How To Calculate Return on Investment With Excel

Christy Walters


April 27, 2022 (Updated: January 2, 2024)

Image of coins in stacks, increasing in size like a graph, with green plant sprouts on top, and a white zig zag arrow pointing up. concept for calculating ROI in excel.

Microsoft Excel makes it easy to record, track, and work with your business’s financial data, like the benefits from investments or assets. Plus, you can calculate your return on investment with Excel accurately without getting into complex math. The biggest advantage of Excel, though, is the option to use different formulas for measuring your ROI.

And in content marketing, having the tools to measure the success of your campaigns is a must. If you’re using Excel to track and measure the progress of your content marketing campaigns, find out what you need to know in this guide.

Jump ahead:

What, Exactly, Is Return on Investment When It Comes to Content Marketing?

Return on investment (ROI) is a financial ratio that calculates the benefits an investor gets compared to the cost spent on a project. Most often, you use it to measure the net income for that investment. The higher the ROI ratio, the more profitable the project.

In content marketing, you may use this calculation to understand if your campaigns are making money, or if they’re successful enough to extend beyond their original deadlines. ROI is just one of several formulas you can use to understand the engagement health of your business’s content marketing efforts.

Why Calculate the ROI of Content Marketing?

Calculating ROI as part of your content planning gives you the information you need to decide whether accepting or rejecting an investment opportunity is beneficial for your business. For example, your ROI can help your team determine if it’s a good financial decision to pay for branded design elements or invest in syndication services.

You can also calculate this metric to see if a prior decision was beneficial. Ultimately, tracking your ROI shows you how best to prioritize resources, funding, and time for your brand’s marketing activities. The data you get from your calculations can help you make similar investments and choices or change your strategy in the future to make your campaigns more effective.

Your marketing department can use ROI to show others within the organization—including executive officers and stakeholders—the success of investments. Because it shows a clear figure of profit or loss, the ROI is easy to understand, even if others within the organization know little about the initial investment.

Excel Formulas for Calculating Return on Investment

There are four common formulas to use when calculating ROI by hand or in Excel. Depending on your business’s content marketing activities, use one or more of the following to get a clearer picture of the outcomes of your marketing efforts:

Net Income

With this formula, find the ROI using the net income of the original investment value and write it as a percentage. This is the simplest and most useful formula for measuring ROI. In math terms, you’ll write the formula as:

ROI = Net Income / Cost of Investment

Capital Gain

The capital gain formula displays the ROI as a percentage gain or loss made on one share or investment. It compares the current share price with the original investment price. Write the formula as:

ROI = Capital Gain / Cost of Investment

Total Return

The total return formula also calculates the percentage gain or loss of one share or investment. This differs from capital gain, as it considers the original and current share prices and any dividends:

ROI = [(Ending Value – Beginning Value) / Cost of Investment]

Annualized Return

In this formula, the ROI is the average annual gain or loss made on a share of investment since the initial investment. You display the answer as a percentage. Calculate this formula as:

ROI = [(Ending Value / Beginning Value) ^ (1 / Number of Years)] – 1, where Number of Years = (Ending Date – Starting Date) / 365

Get more insights into how to measure the ROI of your content marketing.

How To Calculate ROI in Excel With Net Income

Net income ROI is the easiest to understand and the easiest to calculate in Microsoft Excel, no matter the business industry. Use these steps to learn how to calculate this type of ROI within the spreadsheet formula:

1. Open Excel and Create a New Workbook

Open the Microsoft Excel program on your device or through Microsoft 365 online. If you don’t have Microsoft Excel, you can purchase and download the program from the company’s website. Microsoft offers a free trial for both business accounts and individuals. Once you’ve opened the program, open a blank workbook, then name and save the document.

2. Label the Cells

Label the cells across the top of the spreadsheet before adding other information. Doing this can help you find and keep track of the figures to use for SEO ROI calculations. Use the following or similar labels for the corresponding cells:

  • A1: Content investment
  • B1: Sales from content
  • C1: Amount gained
  • D1: ROI

3. Enter the Content Investment

Enter the content investment figure in cell A2. This number can be the original cost of the campaign or the current worth of the investment. For content campaigns, you can use the first option. In the cell, type the dollar sign and the numerical figure.

For example, if your campaign costs $5,000 to launch, then type $5,000 in cell A2.

4. Enter the Sales From Content

Enter the amount earned from the campaign or investment in cell B2. Type the dollar sign and the numeral, just as you did for the content investment. For example, if you made $7,000 from the campaign, type $7,000 in cell B2.

