Digital marketers who live and breathe content understand it’s important, but how do you communicate the business value of content to your team?
No matter how witty or engaging your latest blog post is, you need to show the ROI of investing in content. Without proof of success, you may struggle to win budget approval for content marketing, or face backlash when proposing new content ideas.
In this article, we’ll delve into the various ways you can measure content performance. I’ll then share the benefits of communicating these metrics to your team to prove the importance of content.
What is the business value of content?
You need to measure the business value of your content to demonstrate its marketing success to the entire company. But what exactly do we mean when we say “business value?”
A universal definition for business value doesn’t exist. To some organizations, it means monetary gain achieved from business activities, but it doesn’t have to involve finances. Business value can include customer retention, competitive positioning, market sentiment, and other non-monetary factors.
As a rule of thumb, one of the best measures of content success is leads. Aim to show that your article, social media post, whitepaper, newsletter, or video directly drove sign-ups (for example, via UTM tags or a customer survey).
Assuming your content possesses business value isn’t practical. You need to measure its effectiveness to illustrate how it furthers your business goals.
Examining pageviews, for example, provides insight into how many people view your article, but offers little data about their intentions. Pageviews is an example of vanity metrics, which require more information to show a clear picture. You need to track customer intent, leads, revenue, and other measurable quantities.
Social media following, pageviews, and time on site look positive on paper, but they don’t move the needle for your business goals. That’s why it’s time to throw out vanity metrics and shift your attention to impactful analytics to assess progress and inform your future marketing decisions.
Benefits of measuring content marketing ROI
One of the obvious benefits of measuring your content’s business value is viewing the results of your hard work. Seeing how your efforts directly affect your business helps keep you motivated and inspired.
But there are other benefits, too. Other positives include:
1) Create feedback loops to supercharge your content
Your content’s performance doesn’t rely solely on the marketing team. If you want it to reach new heights, you need to collaborate with customer-facing teams like sales and customer service. However, these teams are also busy and need a good reason to give you the time of day!
One way to convince them is to show your content’s business value assessment. Seeing other teams’ buy-in will then create content feedback loops with more departments.
Once you demonstrate how content will help them, talk to customer-facing roles to learn about the customer journey, pain points, and the best way to reach leads. Collaboration between organizational teams is a key component of ensuring you provide value. When done correctly, content can be a powerful tool for recruitment, sales, customer service, and many other business aspects.
Departmental feedback loops fine-tune and strengthen your content machine. For example, active feedback loops involve customer-facing teams sending you their most commonly asked questions. You can then create content that answers those questions so customers can find it themselves, or your customer-facing teams can send a link to easily answer multiple questions at once.
2) Validate your expenses and budget requests
Demonstrated business value justifies the budget you request to fuel your efforts.
If you can show how content contributes to the business in terms of revenue or lead generation, you have a bargaining chip to try things that may be riskier but have the potential for higher returns.
Justifying your budget requests earns you funding to try new things, drive lead growth, and perfect your content strategy.
3) Know where to invest and improve
When you identify which content performs the best in terms of bringing in leads and revenue, you’ll have a clearer picture of where to invest your efforts. Use analytical tools and metrics to see what works and what doesn’t, then learn from this to improve your content strategy.
How to measure content marketing ROI
How do you go about actually calculating the value of your content? Follow these four steps to get started.
1) Add up the costs of creating content
It’s often said that SEO (or content marketing) is free to get started. But the reality is, content marketing requires a dedicated budget — after all, you need someone to devote his or her time to creating, fine tuning, and implementing your strategy.
So, as a first step, track down how much capital currently goes towards your content creation efforts. This includes the cost of hiring a freelancer or an in-house writer, the cost of a designer to build images, and the cost of other talent (like a video expert or SEO consultant) that’s involved during the process.
Not to mention, you’ll want to factor in SEO software or other tools that you use to get the job done.
Note that you can either sum up costs across all of your content marketing efforts or for certain campaigns (e.g., a particular content piece or across all blogs)
2) Add up the costs of promoting content
Similarly, you’ll want to add up all the costs of distributing your content. This includes things like your search ads, social media ads, media placements, and/or email marketing.
Like in the previous step, you’ll want to factor in everything from labor costs to software subscriptions to the budget you set aside for PPC campaigns.
The sum of all this, plus your content creation costs, will reflect your total investment into content.
3) Calculate the value of your sales
At the end of the day, most content marketing strategies exist to generate high-quality leads that eventually convert into sales. The simplest way to quantify this is by adding up all the sales you earned from your content.
Your CRM or marketing automation software should include details about where your sales originated, alongside hard numbers regarding the total value of each sale.
If you don’t have a process in place for tracking the original source of a sale, consider employing UTM tags, a customer survey, or adding a step to your sales team’s process that digs into discovery channels.
