How to Measure Content Marketing ROI

Content Marketing

Have you ever wondered how you should measure content marketing ROI for your business? If you haven't, I'll bet your boss has asked you about ROI. In the agency world, we're asked to both predict and prove ROI on a regular basis. While it's hard to predict the future impact of a specific piece of content, there are many ways to determine it after the fact. There are several ways you can measure your content marketing program's ROI.

What's ROI?

Not sure what ROI stands for? It's the acronym for return on investment. Marketing efforts are often measured by ROI or the amount of money you earn compared to the amount of money invested. To determine your program's ROI, you take the investment amount/sales amount, and that will give you your ROI.

How do you define content marketing ROI?

To determine your ROI, you'll need to establish baseline metrics. Your baseline metrics are simply how your site or blog is performing before you begin a new marketing program. This process works for most marketing efforts. Understanding your performance before the new program goes in place is essential. It allows you to see the impact of the work that you're doing. You want to go back at least a year on your baseline report so that you have accurate YoY (year over year) data to review.

It's also important to understand if you have seasonality issues that may be impacting your business's overall performance. If you run a two-year baseline report, then you know your average YoY increase.  And can determine if dips or increases you experience are expected seasonal shifts. If you notice poor performance in February for three years in a row; it's less likely something you did than just that you usually experience a dip in February. Now, this doesn't mean the drops don't matter.  But before worrying, see what happens in March. Does performance even out as expected?

What Key Performance Metrics (KPIs) should you be measuring? Read on for more on that.

On-Site KPI Measurement

The first, probably most important measurement tool is good ol' Google Analytics. If you don't have GA set up on your website and blog already, it's time. You need to commit to getting it set up. It's easy and straightforward to install. You can find the handy Google Analytics installation guide here if you need help. It's important that you have GA set up on your web properties so you can see how your content is performing.

If you're not familiar with GA and all that it provides, it's time to learn. GA gives you insights into just about everything your customers do on your website. You can learn where they're from, what language they use, the browser they're searching for, their age and other demographic information. More importantly, we get into the content marketing success metrics - time on site, the number of pages read, where your traffic is coming from, what content they're engaging with, what they're not, and more.

Let's talk about a couple of these metrics specifically:

Site Content

From a Content Marketing perspective, this is probably the most critical piece of information. It helps us understand how each page on the site performs. You can review your site's pages or blog posts and see which ones get the most traffic. Find out if there's a high exit rate or bounce rate. See how long people are spending on each page, etc. This information helps better understand what people are engaging with once they arrive on your website.

  • Traffic -The total number of visitors or sessions to your site. You'll notice these numbers aren't the same. It's because some people will return to the website - after all, that's our goal! We want to see these numbers grow over time.
  • New vs. Returning -The percentage of new visitors vs. people who have been here before and come back. We want to see the returning visitors increase. It tells us that the content we're creating is useful and they keep coming back for more.
  • Bounce Rate -The percent of people who come to your site and leave quickly. We want this to decrease over time.
  • Time on Site -The average time people spend on your website. We want this to grow.
  • Average Pages per Visit -Just like it sounds. The number of pages each visitor reads. We want this to grow over time. The more pages they're reading, the better we're doing.

Traffic Sources

Not only do we want to know how much traffic is coming to the site, but we also want to know where it's coming from. Why is traffic source information essential to measure when we're talking about Content Marketing? Your traffic sources are your 3rd part of your content strategy, the content distribution. It's critical that you understand where your visitors come from so you can ensure you target them in the future.

This is also really important when it comes to paid distribution or partnerships. You need to be able to determine your ROI for each expenditure. If you can see that you got 1,000 visits from a local community site, you wrote a guest post for, and it cost you maybe 3 hours of your time, that's probably worth doing again. However, if you spent $1,000 on a listing on a local site and only got two visits from it, you might want to save that money next time. See why it's important to understand where the traffic is generated?

What are the traffic source options and what do they mean?

