March 18, 2022 (Updated: June 8, 2023)
More businesses than ever rely on content marketing to build awareness, engage audiences, and generate conversions. And as part of a larger strategy, content marketing can be extremely impactful. But the question still remains for a lot of marketers: is all this effort truly paying off?
To answer this question, it’s critical to track your ROI to know if your approaches are driving results. Today, we’re covering the “what” and “why” of understanding your content marketing ROI.
Your content marketing ROI shows you how much your company gains from its efforts compared to how much it spends on the campaign. For the most part, we think of ROI as being tied directly to revenue and sales. But this isn’t always the case with content marketing.
Many content marketing campaigns relate ROI to other goals that aren’t as obvious as closing a sale. While an eCommerce brand might see its ROI as actual customer purchases, a service provider might look at it differently. Besides sales, ROI can tie into generating pageviews, creating more engagement, or simply increasing brand awareness.
So, content marketing ROI won’t necessarily look the same for every business. In essence, though, you’ll still compare goals with key metrics to determine the success of your campaigns. Using these results, you’ll be able to see what your business is actually generating from its efforts—and where you’ll need to adjust.
According to Hubspot’s State of Marketing Report, 82% of companies actively use content marketing. It also states that businesses, in general, allocate about 26% of their marketing budget toward content creation and marketing strategies. But that doesn’t mean everyone understands how to measure content marketing ROI. In fact, 54% of companies say it’s moderately difficult to measure content marketing ROI, and only 43% attempt to measure it at all.
One of the main reasons that content marketing ROI is hard to measure is the time it takes. You won’t always see the fruits of your labor right away. Because of this reason, many businesses might only focus on the actual sales, signups, or downloads that produce the fastest tangible results.
Another challenge is knowing which key performance indicators (KPI) to track. Content marketing encompasses a vast pool of strategies, making it trickier to establish the KPIs that will give your team the insights you’re looking for.
When it comes to the metrics, most of us gravitate towards traffic and clicks. But developing a focused plan of attack can mean looking more closely at some of the KPIs you may not have thought of before. Here are the most common KPIs you’ll see in content marketing analysis and what they mean for your ROI:
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It’s the process that helps to improve your website’s search engine visibility. Some key SEO strategies include:
Focusing on these strategies allows your audience to find your content more easily and potentially increase your traffic. But SEO can also help with other metrics, including your page’s bounce rate and conversion rate. That’s because when you make your content more informative and readable, it keeps people on the page for longer. It also helps pique their interest so they navigate to other content on your site or pursue other calls to action.
Your organic traffic measures how many people visit your website from performing a search in Google or another engine. This traffic doesn’t come from referrals or paid ads. It comes from the content you create that ranks in search. Organic traffic to your website is one of the most important metrics to track in your content marketing and SEO efforts, as it shows you the volume you’re attracting with unpaid methods.
Using your monthly organic traffic, you’ll see your organic click-through rate (CTR), which tells you the percentage of users who actually land on your website from search. So, organic traffic is an essential metric that ties into your ROI. Think about it this way. You might be driving thousands of visitors to your site, but if they aren’t converting at any point, you’ll need to adjust.
If you’re investing in paid search, tracking your monthly paid traffic is a given. Include this metric in your measurements for a more accurate picture of ad spend and how effectively your approaches are working. And, just like organic traffic and CTR, you’ll also want to watch your paid clicks and evaluate your paid terms and how these are performing. By tracking the data from any pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, you’ll have a better idea of what to adjust, change, and improve on as you plan new ad campaigns.
Content engagement is crucial to adjust and improve your content marketing strategy. In content marketing, engagement goes beyond likes and comments on social media. To get an accurate picture of ROI, you’ll want to know how long people stay attentive to your content. But understanding which engagement metrics are appropriate for your brand gets tricky. While you might think to prioritize vanity metrics like page views and impressions, there are tangible outcomes that can give you a clear picture of your ROI potential.
Metrics like bounce rates, exit rates, click throughs, time spent on the page, and pageview depth can all show you how engaged your audience is. These metrics also show you how well your content performs and keeps your audience’s attention. Knowing you have an unusually high bounce rate for a specific page, for example, can help you identify where content is falling short.
Converting readers and audience members is a great way to develop leads and continue to increase your company’s sales and revenue. Conversions occur through CTAs by encouraging people to interact with your company further. That might include signing up for your newsletter, downloading an eBook, or simply making a purchase. But it’s also helpful to track the quality of the lead by examining other content or pages they visit. For instance, if a reader navigates to your pricing page from your blog, that’s a good indicator they might be seriously considering a purchase. As you dive into the data, you can see where to improve conversion rates and how these adjustments will add to the bottom line.
Sales make up one of the most common metrics businesses track to measure ROI. Using Google Analytics and other tools, dig into traffic volumes, visitor clicks, and purchases to understand how customers move through your marketing funnel. Look closely at how your sales and marketing funnels function together to drive sales conversions. But remember, tracking content marketing ROI through sales alone isn’t going to give you a full picture of your content marketing ROI.
Your click throughs can also fall under conversions, especially if your goal is to generate clicks to a landing page or for specific search terms. While organic clicks are important for driving traffic deeper into your content, paid clicks will count as conversions since you’re investing funds. The conversion point of a visitor clicking on a paid ad ties directly into the cost for your business. Keep a close eye on ad spend here, as you don’t want to risk the costs outweighing the results.
