6 ways to measure and improve the ROI of Content Marketing

Content Marketing has been all the rage these past few years. We’ve heard from many experts and influencers that content marketing is the new advertising and that “brands must become media to earn relevance”. But how do we measure ROI and know our content isn’t just fueling some vanity metric but is actually helping our business?

If content marketing is the new advertising, then we should try to assess this question with the same criteria. Which means first, we should acknowledge that while advertising is a practice that has been undisputed for decades, measuring its ROI can greatly vary. After all, a lot of marketers would still agree with John Wanamaker who said more than a century ago: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.“

When it comes to digital advertising though, this question is easier to solve because we have metrics: we know how many views a YouTube Ad received, we have impressions of ad banners, clicks on Adwords ads, CTR’s, etc. As a result, while we can’t always have a precise answer to the ROI questions, here are 6 tips to better measure it and – more importantly – to improve it.

1. Use Google Analytics to measure progress on brand awareness

Measuring brand awareness is of course difficult and integrating it in a precise ROI calculation is harder still. But there are at least a couple of metrics you should be able to get easily:

- how much direct traffic do you get?

- how much search traffic to your Web site does your brand name generate?

Both of these metrics can be easily obtained from Google Analytics.  Whether this traffic is coming from people visiting your web site directly or through a bit of help from Google, one thing is for sure: they are all people who’ve remembered your brand to some extent. If your content marketing is helping your brand awareness, you should see these metrics go up.

2. Add conversion hooks to your content

Measuring conversion is not necessarily as easy as it sounds: make sure to design conversion points in your marketing strategy. It’s very likely your customer journey does not consist of ‘visit -> buy’ but offers many more opportunities to create connections with potential buyers. In fact, a recent Forrester study highlighted in the B2B space showed that “business buyers are 57% or 67% through the buying process before they engage with salespeople”.

Here some ways you can include conversion hooks with your content:

  • require a registration to download a white-paper;

  • use Unbounce to build landing pages from pre-existing templates without requiring code to create new conversion types;

  • add lead generation forms on your blog, on your SlideShare infographics and presentations, and to your Scoop.it curated pages;

  • include calls to action to purchase your offerings.

3. Track conversions through Google Analytics

There are many ways to track conversions but here’s a basic way to do so using Google Analytics:

  • Add Google Analytics event tracking for your conversions: here’s a detailed guide on how to do it.

  • Use Google’s URL builder to track referral traffic from your content to your conversion pages.

Combining both of these will result in Google Analytics showing you not only how many conversions you had per type of conversion but which content source delivered it. As you understand which content channel delivers the highest conversions, you’ll be able to invest more in it.

4. Create a benchmark with a Google Adwords campaign

A way of measuring the impact of content marketing is to consider it as media you didn’t have to buy. How much would you have had to spend to generate 1,000 clicks to your site if you had to pay for it? How much to generate 100 conversions?

If you don’t know, you can answer this question by running an Adword campaign: while this isn’t entirely free, you could run a $10/day budget for 2 weeks and get an initial idea of how much you should bid on keywords that relate to your business. For $150, you’ll have an answer: say you received 300 visits and 15 leads from that campaign:

  • your cost of getting 1,000 clicks is $500 (1,000 / 300 x $150);

  • your CPC (Cost per Click) is $.50 ($150 / 300);

  • your CPL (Cost per Lead) is $150 / 15 = $10.

Now you can compare that with the impact of that $5,000 infographic you did last year: did it bring 500 leads or more? If it did, then you could say you’d been better off than buying AdWords which is a good benchmark to beat considering AdWords visitors are explicitly searching for something.

5. Track your SEO progress through tools like Moz

Ranking high on specific keywords (or keyword combinations) is not only a great way of generating traffic to your content and your site but it’s likely to generate brand awareness and conversions. Measuring progress on this can be done using a manual list of keywords and monitoring your progress against it on a weekly basis but it’s likely that the process will become cumbersome rapidly so you can use Moz to automate the process and also get interesting insights and analytics.

6. Optimize your content marketing mix with content curation

No matter how we look at ROI, we’ll have to get an understanding of our costs. Content Marketing is not free advertising: it takes time and talent and therefore dollars to produce good quality content. I’m sure you can find many estimates for these costs and they of course vary on a case-by-case basis, but these are typical costs and production time we’ve observed from discussing frequently with the many content marketers who use Scoop.it:

Type of content

Cost to produce

Time to produce

Blog post

2-4 person hours

1-3 days

Infographic

$2,000-$10,000

3-6 weeks

Video

$5,000-$150,000

4-12 weeks

White paper

5-20 person days

3-8 weeks

SlideShare

1-10 person days

2-5 weeks

On top of helping you build credibility, authority and trust, Content Curation can help you optimize your marketing mix in the following ways:

  • Lower your costs: content curation is not free either but by scanning content suggestions in even as little as 15 minutes per day or simply reacting to the content you’ve already read, you’re likely to find a few relevant pieces of content to publish and share with your audience.

  • Save time: a recent study we led surveying 1556 content marketers and professionals found out that 76% of them judged content curation had an impact in 2013 on their ability to reach their content marketing goals.

  • Inform your own content production’s ROI: think you should start covering a new topic with your blog? Not sure whether Google+ is a good channel to reach your audience? Start by curating content and find out before having to spend significant content production budgets or recruit additional resources.

Have more tips on how to make content marketing’s ROI clearer and higher? Please share them with us in the comments!

About Guillaume Decugis

Co-Founder & CEO of Scoopit. Entrepreneur (Musiwave, Goojet). Skier. Gamer. Blogging without blogging here: http://scoop.it/u/gdecugis