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Most business owners want to know what they can expect from their marketing efforts. But when it comes to content marketing, results can be tough to measure.

First, it might be helpful to talk about what content marketing is. If you’re reading this, you’re probably already aware, but just in case: content marketing is simply the act of creating and sharing online materials.

It could be videos, blogs, infographics, email newsletters — literally anything that you can create and publish online.

Content marketing is crazy labor intensive and it can be difficult to figure out the return on investment (ROI) on time. Even the pros have trouble doing it.

To give you a sense of what we mean, a recent Content Marketing Institute survey (PDF download) of B2B content marketers found that of those who measured content performance only 36% thought they were doing anything more than an average job.

A recent CMO Survey, meanwhile, found that less than 50% of the marketers surveyed used “quantitative metrics to demonstrate the long-term impact of marketing”.

At the same time two-thirds of B2B marketers expected their content marketing budget to increase in 2022, according to the CMI report. With budgets on the rise, it’s important to get a firm grasp of the fundamentals of ROI.

Sure, while not understanding your ROI doesn’t mean that your content won’t be effective, it does mean that you’ll never know exactly how effective it is.

There are a lot of people out there who try to explain exactly how to measure your content marketing ROI. Part of the problem is, it’s not just the money spent, it’s also about the measuring process.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide to make it as easy as possible to understand content marketing ROI — even the high-level stuff!

If you’re ready to start measuring the results of your marketing efforts, this is the post for you.

In this post, you will learn:

Let’s start with the basics:

What Is Content Marketing ROI?

Content marketing ROI is a percentage that represents the amount of revenue earned from your content marketing campaign compared to the total investment in the campaign.

The goal of content marketing is to create a connection with your audience — to be seen as a valuable resource, rather than just a sales machine. And it works! Content marketing is proven to boost traffic, turn that traffic into leads, and turn those leads into sales.

And those leads and that increased traffic? That’s your ROI

For those that are not mathematically inclined, your ROI is equal to your return divided by your investments.

Formula to Calculate Content Marketing ROI

Content marketing ROI (percentage) = ((return – investment)/investment) x 100

Of course, it’s not that easy. If it was, we wouldn’t have to write this article. As with everything in marketing, there are lots of factors that can go into both your investment and return. Some — like time spent — are not that easy to assign a value to.

Generally speaking, this is what each side might include:

Investment

  • Cost of producing content
  • Cost of hiring external help (freelance writers, brand strategists, etc.)
  • Time spent planning and managing a content creation strategy
  • Content distribution
  • Advertising costs
  • Software and tools used for content creation

Return

  • Leads and conversions
  • Improved SEO
  • Increased traffic
  • Brand awareness/brand image

If you know how to quantify those elements in terms of potential for sales, you can easily determine ROI. We’ll get into that in a bit.

Everyone knows content marketing is amazing. According to Demand Metric, content marketing generates over three times as many leads as outbound marketing and costs 62% less.

So why would you need to measure ROI? If you know that it’s working, do you really need to know the exact numbers? In a nutshell: yes!

If you’ve set SMART goals, measuring ROI can tell you if — and how — you’re meeting them. In turn, that can help you:

  • Build a case for content marketing
  • Get leadership to buy into your strategy
  • Get your marketing plans approved
  • Earn more conversions and sales!

Getting the C-suite, or even just your business partner, to sign off on a complicated marketing strategy can be difficult — especially if they don’t understand what you’re talking about. But the one thing everyone does understand is money. Proving a generous ROI can help you sell your case.

The Challenges With Measuring Content Marketing ROI

When it comes to ROI, the formula is the easy part (that’s the ROI = return/investment thing we went over above). The problem is, ROI isn’t always quantitative — and it’s hard to do a mathematical formula without any numbers.

In fact, more often than not, ROI is qualitative, meaning it has a value other than dollars earned. Some examples of that would be increased customer advocacy or recognition as a thought leader.

