Content marketing is here to stay – it’s a proven strategy used by the world’s most successful marketing teams. Despite this, proving the value of your content to your bosses and peers is another task entirely. In theory, measuring the return of your content strategy sounds straightforward. You probably already have an idea whether it’s working or not. But how do you measure return on investment (ROI) in practice? Here are some of the best way of doing so.
In plain terms, to calculate ROI, subtract the spend from the return, then divide the return by the amount spent – in this example, our return is £20,000 and our spend is £10,000:
(£20,000 – £10,000) / £10,000 = 1.00
ROI = current value of investment minus cost of investment divided by cost of investment.
This will give you a decimal that can be expressed as a percentage (in this case, 100%). You’ll already know this but if it’s a positive number, well done, your activity drove more money than you spent. If it’s negative, it probably wasn’t worth the effort.
The underlying stats
The actual formula for ROI is relatively straightforward. Adding up how much you spend should also be simple, providing you have kept accurate records. Add up everything from time spent, salaries paid, agency fees, media spend, design costs and anything else you can think of for the most accurate reflection.
The most difficult part with content marketing is putting a figure on the return.
Identifying the return is easier for some types of content over others. If your content is behind a lead-generation form that requires users to enter their details before accessing the file, you’re in luck. Evaluating the amount of business it drove is as simple as matching the lead value to the downloads. It may be worth doing this with potential lead value (whether it was won or lost) and actual sales value. This way, you can prove the worth of your content – it’s up to the sales team to close the lead.
You can see this method in action with Hubspot’s Complete Collection of Content Creation Templates. If you want to download them, you have to tell Hubspot who you are, and you can bet they’ll get in contact afterwards. If your lead-generation form is connected to your customer database – like Hubspot’s will be – then this process is even more simple.
Alternative ways of evaluating return
For other types of content, it’s less straightforward. Blogs, videos, articles, guest posts, infographics, case studies and other pieces of content will all contribute to sales in various ways without getting that final conversion. To find the ROI for these, you’ll have to be more creative as there are many methods:
- For some, the amount of engagement a page drives is a good indicator of its value. A higher number of page views, time on site and a lower bounce rate are all good indicators of engagement. The more engaged your users are, the more likely they are to get in touch or buy from you.
- SEO performance
- Your content may be extremely valuable at improving your search rankings and driving visits – and, ultimately, sales – for your site. To work out the return of individual pages or pieces of content, you can work out the page views as a percentage of total page views, and extrapolate this to the total amount of business driven by natural search. This can also apply to sections of your site, for example your blog.
- Backlinks are important for good SEO performance. If backlinks are one of your goals, they can be used to determine the value of content. The number of backlinks is important, but the quality of the sites linking to you can be even more so.
- Social media metrics
- Content is the lifeblood of successful social media, so the amount of business coming from social links is often a good indicator of successful content. Keeping track of likes, shares and views of different posts is also a good demonstration of the value of different content.
Attribution models in Google Analytics
There are many ways of attributing the value of sales you have made to the marketing efforts that drove them. It’s a complex journey, because users move between channels over a significant period of time before they make their purchase.
Google Analytics is a great free tool that is helpful when evaluating the return of content. Its Page Value metric puts a financial figure against each page based on the contribution it makes to sales. The higher the number, the higher the value.
The tool also allows you to look at your marketing performance using different attribution models, providing you have e-commerce tracking set up. There are the standard models: first click, last click, time decay and linear. There is also the option to create a custom model. It’s worth looking at your content using different models to see how and where it contributes, so you can optimise it.
Evaluating the return from content marketing can be as complicated or simple as you like. Our advice is to start off small and grow from there. It’s better to have a baseline figure that everyone understands and gives you a starting point rather than spending time and energy on a more accurate figure that probably isn’t worth the effort. Once you’re confident, you can move towards an ROI value that is accurate and actionable.