How to measure the ROI of your content marketing

Recent studies have shown that up to 86% of companies are invested in content marketing; however, about half of B2B and B2C marketers are challenged when measuring the ROI of their content marketing campaigns.

This issue is apparent when taking into consideration that 60% of B2B marketers are still using web traffic to gauge the performance of their content marketing. Web traffic can certainly be an important metric to your overall business goals, but, it is only one of many elements to consider when measuring the impact of your content marketing efforts and shouldn’t be the sole indicator of success.

Learn how to create and measure content marketing goals that are focused on producing ROI while also aligning with your target audience, business offerings, and budget limitations.

Creating Measurable Content Goals

Many times, when companies first start experimenting with content marketing tactics, they eagerly jump into many of the well-documented strategies such as creating a company blog or registering for each social channel, but don’t see the immediate results that they were looking for—this can cause uncertainty in their marketing tactics and lead to an eventual failure.

The problem doesn’t lay in their ambition to undertake a content marketing approach, the problems come from three common areas: the complexity of the content marketing ecosystem, a lack of experience or understanding with content marketing, and the technical measurement issues associated with how audience consumes content across various devices today.

Whether businesses are interested in using content to increase sales, audience engagement, lead generation, consumer evangelism, or a combination of them all, achieving these goals will require a unique approach and measurement tactic to execute thoroughly. When a company quickly adopts a mix of content strategies, they can easily begin to feel overwhelmed—making measuring ROI a potential nightmare.

To better resolve these issues, businesses should set actionable and measurable content objectives that align with their overall company goals. Every company is likely to focus on different factors when growing their business, and these objectives should be discussed in detail with both internal and external company stakeholders when creating a content strategy.

As Chief Content Officer Heidi Cohen explains in the Actionable Marketing Guide:

“You must first set marketing goals for your current content that are aligned with your business objectives, understand your target audience including what types of content they like and where they look for content, and develop appropriate content marketing metrics.”

During this strategy discovery process, you should find where your organization fits into your industry, what your pain points are, what tactics that you are are executing well, where the gaps in your current content strategy are, and where you need help.

The idea is that you and your stakeholders are identifying what your business is looking to accomplish and just how content marketing can be leveraged to achieve these goals. Pick an objective that aligns well with your audience, offerings, and budget considerations.

Consider the following common types of goals including: customer retention/loyalty, engagement, brand awareness, increasing sales, customer evangelism, lead generation/nurturing, and upselling or cross selling your current customers.

Not only can this discussion be beneficial for understanding what your company is looking to achieve with content, it can help create buy in from company executives and better manage the expectations of your content efforts. Once your company is aligned with what your business goals are, you can begin answering how content can make it possible.

Analyzing Your Content Efforts

After establishing appropriate goals and developing an ideal course of action for your content campaigns, you should determine the correct metrics that indicate the performance of your content. This can be a challenge for marketers since there are often a variety of metrics that can point to content performance; however, not every metric will align with your company’s needs.

To stay focused on ROI and have a better understanding of how your content can affect your overlying business goals, start by selecting and measuring two to three metrics before scaling further. This can help you avoid analyzing too many data points and overwhelming your approach.

The following goals are merely some of the many that your company could be focused on. For reference on how you should pair your metrics, look to these examples.

Conversion and Sales Goals

Aligning your metrics to appropriately measure conversions can be beneficial for your growing business’ goals. Particularly when understanding how your content marketing efforts can directly relate to a positive ROI.

Measuring the amount of email sign-ups, requests for information, or content downloads that you receive from your target audience can be an indication that your content is resonating with the correct customers.

By effectively increasing these metrics, you can better develop each section of your sales funnel. This will eventually create more opportunities to convert your audience into actual customers down the line.

Reach and Brand Awareness Goals

These goals are often the foundation of content marketing strategies. Raising the awareness of your product, brand, or service offerings is an important aspect of growing your business and becoming a recognizable leader within your industry. The idea is that when your ideal customer has a need that your product or services serve, they recall and seek your brand as the solution.

When creating and distributing content to increase your marketing reach and brand awareness, you should look to find increases in page views, impressions, and unique users on your web properties and higher open rates in your email campaigns. These metrics can indicate that your content is not only driving traffic, but appealing to your audience’s needs as well.

Engagement and Audience Participation Goals

Whether it’s the number of comments and shares on a social post, the time spent on your website, or the click-to-open rate of an email campaign, these metrics can play an important role when measuring the effectiveness of your marketing message and when deciding what content is best at piquing the interest of your target audience.