Beyond that, the dark web can throw a massive wrench in the gears. ROI can be hard to measure even when you have all the numbers — and when certain members of your audience are hiding all of their movements and you literally can’t track anything they do, well. It’s near impossible.

It’s been called “the place where data goes to die”.

So what can you do? In both scenarios, it can help to think of your ROI in terms of quality rather than quantity:

  • Am I giving my clients the content they need?
  • Am I providing relevant (and useful) information?
  • Am I developing solid relationships?

This is a harder sell to higher-ups, for sure. But just remind them: 81% of consumers say that they need to trust a brand (PDF download) before they’ll consider doing business. And what better way to demonstrate caring than quality content?

Metrics to Measure Your Content Marketing ROI

As we’ve said, content marketing metrics can be hard to track. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Here’s what you can look at:

Consumption

These are basic metrics that let you know how many people have viewed or accessed your content. Using Google Analytics, you can quickly and easily view lots of data such as:

  • Website traffic or Users (the total number of unique visitors to your page)
  • Time on page
  • Downloads
  • Clickthroughs

Engagement

It’s great to know how many people visit your page, but engagement numbers give you a better idea of how they interact with your page. Here’s what you can get from Analytics:

  • Average time on page
  • Pages/session (the total number of pages a visitor looks at in a given session)
  • New vs. Returning (the number of new visitors versus the number of returning)
  • Referral traffic (an overview of other sites that are sending visitors your way)

Retention

This gives you a good idea of how engaged your audience is. While some of these metrics may come from Google, some you may have to look up on your own (or use a different analytics program):

  • Bounce rate
  • Blog subscribers
  • Number of followers on social networks
  • Newsletter open rate and click throughs

Conversion

These metrics are often the most important for your investors or C-suite. They prove the monetary value of your content marketing plan and you can analyze your marketing budget. Here’s what you should look up:

  • Lead generation: goal completions and goal conversion rate
  • Sales: transactions, time to purchase and assisted conversions
  • Gated content (lead capture forms)
  • Social media conversion tracking
  • Blog and newsletter subscriptions

 

How to Measure Your Content Marketing ROI

Now that you understand a little about how ROI works and why you need to measure it, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty.

Setting a budget

This is the portion of your budget, of course, which is dedicated to the creation and distribution of content. Setting a spending limit helps ensure that you’re able to properly track your ROI when the time comes. Costs may include extra staff, graphic design, and advertising. When setting your budget, you should consider the size of your company, goals, current staffing, and industry. Look closely at what competitors are doing, because you don’t want to fall short in comparison.

Understand your resources

Part of setting a realistic budget is understanding your current resources. Do you already have people on board who can write, edit, create videos, or design graphics? How about tech support and analysts? Some companies have to take on extra full-time help to fill these roles, while others choose to outsource — and the costs can quickly add up.

If you’re looking to brush up on your Content Marketing skills, turn to these helpful posts for some tips and tricks to get you started:

Outsourcing work

If you don’t have staff that are qualified to take on content creation, outsourcing can help ensure that you put out quality, professional looking material. Often, that means hiring a freelancer — but it could also mean employing a content marketing company or even finding a guest blogger.

Set goals

A big part of a content marketing strategy is goals and having measurable ones will make measuring ROI much easier. Here are some common objectives:

  • Drive traffic and generate engagement
  • Create brand awareness
  • Generate prospects and sales
  • Build audience loyalty

Now the fun part — measuring your success! Here’s how to do it:

1. Measure Your Investment

Figuring out exactly what you’ve put into your content marketing efforts might be easy, and it might not. If you’re paying a content marketing firm, a freelance copywriter, or a branding expert, those numbers are pretty simple to keep track of.

However, if you’re using your current employees or even doing the work yourself, it gets a little murkier.

In that case, you’d want to have the employees keep track of their time spent on content marketing duties, and then multiply that by their hourly rate of pay. For example, if an employee that makes $25/hour spends 50 hours on copywriting, the total investment would be $1,250.

