Measuring the impact of your content is vital to a successful, growth-minded marketing strategy.
Here you’ll find:
- How to determine content marketing ROI
- What is considered a good content marketing ROI
- Tips for measuring your ROI
- The best tools to gauge content success
Most well-rounded digital marketing strategies include content marketing, since it’s essential for search engine optimization (SEO) and brand awareness.
According to Semrush, 91% of marketing pros achieve success with their content marketing.
But what constitutes success?
If you’re struggling to figure that out, don’t worry. Calculating the return on investment (ROI) of content marketing campaigns can be a struggle, since the returns on content aren’t as cut and dry as the results from a tactic like paid search.
Luckily, we’ve got solutions. Keep reading for more on what content marketing ROI is, how you can calculate it, and six tips to keep in mind when doing your calculations.
What is content marketing ROI?
Content marketing ROI is a metric used to determine how much revenue you gained from content efforts compared to what you spent.
For content marketers, this means you examine how much budget your efforts require and how much revenue they generate. Then, you present that number as a percentage or ratio.
According to LinkedIn’s course on the subject, the marketing ROI formula is:
Net profit (sales revenue – marketing cost) ÷ marketing cost = ROI
Of course, in content marketing, not all of the results of a campaign are tangible and can be assigned a dollar amount (such as engagement and brand awareness). We’ll go into more detail about that later.
Why does calculating content ROI matter? Here are just a few reasons:
- Helps add tangible metrics to a more nebulous marketing tactic
- Can help identify strengths and weaknesses in efforts
- Can add transparency to other teams/higher ups
- Helps direct campaign strategies
- Allows comparison of performance between content marketing and other channels
What is a good content marketing ROI?
ROI is a metric that helps you make marketing decisions and better allocate your budget, resources, and time. But many marketers need clarification about how high they should aim with their ROI.
As with many marketing metrics, what makes a ‘good’ ROI can vary widely from industry to industry.
Obviously, any content marketing campaign operating at a loss is bad. But calculating content ROI is nuanced since it can be difficult to measure things like awareness.
With more than a decade of experience managing content marketing campaigns, we aim for a content marketing ROI of 500%, or 5 to 1.
Why so high?
At the very least, your business needs to cover the cost of making the product and what it costs to market.
Believe it or not, you’re not actually making a profit if you have a 200% ROI. This is because, for most businesses, the cost to manufacture or acquire their products (cost of goods sold, or COGS) is often around half of the sale price.
Let’s say your marketing team spends $500 on a campaign and generates $1,000 in sales. But then you have to subtract the $500 to manufacture the product, so you’re only breaking even.
To be fair, this estimate of a 500% ROI is just a ballpark figure, but it’s a good goal to start with. If your business has a lower cost of goods sold (COGS) or is a service-based business, you will need fewer sales, but if your company has smaller profit margins, you’ll need more.
The problem with content marketing metrics
Does that formula for calculating ROI make the process seem easy because only a few metrics are involved?
In reality, arriving at those metrics is more complex than it first appears. (Cue sad trombone.)
The fact is, many marketers struggle with tracking their content marketing ROI. In fact, only 43% of B2B marketers measure content marketing ROI at all. Much of this shying away comes from a lack of confidence in knowing the right way to do it.
There’s also the problem that content-generated revenue is almost never a linear process.
As a result, some marketers focus on too many metrics and find it hard to paint a clear picture of a campaign’s impact. Or they focus on the wrong metrics, and it can feel like the content is having less (or even more) of an impact than it really is.
With those challenges in mind, what is the best way to measure your content marketing ROI successfully?
4 steps to track content marketing ROI
Each business will need to tailor their process to its specific needs. Here are some general steps you can take to calculate content ROI (and avoid those missteps we mentioned above).
1. Define your purpose
Why are you measuring your content marketing ROI?
The answer to this question will guide your strategy and is often why marketers struggle with ROI right from the start.
Marketers can become misguided and focus ROI metrics solely on justifying their budgets. If you focus your ROI with the intention of garnering a bigger budget for the next quarter, you will lose the big-picture view of how impactful your content is.
Experience tells us the best way to leverage ROI is to discover what works well, what doesn’t, and how you can optimize your content marketing strategy. Focus on strategy, and you’ll quickly start to see your campaigns improve.
2. Choose your metrics
The number of content marketing metrics available can make even the most seasoned pro’s head spin.
There are a lot of key performance indicators (KPIs) to track. If you try to monitor them all, you’re likely to get lost in the data and less able to gain actionable insights.
The solution: Be strategic about the metrics you monitor.
We recommend choosing around five KPIs that you can monitor over a campaign to understand its ROI. Popular content KPIs include:
- Website traffic
- Website visitors
- Total visits
- Unique visits
- Time on page
- Bounce rate
- Page views
3. Set your benchmarks
The next step in successfully measuring ROI is to set benchmarks.
