On the one hand, people are always talking up content marketing. We’re no exception. It’s one of our primary go-to marketing strategies, and it’s so effective that the internet has been positively flooded with content marketing pieces to the point that it’s harder than ever to get attention. Clearly it works, or the market wouldn’t be so saturated.
But on the other hand, it’s always a little difficult to hash out precisely how valuable any individual content piece is, let alone figuring out the worth of your content marketing as a whole. Because the relationship between content and purchasing decisions is generally indirect, there’s not really an obvious path to really knowing if you’re getting your money’s worth.
What exactly is your content marketing’s ROI? While it doesn’t have the 1:1 correspondence of traditional advertising, ROI is demonstrable.
You just need to know how to measure it.
Creating Success Criteria
In order to land on your content marketing ROI, you need first to know what it is you want your content marketing to accomplish. That means starting with a clear goal you can measure against, and powerful success criteria right out the door. Once you know what you’re trying to do, you can judge whether or not your content is accomplishing it.
So first thing’s first: what are your success criteria?
- Engaging new prospects or lead nurturing
- Lead generation
- Sales enablement
- Social reach
But these are big-picture goals. To make your goals really SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Bound), you need to make sure that there are clear attainable metrics that can back them up. You can learn more about SMART goals here.
Once you’ve established concrete success criteria, you can run through the basic calculus to determine ROI: the cost of the content, it’s utilization, and how well it’s actually doing out in the wild.
And that last one matters: you need to think about more than page views; you need to worry about how well it’s doing relative to the business metrics you need it to improve.
The Value of Content Marketing
Ok. So here’s the thing: content marketing does not return an immediate or speedy ROI. It can’t. If you need results yesterday, you’re going to want to go with a simple, straightforward PPC campaign. But content marketing does pay – and that ROI is concrete and demonstrable. While you won’t see immediate payoff, it builds on what’s there and increases its value over time; the Content Marketing Institute has observed a break-even point within nine months and 200% or more return on investment over 36 months based solely on organic traffic. And that’s in addition to as a lift in organic traffic for the hosting website to a factor of ten.
But those results are observable when you do content marketing extraordinarily well. You can’t assume you’re performing at those levels, obviously, so how do you determine your ROI?
So the questions you want to be asking are:
- What is the cost of my content?
- How effective is my content at performing its task as outlined in my SMART goal?
- And what is the value of that task?
In other words, concrete success criteria with a monetary value attached provide you with a clear path to determining your ROI. This might seem obvious, but it’s amazing how often people don’t actually put that together, due largely to accepting that content marketing is some amorphous thing you “should be doing.” Instead, you need to be willing to drill down and determine the actual monetary value of the goals your content marketing is or is not accomplishing.
So where do you begin? Here are some simple places to start paying attention to – and how to figure out what they’re worth to you.
Conversions or Sales – This is relatively straightforward. The more sales you bring in, the more your revenue obviously increases. And if you can tie your content marketing to sales in a 1:1 capacity, you’re in good shape. However, usually you can’t.
Increased Web Traffic – Is your content delivering improved web traffic? If so, what is the value of each individual website prospect? By tracking where visitors are coming in, you can identify specific, reliable numbers for your content’s performance.
Improved Search Rankings – Better search rankings brings in traffic overall; pay attention to how your content is ranking, and be sure to track its performance relative to your overall website’s rank. Factoring that against the value of individual website visitors (versus their likelihood of conversion) will yield solid numbers.
Social Performance – Is your content bringing in traffic from social media, and is it improving your social reach? If so, that can dramatically increase your ability to reach new audiences. Pay attention to conversions from social media links as your reach expands.
In other words, determining your ROI is about knowing the value of the activities you’re expecting it to perform. Keep that in mind, and you’ll be able to easily understand where you’re falling short and how to improve.