2. Calculate Return

This is where things can get tricky. Sometimes, there is a clear link between content marketing and ROI — like when you send out an email newsletter, someone clicks on a link, and purchases a product. Sometimes, the relationship isn’t as obvious — such as when someone has been following you on social media for months and at some point decides to sign up for a service.

Using the metrics we discussed above, you can easily determine a figure for actual sales made — this is the figure you’ll use in the formula. But you can also determine lead quality, traffic generated, and onsite engagement: all things that may lead to future sales.

3. Determine Your ROI

This all just boils down to the formula we shared with you earlier: ROI = return/investment. Simply take the sales revenue generated by content and divide it by the amount you spend on content marketing.

While all of those other metrics are important (especially when trying to predict future sales), it’s the money in the bank that really matters.

Best Tools for Measuring Content Marketing ROI

 

1. Google Analytics

Google Analytics Homepage

Google Analytics Homepage

Google Analytics is one of the most popular tools used by marketing teams. With GA, users can track the users, check the traffic sources, understand user behaviour, find out from the visitors country, fetch reports, understand user journey and much more.

It’s hard to find a content marketing ROI tool that can compete with Google Analytics in terms of features, price and data.

Website: analytics.Google.com/analytics/web/

Price: The best part about Google Analytics is that it is absolutely free.

Use it for:

  • Calculating content marketing success: The ability to assign values to specific conversions in Google Analytics is quite beneficial. You can use advanced analytics to track traffic and goal conversions from a particular source.
  • Measuring bounce rate. Bounce rate helps you understand how engaging your content is. With this information, you can figure out high-performing content along with low engaging content to improve your marketing efforts.

 

2. Ahrefs

Ahrefs Homepage

Ahrefs Homepage

Ahrefs can help you with all your SEO aspects. From keyword rankings to backlinks — for both you and your competitors — it works wonders for your content SEO.

Using Ahrefs’ content explorer, you can discover new ideas based on the most shared posts and incorporate them into your content strategy.

Website: https://ahrefs.com/

Price: The price for a seven-day trial is $7, and monthly subscription plans start at $99.

Use it for:

  • Content Strategy. You can curate your content marketing campaign around topics that have high engagement by searching them on Ahrefs with filters and advanced searches.
  • Keyword Targeting. With Ahrefs, you can track your keyword rankings and see where you are lagging behind. The Keyword Explorer tool makes it easy to build an optimization strategy for the best possible SERP.
  • Competitive Research. Get insights into competitors’ page performance, their backlinks, keywords that drive traffic to their website and high-performing content.

 

3. SEMRush

SEMRush

SEMRush is one of the go-to tools for digital marketing teams and is trusted by entrepreneurs as well as big brands.

It provides everything from reporting, analytics, data to tracking. Thus, helping you analyze your content marketing campaigns and monitoring your competitors closely.

Website: www.semrush.com

Price: You can try it for free. The plans start from $99.95/month to $399.95/month.

Use it for:

  • Website Audit: SEMRush helps you in fetching a total health score of your website, which includes both on-page and off-page audits. You can check how your content marketing efforts are improving your keyword rankings and can even get new ideas for new content for your target audience.
  • Competitors Research: It helps identify your top organic competitors and analyze their backlinks and keywords. With this information, you can create your content marketing campaign accordingly.

 

4. Hotjar

Hotjar

Hotjar is an excellent tool to analyze the key performance indicators of your content or landing page. It tracks users’ sessions on your website — from moving cursors, clicking, tapping, and scrolling through your pages.

It lets you step into your visitors’ shoes and understand their behaviour, as well as notice and fix malfunctions, technical errors, and usability mistakes.

It is one of the fastest ways to understand your paid or organic traffic visually.

Website: www.Hotjar.com

Price: The free plan includes up to 2,000 pageviews a day, and the paid plans start from $29/month to $589/month. You can take free trials for each plan.