Take a measurement of where your content marketing metrics stand now before you launch your campaign. Then, when the campaign is over, you can quickly establish where there has been improvement or where things have declined.
You can also establish if goals were met and how much they were exceeded.
4. Define your content marketing goals
Content marketing goals are not the same thing as business goals. These smaller goals and content marketing metrics help you measure your content marketing efforts and weigh the role they play in the big picture.
Whether your goal is ecommerce sales or lead generation, taking stock of metrics like click-through rates, conversion rates, and keyword rankings will help you assess your efforts’ effectiveness. It will let you know if things are headed in the right direction and alert you to any pivots that might be needed.
Your after-campaign analysis might analyze opens for email marketing or qualified leads for case study downloads or white papers. You should be measuring, evaluating, and considering the next steps at each point in the funnel to maintain the highest level of content ROI.
6 expert tips for measuring content marketing metrics & ROI
Now you know what content marketing ROI is and how you can successfully measure it. Next, let’s take a look at some expert tips to remember when measuring your content metrics.
1. Build your business case for content marketing
We briefly touched on how you shouldn’t make your primary focus justifying your marketing budget. Instead, you should focus on making the business case for content marketing.
Use ROI as a way to show the value that your content provides to your organization. Focus on how its results impact business goals, and remember to keep an eye on the metrics that the overall business cares about.
2. Think long-term
Revenue generated from your content will seldom be a linear process. You may continue to see the impacts of a campaign long after it has been completed.
For example, you may keep seeing new site visitors to that high-quality evergreen blog post you created. Or you might continue to get media coverage and gain backlinks for a tool or calculator that you made.
Have a strategy in place to continue to monitor the long-term impacts of your content. Knowing what types of content continue to generate revenue after a campaign is put to bed can help inform your strategy.
3. Analytics tools are your friend
Analytics tools help you measure your content performance in an easier, more automated way.
There are a huge variety of free and paid content marketing tools out there, but Google Analytics is the must-have for every marketer.
Not only is it free, but it’s incredibly robust and offers marketers a wide variety of tracking options that can be invaluable in attributing revenue to a piece of content. For example, you can use the Model Comparison Tool to attribute sales to specific content better and set up multiple goals for each campaign.
Use attribution modeling to see what goal data looks like in several attribution models. This will allow you to understand your customer journey better.
HawkSEM’s ConversionIQ is another valuable tool for marketers that helps you track content review, among other campaign data. It was designed to drive actionable insights, full-funnel attribution, and high-quality conversions that continuously improve your bottom line.
4. Determine how many leads or sales you need each month or quarter
The cost of content creation is often overlooked in the ROI calculation.
In reality, you want to track costs as you go and have a clearly defined budget so you can quickly compare them to the revenue generated.
When calculating content cost, you need to think about more than simply the dollars spent. Consider other costs related to tasks like:
- Tools and software use
- Employee time (in creation and ideation)
- Freelance rates
- Time spent meeting and brainstorming
- Photography, videography, and graphic design
- Distribution and promotion
5. Track your progress
Regularly tracking progress helps you understand campaign content marketing successes and allows you to adjust your strategy when needed.
If you wait until the end of your content marketing campaign to look at your metrics, you could miss something important that might influence you to put more budget into that campaign or change your strategy.
To track your progression, create an ROI spreadsheet for what metrics you are focusing on and record them monthly or weekly.
Then make a simple line chart, being sure to add a fixed line for where you break even and your goals so that you can quickly visualize the progression of your campaigns.
6. Keep the unmeasurable in mind
There are a lot of things in content marketing that are hard to assign a monetary value to, for example:
- Brand awareness
- Trust and authority
- Organic social media engagement
- Earned press
- Guest publication that reaches your target audience
- Webinar attendees
- Podcast subscribers
Every one of these things has a high potential ROI, and some of them have a low cost of acquisition. But they are brutal to measure or report on.
But does that mean you should leave them out of your calculations? Definitely not.
Hard to measure does not equal impossible.
Find the metrics that best correlate to each of these. This won’t be a perfect science but will be very useful in measuring content impact and ROI.
For example, for brand awareness, you can look at website visits, social media impressions, and monthly search volume for branded keywords.
When you first approach content marketing ROI, it can feel like trying to navigate your way out of a labyrinth. But once you wrap your head around it, it becomes more manageable.
The key thing to remember is not to get lost in the numbers. Be intentional with which metrics you track. Focus on metrics that will influence your strategy and that correspond to business goals.
Also, keep in mind that content impact can last for months after it is originally published, so have a long-term tracking strategy in place.