How Creative Marketers Can Measure Content Marketing ROI

Michael Brenner on Mar 11, 2019 in Content Marketing

Looking to measure content marketing return on investment (ROI) is something creative marketers like you are getting asked to do more and more.

You know your content has real quality, creates goodwill among your target customers, and positions you as an authority in your field. But if knowing how to measure content marketing ROI—the method and the math—gives you anxiety, then you have come to the right place.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Marketing is not about creating great creatives. In the end, it’s about sales and ROI.
  • You should know exactly how much you spend on creating your content and marketing it.
  • Develop your own formula on how to measure the ROI of your content.
  • Look at the intangible benefits of your content before you calculate its ROI.

Why Learn How to Measure Content Marketing ROI?

“…Success is related to standing out, not fitting in.” Don Draper, Mad Men

Content creators—often lose sight of the fact that marketing is a business above all else. Great marketing, as ad legend David Ogilvy pointed out, rises and falls based on “how much sales it brings in,” not their creative merit. Save that for the Emmys, Mad Men.

The real-life Madison Avenue kings and queens set goals based on their sales versus their expenditures—their ROI. Anyone can create clever content. It takes a genius to create content that achieves its sales goals. You can become that genius.

When you have a fail-safe way to measure your content’s ROI, you can measure its success. That, in turn, allows you to set content marketing goals, create a better strategy to achieve those goals, and then measure the success of your new goals.

Even Mad Men’s fictional ad man, Don Draper, realized that standing out among one’s competitors is the measure of that success. The only way to know when you’ve achieved that kind of standout success is to measure your ROI. Here’s how.

1. Research the Challenges in Measuring Content Marketing ROI

In his August 2016 article in Entrepreneur, Jayson DeMers shares two challenges you’ll come up against when you perform your calculations.

  • Early returns aren’t always the best barometer: Most content starts out “with a negative ROI, scaling in return as it scales in volume.” You need to give your numbers time to adjust.
  • It’s difficult to put a number to more esoteric benefits: Though it’s difficult to calculate more subjective standards such as reputation and authority, these numbers correlate with more sales overall.

But in today’s digital world, with enough patience, you can measure the success of your content marketing efforts.

We would add two more considerations:

  • Getting in the weeds on the numbers: When you focus your attention on too many key performance indicators (KPIs), it makes it difficult to get clarity on the overall impact your content has made.
  • Using the wrong KPIs: When you measure ROI, you need to limit your focus to only the relevant factors. Looking at early figures, for instance, can throw you off—as DeMers points out. Social media mentions outside your target customer base, too, might be irrelevant to your ROI, unless yours is a campaign to reach a new demographic.

2. Add Up Your Total Content Marketing Spend

If your content marketing agency does all the legwork, this part is easy. If you want to look at the ROI of a single campaign—as opposed to your overall content marketing strategy—be sure to use only those agency expenses that went into that campaign.

If, however, you do your content marketing in-house or hire outside contractors, it gets a bit more complicated. You’ll need to account for employee or contractor expenses in your total cost.

Don’t forget to count the cost of other expenses, such as hiring a video production company for an explainer video for your new product’s kickoff, your lunch with a local journalist to give her an exclusive peek at your product, or other incidental expenses related to your campaign.

Your total monthly spend, too, may prove useful, particularly when you’re pitching your overall content marketing program to your company’s C-suite executives, as marketing departments often must do, according to Forbes’ Joe Escobedo. Unless there’s a specific campaign that’s a standout, often they only want to know if their investment in content marketing is paying off in the big picture.

3. Calculate Your Conversions’ Value

For many businesses—especially those in e-commerce—this can be an easy number to find. Let’s say you’re an online jewelry store who has just finished your February Valentine’s Day campaign to promote your collection of diamond rings. To that end, you launched a content marketing campaign that involved videos, a press release, and a blog article that got some Facebook love through your savvy social media strategy.

If you have no brick-and-mortar site, all you need to do is calculate the average purchase price of the rings’ total sales. That would be your average conversion value since all your sales came from your online presence.

If there are more variables—such as a brick-and-mortar store as well as your online sales portal, it can become more complex.

The best way to work around this complexity, then, is by learning how many conversions you got during that month—in this example, February. That number you can find through calculating the traffic impact.

4. Find the Impact Your Web Traffic Has on Conversions

Next, you’ll analyze these conversions to see which of them happened as a result of your content marketing strategy. Look at the organic traffic coming from search engines. For the most part, all of this traffic comes from your content marketing strategy, since your content will pull in inbound links. The more inbound links you have, the higher your domain authority. The higher that goes, the more visible your website will be on search engines.

Referral traffic counts—since your off-site content (such as your videos and press releases) has made an impact on your referrals.

For example, a young man’s mother sees your diamond ring promotional video (knowing that her son plans to pop the question on Valentine’s Day) and tells him about your 20% off promotion. He gets online, looks over the selections, and boom! Your astute content marketing has brought in another sale.

Your social media traffic, too, figures into the mix, since you—or your content marketing agency—has likely plastered your Valentine’s Day promotion content all over your social media platform. Filter out those conversions that you can’t attribute to your content—and you’ll have the number of monthly conversions your content drove.

5. Do the Math: Calculate Your Content’s Direct Benefits

Image courtesy of SlideShare

Most content marketers, unfortunately, don’t count revenue among their top three goals. Only 16% of content marketers surveyed in LinkedIn’s survey, shown above.

But revenue is what drives your business. It’s what the C-suite execs want to see from their marketing campaigns. It is, after all, the “return” in your ROI.

That’s the reason even creatives have to study Algebra 101 their freshman year. It all goes back to the need to quantify the impact their work has on their target customers’ purse strings.

There’s an equation for that. A couple of them, in fact.

Equation 1: Multiply your total monthly conversions (from Step 3) times your average conversion value (from Step 4). That will give you your direct content marketing benefits.

Next, subtract the content costs you calculated in Step 2.

Equation 2: Direct Content Marketing Benefits – Content Costs = Your Content ROI.

That’s the bottom-line figure you take to the C-suite. That’s the number you need to dig into to tweak your next campaign.

More Factors to Consider in Measuring Content Marketing’s Impact

Even though they’re not directly related to a specific campaign, other content marketing benefits will make an impact on your company’s bottom line overall, over time. These include:

  • Your brand’s reputation, visibility, and customer loyalty: These grow over time, though each successful campaign can increase these significantly. For instance, the goodwill you generate among money-strapped lovers during your Valentine’s Day discount promotion can grow your brand’s reputation among your target customer base as they tell their friends, their friends tell theirs, and so on. If your brand’s quality matches the promise in your content, those connections will build loyalty over the years as they grow in trust.
  • Long-term online growth: Analyze the numbers after every campaign—and improve those areas in which you don’t achieve the results you want. When you do that, your web presence will grow with each succeeding campaign as you get closer to content marketing perfection.
  • Attracting quality influencers and backlinks to your brand: As Paperflite vice president Akshay Sasikumar points out in Entrepreneur, these factors are difficult to measure in number but will produce more revenue for your brand when experts in related fields refer customers to or link to your site.

Once you master the basics of how to measure content marketing ROI, you can go deeper into the minute details in your marketing analytics to get an even better grasp on how much value your campaigns bring to your business.

When you undertake every campaign with your ROI in mind, it can transform your content marketing strategy. Be one of the 16% of the nation’s content marketers who prioritize ROI and you will stand out. You will succeed.

Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.

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