Measuring the ROI of Content Marketing: A Crash Course
Over the past decade, perhaps no marketing concept has taken a bigger step forward than content marketing. The number of organizations producing content—and the volume of content they are producing—has grown steadily over the years, with many becoming more sophisticated in their approach to content creation. So much so that 62 percent of B2B marketers say their content marketing strategy was somewhat or much more successful in 2016 than it was the previous year.
As with any initiative that requires investment, business leaders are working to understand how they can effectively measure the impact of content on their bottom line. Leadership teams may recognize that website views and brand awareness are important, but they also want to know how content translates to revenue.
That question can be answered in several ways; some fairly simple, others more complicated. Here are three best practices for effectively measuring the ROI of content marketing:
1. Lead Generation: Looking at the number of new contacts content brings into a database is perhaps the most common way organizations measure the value of content, and for good reason. Most marketers measure success at least in part by the number of potential customers they bring in, and content can be a huge part of lead generation efforts. Lead generation through content consists mostly of conversions and subscriptions. For instance, white paper downloads, webinar sign-ups or blog subscriptions bring new names into your system, expanding your universe of potential customers. If those prospects do end up purchasing products or services from your organization, that revenue can be traced directly back to content. In those cases, it is fairly simple to look at how much it cost you to produce that content and how much revenue it ultimately generated.
2. SEO vs Paid Search: Looking at your organic search rankings and comparing them to what you would have had to spend on paid search is a good way to get concrete value for your content. For instance, if you begin to emphasize specific long-tail keywords in your content and are able to rank for those phrases, you can look at your favorite keyword tool and determine what your cost-per-click would have been through a pay-per-click campaign. Now, this kind of analysis can get fairly complex if you want to drill down to your click-through-rates for specific keywords and then ultimately to measure the value of each of those clicks. If you want a more in-depth look at this tactic, take a look at this awesome article.
3. Attribution Modeling: Perhaps the most complex, yet useful, way to measure content is with an attribution model that attaches monetary value to specific pieces of content. You can do this in several ways:
- Compare the sales cycle for customers that consumed content to those that did not to determine whether content helps shorten the average cycle.
- Review historical data to create a formula that assigns a percentage of each closed deal to marketing if the customer consumed content before making a purchase. (i.e. a white paper might be worth 20% of a deal, while a blog or email might be 10%)
- Consult with sales to create a “full path” attribution model that accounts for bottom-of-the-funnel assets, including sales enablement content created by marketing.
Keep in mind that attribution models are still considered a fairly advanced step for many marketing departments. If this is the case for your organization, consider starting with a relatively simple ROI model. Regardless of what stage you are at, I highly recommend this article, which tackles the various types of attribution models. The article contains a lot of information, but don’t be intimidated. The most important thing is to simply start thinking about how to measure the unique value of your content.
Eric Lebowitz is an experienced digital marketer and demand generation expert. He is the co-founder of The Forward Marketer, a marketing firm and HubSpot certified partner that specializes in HubSpot marketing automation and training; SEO; social media, lead generation and management; and marketing strategy. Eric has worked with a number of Fortune 500 companies in industries including technology, retail, software development, real estate, finance, energy and nonprofits. He is also a die-hard Mets fan and golf lover.