Read more about it: The 20 Best CRM Tools for Marketing Agencies

5. Calculate the Amount of Gain or Loss

Use a formula to calculate the gain or loss figure in cell C2. The formula for calculating profit or loss is subtracting the sales from content by the content investment. In Excel, type the formula =B2-A2 in cell C2. This allows the program to pull the numbers from the other cells to make automatic calculations for you.

6. Enter the ROI Formula

Like calculating the amount of gain or loss, use a formula to calculate the ROI in cell D2. The ROI formula divides the amount of gain or loss by the content investment. To show this in Excel, type =C2/A2 in cell D2.

7. Convert ROI to a Percentage

Your initial ROI calculation in Excel appears as a decimal. It’s customary to display the ROI as a percentage. Highlight cell D2 and click the percentage icon under the “Home” tab. This makes the information in that cell display as a percentage.

8. Repeat the Steps

If there are multiple projects, campaigns, or investments to calculate, you can repeat steps three through seven in separate rows to display them all in one document. This can be beneficial if you’re trying to compare which projects are most useful within your greater marketing plan.

You may also consider calculating the ROI of one project over time to find your peak return window. Using this info, you can get more granular and calculate and improve conversion rate, click through rates, and more.

For more actionable insights, tune into the replay of our webinar with Search Engine Journal on calculating the potential ROI of an SEO campaign.

Tips for Calculating ROI With Microsoft Excel

Use these tips to make your ROI calculations easier:

Fix Inaccurate or Missing Calculations

Because Excel is a computer program, sometimes it may not read your formula correctly. There’s also the chance that the program could miscalculate the data if the settings are wrong or the formula is mistyped.

To troubleshoot some common formula errors, try:

  • Turning on automatic calculations: Check the “Formulas” tab to ensure the workbook settings are automatic. If you have it set to “Manual” make the change, so the program calculates on its own.
  • Deactivating “Show Formulas”: Under the “Formulas” tab, make sure the “Show Formulas” button is inactive. When checked, this option shows your formula in a cell rather than making a calculation.
  • Setting cell to currency: After highlighting a specific cell, click the “Home” tab to check that it sets the cell property to “Currency” so the information in the cell displays as money. After making the change, double-click the cell and press enter to recalculate and display the information correctly.
  • Removing spaces: Review the formula in the formula bar to make sure there is no space before the equals sign. Extra spaces may make the formula invalid and not calculate correctly or at all.
  • Removing apostrophes: Adding an apostrophe before the equals sign in a cell formula makes Excel store your formula as text rather than running the calculation. The apostrophe doesn’t appear in the cell on the spreadsheet, but it shows in the formula bar, so remove these where you want to see a calculation instead of a formula.

Download a Template

If you’re concerned with getting your formulas just right or want to make sure the spreadsheet and calculations work properly, consider using a calculator template rather than recreating the document yourself. The Corporate Finance Institute (CFI) is just one organization that offers free downloads of ROI Excel Calculator templates.

The pre-populated fields have the correct formulas and color-coded cells for your convenience. This particular template includes selections to calculate all four ROI formula types.

Consider an Alternative Formula

There are many alternatives to the basic and complex ROI formulas described above. If you find these four options don’t give you enough information, you can try a different type of calculation. The most detailed return measure is the Internal Rate of Return (IRR), which measures all the cash flow received over the life of an investment or campaign. The figure presents an annual percentage growth rate and accounts for the timing of cash flows, which some others do not.

Other alternatives include the Return on Equity (ROE) and Return on Assets (ROA), which do not account for the timing of cash flows and represent only the annual rate of return. They’re more specific than the net income ROI because they have a clearly defined denominator with equity and assets rather than the more general term of “investment.”

Use Google Sheets

If you’re unable to access Microsoft Excel, you still have options to use a program to calculate your ROI. Consider trying Google Sheets. You can use this program for free with a Google account to create, save, and share documents as you can with Excel. You can use the same formulas and design process to set up a workbook in Google Sheets as you do in Excel. The biggest difference is the location of some settings and the names of some menus.

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ROI Calculator Excel Template

This Excel ROI template shows you what to enter in each cell to calculate the net income ROI:

ROI Calculator Excel Example

This example Excel table shows you what the workbook looks like after the program calculates your figures. This is how your document should display if the calculations work correctly:

Calculating the ROI of your campaign can help you understand which strategies work best for your marketing plan. Combining the data from these calculations and others, along with analytics and customer feedback, can give you a better picture of the success of your marketing efforts.

You can use all this data as you plan future campaigns and tactics to help you reach your target audience and make a profit for your company using content marketing and advertising. Contact the team at CopyPress to learn how we can help you develop a successful content marketing strategy that adds to your business’s ROI.

Author Image - Christy Walters
Christy Walters

CopyPress writer

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