4) Crunch the numbers
Now that you’ve pulled all the numbers, use the following formula below to calculate your content marketing ROI:
ROI = [(Net return – investment) / investment] x 100
As an example, let’s say you earned $3,000 in sales from a whitepaper that cost $500 to produce. Your ROI would come out to be [($3,000-$500) / $500] x 100, or 500%.
Bonus: Another way to measure ROI
The above helps you to express ROI as a percentage reflecting total sales earned from your content efforts. If you’re looking to evaluate leads derived from content, here are two simple calculations you can run.
First, find the cost per lead by taking the total cost of acquiring a lead and divide it by the number of leads you acquired during the same period. For instance, let’s say you spent $2,000 in content marketing last period and earned 12 leads. The cost per lead would be $2,000 / 16, or $125 per lead.
Now, find the average lead value by taking the total amount of sales from your marketing efforts and dividing that by the total number of leads. So, if you earned $20,000 in sales last period, you would calculate $20,000 / 16 to get $1,250.
In this scenario, you spent approximately $125 per lead but earned $1,250 for each.
Other marketing metrics worth tracking
Despite our best efforts at pinpointing the ROI of content marketing, many benefits of content marketing can’t be reduced down to a single formula. Content marketing, after all, has other advantages and goals, such as spreading brand awareness, building trust, and increasing your visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs).
The customer journey today is also more complicated than ever. The average B2B customer journey today involves six to 10 decision makers and dozens of touch points across multiple channels. In order to paint a fuller picture of your content marketing, you’ll want to examine the following things:
- On-page engagement – What do people do once they click into your content? What can bounce rates, average time on page, and other behavioral data tell you about their level of interest or intent?
- Top pages – Where do people enter, exit, and engage the most on your site? Not all pages are created equal—some pages (like platform pages) may be good for direct conversions, whereas others (like your blog) may be great for bringing in the initial traffic and introducing them to your brand.
- Top sources – How much of new website traffic is from search engines versus emails versus other distinct sources? How do their onsite behaviors differ from one another? Google Analytics 4 (GA4) includes a Traffic Acquisition Report that provides insight into these details.
- Top keywords – What keywords do you currently rank for? What search intent do they attract, and how many unbranded versus branded keywords do you show up for? Tools like Ahrefs and Semrush can show you your organic rankings, while Google Search Console can show you which terms actually bring people to your site.
- Goals/events – Monitor important behaviors, e.g., newsletter signups, ebook downloads, video views, scroll depth, or other important actions. With GA4, you can track several types of events.
How to increase your content marketing ROI
Before measuring your content’s business value, you can take specific actions during planning and execution to better your chances of success.
1) Know your audience
Customer research is the first step to create relevant, engaging content. You need to know who you’re addressing, their pain points, and the right voice and tone to use in your communications.
Here are a few general questions to gauge how well you know your target audience:
- What are their most pressing pain points?
- Which tools/services do they currently use?
- How much time or effort could your product/service save them?
- Where are they most likely to discover a product/service like yours?
- Who (or what blogs) do they turn to for advice or education?
2) Use high purchase intent keywords
It’s important to capitalize on potential business value when writing new blog posts and on-page content. One option is to utilize high purchase intent keywords in your content.
By optimizing their content for search intent, Ahrefs increased their traffic by 677% and secured the number one spot in Google search results.
Search intent refers to the “why” behind a search query. High purchase intent keywords are centered on buying decisions and suggest a strong intent to purchase. In contrast, low intent keywords consist of informational or navigational search terms.
People using low intent keywords are most likely in the awareness or interest stage of the buyer journey. They’re just searching for information or looking to visit a specific website, and don’t have an explicit intent to purchase.
Incorporating high intent keywords into your content will raise the number of customers you attract who are in the purchase stage of the buyer journey.
3) Do keyword research
To find high intent keywords, you need to search for them properly. Although many people concentrate on search volume and traffic, your aim should be to choose keywords your target audience uses. Draw them in with a potential solution to their problem and they’ll be more likely to convert to customers.
Ahref’s Keyword Explorer is one option for conducting keyword research. The tool allows you to search by intent so you can find suitable keywords to include in your content. Priority keywords should tick the boxes for high intent, high business value, and low competition.
4) Use wider marketing initiatives
In addition to creating and analyzing, you should also align your content with other marketing initiatives, instead of producing it in silos.
When developing a content marketing plan, be sure to incorporate how you will distribute the content. A wider reach will further its chances of success. You can align your content with an email marketing campaign, use it for organic social media or paid advertising, or distribute it as a PR campaign.
Remember to use UTMs if you plan to promote externally. UTMs detail which methods of distribution are effective, illustrating the impact of your content within wider marketing initiatives.
Tools to measure content performance and ROI
Now that we’ve covered the what and why of measuring the business value of your content, it’s time to explore how to measure it.
As mentioned earlier, vanity metrics are not useful for measuring content performance. Instead, you need to focus on impactful elements.
