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3 Key Metrics for Understanding Your ROI in Content Marketing

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Content marketing is one of the most cost-effective long-term marketing strategies available today, but unfortunately, it’s a notoriously difficult one to measure. Entrepreneurs and marketers new to the strategy may find it easy to show that content marketing is yielding results, but difficult to prove exactly how much value it brings to an organization.

Still, if you know what you’re looking for and you’re taking measurements dutifully, there’s no reason why you can’t put together a cost-to-value ratio for the strategy at every stage of its implementation.

The Hurdles to Measuring Content ROI

articleimage1510 The Hurdles to Measuring Content ROI

First, I want to address some of the factors responsible for making content marketing ROI difficult to capture. It will help you understand the “hidden values” of the strategy, and the limitations of a formal calculation:

  • Value compounds over time. First, content value tends to compound over the course of months and years. Your first article, despite being equal in length and quality, will be less valuable than your 100th The effects of your work accumulate, leading early-stage campaigns to show an ROI that’s skewed low. Consider the potential of your campaign in addition to its current earned value.
  • Not all value is measurable.A guest post on an external blog might bring you measurable traffic that converts in a measurable way, but not all effects of content are directly measurable. For example, your guest post might increase your brand recognition in someone who then, through word-of-mouth, attracts two or three new direct visitors to your site. Your reputation might also increase, resulting in more general visitors converting.
  • Content affects many outlets and behaviors. One onsite content post can affect several sources of traffic, including repeat direct visitors who want to read more content, social visitors who heard about your content there, search visitors because your content increased your domain authority, and even referral traffic from outside links. It’s nearly impossible to isolate the effects of content versus any other efforts you’re making.
  • Content performance is dependent on other strategies. For example, if you have an active social media presence, your content performance will naturally increase—but then you’ll have to lump your social media management costs into your overall “content” costs.

Your Three Key Metrics

Now that you understand the complexities in calculating an accurate measure of content marketing ROI, it’s time to define those three important variables:

1. Spend.

How much you spend on content marketing is probably the easiest metric to obtain. If you’re outsourcing the work, it’s even easier—you’ll have a flat monthly fee that you can incorporate into your eventual equations. If not, you’ll have to use your team’s hourly rates or salaries to come up with a loose figure. If those team members only spend a fraction of their time on content, the calculation can get even trickier. Do the best you can, and be sure to incorporate any peripheral strategies that have a bearing on your overall content performance, including social media or content advertising.

2. Inbound Traffic.

articleimage1510 inbound traffic

Next, take a measure of your inbound traffic. This can be tough, so we’ll be working with loose figures. Check out the Acquisition tab in Google Analytics—here, you’ll see four main sources of traffic. Generally, you can disregard the Direct portion (though some Direct traffic may come as a result of strong content). Focus on Organic, Social, and any Referral traffic that is currently pointing to any of your content posts. You can find this information by clicking into the Referral section and analyzing where your links are coming from (and where they’re pointing to).

Add these figures together to get a general idea of how much traffic your content strategy is bringing to your site. Be sure to keep it in the same terms as your “spend” analysis—that is, if you measured your spend on a monthly basis, measure your inbound traffic on a monthly basis as well.

3. Conversion Value.

articleimage1510 conversion value

Finally, you’re going to estimate the average value of a conversion as well as how many conversions are attributable to those portions of inbound traffic you defined in step two. The average value of a conversion is easy if you have an e-commerce platform with sufficient analytics, but if you’re a B2B company using a contact field as your source of conversion, you’ll have to jump through a few more hoops.

Once you have that figure, calculate how many conversions your inbound traffic has brought you by either isolating that traffic against your Goals in Google Analytics, or by estimating a fraction of your total conversions as the same proportion of your inbound content-driven traffic to your total traffic. This should give you an estimate of the total value your content campaign is producing at the moment.

Once you understand and note all three of these metrics, you should have no trouble estimating the base ROI of your content marketing strategy. Compare the amount of money you’re spending to the amount of money brought in by the inbound traffic your content has generated—if you’re generating more money than you’re spending, you can consider your campaign to have a positive ROI. And that doesn’t even take intangible values, like improved brand reputation, into consideration!

Remember that the early stages of a content marketing campaign naturally have a lower, and sometimes even a negative ROI. Only after months of compounding efforts will your campaign start to prove its true worth.

Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.

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Kathrina Tiangco

Kathrina is AudienceBloom's project manager. She works closely with our writers, editors, and publishers to make sure client work is completed on time.

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