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Wakey, wakey! It’s time to revive your content marketing & prove its ROI

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A new report reveals that only a third of marketers understand what successful content marketing looks like. Here we explore the reasons why and look at how marketers can prove - and improve - their content marketing ROI.
content marketing ROI

Content marketing has come a long way since 1888 when Johnson & Johnson published “Modern Methods of Antiseptic Wound Treatment” to complement its range of sterile surgical products. The company realised that surgeons needed more than just tools, they also needed to know how to use them properly.

Today things move a little quicker and content marketers have a few more options for creating, distributing and publishing content. But in the rush to create more content and embrace new tools, we can easily forget that we’re not here to produce stuff; we’re here to produce something useful for our target audience.

And what’s more, to understand its value, we need to track content marketing ROI. Only by gathering data can you truly understand what’s working and what’s not.

In this article, we reveal:

  • The challenge facing content marketers today
  • How to track your content marketing ROI

It’s time to ensure your content marketing provides verifiable value to your business.

The challenge facing content marketers today

Are you giving your target audience useful content or are you simply ticking boxes, beating deadlines and putting self-serving content out there?

The importance of content marketing is widely accepted. Nine out of ten B2B marketers use content marketing to reach customers while 86% of B2C marketers think content marketing is a key strategy, according to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI).

But do they know what success looks like? A new survey by Zazzle Media reveals that only a third of marketers reckon their organisation is clear on how to best run a successful marketing campaign.

There are two key lessons to learn from this. Firstly, clear verifiable targets need to be set across all content marketing efforts. This is true wherever your content is delivered, whether it’s on your social media, website, blog, or even via online and offline PR activities.

Secondly, marketers need to be more effective in how they communicate the value of their content to key decision-makers.

As Andrew Brookes from Zazzle Media points out:

“We have to continue to extoll the virtues of the work we do and prove the real value to be had in using content to build brand authority, awareness and commercial success. It’s also something that we shouldn’t be afraid of doing – if we’re confident in the work we do… why wouldn’t we be all too happy to explain ourselves?”

Quality: the bedrock of success

content marketing ROIThe problem with quality content is that it’s difficult to deliver which means a major investment in time. It’s worth stepping back and considering why it’s so important to be meticulous in the way that you plan and create content.

In a 2018 survey of B2B customers across the UK, US and Germany; three quarters (73%) said ‘informational content’ – such as white papers, videos, user-guides, or web pages – was very or extremely important to making them a repeat customer. Yet, one-third of respondents said they were impeded by a lack of available information, and irrelevant or confusing information when making their most recent purchase.

These findings emphasise the need to create content which serves the right people, with the right information, in the right style and in the right place. It’s no easy feat: the goal posts are always shifting due to changing consumer tastes and technological evolutions. Just consider how the growth of voice search is forcing content marketers to adapt their SEO techniques.

Tom Wilson, Concurred makes the case for empowering a data-driven content strategy with AI:

“Every aspect of a target audience, from its mood to its tastes, is changing with the times. Readers are fickle. They can respond negatively to a tactic that may have worked phenomenally well just a few months before.”

Gaining maximum value out of content is an ongoing challenge. But by tracking how your content is performing you can see where the opportunities lie and ensure that you’re on the path of continuous improvement. With data in hand you can flaunt the effectiveness of your content marketing. This helps everyone in the organisation – including key decision makers – better appreciate the value of your work.

It may even provide the impetus to invest more in content marketing.

How to track content marketing ROI

If only content marketing’s value were as easy to calculate as traditional ROI (see box right).

To accurately assess content marketing ROI requires a variety of metrics which don’t always fit neatly with the investment/return cycle.

Here we’ll explore four key goals of content marketing which all marketers should be tracking:

1. Brand awareness
2. Engagement
3. Lead generation
4. Search engine visibility

For each area, you need to set a clear baseline, clear goals for improvement and to track progress over time.

1. Brand awareness

Brand awareness occurs offline and online making it hard to track. However, there is a way. Simply set-up a spreadsheet which keeps track of:

  • How often you’re invited to industry events and how many speaking engagements you’re invited to
  • How often your company is mentioned in the media (offline and online)
  • How often your company is mentioned on social media
  • Key search term rankings

By creating an overall picture of brand awareness, you can see how recognition of your brand is rising (or falling) over time. Once your company grows as an authority, it will impact on leads, referrals and sales – boosting your content marketing ROI.

Further resources & case studies:

2. Engagement

Data driven advertising and trust

Is your content engaging with people? It’s a fashionable piece of marketing spiel. Everyone wants to engage. From a content marketer’s perspective it’s about delivering content which the reader/listener/viewer finds useful. It emphasises the fact that marketers should avoid just firing messages at people.

There is ample opportunity to track engagement levels across your website(s), social media and email platforms.

