Content marketing is growing, and fast! It’s a long-term investment that can sometimes take months to see the positive effects it has had on your business. Like with other marketing avenues, if it doesn’t increase your company’s bottom line in the long term, then your time and money are better invested elsewhere. Measuring the results of your marketing efforts is critical to the success of any business, but what about when it comes to content marketing?
The ultimate goal of your content marketing strategy is to a) provide answers to your audience’s questions, b) build trust in your brand, and c) demonstrate your brand’s expertise through valuable information. Despite your content being designed to build trust and provide relevant information, every content marketer knows that the real goal is to bring value to the business. So, it’s important that we demonstrate how much value your content has. However, many clients can begin to lose interest in content due to its ‘elusive’ ROI, but there is more value than many people might think.
Measuring the ROI of content marketing is often considered the best way to determine the value that your content brings to the table. Let’s take a look at how you can measure your ROI and if it’s really the best way to track the success of your content marketing efforts.
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Content marketing is a type of inbound marketing that involves creating and sharing content online to spread brand awareness and engage audiences who are interested in using a product or service. Before we go into how to measure the impact of your content marketing, it’s essential that we have a solid understanding of what it’s all about.
Content takes on many formats, from email marketing and ebooks to blog posts and social media, while marketing your content can involve a range of activities to get your brand message across, such as paid ads and outreach. As content marketing is a brand awareness activity, its primary purpose is to start conversations rather than drive conversions, especially as it tends to be aimed at the educational and engagement stages of the conversion funnel.
Think of content marketing as the starting point of a successful conversion funnel – it’s essential that it’s done effectively.
Content marketing ROI is often referred to as a measurement that determines how much revenue was gained from content marketing compared to what was spent; however, this is still widely debated. Many marketers believe that monetary value is not the only success measure when it comes to return on investment.
ROI from content marketing is notorious for being difficult to quantify, as the journey from content to revenue isn’t linear. Measuring and tracking your content marketing efforts can be tricky, especially if you haven’t established your KPIs beforehand.
Whether you’re new to the content marketing scene or you’re an experienced content creator, it’s important to understand how to quantitatively demonstrate the impact of your marketing efforts. But, remember that it’s a long game – one that requires continuous monitoring and a lot of patience!
If you plan and execute your content marketing strategy correctly, the results will start to show. But how should you measure your efforts? Content creators and marketing directors alike have long been debating how to track and measure content marketing results, as they rarely show as macro-conversions.
Although content marketing contributes largely to new leads and sales, there are other, more useful metrics that can help you determine how your content efforts are helping your business. Establishing the right metrics will enable you to identify the content that is performing well and the content that could be improved further. Before you can track the right metrics, you need to set your goals and KPIs.
As Joe Pulizzi famously said, “Great content marketers do two things differently than the rest: they document their content marketing strategy in some way, and they review and consistently refer to the plan on a regular basis.” Documenting your goals helps to create the foundation of your content marketing strategy, and it’s vital that you know what you want your content to achieve.
Understanding your goals and KPIs for each one of your content campaigns is an essential step in determining which metrics you should use to track your content marketing efforts. To understand your primary goals and KPIs, you should start with “why”. Think about your brand’s higher purpose and ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing – this helps clarify your overall marketing goals.
Establish your goals before you decide how you should go about reaching them. Here are some examples of possible goals you could set and the KPIs for each one.
1. Increase brand awareness – Your content must be highly relevant and enticing, as it needs to capture the attention of a large audience if you want to get your brand noticed.
2. Higher volumes of traffic to your website – Driving more traffic to your website is a top-of-the-funnel goal, so it’s important that your content offers insight into what your business has to offer.
3. Generate sales leads – Lead generation content is a fantastic way to convert your website traffic into leads that you can nurture.
4. Convert leads into customers – Gain revenue from the leads in your database acquired from your lead generation content.
5. Improve retention rates – The end goal of the marketing funnel is to delight your customers, so it’s important to provide continued support through your content marketing efforts.
There are an endless number of metrics that you could use to measure whether your content marketing is successful, but only a handful of metrics offer valuable insight. If you want to understand the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts, measure its performance using the following metrics.
No matter how amazing you think your content is, if no one is reading it then it’s not performing. Measuring the volume of traffic is extremely important if you want to determine how strong your brand really is and understand how readers found your content. Platforms such as Google Analytics enable you to uncover the traffic sources to your blog or website, find out where your traffic is coming from geographically and the type of devices they used to access your content.
