Why You Should Measure The ROI Of Your Content
Do you measure the ROI of specific pages of your website? I would guess that most do not, which is a shame as content marketing has the potential to generate a significant ROI for your business through engagement. Content marketing is here to stay because informative high quality content is always in demand no matter the industry.
It may seem like a daunting task if you are not used to analytics and key performance indicators (KPI’s) but this post will guide you every step of the way.
Understanding the beginnings of your content
Lets start at the beginning; content creation costs money. Whether you do this in house or outsource it, there is a measurable cost. The ideal scenario is to pay one time for the content and have it deliver an ROI that is acceptable to you for months and years to come.
Unfortunately it doesn’t quite pan out like this for most of us. In fact most do not even track their contents performance so realistically they never know how it performed.
Why You Need To Plan and Track Your Content
Just blindly writing a page, blog post or creating a video is not good enough. Most likely you’ll just be wasting your money if you do it like this. Ideally, every piece of content should be working for your business and provide a return.
So, before we start writing anything we need to start thinking about our content strategy. How everything will piece together and interlink. A good first question to ask yourself is: Why does this content need to exist in the first place?
From here you will start to plan out your content marketing strategy. Ideally you’ll have each page on your website leading to one of your funnels using a call to action (CTA).
Visualising Your Content Strategy With A Content Conversion Funnel
The reason why we plan out our content is because acquiring customers from content marketing is usually a long term strategy. The length of the conversion cycle will depend on whether you are a B2B or B2C company and conversion times can be hours, days, weeks or months. A content conversion funnel is crucial to understand this process and help improve it.
For example it is possible that a visitor may discover your business through content then return a week later via an advertisement. They could then sign up to your email list and end up buying your product or service months later. Without a content funnel in place you wouldn’t know what content was best to present them at these various stages or how they performed.
But how do we know what type of content to present them at certain times? Well we align our content marketing to buyer personas and the stages of the conversion funnel. By doing this you will be more likely to increase the leads that you gain and increase your chances of more sales.
So, to recap:
- Content marketing should be viewed as a long term strategy.
- A content market strategy/plan should be formulated before you start writing any content
- You need to understand your buyer personas through research to better shape your content and delivery.
- You need a content funnel that will deliver specific content at the various stages of the funnel to move your leads through the buying stages.
What Does The Average Content Funnel Look Like?
The early stage is all about generating brand awareness with visitor traffic. You can use:
- Blog posts
- Curated lists
- Social media events
- Email marketing and other tactics
Then you can move on to:
- Case studies
- Newsletters etc to generate further leads.
Converting these leads to customers can be achieved by:
- Email marketing and so on.
Once they become customers, the focus should be on retaining customers and repeat purchases. Example could be:
- Client workshops
- Product updates
What Could You Measure Within This Funnel?
We are not simply concerned with just sales here. You need to define what your other goals of content marketing are. These could be exposure (or consumption), leads (e.g. email opt in), links and social shares and of course product or service sales.
This may seem obvious, but most businesses do not measure all of these. This could be because other than sales, there is no direct monetary value. But each one of the others has a value and they can all be measured.
Let’s have a look at each one of these.
You have spent money creating and publishing your content and now it is time to see if it is being consumed and providing the exposure that you require. We will discuss levels of exposure later.
If your content is not being consumed enough by your target audience then you will not achieve your goals. There could be a number of reasons for this, and user engagement is a key factor. Consider the type of content that you are publishing and where it appears.
At the basic level, exposure or consumption metrics would include:
The page views on your site. Which pages are being viewed the most? Are these unique visitors or returning visitors? How long are they staying on the pages? You can get answers to these questions using Google Analytics or other similar web analytics programs such as Hotjar.
Views to your videos. You should certainly be using the large video platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo and DailyMotion. It is easy to see how many views your video has received but drill a bit deeper here and find out the number of partial views versus complete views using YouTube Insights or similar.
Free downloads. How many visitors have downloaded your free eBook, white paper, free software tool or whatever free downloads you have on your site? Again use analytics programs here.
Document views. You should be using Slideshare, Scribd, Issuu and other document sharing sites to distribute your content. These can be presentations, eBooks, white papers and so on. Check for views and downloads on these sites.
Links And Social Sharing
A number of people will share your content if they found it informative and engaging. This is good for a number of reasons including ranking higher organically in search engines.
Social media shares. Gaining Facebook shares and likes, Twitter tweets and retweets and any other form of social sharing will not necessarily bring you additional revenue (it can in some cases). What it does do is give you a good indicator of the acceptability of your content among your visitors. There are a number of tools out there that will tell you where and when and how often your content has been shared socially, so use them.
The number of external links to your content. You need to know how many external sites are linking to your content. This is another good indicator of how popular your content really is. Services such as Moz, Majestic and Ahrefs will provide you with a comprehensive breakdown of your inbound links.
