7 ways to measure content marketing ROI

Blog banner

From SEO to content, every marketing spend has to be justified. That said, it’s easier to prove the effectiveness of some forms of marketing more than others. Take PPC for example – you can physically see how much revenue you’ve made in comparison to how much you’ve spent. With content marketing ROI though, it’s a little more complicated.

Almost two-thirds of marketers (57 per cent) expected to spend more on content marketing in 2019 than the previous year, according to the latest B2C Content Marketing report from Content Marketing Institute. The pressure to prove to your boss that content marketing is worth the investment is higher than ever, so this article takes a look at the some different ways you can measure your strategy. But first…

What are you measuring?

Return on investment (ROI) doesn’t have to mean cold hard cash; it can be anything your business wants to achieve, such as more leads, increased brand awareness/engagement, press coverage, organic traffic, or something else entirely – as long as you can attribute it to revenue or calculated value.

Don’t expect results straight away

Just like with PPC, it may take some time and patience before you start seeing real results from your content marketing efforts. Take a look at the example below: this blog has received more than 3,000 page views since it was published in early 2017, but it’s taken a while to build up the numbers.

GA graph showing upwards trend over 2 years of page views on a piece of content
Source https://pixelunion.net/

After an initial flutter from promoting the post on social, you can see page views gradually increased throughout 2017 and 2018. After updating the article to make it more relevant for 2019 and promoting it again across various channels, you can see a significant jump in page views at the start of the year.

This is a good illustration of how content marketing can generate ongoing, improved results over time.

7 ways to measure the ROI of your content marketing strategy

Content marketing powers all of your inbound strategies, which means success can be measured in several ways. Before you can measure the ROI of any marketing strategy, you need to know which metrics and KPIs point to success.

Here are seven common ways to measure the ROI of your content marketing strategy.

  1. Revenue: Attributing sales and revenue to your content marketing strategy.
  2. Leads
  3. Conversions: Any valuable action completed on your website (purchase, email enquiry, phone call, account creation, email signup, etc.)
  4. Organic traffic
  5. Search ranking
  6. Social engagement: Both organic and paid social results rely on the quality of your content and provide valuable analytics for measuring ROI.
  7. Cost-per-acquisition (CPA): How much it costs you, on average, to capture a lead and turn them into a paying customer.

Some of those KPIs and metrics will give you a more reliable picture of your content marketing than others (eg: revenue and CPA) but they’re also more difficult to calculate accurately.

Essentially, it all comes down to attribution and being able to attribute sales to specific content marketing campaigns and metrics like traffic volume to increased revenue.

#1: Revenue

Revenue is the most important KPI for calculating the ROI of any marketing strategy. The basic formula for calculating return on investment is as follows:

ROI = ((Return – Investment) / Investment) x 100

Tracking how much you invest in content marketing is simple enough but knowing how much revenue is attributable to that investment (return) is more challenging. First up, you need to attribute sales to content marketing campaigns but, ideally, you also want to attribute other revenue drivers, such as repeat purchases, customer lifetime value, total purchase value and profit.

It’s relatively easy to attribute sales and other revenue drivers to the final piece of content customer view before buying but this doesn’t help you calculate the value of the content they engaged with during the earlier stages of the consumer journey.

This is why it’s important to avoid the last-click attribution model and we’ll explain more about this a little later.

#2: Leads

Another way to measure the value of your content marketing campaigns prior to the purchase is to track how many leads they capture. Depending on the type of campaign you’re running and which stage of the consumer journey you’re targeting, leads can vary from someone clicking through to your website from search or social to someone picking up the phone to ask for a quote.

Some leads are more valuable than others and, once again, attribution is crucial.

This time, though, there are two key things you need to attribute leads to: the content that captured them and any future sale they lead to – the latter of which is vitally important.

If you know that 10% of leads from campaign X are going on to buy your most expensive product, you can calculate a reliable ROI. More importantly, you can optimise this campaign to increase lead volume or the percentage of leads that go on to make the purchase.

You can track leads in Google Analytics by using Event Measurement, which allows you to measure interactions like CTA button clicks, video-play clicks and form interaction. You can find out more information in our handy guide to tracking leads in Google Analytics.

#3: Conversions

With Event Measurement set up in Google Analytics, you can now create and track goals for highly-specific actions. This allows you to measure just about any conversion type on your website and optimise them to increase conversion rates.

So now you’re able to attribute conversions to the last piece of content prospects engage with before taking action. As we said, earlier, though, this doesn’t help you calculate the value of the content they’ve previously engaged with and wouldn’t have made it to this stage without.

By default, Google Analytics uses the Last Click Attribution model, which only attributes the final page/source prior to the conversion. By switching to alternative attribution models, you can assign value to the first interaction, equal value to all interactions (linear) or based on recency (time decay).

