is complicated, it’s not impossible. 

All you need is the right framework. 

  1. Start with Setting Your Goals

The first thing you need is a smart goal. When measuring ROI, your goal helps you to determine exactly what you need to measure. For instance, if you’re investing in content because you want to improve brand awareness, then you’ll need to measure KPIs like the number of followers on social media, website traffic, and even brand mentions. 

The key to successful goals is making sure that they’re specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound. In other words, don’t just say, I want to increase my website visitors, say: “I want 10% more relevant website visitors by next quarter.”

This kind of goal highlights what you want to achieve, how, and by when. 

  1. Calculate Your Content Marketing Spend

Once you have your goal in mind, you can begin to examine the amount you spend on your content marketing. This the “Investment” part of your Return on Investment. 

Even if you’re producing your content in-house, rather than hiring an expert, there’s still a cost attached. Remember to think about:

  • The time or labor associated with creating the content.
  • The content marketing tools you’re using (and their price) such as Buzzsumo for trends, and Ahrefs to choose keywords. 
  • External content assets like premium images, video, or audio.
  • Cost promoting the content on social media and google search. 
  1. Calculating Your Return

If your content is working well, it will eventually lead to sales. 

Sometimes, there’s a direct link between your content and your revenue. For instance, with UTM codes, you can tag inbound traffic from referral, paid, or social sites to a content marketing page, and see how many people click on a CTA to buy a product. 

The basic content marketing ROI formula is:

Return – Investment / Investment x 100 =

For instance, if you end up with $2000 in sales after a month when spending $500 on your content, your content marketing ROI would be:

R ($2000) – I ($500) = $1500

$1500 / I ($500) = 3

3 x 100 = 300%

If you spend less producing content then you get in sales, then you’re succeeding in content marketing. The trouble is, it can be difficult to see a direct link between your incoming cash, and your outgoing content spend at times. 

Just because you earned $2000 this month doesn’t mean that it all came from your content marketing. You need to learn which metrics you can attribute to content. 

For instance:

Calculating Content Marketing ROI with Search Traffic

One of the biggest goals of content marketing is to build brand awareness and traffic. 

The more your customers know about your company and turn up to your website, the more likely they are to make a purchase and improve your bottom line. 

Measuring how your content marketing leads to traffic is easy enough. With Google Webmaster Tools and Search Analytics, you can see how many clicks you’ve received from search, how many impressions your term has received, and more. 

Google Webmaster Tools Search Analytics Reports

You’ll also be able to track the click-through rate from each content page. This means that you can see exactly how your organic traffic from the search engines is leading to improvements in your bottom line. 

To ensure that the traffic you’re getting is actually leading to sales, you’ll need to measure lead quality. Lead quality helps to see which percentage of the traffic that you get to your website is actually turning into sales. You know your content is working to improve your bottom line if:

  • People are reading your blog post and downloading your lead magnet
  • Visitors are clicking from a blog page to your other pages in your sales funnels
  • You’re getting contact from interested customers. 

Rather than just measuring organic traffic, make sure you’re seeing exactly how much of a return you’re getting with qualified leads. In Google Analytics, go to Conversions > Goals > Funnel Visualization and see which pieces of content are leading people to your checkout page. 

In this example, 30.37% of people looking at the trial page ended up at the checkout page eventually. This demonstrates that the content on the tracking page is delivering results 30% of the time. 

funnel visualization for goals in google analytics

To add this calculation into your content marketing ROI analytics, you can use the formula above. 

Return (30% of the income for that period) – Investment (the amount you paid to create the trial page) divided by Investment x 100 = ROI %

For instance, if the income for the tracked period above was $1000, and the company paid $100 to create the trial page, the ROI would be: $300 (30% of $1000) – $100 = $200 / 100 = 2 x 100 = 200%. 

