What is the ROI of Content Marketing and How to Measure it? A Quick Guide for 2021

Michał Suski
March 15, 2021

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A recent study revealed that 91% of organizations utilize some type of content marketing strategy. Despite this high usage, nearly 40% of companies surveyed don’t measure content marketing ROI (Return on Investment) on any level. Unfortunately, this lack of measurement can lead to a misunderstanding as to the true value content marketing brings to the company.

This is especially troublesome in an era where more and more companies are being forced to make tough investment decisions. In fact, it can be extremely difficult to secure an executive buy-in without a proven success record since many corporate leaders use ROI as a means to measure success. Additionally, the absence of ROI metrics can make it nearly impossible to evaluate the success of any given content marketing campaign.

One reason so many businesses fail to track content marketing ROI is that it consists primarily of organic traffic and focuses on long-term outcomes versus instant conversions. While this can make tracking ROI more difficult, it doesn’t make it impossible.  This content marketing ROI guide will explain what content marketing ROI is, how to track it, and tips for yielding high ROI results.

What is content marketing ROI (Return on Investment)?

Content marketing ROI is defined as the total revenue gained in comparison to the overall investment. While it may seem like this is a clear-cut measurement, placing a value on both revenues and investment can be difficult.

How do you find the value of content?

Unlike many other types of investments, placing a dollar value on your content marketing efforts can be quite tricky. After all, it can be difficult to put a price tag on the role content marketing plays in benefits such as brand perception and customer lifetime value. Despite these challenges, it’s crucial for content marketers to realize the full value of content marketing. This understanding can help to entice executive buy-ins and to develop effective marketing strategies.

Content marketing is not just creating website content and posting some blogs. Rather, it encompasses a complex strategy that involves keyword research, copywriting, backlink placement, audio and video production, image creation, and planned content distribution. When determining the value of content marketing, it’s crucial to include all products of value, including e-books, webinars and social media posts.

Additionally, the value of content marketing cannot be based solely on basic metrics, such as click-through rates, the number of subscribers and landing page conversions. While these metrics are valuable, using only these measurements will significantly underestimate the overall reach (and value) of your content marketing materials. It’s equally important to track engagements, such as social shares and comments as well as search engine ranking. Understanding the full scope of your content marketing strategies will enable you to obtain a better picture of its true value for the company.

What is a good ROI percentage for content marketing?

While content marketing ROI expectations vary greatly from company to company, the standard ratio expectation for marketing has held at 5:1 for several years. Ultimately, you should strive to earn at least $5 back for every $1 invested in marketing. The problem with content marketing is that it’s a long-term strategy that may not be realized for years to come. Unfortunately, this fact leads many marketers and executives to undervalue the full ROI of content marketing.

Each business should set clear-cut goals for its digital marketing strategies and base ROI expectations and metrics used on these goals. For example, if the business' primary goals are to expand brand awareness and increase organic website traffic, it’s important to use related metrics, such as the number of unique visitors, as key components in calculating ROI.

How do you measure ROI in content marketing?

While fully measuring ROI in content marketing can be difficult, it’s not impossible and it shouldn’t be dismissed. Instead, it requires marketers to develop a full picture of everything included in content marketing, such as wages, outsourced services, technology, SaaS services, and distribution. It’s also important to fully track all content marketing materials, including website content and all blog post copy as well as paid ads, whitepapers, e-books, infographics, emails, podcasts and videos. Knowing the full extent of your marketing content will allow you to use the right metrics to measure ROI properly.

How do you find your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)?

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are some of the most important tools to help determine the full value of your content marketing and to track content performance. Fortunately, tools, such as Google Analytics, Facebook Analytics and website analytic software solutions, make tracking these KPIs easier than ever. The trick, however, is to know which analytics to use when tracking content marketing ROI.

Here’s a look at the most common KPIs used to measure content marketing success.

Website traffic – the amount of traffic drawn to your website or specific web pages, such as landing pages within your website

Unique visitors – the number of first-time visitors to your web page or website

Time-on-page – the average amount of time each visitor to your website spends on a specific page or pages

Social shares – the number of times a social media post, image or ad was shared

Bounce rate – the percentage of visitors who initially land on your web page but then leave without exploring other pages or engaging in the content, such as subscribing

Conversion rates – the number of visitors to your website that converts into a paying customer, register as a member or completes any other set goal

Number of subscribers – this represents the number of new subscribers based on any content marketing strategy

Click-through rate – the number of clicks divided by the number of ad impressions

Landing page conversion rates – determined by comparing the number of conversions to the number of visitors to a specific landing page

Page views – the total number of people who view specific pages within your website

What are the most important content marketing metrics?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a standalone KPI metric for measuring content marketing. In fact, most marketers track a wide range of KPIs to determine the success of any given B2C or B2B marketing campaign. Due to the expansive nature of content marketing, the most important metrics to track are often based on the type of content you’re evaluating and your unique business goals.

