How to Calculate Your Content Curation ROI

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How to Calculate Your Content Curation ROI

Small business marketers often worry a lot about ROI. While their colleagues at larger firms can ascribe failed marketing efforts to branding or research, the smaller a company you’re at, the less room you have for mistakes.

This is not always a bad thing. Marketers at smaller firms may not have million dollar budgets, but they do have the agility and the creativity to capitalize on trends that take larger firms years to respond to. Marketers at small firms also benefit from the focus it takes to make ROI priority #1. After all, there are so many ways to promote products and services that sometimes it actually helps to reduce the list of possibilities. Focusing in on ROI is one of the best ways to streamline your marketing to do list.

In a recent post about improving content marketing ROI, we defined ROI before we got too far along into how to fix it. Just for reference, here’s that calculation again:

ROI = (return – investment) / investment

Calculating the ROI for your content curation is pretty much the same as calculating the ROI for the rest of your content marketing. In some ways, it’s even simpler. That’s because content curation removes all the costs of creating content. This can make a huge difference in your ROI, and it also means you don’t have to figure out what it really cost to, say, publish a blog post.

Unfortunately, just having a formula for ROI doesn’t mean it’s easy to calculate. Calculating ROI actually ends up being one of the toughest things to do, both for content curation, content marketing and for social media.

Here’s recent data on how many marketers struggle with tracking ROI, both in B2B and B2C. The chart is from the 2015 Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs “2015 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends” B2B and B2C reports.


As you can see, if you’re having trouble tracking ROI for content marketing, you’re definitely not alone. Only 21% of B2B marketers said they were successful at tracking ROI. Only 23% of B2C marketers said the same.

But don’t let those graphs get you down. And definitely don’t use them as an excuse for not even trying to track ROI. Maybe you’ll never achieve a perfect ROI measurement, but even a rough idea of whether you’re profitable or not is important. It’s especially important if you want to pitch your boss or senior staff for more budget, or maybe even a raise.

There are a lot of ways that ROI calculations can get painfully complex, but it’s better to have a flawed analysis than no analysis at all. Besides, you’re not launching a spaceship based on how perfectly accurate your ROI calculations are. All you really need to know is if you’re profitable or not.

An example of a simple content curation ROI analysis

To calculate content curation ROI, all you need to do is to tally up what it took to do the marketing, and then what you got out of it. The first part of that is to figure out how long it took you to do your work. Usually that breaks out like this:

  1. Find great content to share

  2. Format that content for sharing

  3. Schedule shares/updates for that content

  4. Analyze your results

Let’s break each piece down.

1. Find great content to share

Hopefully you’ve got about a dozen different sites you can rely on for superb content. You can find content to share on those sites fast – in about 3 minutes or less. Then you’ve probably got another 10 to 20 sites you check less often, but these still make up about half of the curated content you share. Let’s say it takes you about 7 minutes to find a piece of content to share on those second-tier sites.

That gives you an average time of 5 minutes per found piece of curated content to share.

2. Format that content for sharing

Next you have to format each piece of content. Let’s say that takes about 3 minutes per update. You’re using Scoop.It with Content Director, so you’ve saved yourself some work with formatting, setting up tracking links and adjusting images.

3. Schedule shares/updates for that content

Next you need to schedule and organize your shares and updates. Again, you’ve got Content Director, so that’s just a matter of a few clicks. It takes about 1 minute to schedule each update or post.

4. Analyze your results

Analyzing the results is fairly simple, too. Content Director tracks the results of your shares, so you just have to check the automated reports once in awhile to see what’s been working best. You’ll still want to have Google Analytics tracking in your links to see how your updates are affecting other goals.

Caption: Content Director shows several different kinds of results, like leads, clicks and views.

Let’s say you take about 30 seconds to check how each share or update did.

Here’s how that all adds up:

  1. Find great content to share: 5 minutes

  2. Format that content for sharing: 5 minutes

  3. Schedule shares/updates for that content: 1 minute

  4. Tally up the results: 30 seconds

All in, it takes you 11 minutes and 30 seconds per each piece of content you share. Let’s say you update your social media accounts about twice a day six days a week. You also use the content that’s performed best in the last two-three days as a curated blog post on your site. That post, in turn, gets automatically formatted into an email update by Content Director and then sent to your list of email subscribers.