Other Values to Track in your Content 

If tracking conversions through Google Analytics doesn’t work for you, then there are plenty of other tools available online to help you. Opt-in page providers like OptinMonster and Leadpages make it easy for you to track how many people are clicking on your offers and converting into sales.

If you’re using the right keywords to attract relevant lead, and you’re nurturing those leads with the correct kind of content, you should eventually get some return on investment. 

You can even track the exact numbers of how many pieces of content your audience consumes before making a purchase by going to Google Analytics then Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. 

Here, in the Page Value column, you’ll see the average value for the page that a user visited before they landed on a goal page. This stat will give you an excellent insight into which pages on your site contribute most to your revenue. 

A Guide To Page Value - The Undervalued Metric | Bounteous

The only problem here is that looking at Page Value only tracks the conversions that happen in a single browsing session. Content marketing isn’t always that direct. 

A visitor might read a blog they find on Google, leave your site to do some comparison shopping, then come back a few days later to complete a purchase. Tracking this kind of conversion is possible with Google Analytics too, thanks to Assisted Conversions. According to Google, Assisted Conversions are, “the number (and monetary value) of sales and conversions the channel assisted. If a channel appears anywhere—except as the final interaction—on a conversion path, it is considered an assist for that conversion. The higher these numbers, the more important the assist role of the channel.”

Assisted Conversions in Google Analytics tracks the number of conversions that a channel (such as your organic search content) assisted with at any point in the customer journey. 

To see which channels are driving your conversions, visit Conversions > Multi-channel funnels > Assisted conversions, then assess the lead or Direct Conversion section to discover the amount of money your content is generating both directly, and indirectly. 

Remember, you can also track content performance over time. Some pieces you create may become more or less relevant as the weeks pass, meaning that you get more or fewer sales. You can adjust the date parameters in Google Analytics by clicking on the date in the top right-hand corner. 

Using Google Analytics' Assisted Conversions - Whole Whale

Clicking on the Compare to option allows you to see if your conversions or sales are decreasing or increasing over time. This will tell you which pieces of content are delivering the most evergreen results, and which you might need to update and refresh. 

Other Metrics Worth Considering

The great thing about content marketing is that it delivers a lot of valuable results. 

Traffic from search engines is easy to translate into a monetary ROI value. However, there are other values that can make a difference to your bottom line too. For instance:

  • Exposure and authority: The more people see you as an authority the more likely they are to link to your content, increasing your reach and improving your chances of revenue. To track your exposure and authority, you can search for a keyword with Google Analytics, and see how well your website is ranking. You can also measure the return that you get directly from links to your content shared by other authority websites. 
  • Engagement: Engagement improves your chances of a better bottom line too. The more engaged people are with your content, the more likely they are to want to buy your product. This means that you have a higher percentage of revenue to attribute to your content. You can measure engagement in the form of things like the time your audience spends on a content page, the number of people who share your blogs and videos on social media, or even the number of comments that you get. 
  • Word of mouth: The more valuable your content is, the more likely it is that customers and other brands will want to share it online. Word of mouth has a direct impact on your bottom line, by exposing your content to more customers and improving your trustworthiness. Your word of mouth can lead to everything from extra sales, to better rankings on Google. 

Once you’ve found a specific monetary value for each of the pages in your content marketing strategy, you can also add in measurements like increases in engagement. If you know that your engagement levels have increased 20% in the last month, then you can equate that engagement increase to a 20% increase in your sales, tracking another potential monetary value.

Although it’s difficult to give precise financial values to every metric in your content marketing campaign, using these kinds of calculations will help to show stakeholders and clients how valuable your content is, in a language they understand. 

The Bottom Line on Content Marketing ROI

Content marketing is a long-term effort, designed to deliver results over time. 

You might not get a huge amount of ROI from a page as soon as you publish it. However, gradually, your organic content will begin to play a critical part in your customer’s journey. When this happens, you can track exactly which pages on your website are leading to the most conversions. 

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