Content marketing is an effective marketing tactic that many B2B companies use to precisely plan, target, and track campaigns. So, why then only 43% of B2B marketers measure their content marketing ROI?
Content marketing is growing at a fascinating rate, and according to research by Marketing Insider Group, it’s expected to become a billion-dollar industry very soon. The same study also discovered that both B2C and B2B companies allocate a third of their marketing budget for producing and distributing content, and in the most successful organizations this spending is even higher.
Setting up the right content marketing budget, however, is more than just throwing a portion of your budget towards it. It’s about designing a good content strategy and aligning it with your overall marketing and business goals. Moreover, it’s about learning what works for your brand and what truly resonates with your target audience.
To improve your strategy and ensure that it’s cost-effective, you need to learn how to track your content marketing ROI, and analyze what works and what doesn’t. In this article, we will be going over the key steps for estimating your content success.
Understanding Content Marketing ROI
Content marketing ROI is a percentage that reflects the revenue you have gained from your content marketing efforts compared to what you have spent.
N.B: You need to use the total amount of investment – i.e. all the money you spent on planning, developing, and executing your content marketing strategy, not just the cost of a single piece of content.
Before you start measuring your effort’s effectiveness you need to remember that while the success and ROI of your content marketing strategy are interdependent, they are not synonymous.
A content strategy is successful when it helps a business achieve a set of predetermined goals such as increasing organic traffic, social shares, lead generation, subscription sign-ups, and so on. But it doesn’t necessarily tell you if the time and resources spent on planning, creating, and promoting your content are positively contributing to your bottom line. This is a job for ROI.
Some marketers find calculating the content marketing ROI to be problematic for two main reasons:
- Content creation is a long-term strategy. So when measuring the ROI on any campaign you need to consider everything your organization has achieved with content marketing.
- Some content marketing benefits are difficult to quantify numerically. These include brand perception, word of mouth, through leadership, etc.
Hence, breaking down content marketing ROI would look more like this:
With all of this in mind, here are the steps you need to take to measure your hard work appropriately.
1. Determine the Purpose of Your Content Marketing ROI
Before you define your content marketing metrics and top priorities, you need to think about the reason for measuring your content marketing ROI. Ask yourself what was the original goal of creating your content? Did you want to reach a new target audience, or support a product launch?
Every piece of content you create should have a goal of its own, while also bringing value to your overall business strategy.
To understand how good of an impact your content is making you need to use metrics that inform your strategy, and not ones that justify your budget. Content marketers are often pressured to prove that the resources invested in blog posts, case studies, videos, social media campaigns, and so on, are well spent. But, if you only focus on the budget you are likely to misunderstand the potential of your content efforts.
If you want to optimize your efforts and maintain high-performance levels you need to look at all the resources devoted to making your campaign a success. A great content strategy has many pieces. It isn’t developed overnight, and a lot of factors like SEO best practices, customer preferences, and new technology trends change over time.
So, to measure your ROI accurately you need to consider all the work that has been put in from start to finish, regardless if you’re creating all your content in-house, or you’re outsourcing it to an agency,
2. Understand What You Can and Cannot Measure
The next step is to specify the key performance indicators (KPIs) that determine the success of your campaign. This will help you understand what are your most successful channels, assets, and type of campaigns.
Here are five important metrics to look at when measuring your content marketing ROI.
- Web Traffic: This is the easiest one to measure. It involves evaluating the flow of traffic on different pages of your website so you can learn which content is the most popular among visitors. You can use analytics software like Google Analytics. The key aspects to look into are: overall traffic, source of traffic, referral traffic, views per page, average time spent on a page, popular landing pages, unique sessions.
- Qualified Leads: Lead generation is one of the main reasons for B2B content marketing campaigns, and as such are an indication of success. To measure qualified leads you have to monitor your call-to-actions (CTAs), a number of content downloads, and completed purchases.
- Sales Volume: If the goals of your contact marketing campaign are to not only drive more leads but also more sales, then you need to measure the volume of sales. This will help you estimate how well product pages are optimized so you can improve your conversion rate. Key metrics to look at here include page value, transactions, conversion rate, time to purchase.
- Click-through-rate (CTR): By tracking your CTR you’ll be able to tell if your visitors have taken action on your site. For instance, how many visitors have clicked on the links provided.
- Social media shares: By checking how many social shares your content attracts you’ll see whether you truly resonate with your target audience. You should track likes, comments, conscientiousness, the number of followers, views on video campaigns, etc.
Depending on the type of content, you might have to track different KPIs. It’s a good idea to consider the above as a starting point.
3. Develop an Attribution Model
Content marketers are often pressured into proving that the resources invested into creating content are well spent.
However, the truth is it’s not always a direct line like it is with sales. You often have to connect the dots, which can be done with a multi-touch attribution model.
Here are the key components of an attribution model:
- Invest in a data specialist. Hire a professional who enjoys solving analytics puzzles and is able to translate numbers into valuable data that your content marketing team can use.
- Differentiate between tDescriptive, prescriptive and predictive analytics. Descriptive analytics tell you what happened in the past. Prescriptive analytics tell you what is happening now. And predictive analytics tell you what will happen in the future.
- Set up content touchpoints. Draw up a map of how a person interacts with your content and what actions they take. For example, a user can first download an ebook, then open an email, have a code scanned at an event, attend a webinar, and/or become a customer.
In this model, every contact has a monetary value because it indicates if the prospect successfully reached the goal you set for them.
4. Set Benchmarks
Success is relative and that is why you need to set benchmarks that tell you how your content is performing. This is important because it shows whether you are improving or sustaining losses.
The most important thing at this step is to make a comparison between your own results, and not those of the rest of your industry. When calculating your content marketing ROI, the goal is to see if your efforts are yielding better results overtime or not. This allows you to make an informed decision whether to continue with the same strategy in the future or not.
For example, when it comes to SEO, benchmarking against competitors might not provide meaningful information, because rankings are often relative. When Google evaluates content on a specific topic, it doesn’t favor your content above your competitor’s because there’s a threshold of authority. It will do it because your site has earned more authority compared to your competition.
5. Learn How to Measure the Unmeasurable
Some content marketing efforts cannot be fully tracked and put into numbers. However, you should still consider them as they can tell you if you’re on the right track. These are called proxy metrics and while they can be difficult to measure with precision they can reveal if you’re making progress or not.
Some proxy metrics to keep in mind include:
- Brand awareness. Direct traffic, organic search, customer surveys and search referrals are just a few ways to help you estimate your brand awareness, yet they’re just small pieces of the puzzle.
- Earned media. Social media and contributor mentions, guest posts, and product reviews are valuable for improving your reach and attracting new audiences. But because these aren’t stored on your own servers they are difficult to measure.
- Conservation and Engagement. Share of conversations and user engagement are important proxy metrics that inform marketers about users’ attitudes towards a brand. To understand their impact you can use social listening, so you can assess your brand’s share of voice and set a benchmark that you can track over time.
To get a good overall picture of your content marketing ROI, you need to look at both quantitative and qualitative metrics, and remember to include all resources used.
If you want to know how profitable your content marketing efforts are, then you should measure the return you get from investing in them. Even if your campaign is generating traffic, that doesn’t automatically translate into revenue. You need to look beyond website traffic, follow leads as they convert, and assign relevant metrics that can explain the role your content played in helping the user move to the next stage.
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