Downloading content, especially eBooks and guides, can be the conversion point your brand needs to qualify leads and further direct potential customers through the sales funnel. Tracking these downloads provides insight into what’s generating results for your content strategy and what’s not. Using this data, your team can make improvements to content offers, page copy, and the CTAs meant to entice. Actively budgeting for the creation and distribution of downloadable content won’t be worth the cost if visitors aren’t converting through this approach.
Your conversions might also include subscription signups to gated content, newsletters, or online events your brand hosts. The effectiveness of signups as conversion points is undeniable, much like content downloads. Sign-up metrics show you without a doubt how your content, CTAs, and engagement tactics are working to attract leads to your business. Once you’ve earned a lead’s email, you can nurture this connection to result in a sales conversion down the line.
Measuring the metrics of your social media accounts is a great way to determine your brand awareness. It can also help you see how well some of your content is performing. Most social media platforms give businesses the ability to track their engagement and social media presence. This allows you to see how many likes, comments, views, and other important metrics your posts receive.
From there, you can compare the metrics with one another to understand how your content is doing. If a lot of people view your content, but don’t like it or share it, you might need to improve it. If not a lot of people view your content, you might need to find new ways to improve your social media and brand awareness.
Related reading: How To Use Social Media To Drive Web Traffic
Here is a list of steps to help you calculate your content marketing ROI, comparing your revenue to your investment costs:
Start by finding your overall revenue from the initial campaign launch to the present day. This will be your revenue. Let’s say you initiated a content marketing campaign three months ago. In that timeframe, you generated $2,000 in sales. This gives you $2,000 in revenue. For large corporations, obviously these figures can climb into the millions or even billions. But the principle is the same: determine the revenue generated from the moment you launched your content marketing campaign.
There are a few ways to find the cost of your marketing investment. First off, if you outsource your content marketing, your cost of investment would include the costs of using outside content marketing services. But if your business handles its own marketing initiatives, you need to determine that cost yourself.
Include every expense that goes into creating and distributing your content. These expenses could include freelance writers and designers, paid ad strategies, and overhead costs. But depending on the costs you’re calculating, it’s possible that you might have to add an overhead rate to your direct expenses.
An overhead rate is a set rate that you can apply to certain expenses which add important indirect costs to your content’s production. For instance, an employee’s salary might be $40/hour, but if you have a 50% overhead rate, the actual expense would be $60/hour. If you’re unsure what your overhead rate is, get with your team and discuss the budget to learn more about possible costs or expenses you might be overlooking.
When you have the metrics you need for your analysis, use the formula for calculating ROI:
ROI = (Return – Investment) / Investment x 100
Use your revenue as the return, and your costs for the investment. Once get your answer, multiply by 100 to convert the result into a percentage. Let’s say you made $10,000 in sales since the start of your content marketing campaign, and you know the investment was $2,000. Your calculation would look like this:
So, you’d have a 400% return on a $2,000 marketing investment.
Related reading: How To Calculate Return on Investment With Excel
Though it might seem like the same thing, measuring and calculating your content marketing ROI are two different tasks. Calculating involves the formula listed above while measuring involves a more in-depth analysis to determine if your content is performing well. Here’s how to measure your content marketing ROI and determine the success of your content channels:
Setting goals for your content marketing campaign is important because it helps you understand if your efforts were successful. Do you want to increase your traffic? Your conversion rates? Maybe just your overall sales and revenue? Creating a simple objective can help you measure your campaign more easily and understand the return on your investment. Remember to make your goals SMART:
Once you have your goals established, it’s important to understand which metrics will help you measure the success of your campaign. For example, let’s say your goal is to increase engagement by 33% in four months. There are several metrics to include with engagement, including bounce rate, time on the page, comments, likes, and social media shares. Monitoring these metrics can help you see and understand how your audience is engaging with your content during your marketing campaign.
But it might also be helpful to look at other metrics, including website traffic. If your traffic stays primarily the same, but your engagement increases, that indicates an improvement in content quality. However, if your traffic and engagement increase at the same time, the ratio between traffic and engagement might have stayed the same. So, you might be able to increase your engagement rate even more if you focus on improving your content’s quality.
You shouldn’t measure your key metrics every day, but it’s important to measure them consistently to make sure you don’t need to make adjustments to your campaign. You’re not going to see results right away, but setting checkpoint goals and benchmarks can help you know exactly how much you need your metrics to change or improve in order to meet your goals. Checking your metrics once every week or month, depending on the timeline of your goal, is a good rule of thumb to see how your content is affecting your sales, revenue, and overall brand success.
Though it’s important to ensure you’re measuring key metrics, it’s also helpful to measure other metrics every once in a while. Seeing how your content is affecting other areas of your brand can help you identify new marketing opportunities. For example, let’s say your main goal was to improve your search engine ranking, but you simultaneously increased your engagement.
Using that information, you can start to create new campaigns or strategies to improve other metrics, such as conversions or sales. When you understand your content marketing ROI, you’ll understand where to keep adjusting for maximum results.
More on Content Marketing ROI:
More from the author: