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Content Marketing ROI: How To Measure Content Marketing the Right Way

Content marketing has often be misunderstood, and therefore misapplied and misjudged. For years, people have approached content marketing in short-sighted campaigns. One week, they write an article this week, they publish and promote it the next week. The week after, they judge its effectiveness. If that article isn't driving significant results within a month or two, they move on to the next campaign.

While this time-oriented approach is how news organizations approach content, it’s not the right way to measure content marketing ROI for your business. If you base your content marketing performance on how quickly it gets results, you’ll judge the wrong thing.

How To Approach Content Marketing ROI

Content marketing ROI is the return you get from your content efforts, in terms of traffic, leads, or customers. However, the desire to measure content marketing ROI often puts pressure on content marketers, leading them to push vanity metrics. Vanity metrics, which can include Facebook likes, blog post comments, or retweets, may seem like valuable engagement metrics, but in reality, provide little value for your business.

Vanity metrics can also cause businesses to prematurely pull the plug on a great content marketing strategy too early, which guarantees failure every single time. That’s why if you want to measure your content marketing ROI accurately, you need to have the right approach.

1. Have the right goal in mind.

Your content marketing ROI isn’t about quick wins or campaigns. It's about long-term, consistent growth. If you're judging an article based on how many views it gets after the first month it’s live; you're missing the point. If you want to measure your content marketing effectiveness, the right goal is improving domain authority, which you can measure using Moz.

Your domain authority, or a search engine ranking score that Moz calculates to predict how likely it is that your website will rank on search engine result pages, impacts everything you do. The more authority you can build, the more likely it is that your content will rank, which means you’ll get more traffic and the greater content marketing ROI.

2. Understand the purpose of content marketing.

One of the most critical goals of your content is to introduce your company to new prospects for the first time. You do this by writing and promoting content that speaks to the issues they care about. By addressing their challenges and answering the questions they’re Googling about, you provide value long before you try to sell them anything.

That's why the most effective way to approach content marketing is by investing in audience research. You can use strategy documents such as the lean startup canvas to dig into the frustrations, trigger events, and reasons that your customer hasn't found a solution to their problem to inspire thoughtful, useful material at every phase of the buyer journey.

3. Understand the lifecycle of a piece of content.

It can take a long time for content to rank. Sometimes, a single blog post won’t start generating meaningful organic traffic for six to eight months. However, just because a piece of content isn’t generating results yet, doesn’t mean it’s never going to. You just need to be patient and continue to produce content.

If you’re starting with a new blog or website, you also need to give yourself time to improve your domain authority. As your authority grows, all the articles will respond with higher rankings. But for the time being, you may not immediately get the type of results you want.

4. Measure the right KPI's

There’s one metric that you should use to measure your content marketing ROI: is this content bringing me more revenue? The way you determine that is judging how many opportunities, or leads, your content provides. To get these leads, you need more organic traffic. You can measure this ROI by looking at these metrics in reverse:

  • Traffic: Is your organic traffic growing mo/mo?
  • Leads: Are your organic leads increasing mo/mo?
  • Opportunities: Are your leads qualified and converting to sales opportunities?

That's the grading rubric we use to measure content marketing ROI. It works like a funnel. The more traffic you get, the more leads you get. The more leads you get, the more sales opportunities. And so forth. Even if you have a decent funnel and lead nurturing in place, you should be able to set a baseline and start setting meaningful goals and objectives to grow your traffic.

As we grow client content and begin to measure content marketing ROI, we pay attention to:

  • Is our organic traffic growing mo/mo... compounding growth as we create more and more evergreen content?
  • Is our domain authority increasing?
  • Is that traffic converting to leads at a satisfactory rate?

If those things are yes, you're getting content marketing ROI. As ROI grows over time, as of your evergreen content piles up. Eventually, traffic will be growing exponentially month over month. That's why you can't measure ROI as "we invested this much this month, what did we get from it this month?"

As you continue to invest, your results will improve over a period. If you do content marketing right, you could be getting a return from a blog post 2-3 years later.

Gaining More Content Marketing ROI

It's a content marketing world. If you want to have a business, you need to invest in content marketing. Your competitors will invest in content, and your audience expects content. As a result, when you're talking about content marketing ROI, you shouldn't be discussing whether or not you should invest in content. The discussion needs to be about how you're building compound growth for the future.

However, if you're not generating enough organic traffic right now, it can be challenging to trust that content marketing is going to help you meet your goals over time. If you want to learn the tactics we use to 10x, 20x, and even 30x organic marketing with content, check out our organic traffic guide that walks you through proven tactics and strategies. Guide to Increase Organic Website Traffic - Download

Written by Melissa Randall / July 3, 2019

As an Inbound Writer for Lean Labs, Melissa writes about high-converting websites and customer-centric marketing. She's an avid traveler, with trips to Iceland, Ukraine, and Portugal under her belt. She currently resides in Wilmington, North Carolina with her dog, Morrie.

Articles by Melissa Randall
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