Are you wondering how to measure your content marketing ROI?
You’re not alone. In 2019, most content marketers are trying to prove their return on investment (ROI) for what they’re doing. It isn’t enough to create and promote your content nowadays; you also need to measure its effectiveness.
In other words, you have to be able to understand if what you are doing actually makes a difference.
Here’s what we’ll be covering:
How to measure your content marketing ROI
Why measuring the ROI of your content marketing efforts is important
What the best practices and metrics are to measure your content marketing ROI
Ready? Let’s dive right in!
Content marketing ROI – what is it?
ROI stands for return on investment and is essentially the difference between an investment you make and the return you get based on your investment. But this is an oversimplified explanation of the term.
With content marketing, measuring the return on investment is not as easy as with other marketing activities, such as pay-per-click advertising (PPC). With PPC, you can take into account all the costs of your PPC campaigns and focus on improving key metrics (e.g. conversion rate) that are tightly related to revenue.
The same doesn’t apply to content marketing.
Most people would assume that if they create a piece of content and that piece ranks well, they’ve now succeeded as content marketers.
Here's the disappointing news: looking at your increasing Google Analytics traffic is not enough to tell you whether or not your content efforts are paying out.
For example, let’s take a look at the following graph.
Source: Google Search Console
At first, it seems like a success. However, if you were to dive a bit deeper into the data, you’d see that this particular piece of content – despite being a high-quality content piece with many page views on a monthly basis – has no ROI for the company.
Simply put, it is a great content asset that nonetheless brings no money to the company that created it. In other words, getting pages views, generating brand awareness, gaining social shares, and having inbound links or website visitors consume your site content is not enough. You have to find a way to monetize your content performance.
Content marketing ROI
Content marketing ROI is when your content efforts have a positive contribution to your business goals and objectives, and is connected to substantial metrics (KPIs) (i.e. number of leads or recurring revenue), rather than vanity metrics like the number of social shares you got from a piece of content.
Before moving to the next section, let’s make one thing very clear. We are not saying that things like the number of social shares or page views are not important to your content marketing success, it’s just that these content marketing metrics are not enough to define your content marketing success.
Producing, maintaining and promoting content costs a lot, and you need to be able to monitor your return on investment based on that cost. Let’s move on to the next section, which describes some basic ways of ROI calculation for your content efforts.
How to measure the ROI of content marketing
Simple though it may sound, measuring the ROI of Content Marketing is not easy.
You can measure the return on investment of content marketing in three different ways:
For your overall content marketing efforts
For a specific content marketing campaign
For a specific piece of content
Let’s look at a basic (yet effective) ROI formula for each of these three methods respectively:
(Revenue Generated From Running a Content Marketing Program) - (Total Cost of Running This Content Marketing Program)
(Revenue Generated From Running a Content Marketing Campaign) - (Total Cost of Running This Content Marketing Campaign)
(Revenue Generated From a Particular Content Piece) - (Total Cost of Creating This Content Piece)
Let’s put that in perspective using one simple example that comes from G2 Learning Hub.
According to Ahrefs, this content piece gets a good amount of organic traffic per month.
Source: Ahrefs UI
In addition, the piece is a great resource for G2’s target audience. However, as previously explained, organic traffic is not enough.Yes, we should try to please search engines, but if our content doesn’t bring us any money then we definitely need to change our scope.
If you pay attention to the screenshot from Ahrefs’ UI, you’ll notice that the amount of organic traffic that G2 receives from this piece translates into $47,163.
Source: Ahrefs UI
This means that if G2, or any other website for that matter, would like to acquire the same number of website visitors per month via PPC, they’d have to pay $47,163. This is an estimation and may vary significantly from the actual cost of acquiring that number of visitors.
However, this also indicates that the traffic in that case actually costs something. Now, we don’t know exactly how much revenue this piece of content generates, but it seems that G2 has done a great job on this one.
In fact, if you take a look at the Organic Overview Report for G2, you’ll notice that the traffic the site is receiving costs almost $2M per month.
Source: Ahrefs UI
And all that within just one year. (This is why G2 makes for a great case study for organic growth when it comes to tech companies.) Of course, this is an estimation, which means that we can’t treat those numbers as accurate.
Even so, it doesn’t mean we can’t use them to better understand our competitive landscape or even our own business performance. However, to be sure we are on the right path, we should take into account actual sales from a piece of content or content marketing campaign.
So let’s assume that the actual sales generated from this particular content piece from G2 are $750 per month. Now, let’s try to calculate the costs of creating that content piece. (For the sake of the example, this calculation will be based on assumptions.)