Use it for:

  • Understanding your visitors: Watch recordings to know how your content is performing. You can use Hotjar’s scroll heatmaps to identify your best- and worst-performing content. All in all, you can gain feedback straight from the source.
  • Tracking conversions. To calculate content marketing ROI, you need to track conversions. With Hotjar reports, you can understand exactly when your potential customers leave and which steps make them click away from your page. Thus, you can take action to improve conversions.

 

5. BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo homepage

BuzzSumo homepage

With quite a simple interface yet unique features, Buzzsumo grabbed all the buzz among content marketers when it was launched.

Initially, it was used for finding influencers in a particular niche. Now digital marketing teams use it to analyze how their content is performing, finding the high-quality content, best topic or competitor online. It even allows you to search, filter, and report on all of your content. Thus, making your content marketing strategy effective.

Website: https://buzzsumo.com/

Price: The trial version is quite useful, and you can even try it for free. The paid versions start from $79/month.

Use it for:

  • Measuring engagement. Buzzsumo makes it easy to find your best-performing content within a given period. You can even track total engagements and filter results by date, content type, backlinks to the content, word count, language, and country.
  • Tracking mentions. It helps you track brand mentions. You can easily monitor your brand mentions all across the web. You can set up alerts and get notified every time your brand or name is mentioned.
  • Finding what’s trending: All your content marketing efforts go into vain if your content doesn’t perform well. With Buzzsumo, use the “Trending Now” tool to discover what’s trending in your niche and what people are talking about to get maximum engagement.

 

6. Hootsuite

Hootsuite homepage

Hootsuite homepage

Hootsuite is much more than just a social media scheduling tool. It is a fantastic tool to measure social media engagement and analytics.

It’s an all in one tool to get an insight into social media channels.

Website: www.hootsuite.com

Price: Hootsuite’s free version offers limited functionality and reports. The basic plan starts from $9.99/month for one user and goes up to more than $100/month for big companies. It has a free trial too.

Use it for:

  • Measuring social media content ROI: Everything from likes, views, comments, shares, retweets to new followers can be tracked with Hootsuite. It contributes to measuring content marketing success by allowing you to track real-time social engagement.
  • Keeping every social media channel insight in one place: Hootsuite makes it easier for you to access all the social media stats and insights on a single platform. You can save a lot of your time by avoiding hopping around from page to page to gather info.

Built-In Social Media Analytics Tools

 

1. Facebook Page Insights

Facebook Insights is a powerful tool for tracking how users interact with your business across various platforms. You can track likes, page views, reach, and more.

Website: www.Facebook.com/business/a/page/page-insights

Price: Free

Use it for:

  • Measuring reach and engagement: The (aptly named) overview section gives you a glance at the last week. It might not seem like much, but if you’re super active on social, a lot can happen in a week. Use this tab to view likes, post reach, and engagement for the last 7 days. For a broader picture, try checking the “likes”, “reach”, or “posts” tab, which go more in-depth on the same topics.
  • Getting to know your audience: See when fans who like your page are viewing your content — and where they’re doing it from. Find out their age and sex and how they reacted to your posts. If that sounds creepy, fear not: it’s just for data’s sake. If you want to target your ads and get more business, this is the information you need.

 

2. Instagram Insights

Like LinkedIn, Instagram Insights is only available to users who have a business account. Luckily, you can easily switch over to an Instagram business profile without creating a whole new personal account. You can find the same information here that most of the others have provided so far: impressions, reach, website clicks and followers are among the data.

Website: www.Instagram.com

Price: Free

Use it for:

  • A general overview: See how many times your ads appeared on users’ screens, the number of unique visitors to view your posts, how many followers you’ve gained or lost in the last week, and more.
  • Post-specific data: If you click on an individual post, you can gain more specific insights like how many comments it received, how many times it was saved, and the number of actions a user took on your profile as a result of seeing that post.
  • Story insights: Like posts, you can gain more specific insight by clicking on an individual story, including taps back, taps forward, and replies.

 

3. LinkedIn Analytics

Like Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn Analytics provides an overview of followers, shares, clicks, and impressions. But it’s not available for everyone — currently, analytics is only offered for company pages.