An overview of the 6 main attribution models

For a more detailed look at attribution models, take a look at our marketing attribution models explain article. Once you’re done with that, you can also find out why we use our own data-driven attribution (DDA) model to accurately calculate the value of campaigns.

#4: Organic traffic

Traffic is the most obvious KPI of any content marketing campaign and also one of the easiest to measure. If you want quick feedback on the success of a piece of content, page views is a good metric to monitor over time – just like we did earlier.

If 5% of page views results in a purchase, you’re looking at 5,000 sales per 100,000 page visits. This gives you a benchmark for optimising to increase organic traffic so that instead of generating 100,000 page views over the course of a year, you’re hitting 150,000 and an extra +2,500 sales over the same time period.

There are variables to consider, though. Not all page views are equally valuable and, likewise, certain purchases generate more profit than others. By increasing the quality of page views and optimising for the most profitable sales, you can increase your ROI by attracting the right kind of visitors rather than simply focusing on simply maximising traffic volume.

Agin, it all comes down to how accurately you attribute visits to sales and other KPIs.

#5: Search ranking

As your content marketing campaign matures, your ranking for specific keywords should improve on Google and other search engines. Higher rankings should result in more visitors and opportunities to increase ROI. With a strategy like SEO, most of the investment lies in the creating and optimisation of content and the results should generally improve over time.

As your ranking improves, you should see higher returns from your content with minimal or no further investment. This is why SEO remains such a key strategy for digital brands: because the long-term ROI is unrivalled by other strategies, even if results aren’t instantaneous.

#6: Social engagement

Organic search isn’t the only place your content generates valuable traffic from and search rankings aren’t the only measure of content quality. Assuming you’ve got the audience to begin with, great content should get plenty of engagement on social media, bringing in likes, views, shares, new followers and page visits.

Social engagement should lead to more eyes on your content and, ultimately, more traffic clicking through to your website. You can use custom URLs to track which campaigns and posts are generating the most traffic and then attribute these visits to conversions and revenue.

Organic reach is becoming increasingly small on most major networks so you’ll often find the best engagement comes from paid social media campaigns. The good news is, this gives you a wealth of targeting options to pinpoint relevant audiences, resulting in more page visits and valuable conversions.

Paid social campaigns also give you a deeper set of data to work with, allowing you to attribute social engagement to revenue and other KPIs more accurately.

#7: Cost-per-acquisition

Cost-per-acquisition (CPA) is a metric that should always closely follow ROI in your marketing reports. This tells you how much you’re spending (on average) on content marketing to secure each new customer and it’s a key component of accurately calculating and optimising your ROI.

Generally speaking, there are two ways to increase your return on investment in content marketing. Either you generate more revenue without increasing spend or you reduce spend without reducing revenue.

Cost-per-acquisition provides a measurement of your content marketing investment, relative to the capturing of a new customer. By reducing CPA and monitoring sales volumes, you can increase ROI by reducing spend while ensuring sales don’t suffer as a result of your more efficient content marketing strategy.

Conversely, you can increase investment while using CPA and sales volumes to ensure that you’re getting the increased return you expect.

How does your content marketing ROI measure up?

If your content marketing ROI isn’t looking as impressive as you would like or you’re not confident about measuring it accurately, you can check out our content marketing services or speak to one of our content specialists by calling 02392830281 or emailing [email protected].

Jen Williams profile picture
Jen Williams

Jen joined VL in December 2018 and brings with her a wealth of agency and in house experience. She began creating content back in 2010 for NHS Choices, researching, writing and publishing Health A-Z website content on a range of chronic and acute health conditions, followed by a period as a content author for NHS Direct, writing and reviewing website content. Since then Jen has gained experience as a news reporter at The Chichester Observer and other local papers, before moving into an account management and copywriting role at a design and marketing agency based in Salisbury. With previous experience as a content marketing executive and digital PR manager at a local agency, Jen loves nothing more than being creative, brainstorming and producing audience-focused content. Previous digital PR successes include a range of coverage in national titles and leading publications including The Sun, Cosmopolitan, House Beautiful and Business Insider, and Jen is enjoying developing and delivering outreach results for VL customers. In her spare time Jen enjoys running and punching a boxing bag. Jen inherited a love for films from her Grandad, is movie mad and a sucker for a cinema visit. She also enjoys travelling as often as possible, painting, drawing, cooking and is always on the lookout for new and exciting experiences. Nothing is more important to Jen than her family and friends.

More articles by Jen
Related articles
Digital Marketing podcast

Podcast: How to find content ideas you probably haven’t thought of

By Marie Sinclair
Online tutorial: How to identify content gaps and opportunities

Online tutorial: How to identify content gaps and opportunities

By Chris Pitt
Graphs increasing

How to measure content performance

By Dave Colgate