Knowing how to measure content marketing ROI, like measuring optimization ROI, is hard.
Or is it?
Andy Crestodina, founder of Orbit Media Studios, and I did some digging to figure out the easiest way to measure content returns.
Here’s what we found: Measuring content ROI is really as simple as knowing your conversion rate.
That is, you need to know which channels cause clicks to which articles, which articles convert visitors into leads, and which leads convert into customers.
And knowing that information is pretty simple. You can do it with nothing more than Google Analytics, a spreadsheet, and some simple math.
Table of contents
- First, let’s define ROI
- How to Measure Content Marketing ROI In 4 Practical Steps
- 1. Download your reverse goal path data
- 2. Download your page view data
- 3. Get your conversion rate
- 4. Calculate content marketing ROI based on lead conversions
- A Content Marketing Measurement Shortcut
- Beyond Direct Sales: The Murkier Parts of Content Measurement
First, let’s define ROI
Different companies with different goals have different ideas of ROI. Therefore, definition of ROI changes depending on your personal content marketing KPIs.
Specifically, these are the KPIs you should pay attention to:
- Website traffic
- Leads generated
- Conversion rate
- Direct sales
Which KPI you value the most depends on your stage in content marketing.
If you’re just starting out, there’s an argument to be made for only paying attention to traffic. Without traffic, your other measurables aren’t reliable. A 10% conversion rate on a blog post with 500 visitors could drop to 1% at 10,000 visitors. It’s just not enough data with which to make decisions.
But you should still track that data.
Andy Crestodina told me he believes it’s still worth tracking all your data, even at low traffic, because it can give you clues as to which topics and marketing channels are working for your blog.
Once you do have a significant amount of traffic coming in (the number can vary, but a good ball park is when you hit 10k visits per month), then you can move on to the other metrics – like leads, conversion rate, and revenue. Until then, put your efforts into promoting your content.
Keep in mind, however, that there are other, more complicated ways content provides an ROI:
- Better customer retention
- Increased customer lifetime value
- Brand awareness
- Potential links from large publications
- Stronger relationships with influencers and thought leaders
- Higher search rankings
I’m mentioning this because your content will almost always provide a greater ROI than the number you’ll come up with at the end of this post, regardless of the KPIs you use.
Now, let’s talk about how to actually measure your content ROI, step-by-step.
How to Measure Content Marketing ROI In 4 Practical Steps
To understand ROI you must understand your conversion rate per piece of content or URL. To do that, all you need is Google Analytics.
Note: What you’re about to learn assumes that 1) you have conversion goals set up to all your lead magnet landing pages and 2) your visitors can become subscribers from any of your blog posts, and they lead to those lead magnet landing pages. If not, you won’t be able to follow this guide to track your content ROI (though you can still track ROI, just by other means).
Now, let’s take the first step:
1. Download your reverse goal path data
Hat tip to Andy Crestodina for providing this tip, which he outlines in his post on blog optimization.
Basically, it works like this:
- Go to your analytics dashboard. Set the date range for at least a year.
- Go to Conversions -> Goals -> Reverse Goal Path.
- Add a filter like “/blog” so only blog posts show up.
- Sort by Goal Completions.
You’ll now see which posts have driven the most conversions.
However, we don’t want raw conversion numbers – we want conversion rates. That way, we know which pieces of content are performing and which aren’t.
So download this data as a CSV, and move on to step 2.
2. Download your page view data
We need to know pageviews to determine conversion rate. To do this:
- Go to Content > Site Content > All Pages.
- Filter with “/blog” to get only blog posts.
Now download the data as a spreadsheet and enter it into a new column in your original spreadsheet from step one.
3. Get your conversion rate
Divide the data in the “conversions” column by the number in the “unique pageviews” column. This will give you your conversion rate per blog post.
It should look like this:
Now you can see at a glance what your best performing pieces of content are, and which aren’t doing anything for you.
Armed with that knowledge, you can determine which topics tend to perform the best, try optimizing low-performing posts and/or lead magnets for conversions, and then prioritize promoting the high-converting content articles.
Pro Tip: If you have pages that are over a year old and aren’t getting any traffic or conversions, consider unpublishing, no-indexing, or updating them. This has been shown to improve SEO.
As for actually deciphering the ROI, you have to see how many of those leads have converted to give you an exact income amount.
4. Calculate content marketing ROI based on lead conversions
This is where things start to get a little trickier. To do this, you need to be able to put tags on your leads based on which content they came from.
The easiest way to do that is with UTM parameters. However, it’s also easy to do with tags, if your email marketing platform allows it.
For example, ConvertKit lets you automatically tag any leads who come through a certain form. If that form is attached to a single blog post, you know that any leads with that tag came from that blog post.
Send custom URLs in your emails, like “?ref=emailcampaign”, so you know the sale came from your email. Then just track back one step further using the tags.
Alternatively, you can connect your leads with a CRM, such as HubSpot, SalesForce, or PipeDrive, to track this automatically. All you need to do is integrate them with your analytics and email marketing platform. (Most CRMs have these features built in, but you can also create your own integrations with Zapier.)
Once you’re finished – voilà. You now have a full understanding of your content marketing ROI!
Now, there’s also a software solution that can give you a bit of a shortcut in terms of measurement and ROI…
A Content Marketing Measurement Shortcut
Doing all this is time-consuming. And it has to be redone every time you want to see your results.
What if you want to check this out weekly – or even daily? Going through all these steps every day would be a pain.