Leads are very important as they can be converted into sales. You need to be closely monitoring your lead metrics and working to improve conversions here. A few examples of lead metrics are:
Newsletter and other registrations. The famous “opt in” is a very valuable part of lead generation. You want the email address of your visitor so that you can follow them up with more content via email, and hopefully convert them into customers. These can then be segmented into buyers and non buyers.
Contact form submissions. You can measure the number of times that your contact form details are completed. Google Analytics can help with this. Contact form submission details can also be integrated into your CRM system.
Comments on your site. Serious comments should be treated like gold. Make sure that these comments are responded to professionally. The number of comments can be easily measured.
If you sell your products or services via your website then this makes things a lot easier. By using multi channel reports in Google Analytics you can obtain in depth reporting on your conversions and how the customer reached the point of sale.
If your sales are offline, then the buying journey is more complex and you need additional tools to be able to measure this. It is unlikely to be 100% accurate but should provide a reasonably accurate indicator of what sales were driven via your content.
What KPIs Should You Use?
When you start to look into the metrics available for content marketing it will seem that there are an infinite number to choose from. Some will be better indicators of business growth than others. You do not want to be buried under a pile of KPIs each month so it pays to be selective here.
The KPIs that you use should be a direct reflection of your conversion funnels. The metrics that you use should track a lead’s movement through the various funnels and answer the following questions:
- How effectively does your content expose new prospects to your brand and products and services?
- How effective is your content in creating engagement with your brand?
- How effective is your content at inspiring visitors to do business with you?
- How effective is your content strategy at driving revenue?
Start With The End In Mind
A lot of marketers will make stabs in the dark or rely on gut instincts when it comes to content marketing, but working with reliable metrics is not difficult at all. It is important to test the market first.
You need to test your content conversions in terms of leads generated and customers converted. Let’s assume that you are offering an incentive in exchange for the visitors email address. You then use email marketing to convert the subscriber to a customer.
What is your lead conversion rate? For every 100 visitors you may obtain 20 subscribers which is 20%. What about the conversion of leads into customers? Let’s say that this is 5%. What is the yearly value of your customers? Let’s assume that this is $500.
So if you were to attract 500,000 new visitors to your content funnel then you will generate 100,000 leads and convert 5% of these giving you 5,000 new customers. At $500 a year per customer this would generate $2,500,000 in additional revenue.
Now you have something to work with. You would then need to calculate the content creation and other costs necessary to attract this number of new visitors.
If you were to spend an additional $200,000 on content marketing you would know that your cost per customer would be $40 and the cost per unique visitor would be 40 cents. You can now share these metrics with the CFO and negotiate your content marketing budget.
You have also created two very important KPIs which are your lead conversion rate and customer conversion rate from those leads. You are likely to gain a small number of customers without them becoming a lead first so this can also be a KPI and measured as well.
You need to credit different touch points in your content funnel for lead and sales conversions. You can do this using attribution models. This becomes more complex the more paths your content strategy has.
To accurately capture ROI from your content marketing you will need to customize Google Analytics or your other analytics program with the right attribution models. This will assist you in optimizing your content funnel for the best results.
Bear in mind that different content strategies are likely to produce different conversion rates and can have an impact on your cost per customer. You may experience much higher conversion rates with a targeted audience webinar than you would from conventional email marketing for instance.
It is therefore a good idea to report against each content marketing channel that has been established. This will identify your top performing content and provide consistent averages for all channels over time. This is essential for predictable future content marketing plans.
Onsite Or Offsite?
Your content marketing strategy will be a mixture of onsite and offsite marketing. If your content has good organic rankings in the search engines then you need to measure the amount of traffic that this brings.
Make sure that you have all the necessary tools to measure offsite traffic. You need to accurately measure all of your referring links so that you know which are the best traffic generators and converting sources.
I recommend the following resources to better understand measuring your offline marketing:
What To Do If It Isn’t Working
Now that you know the conversion levels to expect from a page of content on your site you can analyze individual pages to see if they are “cutting it”. Small tweaks to these pages could improve your overall conversion rates so it is really worth doing.
A good way to find pages on your site that require attention is to examine how much time a visitor spends on the page. If your traffic to those pages has increased but the bounce rate is high, then the page is not providing the visitor what they require.
Examine the page to see if the content needs work. Do you need other media such as videos and images? Is there a clear CTA on the page for email sign up or contact with the business?
Check out A Guide to Using Video to Boost Engagement.
The use of event tracking and attention software can also help here. How do most visitors view the page and what actions do they take? Are there any unnecessary distractions on the page that are diverting the visitor away from your desired goal? At this point, if you feel there are pain points think about getting the website or page reviewed by an end user or ux expert.
Measuring the effectiveness of your content marketing strategy is very important. You need to know the return your company is receiving from their investment in content and provide predictable data for future marketing plans.
All of the tools are available to you to achieve this. Test and test again. If it is not working as it should then change it so that it does.
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