Everyone knows that content marketing can produce huge results. Some of the biggest brands in digital marketing have reached their heights through content marketing. Every year more marketers are making content a priority and working to improve their content marketing ROI.
Measuring content marketing ROI is not easy. Simply put, content marketing ROI is the amount of revenue that you gain compared to what you spend in creating and promoting that content.
Simple, right? Seems so. But, understanding the role that each individual piece plays in a customer’s decision to purchase is nearly impossible. In fact, even companies that invest a lot in their content don’t really know the exact returns that their content generates.
There’s a number of reasons for this.
Chief among them is that blog content is designed to build rapport over time. It’s rare that a visitor reads a blog post and immediately buys your services.
If you are doing content marketing the right way, you are creating content for all stages of the customer journey. A prospect might interact with ten different blog posts over a time period that spans months before clicking the “buy now” button.
Even experts like Avinash Kaushik debate over the best way to attribute leads and revenue to different pieces of content.
It is important to understand that there is no sure-fire way to measure the effect that content has at different points in the customer journey. Customers interact with content at all stages, often through many channels. At best, companies are able to obtain a rough estimate of their content ROI.
But a rough estimate is much better than nothing. At the very least, you should have an idea of whether your efforts are returning a measurable profit or not. Over time you can refine the different strategies that you use to measure content marketing ROI and get closer to accurate reporting.
The good news is that it is not difficult to roughly measure this using Google Analytics. Let’s take a look at how companies get this set up and start measuring their content marketing ROI:
Start by Defining Metrics and KPIs
Unless you use Moz’s single metric system, there is no single metric that s gives organizations a full picture of their content marketing ROI. Instead, companies should focus on a range of metrics that give insight into the overall effectiveness of the content.
The areas that are most commonly used to track content marketing ROI include
- Overall Web Traffic
- Lead Quality
- Content Engagement
- Social Media Reach
- Exposure & Industry Authority
By tracking and working to improve in these seven areas, businesses can gain a top-down view of their content marketing efforts. Taking this approach makes it easy to identify holes in your strategy and more accurately assess your return.
Let’s take a look at how each of these can be set up and tracked.
Overall Web Traffic
Traffic generated has been the longtime gold standard for measuring content marketing success. Without traffic, there are no sales.
But, measuring the actual return that this traffic brings is difficult. Different sources and channels bring varying levels of traffic quality to your website. While web traffic shouldn’t be the only way that you measure the success of your content, it provides an effective peek into the effectiveness of your strategies.
To analyze your web traffic in Google Analytics, start by going to the Behavior » Site Content » Landing Pages menu.
This report page will show you the content that your visitors are landing on. It is sorted by the pages that receive the most traffic.
This provides a good overview of the traffic that your content is bringing in. To gain a deeper understanding, drill-down into your content that is receiving a lot of visits and see where those visits are coming from.
Just above the main data display, click on Secondary Dimension » Acquisition » Source/Medium.
This lets you see the origin of all your visits for a specific piece of content. Looking at this can give you an idea of what distribution strategies are effective and where your content marketing strategy is lacking.
Results like this show that whatever you are doing for SEO seems to be working just fine. But, your social media distribution efforts aren’t in the same ballpark.
Measuring Content Marketing ROI
As I mentioned earlier, measuring the sales generated from your content can be pretty difficult. Visitors might engage dozens of pieces of content before becoming a paying customer. Making the wrong attribution choice will leave you with misleading data.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t measure the sales generated by your content at all. The fact is, you have to. Verifiable revenue-generated is the clearest metric that we have for estimating a return on investment from content. Just know that you will have to do more to refine the data quality over time.
To measure sales from content on eCommerce websites in Google Analytics, you must enable eCommerce tracking.
Once enabled (and enough time has passed for enough relevant data to be collected), navigate to Behavior » Site Content » All Pages.
The easiest way to get a rough understanding of the contribution of each piece of content is to take a look at the “Page Value” field in the data set.
This gives you a rough estimate of how much revenue a given page has generated for your business. However, this data is exactly that — a rough estimate.
Because this feature is designed for eCommerce product pages, it only tracks conversions that happen during a single session for the visitor. Still, it’s nice to see which pieces of content are directly resulting in sales.
A more accurate representation can be derived from the “Assisted Conversions” metric. Assisted Conversions attempts to assign a value to each traffic channel for your website. Assisted Conversions assigns higher values to the first and last piece of content that a visitor interacts with before making a purchase.
Source: VerticalRail via Google Analytics
This data is extremely helpful and can help you to optimize your sales funnel as well. By understanding what channels are producing the best results, you can compare that to the sales generated by each individual post. Then, you can include high performing content in various stages of your sales funnel.