There’s an easier way. You’ll get all this data at your fingertips in real-time, and you don’t have to do a thing once you set it up the first time.
All you have to do is set up a web analytics dashboard with Cyfe. You can use it to create a neatly organized visual dashboard of everything we’ve covered:
I recommend setting up your dashboard to display the following:
- Search rankings
- Customer lifetime value
- Conversion rate
Each of these can be tracked with of Cyfe’s pre-built widgets. It definitely makes life easier, and I find it’s worth every penny.
Whichever method you choose, you now know how to measure content marketing ROI.
Beyond Direct Sales: The Murkier Parts of Content Measurement
Now you understand how to see the dollars your content efforts have brought in. However, as I explained in the first section, content can do much more for you than simply bring in customers.
The biggest benefit of content, in my opinion, comes from SEO. Content is one of the top two search ranking factors, according to Google’s own Andrey Lipattsev.
The other? Backlinks.
External links from other sites to your site are one of the biggest influences on ranking higher in search results. And who doesn’t want that?
Content helps with both of these. Obviously, it gives you high-quality content, which Google wants…
But content goes even farther than SEO. It can also serve to increase your customer lifetime value, onboard new customers, and improve your brand awareness. Let me explain:
Customers don’t buy from you until they trust you. So why do we trust businesses?
- Someone referred us (which is why it’s a good idea to think about involving influencers)
- Trust signals, such as HTTPS, security badges, professional site design, etc. (including the design of your content)
- Transparency, such as revealing failures or true motives
These are just a few of the many website credibility factors. And content helps with all of them.
You can use your blog as an excuse to interview or survey high-level influencers, giving you a strong referral. You can make it look amazing (check out KlientBoost for an example of sexy, trustworthy blog design), and reveal failures you experienced in your business or tactics you used to grow.
You can even use it to land guest posts on other sites, and build a reputation online for quality. These are all ways content marketing provides a return beyond dollars and cents.
If you’re not using content, you should really consider starting.
If you’re a digital marketer or run your own business, there’s a good chance you’re spending a lot of time or money producing amazing content.
If you don’t know which pieces of your business are working and which aren’t, you won’t be able to scale up without hitting a ton of roadblocks.
Understanding how to measure content marketing ROI is fundamental to your businesses success. It’s the difference between becoming a leader in your industry or just a follower.
In this post, we’ve examined the most practical and simple ways to determine the return on your content. We’ve detailed the fundamentals, like Google Analytics and goal tracking, as well as some advanced shortcuts, like the Cyfe dashboard and integrating your content with HubSpot or SalesForce.
Come back to this piece as often as you need to, and I promise you’ll start to understand the numbers your content efforts are bringing.
Will you start measuring your content marketing KPIs? Make your commitment known by leaving a comment below!
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I actually think you have it wrong with your advice. I don’t see how conversion rate actually get taken into account when calculating the ROI. What if a negative linear correlation takes place between ROI and conversion rate? I.e. conversion rate goes down but ROI inceases. It happens especially when you increase the avg. order value.
I’d much rather calculate content net profit. Why? Some content pieces might cost you wayyy more to produce and promote and you would want to take costs into account.
Also; your piece fail to take cross-device issues into account (same user adding to pageview count using more than one device).
First of all, thanks for your feedback! :)
You’re right – it’s possible that conversion rate could go down while ROI still increases. And cross-device issues could skew your results.
However, I’m not necessarily trying to create a 100% accurate depiction of content ROI – that’s much more complex, and arguably not possible. The purpose of this post is to share a practical, simple way to calculate your returns from content produced, and to see which content is bringing you the greatest returns so you can produce more of it. We could make it more complex (and slightly more accurate), but that would add a lot more difficulty in setting things up and creating proper attributions.
If you think I’m wrong (and I’ve certainly been wrong before), how would you attribute ROI without adding immense complexity to the system? Do you know of a simple way to attribute content net profit to a specific piece? I’d love to hear about it! :)
Firstly, thanks for at least writing about the topic of measuring content marketing ROI.
Yeah, you are absolutely correct when it comes to it being really complex if you want to get to a close measurement of ROI.
Also; a page with little unique pageviews might even lead to a massive $$$$ in generation due to high quality prospects reached during the promotion.
I’ve copied a section from Himanshu’s book where he gives it a breakdown:
GREAT CONTENT = (total revenue which the content helped in generating + total value of the conversions which the content completed / number of unique pageviews of the content prior to conversions and/or transactions
You produced an infographic
Step 1: Determine content production and marketing cost
Production cost = $400
Promoting infographic = $100
Total cost of content production and marketing = $500
Step 2: Calculate page value/greatness of content piece
= (total revenue + total goal value) / number of unique pageviews of the infographic prior to conversions and/or transactions
= ($121 + $50)/171
Our infographic added a value of just $1
Total economic value added to the business bottom-line
= total revenue which the infographic helped in generating (last click conversion value) + total value of the conversions which infographic assisted (assisted conversion value)
= $121 + $41
ROI of infographic
= (total economic value added by the infographic – production and marketing cost)/production and marketing cost
= ($162 – $500)/$500
I personally find the reverse goal path data in GA totally useless for tracking direct sales. As an e-commerce company we have a multiple-step check-out process, which take all the steps in the reverse goal path. Any ideas, how to get additional steps into this report, except taking a look at only the first step (landingpage report) and comparing with the goals?
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