Sometimes referred to as, “vanity metrics”, these can determine the popularity of your content and generally, highly engaging content encourages more people to share your message, thus multiplying your content efforts and broadening your reach.

You should be cautious not to put too much emphasis on vanity metrics, as they are not the tell tale sign of success that many companies can mistake them to be. They are another aspect worth considering in your overall content marketing strategy. For businesses that lean too much on comments, likes, and social shares, VP of Content for HubSpot, Joe Chernov warns, “You’ve got to wean yourself off vanity metrics.”

At this point you may be asking, “If you’re focused primarily on measuring your return-on-investment, why would you even bother analyzing your reach or engagement metrics?”

While it may appear that conversions and sales are the most direct goals for your company to focus on for ROI, it’s also important to note the merit of both your reach and engagement goals and how these can cohesively work together to influence your bottom line. In essence, each of these goals should have their place in your overall content marketing strategy.

After you’ve identified your data points, create a reporting system to monitor your results. Online metrics can generally be tracked with analytics tools such as Google Analytics, Sumall and others. For measuring offline goals, the tools can differ, such as collecting customer feedback in-store or through a POS system.

By experimenting and understanding how each piece of content impacts your overall strategy, you can relegate more of your resources to creating and distributing the most effective content to impact your bottom line.

Three Examples of Measuring Content Marketing In Action

McDonald’s Aims for Transparency with Content Marketing

In late 2014, McDonald’s created the Our Food, Your Questions Campaign to address a general consensus that their food handling practices and ingredient origins were of questionable quality. This public relations crisis was likely one of the culprits behind the franchise’s deflating bottom line.

The campaign featured Grant Imahara from the popular television show Mythbusters skeptically exploring McDonald’s food factories in search of answers. McDonald’s goals from this campaign were to leave an impacting sentiment with their audience, amend their struggling sales performance, and improve their customer service.

To measure the effectiveness of their content marketing campaign, McDonald’s can analyze specific metrics for each campaign objective.

For example, when measuring how their message impacted their audience, McDonald’s can look to how their customer satisfaction ratings changed throughout, how frequently their campaign came up in searches, and how many times the McDonald’s brand was mentioned when compared to other competitors in their industry. McDonald’s is interested in monitoring the success and impact of this campaign to understand if their customers misconceptions about their brand has effectively been changed.

Additionally, McDonald’s measures their other goals such as increasing revenue and creating better customer service, by analyzing the amount of sales generated, their overall cost savings, the type of customer feedback the campaign received, and their response time when replying to customers.

GoPro’s Content Marketing Superstardom

High-definition camera manufacturer, GoPro has been blazing a trail with content marketing in the action sports industry in a similar fashion to the power house marketing giants over at Red Bull. Meaning that, customer engagement, increasing revenue, and audience development from content marketing are all likely to be high priorities when focusing on their ROI.

GoPro is particularly focused on customer engagement, because they understand that they are likely to drive more sales if their customers feel emotionally connected with the company. By creating content that focuses on driving customer engagement, GoPro can create a stronger bond with their audience over time.

To measure how well GoPro’s customer engagement goals are met, we can look to the comments, shares, and reviews that their audience provides through public feedback and GoPro can measure how their content increases time on site and influences user-generated content.

Additionally, GoPro can measure how well their content relates to audience development by tracking how their social following, email subscribers, leads generated, and unique pageviews grow while they promote engaging content.

Whole Foods Creates Content Microsites to Establish Thought Leadership

Health and grocery retailer Whole Foods market, deploys a more complex content strategy to measure their ROI and content performance directly at each store. By practicing localized content marketing, Whole Foods can measure how their efforts affect their goals at a more granular level than is generally possible with their national content campaigns.

This means that Whole Foods can track customer engagement by comments, shares, in-store visits, and customer referrals at each store to better find the elements that make some stores more successful than others. Additionally, this allows Whole Foods to increase their thought leadership around healthy foods within communities by promoting the correct content exactly where it is most relevant.

For example, in this post by Whole Foods Market Brooklyn, the marketing team could use the local social channels to distribute content that was specific to that location. The impact of this content can be measured in store by counting how many customers visited the booth and the sales generated on the days when there was an in-store event as compared to the days when there was not.

When measuring the impact of your content marketing, it’s important that you first develop campaign goals for which to base your performance. From there, track two to three metrics that help define a successful campaign and establish a reporting system to continually monitor those metrics.

As you start to find content that performs well with your established business goals, begin to scale your efforts and focus on how each type of content you produce plays a role in creating a positive ROI for your company.