Pay close attention to the number of unique visitors and pageviews if you want to get a better idea of the size of your audience and whether it’s growing.
The bounce rate can give you an idea of whether users are taking the time to digest your content and explore your website. A high bounce rate means that the user is being navigated away from your website immediately after they were directed there. This could be due to a number of factors including, a poor user experience, slow loading times or content that isn’t what the user expected.
It’s important to understand what is causing a high bounce rate, so you can remedy it straight away. This will prevent you from investing in future campaigns that may not be worthwhile.
Do you know how many people your content has reached? Understanding how many times your URL has appeared in search results and been viewed by a user gives a clear indication of how visible your content is.
To find out whether Google recognises if your content has answered your audiences’ needs, use Google Search Console. It allows you to see how many impressions your content has received.
Incorporating keyword research into your content marketing will help you reach your intended audience more effectively. Ranking higher in the SERPs for long-tail keywords or keywords with a higher search volume will help you get your content in front of your target audience, as they serve your users’ unique queries and have a larger reach.
Monitor your keyword rankings closely to establish whether Google is interpreting your content as ‘helpful content’ using tools such as SEMrush. But remember – keywords continuously change over time, so you’ll need to re-optimise your content when its rankings start to decline.
To be able to fully understand whether or not your content is effective, you need to be aware of the click-through rate. Although you may be driving visitors to your website, it’s important to understand if your content is encouraging users to take action, such as booking demos or signing up for newsletters. The click-through rate can provide many insights into how your content is performing and how users are responding to it.
The average session duration can reveal a great deal about whether your content is engaging your audience, especially if the user lands on your content directly. A good average session duration is typically considered to be 3 minutes or more – anything less could suggest that your content is not fulfilling the needs of your audience.
Is your content good enough to share? Perhaps the truest test of whether or not your content is engaging and insightful is if your readers are prepared to share with their own audiences. Google recognises shared content as the solution to users’ problems and is more likely to rank it higher in the SERPs.
The most common formula used to calculate content marketing ROI is the return minus the investment, divided by the investment, as shown below. When using this formula, it’s important to use the total investment – not just the one piece of content.
To calculate your content marketing ROI using this formula, follow these five simple steps.
However, there is a flaw to this formula, as money is not the only measure of a successful return on investment.
It can be difficult to measure the ROI of content when conversions, leads and sales are the sole metrics that determine the value of your content efforts. So, how else should you calculate it? Perhaps a more effective way is to take the value of your investment and minus the cost of investment instead.
Tim Soulo, CMO at Ahrefs, recently spoke at Brighton SEO about the ROI of content marketing. He highlighted that leads, conversions and sales are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to tracking success metrics. Instead, the metrics that deliver the truest value such as brand awareness, retention and word-of-mouth also happen to be very difficult to measure.
Interestingly, Tim suggested that it’s impossible to measure the ROI of your content marketing when the value = conversions, leads and sales, which (as many marketers would hate to admit) is very true. Let’s use this as an example. The next time you go to measure the effectiveness of your content, you’ll find that you have a certain amount of traffic coming in, which is great. But, to determine the true value of the content, you also need to add whether your product or service was talked about.
It was? That’s great! So, now all you have to do is add the traffic to the product mentions. Do you see the flaw in this method, yet?
The moral of this story is, content CANNOT NOT bring value if it gets traffic and conversations about your product or service. It’s vital that you manage your expectations of ROI, as well as your stakeholders, when it comes to determining the effectiveness of your content marketing.
As we mentioned earlier, content marketing is never linear – that goes for measuring it too! But, how do you get buy-in from your stakeholders?
The key is to determine your goals and KPIs based on the type of content you’re creating, carefully choose your success metrics and meticulously plan your strategy to meet your targets. And if you’re not confident that your content will meet the KPIs, or you’re worried that they are too ambitious, then establish benchmarks to measure your progress along the way.
Content marketing is an investment that often relies on you making educated bets as to whether it has ranking potential or traffic potential. It’s about trusting the feeling in your gut, applying your existing knowledge and thinking about the marketing attribution. Be honest with your clients or your marketing directors from the very beginning! Explain that there are better ways to measure the success of their investment. Why? Because ROI doesn’t tell the whole story…