The procedures used for measuring a return on investment (ROI) for a content marketing strategy can directly impact the structure of the strategy. Oftentimes, further investment into content marketing or continuing the strategy is directly dependent on metrics that prove how content marketing has impacted the company’s bottom line. If it’s not evident that content marketing is pulling its own weight and more, it’s going to be hard to justify the current course of action.

Defining content marketing ROI

optimize-roi-for-content-strategyReturn on investment has historically consisted of such measurements as number of unique visitors to a website, top rank positioning in Google Search, overall website traffic increase, and leads/sales generated. Each of these has a definitive numeric quality that can be tracked.

With the advent and growth of content marketing, ROI has expanded to include the consideration of engagements and customer interaction to a company’s social media presence, setting up a whole category of supposedly “non-quantifiable” actions. How do you factor in social signals such as reach, exposure and conversation to measuring ROI? What is a Retweet worth? Does a Facebook like really mean anything to your bottom line? In regards to the implied ROI evidence of content marketing, many B2B and B2C companies ask only, “Did we make more money or generate sales from this?

Content posted across social channels is going to generate activity and connections, so there is the need to show that direct line connection between the money spent for content marketing and revenue generated. Today, content marketing is less about asking what is it or how to do it, it’s now more about how to put real ROI measurement practices into place. We know how to conduct content marketing, but the hot topic is learning the different ways to measure ROI in those activities.

Measuring ROI within content marketing

In today’s digital age there are myriad tools, tactics and strategies that make it possible to measure ROI by following the lifespan of a piece of content through the various social media channels and platforms. This provides tracking and measurements that show consumer interest and the initial touch points throughout the different stages of the buyer’s journey, demonstrating the impact of the content consumed. Russell Sparkman explains: “We try to get clients to understand that it’s not just how the marketing dollar contributed to the sale, but it’s how [content] contributed to all the critical touch points along that journey.

With Google Analytics you can track and directly attribute ROI to the different phases of the buyer’s journey. For example, from an initial video viewing a consumer may move on to downloading an e-book, bringing them from “prospect” stage to “consideration” stage. And finally, providing their contact information such as an email address moves them further down the funnel closer to the “decision making” stage. Additionally, this customer could go on to share your content with their friends, extending the reach (ROI) of your content piece even more.

Investing in quality content is vital for a content marketing strategy to succeed. Great content is needed at the end of any pay-per-click or banner ad call to action, as well as to fuel the “always-on/real-time” content need for the 24/7/365 search habits of today’s consumer. Without content, it all falls flat, creating a “billboard in the forest” scenario.

Content marketing goals, planning and ROI

According to Russell, the singular most important thing in planning to measure ROI in content marketing is done right at the beginning. “It’s goal setting. Establishing what the desired outcomes of the initiative are going to be. By identifying and defining those, you are from the outset establishing a best practice in ROI which is knowing what you are going to measure…quite like having a road map.”

Your goals will determine the tools and processes you’ll need in order to measure the ROI that is important to meeting those goals. Additionally, defined goals will control content creation; every piece of content will be designed to meet specific goals so all your content will contribute to the ROI.

Moving forward, Russell predicts even more granular metrics: “I believe that we’re now in the early stages of marketers really understanding how to take those content marketing activities and truly attach them to different ways of measuring the ROI of those activities.”

Actionable Steps

If you’re in the midst of a content marketing initiative and floundering over ROI, go back to the beginning.

  • Establish firm goals and benchmarks, with key performance indicators (KPIs) and ROI measurement tools in place to track progress.
  • Evaluate your existing content with a critical eye and replace poor content with high-quality, goal-focused content.
  • Optimize your content with keywords for search, and KPIs and calls to action to generate identifiable customer engagement.

With goal-driven content and purposeful measurement tools, you’ll be able to provide the all-important metrics that will verify the impact of your content marketing strategy. You’ll have empirical evidence showing how what was spent on content marketing directly impacted revenue generated–a provable ROI.

Join the Conversation:

  • What measurement tools do you use to assess the effectiveness of your content marketing?
  • What social channels provide the strongest metrics to support your content marketing ROI?
  • How often do you evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your content marketing strategy?
This article highlights selected excerpts from CMX’s interview with Russell Sparkman, of Fusionspark Media, and Martin van der Roest of the Examiner on the topic of How to optimize ROI within a Content Marketing Strategy – August 16, 2013.