So that’s two updates per day, plus two curated blog posts per week. All in, that takes about:

  • 11 mins 30 sec X 2 X 6 days a week = 138 minutes, or about 1.3 hours for shares and posts

  • 20 minutes per blog post, or 40 minutes per week

All in, each week you spend about 2 hours on content curation.

Your time, including all other overhead (keeping the lights on, taxes, and all the other expenses that have to be paid in order for you to do your work) “costs” $50 per hour. We’ll assume your social media tools are either free, or included in the other “costs” necessary for you to do your work. So it costs you $100 to do one week’s worth of content curation.

Now you know what your “investment” value is in the ROI calculation. The next thing you have to figure out is the return.

Calculating your content curation results

Let’s say you know from your analytics and Content Director tracking that your curated content generates about one sale, 10 email subscribers and 20 Twitter and Facebook followers per week. The list below shows what each of those things is worth to you. You had a long talk with your team to decide on some of the squishier elements of this, like what your Twitter and Facebook followers were really worth.

Average profit from each sale = $80

Value of 10 new subscribers = $30

Value of 20 new Twitter followers = $5

Value of 20 new Facebook likes = $5

Total value that your content curation work generated = $120

So let’s go back to our equation:

ROI = (return – investment) / investment

Your ROI = ($120 – $100) / $100 = .2, also known as a 20% ROI

Congratulations! You’ve got a positive ROI.

For an example of why it’s important to assign some kind of value to social media activity and new email subscribers, here’s what your ROI would look like if you didn’t assign any value to those results:

Average profit from each sale = $80

Value of 10 new subscribers = $0

Value of 20 new Twitter followers = $0

Value of 20 new Facebook likes = $0

Total value that your content curation work generated = $80

Your ROI = ($80 – $100) / $100 = – .2%, also known as a negative 20% ROI

Ouch. That’s why it’s important to have an agreed-upon, sane value assigned to your social media results.

That’s a simplified way to calculate content curation ROI, but it should give you a good framework for defining how your content curation ROI should work.

Some complexities of ROI calculations

There are always complexities with calculating ROI. For example, here I’m assigning the sale from that week to that same week’s curation work. It might be that it was the week prior’s content curation work that generated the sale. But because I just want to keep things simple (and just answer “is this working, or not?”) I’m going to fudge on the time frames.

Another complexity you might run into is if you are also creating content. Then you’ll probably want to break out the ROI for your created content and for your curated content. Again, tools like Content Director and Google Analytics can help you with that, but it does add some serious complexity to the works.

It’s also possible to get bogged down in trying to tell if your content curation is supporting other marketing efforts like newspaper ads, or in person events. In that situation, you have to decide how much credit you’re going to assign to your content creation for any results that come from those other marketing efforts.

As you can see, it can get murky fast. When you run into a situation where the complexities just seem like too much, consider running two ROI calculations: One for best scenario, one for worst. This may not give you a perfect answer, but it will answer the most important question: “Should we, or shouldn’t we, keep doing this?”

Hopefully that’s enough information to put you in the top 20% or so of marketers who can successfully measure ROI. Before you go, we’ve got a few questions for you: Are you calculating your content curation ROI? What are the biggest issues you struggle with in calculating it? Do you disagree with anything in this ROI example? Speak your mind in the comments.

And if you’re interested in leveraging the benefits of content curation for SEO, check out our complete guide.

How Does Content Curation Benefit SEO - Download the Guide

Image by Andreas Rodler

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About the Author

Pam Neely
Pam Neely has been marketing online for 17 years. She's a serial entrepreneur and an avid email and content marketing enthusiast with a background in publishing and journalism, including a New York Press Award. Her book "50 Ways to Build Your Email Marketing List" is available on Pam holds a Master's Degree in Direct and Interactive Marketing from New York University. Follow her on Twitter @pamellaneely.
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