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Content Marketing ROI: How to Measure the Success of Your Content

Apr 12, '18 / by Christina Bockisch

Content Marketing ROI: How to Measure the Success of Your Content

You’ve written optimized blog posts, created highly-targeted content offers and have a lead nurturing strategy in place. But is all of this paying off and adding revenue to your business’s bottom line?

Odds are, you might not know the answer. According to Content Marketing Institute, only 21% of marketers say they’re successful at measuring content marketing ROI — and most don’t even know what a successful content marketing program looks like.

It’s not surprising, though. Do a quick Google search for “content marketing ROI” and you’ll find dozens of articles talking about different ways to prove ROI – from plugging numbers into complex mathematical formulas to using Google analytics to show ROI to tracking the right success metrics.

The reality is this: Content marketing ROI isn’t “plug and play.” But don’t let that intimidate you.

Although proving ROI can be a challenge, it’s not impossible. Read on to learn more about what content marketing ROI is and how you can measure the success of your content and make your bosses happy without losing your mind.

Understanding content marketing ROI

Content marketing return on investment (ROI), by definition, is the percentage that shows how much revenue you gained from content marketing in comparison to what you spent.

When we think of ROI in marketing, we tend to think in terms of hard numbers. After all, that’s what the definition of ROI implies. And it’s what your bosses and C-suite executives want to see: numbers – like costs, profits, revenue and pipeline growth – that prove the success of your inbound marketing efforts.

But that’s not always easy to do when it comes to content marketing.

Because content marketing has so many “soft” benefits (benefits that don’t directly translate to dollars), it can be challenging to prove content marketing ROI. Some of the “soft” benefits of content marketing include:

  • Building brand awareness
  • Building trust
  • Increasing engagement
  • Building relationships
  • Improving visibility in search engines
  • Building and improving customer loyalty
  • Becoming a thought leader in your industry

Additionally, showing the ROI of content marketing is often a challenge for marketers because:

  • Attribution can be difficult. For example, how do you determine whether it was a case study or sales rep’s follow-up call that converted a lead into a customer?

  • Some content marketing activities like brand awareness, recognition as a thought leader and increased customer loyalty are challenging – if not impossible – to put a dollar value on.

  • Much of the content you’ll create is top-of-the-funnel content, meaning it’s used to build awareness and educate your audience. How do you measure that and tie it directly to revenue?

With all these obstacles, it’s no wonder marketers have trouble determining whether their content marketing is successful.

But let’s face it: Management won’t invest in content marketing if it’s not generating positive results for the business. So, how do you measure content marketing ROI and tie these “soft” benefits to real results?

Align your content marketing goals to KPIs

Although proving content marketing ROI can be difficult, it’s not impossible to see what’s working and what’s not. Ultimately, it comes down to knowing your goals and the right metrics to track for those goals.

Here are eight of the most common content marketing goals and what KPIs you can use to measure your success:

1. Brand awareness

Building brand awareness is one of the most common goals for content marketing. In fact, according to a report from Oracle and Aberdeen, 74% of CMOs say increasing brand awareness is a top priority for their business. The downside? It’s difficult to prove the return on investment.

Although tough to measure and tie directly to revenue, you can track your progress by looking at:

  • Social shares and following
  • Blog views
  • Direct website traffic
  • Returning website visitors
  • Views and shares from partnership audiences

2. Audience engagement

Once you’ve built brand awareness, the next step is to get your audience to engage with your content. While brand awareness helps get people familiar with your brand, audience engagement helps you better understand how people feel about your brand. Plus, when your audience engages with you, you learn more about what they like (and don’t like), their biggest challenges and most pressing questions.

There are a ton of different ways to measure audience engagement, including:

  • Social media shares, likes and comments
  • Comments on blogs
  • CTA clickthrough rates
  • Landing page conversion rates
  • Heat maps and click patterns
  • Website bounce rate
  • Time spent on page
  • Website page views

3. Drive website traffic

While brand awareness and audience engagement are broader content marketing goals, increasing website traffic is focused on pushing traffic into the top-level stage of the inbound marketing funnel.  

To see whether your content is effective at driving traffic to your website, look at the following metrics:

  • Unique visits (overview and breakdown by channel)
  • Onsite engagement (bounce rate, time on page)
  • Keyword rankings
  • New vs. returning visitors

Related Content: How to Create SMART Marketing Goals for Your Business

4. Increase blog views

Increasing blog traffic is another funnel-focused goal (specifically, it’s a top-of-the-funnel goal) tied to specific KPIs. To track your progress toward this goal, you’ll want to measure:

  • Blog visits per month
  • Keyword rankings
  • Social shares
  • New vs. returning visitors
  • Engagement metrics (bounce rate, time on page)
  • CTA clickthrough rates

5. Lead generation

According to Content Marketing Institute, 85% of marketers say lead generation is their most important business goal. To measure how well your content is working for lead generation, you’ll want to track these metrics:

  • CTA clickthrough rates
  • Landing page conversion rates
  • Conversion rates of leads to customers
  • Leads generated per month

6. Search engine visibility

Getting your content to rank on the first page of Google is always a goal when writing a new piece of content. To track your progress toward this goal, be sure to look at your keyword rankings at least once per quarter, but we suggest pulling reports once per month. Other metrics to track include:

  • Website traffic from organic search
  • Unique website visits
  • Topic clusters

7. Sales enablement

While all the above are great marketing goals to track each month and quarter, ultimately, what executives want to know is how all this translates to sales. Content marketing is a valuable tool for moving leads through the inbound marketing funnel and turning visitors into leads and leads into customers.

To track your success in using content for sales enablement, monitor these metrics:

  • Lead to customer conversion rate (overall and by content piece)
  • Sales conversion rates
  • Length of your sales cycle
  • Contract size
  • Cost per lead

8. Retention and upsells

We don’t often think of improving retention and driving upsells as a content marketing goal, but creating content for your personas shouldn’t end just because someone becomes a customer. Instead, now is the time for you to delight your customers.

When customers are happy with your product or service (and your communication), they’re more likely to recommend your business to other people. Plus, the more they like and trust you, the easier it is to drive more revenue through upsells.

Here are a few metrics to track toward this goal:

  • Customer retention rate
  • Percentage of repeat customers
  • Revenue from upsells

Prove your content marketing ROI with the right metrics

Although it’s difficult to show how content marketing ties directly to sales for your business, the KPIs above will help give you a better sense of how well your content is performing and whether you’re hitting the goals you’ve set. And by pulling together the right reports with the right metrics, you’ll be able to show your bosses that content marketing is worth the investment.

Now that you know what content marketing KPIs to track, it’s time to report on those metrics every month and quarter. Download our free Marketing Report Templates and start proving your content marketing ROI today.

Create killer reports - download our marketing report template

Topics: Marketing ROI, Content Marketing

Christina Bockisch
Written by Christina Bockisch

I’m passionate about helping my clients achieve their goals – whether that involves helping them show up in search engines, generate more of the right leads or nurture existing customers into brand evangelists.