For example, the number of shares or followers would be irrelevant when it comes to an email marketing campaign. It’s important to recognize the different attributes each type of content marketing offers and know how to properly track its success. Here’s a look at top KPIs based on content types:

Blog posts: bounce rates, website visitors, mobile vs desktop visitors, average time on page, page views, exit rates, number of unique visitors, landing page conversions

Social media posts: number of shares, number of followers, number of engagements, conversions, post reach, customer acquisition

Video and audio production: subscribers, unique views, ratings, landing page conversions

Email campaigns: open rates, subscribers, click-through rates, opt-out rates, lead generation

PPC advertising: cost-per-click, conversion rates, number of impressions, cost-per-conversion

It’s also important to compare KPIs to set content marketing benchmarks. Since this varies greatly, you must set clear goals and objectives when developing content marketing strategies. You can then use KPI metrics that are relevant to determining if performance benchmarks have been met.

For example, if your primary goal is to build brand awareness tracking KPIs, such as unique visitors, then referral traffic, lead generation numbers, subscribers and reach will all be important metrics to track. On the other hand, if your goal is to boost sales, then conversion rates, including landing page conversions, as well as bounce rates, web traffic and the number of subscribers will be the most important metrics to track.

How do you calculate ROI?

While there are a number of calculations used for measuring content, the most common method is ((Content Marketing Revenue - Content Marketing Investment) / Content Marketing Investment) * 100. For example, if your content marketing expenses are $500 and you estimate that you earned $3,000 in revenue from this content, the ROI of your content would be 500 percent (($3,000 - $500) / 500) * 100. This ROI formula may seem straightforward, but the most important part, and the one many marketers struggle with, is including all revenues and expenses associated with content marketing.

When it comes to revenue earned from content marketing, you can use KPIs and analytics from Google, social media outlets and website tracking software to valuate a portion of your content marketing revenue. However, don’t forget to calculate its long-term gains, such as customer loyalty, referrals and lead generation. These all hold real value for the long-term success of the company and should be included in all revenue figures. In the same manner, all expenses associated with content marketing should also be accounted for. However, don’t make the mistake of over-calculating this amount. For example, marketing salaries should be included in expenses, but only those hours dedicated to content marketing.

How do you create high ROI brand content?

Naturally, you want your content marketing strategies to provide the highest return on investment possible. The good news is that there are several steps you can take right now to create a marketing strategy toolkit to improve business outcomes and boost your marketing efforts ROI.

Build a content marketing strategy

If you have not done so already, it’s imperative that you build a strong content marketing framework. Start by setting clear company goals and determining which metrics you will use to track success and ROI. Understanding your objectives from the beginning will help you develop a content strategy that aligns with company goals and provides real value to the business.

Develop customer personas

It’s equally important to have a complete understanding of your target audience, including demographics, geographic locations and online behaviors at every stage of the customer journey. These high-level insights will enable you to create relevant content that appeals to your ideal potential customers as well as help you determine the best distribution method for your content.

Conduct keyword research

Keyword relevance is one of the most important aspects of content marketing. In fact, keyword placement will play a crucial role in SERP (search engine results page) ranking. Without the proper keyword usage, your customers may never even see your content. You can avoid this problem by investing in keyword research. This step will reveal specific keywords that are relevant within your industry and with your target customer.

Create high-quality content

Google and other search engines have become excellent at detecting high-quality content. Subpar content with keyword stuffing will no longer help with search engine ranking. In fact, poorly written content or misuse of keywords can damage both your domain authority and brand reputation. Focus on developing content that provides real value to the customer. If your company doesn’t have an in-house content creation team, you may want to consider outsourcing these digital marketing services to ensure high-quality content, such as blog posts, landing pages, site content and videos.

Distribute content

Another important element of content marketing campaigns is content distribution. Don’t make the mistake of trying to release as much content as possible through multiple channels. Instead, take the time to assess your target customers’ online behaviors and use this information to distribute a piece of content where you know your customers are and select different distribution channels for each stage of the sales process. Be sure to frequently evaluate the content effectiveness on each channel of distribution.

What is a good marketing ROI?

While a 5:1 revenue to investment ratio is considered a good ROI for most marketing tactics, it’s always important to strive for improved results. Keep in mind, however, that content marketing campaigns often yield long-term results, so the full value of your content strategy may not be fully realized for years to come. When seeking an executive buy-in, be sure to focus on the full scope of content marketing and explain both its long and short-term ROI expectations.

Evaluating the return on investment of your content marketing initiative can provide invaluable insight into the success or failures of any given tactics and help plan for future marketing spend. However, it’s important to also assess relevant KPIs and benchmark success to obtain a full picture of your marketing reach and effectiveness. Learn more about how content marketing ROI can help your company plan for the future.

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