Quality of Leads
Content is most often used in lead generation. Most businesses take a fairly straightforward approach to measuring the effectiveness of their content in this space — by seeing how many leads each piece actually generates.
While this information is useful, it isn’t truly indicative of revenue generated unless you understand the quality of the leads. A specific lead magnet might be bringing in lots of subscribers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is resulting in sales.
You know a piece of content is bringing in quality leads when:
- The leads continue to interact with other pieces of content on your website.
- Prospects reach out to your sales team to ask questions about your product or service.
- The prospects actually buy from you.
This is need-to-know information. So how do we go about analyzing the quality of leads from specific pieces of content?
To start, you’ll have to set up “Goals” in Google Analytics. These are critical for measuring content marketing ROI. Now, there are many different goals that you could be tracking. A simple way to go about it might be to track when visitors are hitting your “Sign Up” page.
Once you have your goals set up, then you can navigate to Conversions » Goals » Funnel Visualization.
This page will give you a visual overview of how each page is funneling visitors down your conversion funnel. It can give insight into which pages are effectively producing new sales, and which pages you might want to tweak.
Here’s an example of what this page looks like
Source: Evolv.com via Google Analytics
As you can see, this visualization shows how many people are flowing from the Homepage » Pricing » Contact path. You can create many different visualizations to account for visitors coming from different channels and content.
Visitor Content Engagement
Having visitors coming to your site is great, but it isn’t doing you a whole lot of good if you aren’t keeping them there to interact with your content. These metrics affect your content marketing ROI substantially, but often can result in problems where the solution is elusive.
To understand how effective each piece of content is, you must measure the onsite engagement of each piece.
If you write a long, 5,000-word blog post and find that most visitors are leaving after just a few seconds, then you know that that particular piece of content just simply isn’t drawing them in, no matter how informative it is. You can use this data to make alterations to each piece to see if it has a positive effect. In this example, you might want to look at your opening paragraph and see if you can make the intro a bit more enticing to visitors.
A few signs of engagement include:
- Low bounce rate. A bounce is counted when users come to your page and don’t take another action. A low bounce rate means that your visitors are sticking around to read the content and interact with elements on your page. Keep in mind that certain industries and types of content will have higher average bounce rates than others. It’s best to compare your bounce rates against similar companies or pages on your own site.
- Average session duration. How long are your visitors sticking around once they load the page? Some will read your entire 5,000-word blog post. Others will scroll down but only check out the bullet points and images. Others will read one sentence and hit the “back” button. The longer your audience sticks around, the more engaging your content is.
- Pages per session. After they are done with the first piece of content, are they interested enough to check out other pages on your website? A high rate of visiting additional pages shows that your audience liked what they saw when they loaded the first piece of content.
All of these metrics can be seen by navigating to the Behavior » Site Content » All Pages page.
This page will give you a good top-down view of the engagement level of each piece of content on your site and open your eyes to content that is underperforming.
Social Media Reach
If you’re producing great content that people want to read, you should be seeing decent levels of social media engagement.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you won’t have to put in the effort to distribute the content and make sure that you get it in front of your intended audience.
But once you have traction, the posts should see a trickle of social media traffic as time goes on. Social media can play a huge role in content marketing ROI. It’s important to track this stuff because there is nothing more powerful than a product recommendation from a trusted source.
You can find a good top-down overview in the Acquisition » Social » Network Referrals page.
This gives you an overview of how much traffic is coming from social channels:
With this information in mind, navigate over to the Acquisition » Social » Overview page. This page is very similar to the “Assisted Conversions” page that we covered earlier, except that it attempts to assign a dollar-value to your social media efforts as a whole:
Content Builds Authority and Industry Exposure
Now for the unmeasurable and arguably most impactful reason to get into content marketing — industry exposure and growing your brand’s authority within that industry.
Over time, building your own authority becomes self-serving to your content marketing efforts. The greater the number of people who consider you to be a trustworthy source of industry information, the more these people will share and promote your content. With each major publication that links to your content or discusses your brand, your company’s brand awareness grows.
Additionally, putting your authority on display with high-level content helps with networking and may, over time, serve as a driving force in large business deals. It’s not an on/off switch. There is no single point you “become an authority” and start reaping the benefits. That reputation is something that must be built and nurtured over time.
Building your own authority in your industry will be visible in all of the previous metrics discussed in this article, but it will take a long time.
In the end, growing your authority will make all other marketing efforts more successful.
Measuring your content marketing ROI is a process that you will have to refine over time.