For website engagement there are a few key metrics to examine on Google Analytics:

  • Number of webpage visits
  • Most popular pages
  • Bounce rates
  • Average pages per session
  • Average session time

These tell you what pages are engaging and which ones are failing. It’s then up to you to work out the reasons why. Track all these metrics over time and set yourself new performance goals based on an analysis of previous performance.

I.e. Learn from your content successes and failures.

By sharing results with your marketing team they will be more aware of the value of your content and spread the word across the wider organisation.

To judge the effectiveness of your social media efforts, once again delve into Google Analytics and click through Acquisitions >> Social >> Overview. Here you can explore the impact of social media traffic on your site.

Buzzsumo is much-acclaimed for its usefulness in tracking how many social shares a piece of content has received, while each social media platform has its own analytics to explore.

Put together a plan for tracking all the essential engagement metrics across platforms in order to learn how truly engaging your content is.

Useful resources:

3. Lead generation

The number of leads – but particularly the quality of leads – delivered by your content marketing efforts are the biggest justifier of the time spent slaving away at blog posts, videos and your social media networks.

While your content marketing needs to focus on being useful to your target audience; the end result needs to build customer leads. It’s about finding the sweet spot of marketing: where your service and the needs of the customer meet.

There may be instances where tracking the leads generated by your content is difficult – particularly if you’re unable to track a person’s multi-channel journey. However, if your company CAN track an individual users’ multi-channel journey that will enable a more accurate measurement for the effectiveness of your content.

A classic example of lead creation is when someone lands on your blog post and then signs up to your newsletter.

But then we also have to track the lead-to-sale numbers – after all, this is the sale is the ultimate goal.

The question is: are you tapping into Google Analytics and tracking all these analytics? Do you know how many leads you are currently creating out of your content?

The first step is to establish your baseline. A week by week or month-by-month analysis of how many leads you are currently nurturing through all your marketing efforts.

Important site metrics include:

  • Click Through Rates (CTR): this tells you how many people are clicking on a call-to-action (CTA) across your website or on social. Ensure you can see exactly where the CTA is being clicked.
  • Conversion rates: this tells you how many people are performing a specific action, such as completing a sign-up form.
  • Time to conversion: this tells you how long it takes to turn a visitor into a lead. A simple calculation is to divide the total time spent by all visitors by the total number of leads.

James Green, Founder and CEO of Offer to Close, reveals how the success of their marketing content is judged differently depending on its particular purpose:

“We create different measurements based on our goal for each piece of content. If the content is building awareness, we will primarily use impressions and clicks to show the value of the piece of content. When the goal is to drive sales, we’ll only look at which piece of content eventually led to the sale.”

Further reading:

How Do You Accurately Measure the ROI of Content Marketing? 27 Experts Weigh-In – Databox
What you must do to your website to generate B2B sales leads (part 1 of 3) – The GMA
9-mission-critical-lead-generation-metrics-you-need-to-track – Single Grain

4. Search engine visibility

SEO practicesAnother key indicator of success is where your website (or specific pages) rank under target key search terms. SEO savvy content drives value for your organisation, but once again it needs to be tracked.

While everyone understands its importance, not every company has a clear strategy for achieving success and evaluating progress.

There are a variety of tools that need to be used. They include:

Useful resources

Beginners guidance on content marketing & SEO (including helpful templates) – The GMA

Why SEO is actually all about content marketing – Neil Patel

Showcase your content marketing ROI 

By creating and executing a content marketing strategy which tracks brand awareness, engagement, lead generation and search engine visibility; marketing chiefs can deliver a verifiable ROI to senior management and also demonstrate to their marketing teams the progress they’ve been making.

But remember: presentation matters. In discussing content marketing ROI on the GMA, Kirsty Daniels points out it’s important to make it visually appealing. Graphs and other visuals should be used to clearly demonstrate the key points of your analysis.

“Make sure it appeals to the eye as well – creating graphs and visualisations will be better for first impressions, as your managers might not want to dig through a huge table of data to find out your point. Show them clearly to begin with why your content marketing works.”

If you haven’t achieved the results you hoped for, you can work out the reasons why and demonstrate where the solution lies. And don’t forget, content strategies need regular updating.

Natalia Selby, Media Hawk:

“Once you have your goals in place, ensure you measure these goals consistently. It’s common for businesses to neglect and miss consumer behavioural patterns if goals are not regularly and effectively measured. Consistency is critical when measuring data, whether that’s monthly, fortnightly or whatever you decide.”


Have an opinion on this article? Please join in the discussion: the GMA is a community of data driven marketers and YOUR opinion counts.

Main image by Diggity Marketing from Pixabay

Mel Dixon
Author: Mel Dixon
Editor at Global Marketing Alliance

Editor and freelance writer wading his way through the world of data. One step at a time. Interested in data driven marketing insights supported by... data.

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