  • Direct - people know your website, type it in and go there without the help of a search engine.
  • Organic - they find you through a search, likely on Google, and end up on your website.
  • Paid - if you're running a Google Adwords or Facebook Ads campaign, this would be the traffic that's clicking on your ad and going to your site from there.
  • Social - This traffic is coming directly to your site from a link within a post, tweet, update, etc. on Social Media.
  • Referral - another site is sending traffic to you. This traffic could be due to a link you've secured, a mention on someone's blog, a directory listing, etc.

Off-Site Measurement

A more advanced way to measure your Content Marketing program's success (or lack thereof) is by reviewing the number of links your site has secured (a measure of your site's authority).

If you're creating content that people find useful, they'll often link to you and share it with their audiences. This link helps establish your website as an authority with Google, and in turn, you'll often see your own Domain Authority or Page Authority increase, which in time, can help your keyword rank improve in the Search Engines.

Authority

If you're not sure how to check the links, domain or page authority on your site, check out Moz's Open Site Explorer, it's a great free tool that provides the data. Create a baseline authority report in addition to your other KPIs so you can track your efforts.

Keyword Rank 

As you focus on content marketing and optimizing your site for SEO, you should see your keyword rank improve. KW Rank is based on many factors. Google wants to deliver the best results for their customers, so they try to rank those sites that are the most helpful. How are you viewed as valuable? Ranking factors such as links, social sharing, site traffic, even your site's load speed can impact your ranking. Google wants to make sure they send their customers to great websites with the right content, so they come back to them next time too.

Content Distribution

Social Sharing - Finally, the last item on the list - It's good to know how your content is performing on social media when it's getting shared. You know that you've got referring traffic insights in your GA report, but if you want even more data, you have a few options you can try.

LinkedIn Publishing - if you're writing for a B2B business or about topics that would be of use to business people, then publishing on LinkedIn could be an excellent option for you. And you get all sorts of data and insights from their dashboard.

Pro Tip: Tools

Bit.ly - the URL shortening tool - yeah, it can help you measure your content's success as well because it lets you see how many people clicked on a unique link, when, and where.

Buffer - Like Bit.ly, Buffer provides analytics on the links you share. However, Buffer allows you to schedule and distribute content easily. As you're creating your go-forward strategy, consider using one of these tools to help track your content ROI.

How do You Determine Content Marketing ROI?

We've talked a lot about what goes into ROI measurement but if you're not sure how to determine it, here's a pretty easy way.

ROI is your return on investment. To calculate it, you'll need to assign dollar amounts to specific activities on your website. If you find that a lead form that's filled out has a 10% chance of turning into a customer and the average customer is worth $5,000, then you might want to assign $500 value to each lead form. Heck, you can attach the full $5,000 value if you want. It's up to you. If you have an e-com site, it's easier because you can track your traffic from the blog or content pieces straight through to the purchase page and know exactly how much you're making off each post. For clients, I break down which type posts drive the most revenue.  Then we streamline the process, eliminating those posts which are labor intensive but drive little income, and significantly increase the ones that produce a better ROI. That's why benchmarking, and reporting is so important.

How to Calculate Your Program's ROI

So, to determine the ROI on your program - take the dollar amount invested and divide it by the revenue earned or value you've assigned. If you spent $5,000 per month and got ten leads from your content and each was worth $500, you broke even with $5,000 in expense and $5,000 in revenue or value. However, if you got 100 new leads, you had a 10:1 ROI because your leads are worth $50,000 ($500*100) which is excellent.

Early on, you will likely see smaller gains because it takes a while for organic growth to happen but the beautiful thing is if you continue and are consistent in your efforts, and pay attention to your audience's needs you should see continued YoY growth. You want to continue to invest each year, and we'll talk about that more in a future post. If you stop working on it, your traffic will drop. When you take a break, your competitor doesn't. That's the bottom line.

I know this was a long post and thank you for reading to the end. Hopefully, you better understand how to measure your content marketing efforts after reading through this. If you have questions or review your data and find that things aren't working as well as you'd hoped, please visit the Contact Us page and send a note. We'd love to help you drive more traffic and convert more customers through content.

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