Cost of Writing the Content Piece → $500
Cost of Updating the Content Piece Over a 12-month Period → $1,500
Cost of Promoting the Content Piece Over a 12-month Period → $2,000
To calculate the total cost for a particular content piece, you have to include all the costs you made (e.g. visuals, video, link building) for that piece of content. Thus, if we’d like to calculate the ROI of that piece of content for a 12-month period, we’d have to use the following formula:
ROI = (Revenue Generated From This Particular Content Piece) - (Total Cost of Creating a Content Piece)
ROI = ($750*12 months) - ($2,000 + $1,500 + $500)
ROI = $5,000 or 125% (for a 12-month period)
Of course the above calculation is based on hypothetical numbers. However, it’s enough to show you how you should calculate your content ROI.
Measuring the return on investment based on the actual sales you managed to generate from a single piece of content against the cost of creating, maintaining and promoting that content piece is a great way to calculate ROI.
TIP: To do this, you’ll need to have trustworthy analytics tools and a solid tracking system in place. Find all available digital analytics software options on G2.
5 content marketing metrics to track
You can measure the effectiveness of your content marketing by calculating the revenue you generated from content against the investment you made to achieve that. Most of the time, there are some “signals” that show us whether or not the pieces of content we create have the potential to generate revenue (which is what we want).
So what are these metrics? Let’s look at some of the most important ones.
1. Qualified leads
Lead generation is important, especially when it comes to SaaS businesses. Most digital marketing professionals and content marketers count leads as marketing qualified leads (MQLs). However, MQLs are not as important as product qualified leads (PQLs). You should be measuring what is important to you and what you consider to be helpful for your business.
To count the number of leads you get per content piece or in total for your content marketing efforts, you can use Google Analytics...
Source: Google Analytics UI
…Google Tag Manager, or any other analytics tool that fits your needs. Even though it’s not an absolute indicator of revenue generation, the number of qualified leads can be used as the content marketing metric for your content marketing campaigns.
2. User experience
Another metric you can take into account is user experience (UX). Some people may argue that taking a look at your bounce rate is enough.
Source: Google Analytics UI
However, there are many other things you can look at to see if the experience you’re offering is actually adding value to your visitors’ lives. For example, are your visitors actually reading your site content or are they just skimming through?
The good thing is that nowadays, with tools like SEMrush’s WoW score, we’re able to get answers to those questions. So don’t measure the user experience solely based on bounce rate, number of pages per session or any other metric for that matter.
3. SEO performance (search traffic)
The SEO performance of your content is usually a good indicator of whether or not you’ll have a positive ROI for your efforts.
Source: Google Data Studio
You need to know that in many cases, SEO success doesn’t equal business success. This means that even if there’s growth in your search traffic, no one can guarantee that you’ll have the same growth in your revenue.
This happens because growing a business is affected by many things. All in all though, you should still be monitoring your SEO performance as a way to find correlations with your content marketing ROI.
4. Number of new users
This metric doesn’t apply as much to e-commerce businesses as it does to subscription-based ones. The number of new users generated directly from the content you are creating is a significant content marketing metric.
To examine this, you’ll need to set up a first-touch attribution system through Google Analytics…
Source: Google Analytics UI
… and start counting the number of users who signed up by first visiting one of your content pieces. The number of new users is a very important metric, especially if you’re running a SaaS business.
5. Link velocity and backlinks
The last metric is the link velocity and number of new inbound links for your pieces of content. You can easily see this using the New Backlinks report inside Ahrefs.
Source: Google Analytics UI
Once again, there may not be a direct correlation between link growth and revenue growth, but more links equals higher visibility and could result in a higher content marketing ROI overall. There are some types of content (linkable assets) that usually attract a lot of links.
There are also other metrics you can take into account when trying to understand whether or not your content efforts are fruitful.
Metrics like social media shares (e.g. how many shares a piece of content got on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter), CTR, or number of comments are usually vanity metrics for when you want to measure the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts.
So what’s the bottom line? The effectiveness of your content efforts should be measured mainly by revenue generated and by metrics that are tightly related to your main KPI, which is revenue. Any other metric won’t give you a clear scope of what matters, what you need to improve and what you need to pay attention to.
Creating great content isn’t enough on its own. You also need to know whether or not your content efforts are contributing to your overall business goals and if there is a positive ROI from it. Thus, measuring content marketing ROI and setting up a mechanism that will help you evaluate your efforts is essential.
Want to figure out more ways to utilize content marketing to your advantage? Check out the top-rated content marketing software solutions to help you reach and exceed your goals and strategy!
Georgios Chasiotis is a marketing consultant who drives organic growth for SaaS & tech companies through Content & SEO. He runs a strategy and consultation agency, and is based in Thessaloniki, Greece. Georgios has previously written for sites and publications like GrowthMentor, LeadFuze, lemlist, LongTailPro, ContentStudio, Marketing & Growth Hacking and HackerNoon. In his free time, he reads psychology and tries to understand the “why” behind human behavior. To learn more about Georgios, you can connect with him on LinkedIn and Facebook.