Website: www.LinkedIn.com

Price: Free

Use it for:

According to LinkedIn, their Company Page Analytics are broken into three sections:

  • Updates: Includes both a table showing the most recent updates (with data such as the audience, number of impressions, number of clicks, and followers acquired) and a graph detailing trends in reach.
  • Followers: A breakdown of who’s following your page with information on demographics, including the industry they’re in, their job function, and their level of seniority.
  • Visitors: This page offers similar demographics on visitors, plus the number of page views and the number of Career Page clicks.

 

4. Twitter Analytics

Twitter Analytics is an all-in-one tool that helps you measure and boost your impact on Twitter. You can track impressions, gain audience insights, and even get customized tips for better tweets.

Website: analytics.twitter.com

Price: Free

Use it for:

  • Measuring engagement: The home tab is like your greatest hits reel. From there, you can see a screenshot of each month, including your most popular tweet, number of impressions, profile visits, and your audience growth (or lack thereof).
  • Audience insights: Where do your followers live? Are they male or female? What are they into? 98% of our audience loves dogs . . . but we’re not really sure what that has to do with us.
  • Tweet metrics: Your home page gives you some basics, but the Tweets page really gets down to the nitty-gritty. You can get detailed information on impressions, engagement, and engagement rate here. If you want to see what time of day you get the most interactions, or even which day of the week, this is the place to look.

 

5. Snapchat Insights

Snapchat’s built-in analytics tool can help you gain audience insight, discover key engagement times, and see what content performs best with your visitors. However, the tool is currently only offered to influencers and brands who are verified or have a large following.

Website: Only available on the app

Price: Free

Use it for:

  • A detailed look at story views: Know how many viewers saw your story over the past weeks, months, or years.
  • Understanding your audience: Get key information on your viewers, including age, location, and gender.
  • Completion rates: Find out how many viewers watched a snap all the way through to the end.

 

6. YouTube Analytics

YouTube analytics gives you the tools you need to succeed on the world’s second-largest search engine. First, understand who your audience is, what they like, and what you need to create in order to be successful.

Website: www.YouTube.com/analytics?o=U

Price: Free

Use it for:

  • A better understanding of your audience: The only demographic information available right now is age and location, but YouTube makes up for that with far more valuable information. Most importantly, they can tell you every single location your video is currently being viewed. That means that if a visitor downloads your video and embeds it on their blog or in their newsletter, you’ll know!
  • Actionable data: Sure, it’s nice to know how many “likes” you have. But you know what’s even more important? Watch times, audience retention, and traffic sources.

What Type of Content Marketing ROI Should I Expect?

When it comes to ROI, content marketing is the clear winner. You just can’t get a comparable ROI from anything else.

Why? It’s fairly low-cost — especially if you do it yourself — and it converts really well. 70% of consumers say that they’d rather learn about a brand through content than anywhere else. So, it can be assumed that only 30% of consumers are really into looking at your paid ads, right?

Need more numbers? 81% of marketers found that increased traffic occurs with as little as six hours a week invested in content marketing and nine out of 10 consumers say that online content plays a role in their purchasing decisions.

And that’s really not the end of it. If you do a quick Google search on “content marketing ROI”, you’ll find all sorts of numbers that prove its worth. A

While we can’t tell you exactly what rate of return to expect, we can tell you that it’ll be bigger than anything you’ve done before.

Conclusion

We all care about the bottom line. And a happy audience means a better bottom line.

Content marketing makes it easier to attract, engage with, nurture, and convert leads. And when we know who is seeing our content and how they’re interacting with it, we can better determine our overall content marketing ROI.

Do you use content marketing in your business? Have you tried tracking your ROI? We’d love to hear your content marketing success stories!

If you have any comments or questions, leave them below and we’ll answer them in updates to the article.

Complete Guide to Content Marketing ROI

Dave Polykoff

Dave Polykoff spent the last 8 years building content platforms for Tier 1 publications and Fortune 500 companies. Now, he's focused on helping businesses of all sizes streamline their content marketing efforts.