Maya Angelou once said, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it.” While that’s certainly a lovely thought—happy thoughts don’t pay the bills and definitely don’t keep businesses running. You can put up all the inspirational posters you want, but there’s only one way to measure success in this business: ROI (return on investment).
Determining how to measure ROI (successfully) has somewhat evaded content marketers and brands. In fact, if you search for “content marketing ROI,” you get close to 10 million results—the majority of which don’t provide anything particularly useful for marketers trying to justify their content strategies and results.
The statistics for content marketing speak for themselves – we know it works. But, how can you prove whether your content really contributes to your brand’s bottom line?
Let’s take closer a look at the concept that has left so many content marketers scratching their heads: How to determine the ROI of your content marketing strategy.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, most marketers aren’t even sure what a successful content marketing program looks like. Why is that?
“It’s still somewhat normal to see teams execute 50 percent, 60 percent and even 70 percent of their marketing activities without measuring results. We need to hold ourselves totally accountable for delivering results that businesses can value. And there’s a path to getting there.” – Michael Brenner, Marketing Insider Group
Effective content marketing (also known as brand publishing) is, at its core, data-driven. Therefore, your content marketing strategy would be reckless and incomplete without including some form of analytics planning.
The decision to invest in content marketing comes with an expectation to see results such as traffic, leads and sales. Key performance indicators (KPIs) help you understand the degree to which your content efforts are succeeding. Which makes regularly analyzing your KPIs the key to ensuring you are continually improving your content’s performance.
According to Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report:
- 80 percent said they would focus on lead gen as a content marketing goal in 2018.
- 78 percent said they currently use website traffic to measure how well their content marketing is producing results.
- 75 percent said they can demonstrate how content marketing has increased audience engagement.
Overall, these aren’t bad compared to the previous year. However, let’s take a look at which phases of the buyer’s journey these organizations said they use to measure content marketing ROI.
Yes, content marketing has made a name for itself over the past few years. But, clearly, successfully calculating ROI still plagues many content marketers (28 percent, to be exact). And, while there’s no one way to tell where the disconnect is coming from, it might be important to note that the success of your content and the ROI of your content aren’t synonymous.
Before you start, it’s important to see content success and ROI as interdependent, not one and the same. So, while measuring the success of your content may include certain benchmark goals you set in place (more views, more shares, etc.), ROI focuses on the actual return on that content—both time and money.
What You Can Do
Your content’s ROI can’t be determined without a clear understanding of what “success” actually looks like for your content and your business. While no marketing guide can tell you exactly what performance indicators you should consider “key,” breaking KPIs down to stages of the buyer’s journey or sales funnel is a great way to identify where your weaknesses lie.
“There is an ocean of data in your analytics. And it’s fun to swim in the ocean. But it doesn’t really get you anywhere. If you’re just looking at reports, without answering questions, testing hypotheses or drawing conclusions, you’re not doing analysis.” – Andy Crestodina, Orbit Media Studios
According to HubSpot, the less you know about your key performance indicators, the less likely you are to meet your revenue goals. Here, they then broke down the seven most commonly used metrics by marketers.
While KPIs will differ from company to company, they also differ from department to department. There isn’t one set of metrics or KPIs that you must monitor but, when deciding which to track and measure, consider breaking down the metrics into categories.
For example, your categories might look something like:
- Consumption: Traffic, referral traffic, page views, time-on-site, time-on-page, abandonment rates and downloads
- Lead Generation: Form completion, lead origination channels, measurement by content type or a specific piece of content and subscriptions
- Social Sharing: Likes, retweets, upvotes, etc.
- Retention: New and returning visitors, bounce rate, social media follower counts and email unsubscribes
- Sales: Note: Sales metrics are generally achieved by integrating marketing analytics and automation platforms with CMS systems.
Okay, we know. A lot of this may start to seem overwhelming, but before you decide you’ve made a big mistake and abort, let’s break this down.
Whether you’re one of the most successful companies in the world or a startup just finding your way, you know that your content always has to impact the bottom line. However, as confusing as it may sound, even though data is one of the major contributing factors to success—it isn’t always the solution.
According to a webinar conducted by Contently, Walmart, for example, slowly started to get more buy-in and budget spending after the editorial team discovered that: “Customers who engaged with content had an average order size 7 percent larger than customers who went straight to shopping.”
After cleaning up their messaging and tightening it to speak more directly to the core audience, they saw a 22 percent improvement in bounce rate and a 30 percent improvement in time spent. Those improvements came from looking broadly at their content and ensuring it went to the right people, not from gauging a host of KPIs.
Over time, the retail and marketing groups within the company have come to appreciate and value content. And, today, partnerships with the editorial team ensure that their content serves both the business and the customer.
Earlier we mentioned that the terms “content marketing” and “brand publishing” are one in the same, and so, just like traditional publishing, the goal is to build an audience, right? But, the goal is also to generate sales. So, it makes sense that in order to see an increase in ROI, we should probably create content tailored to the people we want to reach, right?
Once you determine what kind of content speaks to them, only then will you start to see all the elements of your content marketing strategy work together and ultimately result in a boost in your content’s ROI. Plus, by doing this, you can simultaneously accomplish business goals while staying creative and establish the value of your content marketing in a way that still appeals to your executives.
Even though the path isn’t always cut and dry (since content marketing never is), at least now you have the roadmap and directions to get there. Now all you have to do is put in the work. And, once you start to see results, maybe you’ll even like it.
Struggling to gauge how your content measures up? Contact us today for a free content consultation!