March 11, 2019

How to Calculate and Use Marketing ROI

marketing roi

Content creation is no longer optional for businesses that want to thrive in today’s competitive environment. Regardless of what it’s called — a blog post, infographic, video, etc. — content has become the way we consume information to help make better decisions in all areas of our lives.

When trying to find valuable content, we usually turn to Google. From looking for a recipe to figuring out where to buy the best jeans, we are now making more than 63,000 Google searches every second of every day. That adds up to 5.6 billion searches a day.

Understanding how to create great content and generate more traffic to your website through content marketing can help you attract potential customers. But it’s equally important to understand how to calculate what kind of return on investment (ROI) you’re receiving from your content marketing.

Then you can evaluate what’s working — and improve or eliminate what’s not.

Why You Need to Understand Content Marketing ROI

In any business, being able to connect your actions to your revenue is critical for success. But for marketers, tracking ROI can be a struggle. In fact, a study released in 2018 by HubSpot found that 39% of marketers say proving the ROI of their marketing activities is their top marketing challenge.

What makes it so tough? For starters, the world of content marketing moves quickly, so what worked for you six months ago might be obsolete today (we would know, as a content and digital marketing agency).

Being able to track content marketing ROI means evolving constantly to keep up with changing customer preferences, technology and SEO best practices. It means remaining agile and constantly analyzing the feedback your content is generating.

And, perhaps most importantly, it means being able to read your numbers in a way that gives you enough clarity to determine the value in what you’re doing.

Understanding Marketing ROI

Content marketing, spending wise, is one of your best bets and safest investments. According to DemandMetric.com, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about three times as many leads.

However, content marketers know it’s not a one-size-fits-all business, and what works for one company and their audience may not work for another. Determining where to invest in content marketing and how to develop an effective content marketing strategy are essential steps.

Measuring content marketing ROI is also different than measuring other types of marketing campaigns, such as advertising, because it can take several weeks or even months for it to pay off.

You have to factor in the amount of time it takes for search engines to discover your content and, sometimes, it might take your audience awhile to find it, too. Even though we live in a fast-paced world where information is constantly updated, it can take time for content to reach its full potential.

Knowing this, it’s important to give your content time to perform. A blog post that initially doesn’t gain a great deal of traction could, over time, generate strong traffic for you. Watch for content that performs well in the long term and use it to inform future topics or campaigns.

Choosing Your ROI Metrics

To measure your ROI, you’ll first need to select your key performance indicators, or KPIs. KPIs allow you to follow set goals to see how your content is performing. KPIs can be used for measuring everything from the performance of an individual piece of content to the success of an entire campaign.

Within content marketing, there are many different KPIs that can be used, and not all companies choose to use the same KPIs to follow their content’s performance. Whichever metrics you choose, make sure they’re relevant to what you need to track and can give you actionable information, not just vanity metrics like page views, social media followers and subscribers.

While these numbers can look good on paper, they don’t help you make any progress toward meeting revenue goals.

Some actionable KPIs in content marketing can include:

Sales revenue. Is the amount of revenue you’re bringing in through content marketing exceeding the amount of money you’re spending to create your marketing campaign? Some specific KPIs to look at can include:

  • Monthly sales growth
  • Lead-to-sale percentage
  • Number of monthly on-boarding and demo calls
  • Average purchase value

Cost per lead. How much is it costing you to acquire a new lead, and what is generating the most leads for you? KPIs that show your campaign is doing well include:

  • Cost per lead in relation to the price of the service or product you’re selling
  • Quality of leads generated vs. quantity of leads

Social media reach. There are countless metrics to measure on social media, such as brand awareness, engagement and how many conversions came to your website directly from social media. Here are specific KPIs to track:

  • Engagement. Which channels show the highest level of engagement? How many clicks, likes, shares and comments did your social media accounts receive?
  • Brand Awareness. What percentage of site traffic can be attributed to each social media channel? How many followers do you have? How many impressions do your posts receive?
  • Conversions. How many conversions come to your website directly from social media?

Form and landing page conversion rates. How successful are your landing pages in terms of conversions? Do your A/B tests reveal any important data? What CTAs seem to be most effective?

Organic search traffic. Growth in organic search traffic is one of the most critical KPIs you can measure. Among the things to measure in relation to organic search traffic include: 

  • How many leads are coming from organic search? This can be measured directly through Google Analytics to tell you where the traffic is coming from.
  • How many visitors originating from organic search are converting into customers? When you see where your efforts are paying off, you’ll have a better idea of what to concentrate on, where you need improvement and what you might want to eliminate.

Carefully choosing your KPIs ensures that you are measuring what matters and can help you better understand your true ROI. Keep in mind that this isn’t a one-and-done exercise; as your business needs change, so might the metrics that are most important for you to monitor. Hiring SEO services may be useful to you, as well. They will not only help track your KPIs, but give you amazing insight to boost your organic traffic.

As part of establishing your KPIs, you’ll also need to have a solid attribution model that allows you to identify the source of your revenue. Using first touch or last touch attribution can help measure what is driving conversions.

Once you identify what is working best for you and what isn’t, you can create a clear, informed and effective plan. You can direct your efforts toward proven revenue generators and, the more focused you become on your KPIs, the better you can fine-tune your efforts to receive superior results.

While understanding content marketing ROI presents a challenge for many marketers, taking time to develop specific goals and KPIs relevant to your efforts is an investment of your time that can pay off significantly.

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Paula Felps

Paula Felps is a staff writer and editor with madison/miles media who has written for a variety of print and digital publications. She is the author of multiple books and is owned by a 17-pound Boston terrier named Archie.