There are plenty of tools to help you measure and improve your content to build up its business value. We’ll go over a few of the most popular, including Google Analytics, HubSpot, Ahrefs, and SEMrush.
Google Analytics has long been the industry-standard analytics platform that tracks and reports website traffic. Starting July 1, 2023, GA4—the next generation of Google Analytics will be taking over. GA4 is already available, so anybody currently using Universal Analytics properties can migrate to GA4 today.
GA4 helps you to understand the customer journey by offering out-of-the-box reports, as well as enhanced custom reports, that provide insight into user engagement, monetization, and other objectives.
With GA4, you can analyze attribution as well. GA4 includes a revamped Conversions Paths report, where you can analyze data according to various attribution models. Choose between cross-channel, data-driven, or ads-preferred models—each of which provides a deeper understanding into which pieces of content were most prevalent in the buyer journey.
For example, you look at the user journey based on first and last touch, which signifies the first and last interaction a user makes with your content before converting.
Furthermore, with GA4, you can take a deep dive into your page metrics for individual blog posts on your website. The Pages and Screens report identifies the top-visited pages on your site and shows average engagement times, scrolling behaviors, and more.
Once you set up your events, you will also see total revenue earned by page. This is a great tool to convince senior management that your content leads to conversions.
If you’re looking for an all-encompassing approach to your content marketing strategy, HubSpot could be an insightful tool for your business. HubSpot’s blogging software provides a platform for blog posts that have been optimized to drive traffic and convert visitors into customers.
From on-page SEO advice to as-you-type keyword suggestions, HubSpot’s software is useful for anyone looking to automate their content marketing strategy while reaping the benefits of optimized content.
If you have all of your content on HubSpot pages, you’ll be able to track leads through different deal stages, attribute them to exact entry pages, and measure how well different pieces of content drive conversion.
The Ahrefs Content Explorer tool allows you to discover top-performing content within your niche and view content trends over time. You can then analyze this content and use it to inform decisions about your own content marketing strategy.
Combine your findings from the Ahrefs Content Explorer and Keyword Explorer to produce content that delivers high business value.
You can analyze your content performance in Ahrefs to see:
- Which keywords are ranking well in search
- Whether those keywords have high purchase intent
- How well your content generates backlinks
- Which keywords or phrases get the most traffic
Tip: Look at whether your target keywords and phrases have search ads. This shows that they have business value.
Once your content has been published, you can delve deeper into its performance using SEMrush. Using the content marketing platform within SEMrush, you can easily track the Google positioning and any featured snippets you secured for your content.
Additionally, you can monitor how many backlinks and external shares your content receives, which helps you map its reach.
These metrics gauge the SEO success of your content, which, in turn, will help you assert its impact and importance on business value.
Content engagement metrics are a key method for tracking business value because they show how your content strategy aligns with user interest.
Pageviews can be a good indicator that your content is of interest to your audience. However, it doesn’t disclose the success of your content.
Analyzing pageviews with time on page and bounce rate indicates whether or not your audience finds your content useful. If your results across these three metrics are low, you may need to readjust your content marketing strategy.
Another useful on-page metric is page/scroll depth. The scroll depth Google Analytics plugin records how much of your content readers absorb. For example, if readers are dropping off after consuming only 25% of your content (and don’t go on to make a purchase), it’s safe to say your content isn’t meeting its desired goal. Page/scroll depth tells you if your content needs refinement.
You can use heatmap tools or similar programs like FullStory to understand how your visitors interact with your content, what they find most engaging, how they interact with CTAs, and what drives them to sign up for more.
Another way to strengthen the value of your content is through lead magnets, which can increase leads and track their quality. You can then nurture these leads with a tailored marketing campaign to convert them to customers.
Tip: Repurpose your content for more ROI
An article isn’t limited to a single format. If you have a blog that converts well, you can extend its value across channels and through different mediums.
- Use the article as the basis for an animated video script. Post the video on YouTube, add it back into your original article to make it more interactive, and take clips from the video to share on social media.
- Combine the article with other relevant ones to create a downloadable eBook you can give away to newsletter subscribers.
- Turn the article into an email course that links back to the original as well as related resources on your blog.
- Transform the article into an infographic and share it with relevant online communities.
Wrapping up – Stretch the ROI of your content marketing efforts
Keyword research is just one part of building a content marketing strategy. If you want your content to deliver valuable results for your business, you’ll also need to measure the performance of your content, make adjustments where needed and repeat this process for new pieces.
Once you publish your carefully curated, well-researched content, you can use analytical tools and metrics to measure its actual business value. This helps you get intrateam buy-in, justify your expenses, and create feedback loops to improve your content. From there, you can employ wider marketing initiatives to amplify it. These steps will allow you to present the business value of your content confidently to your company, senior management, and board members.
Published: April 6, 2020
Updated: June 13, 2022