How to Measure the ROI of Your Content Marketing
By: Gordon Plutsky | 05/23/2017
One of the key insights from the recently released Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI) Technology Content Marketing 2017 report is that marketers are still having trouble determining KPIs and ascribing ROI measures to their content efforts. It is not that surprising as gauging the impact of your whole content plan or even a single piece of content is a bit more difficult that commonly believed.
As my colleague Rob O’Regan wrote recently on the IDG Enterprise Blog “the percentage of marketers who are clear on what a successful content marketing program looks like dropped to 41% in 2017 from 45% a year ago. The remaining 59% say they don’t know what a successful content marketing program looks like or are unsure how to define success.”
Determining content marketing ROI is one of the more confounding issues facing tech marketers. Knowing the ROI of your content is difficult but not impossible if you follow a multi-level approach to setting goals and KPIs for your measurement plan. The first step is to think of your content analytics as a funnel that begins with very general measures and eventually winds up with the impact on sales.
Looking at this process as a comprehensive strategic plan rather than a ream of numbers is the first step towards success. Below are multiple measurement levels you should be considering with some basic types of KPIs attached. This list is not exhaustive (and some some KPIs could be in multiple buckets), but should give you a flavor of how to structure a measurement plan.
1. REACH: Answers the question “How many people saw my content?”
Sample KPIs: Total page views, number of web visitors, unique page views, social impressions, newsletter opens, etc.
What it tells you: How many people had the opportunity to see your content and have the ability to read it. This is the total reach of your content, how many people it touched.
2. ENGAGEMENT: Answers the question “How many people read my content?”
It is the next level of measurement after basic reach metrics. Did the content garner enough interest for someone take an action: clicking through the newsletter or social post and then reading the article or blog post.
Sample KPIs: Time spent reading, scroll tracking to determine how far they get into the content, attention time on an open browser window, clicks on web links, clicks on social posts, PDF downloads, video views, ad and newsletter click through’s.
Also, you can look at a content page as the web site landing page, did that session generate a “Deep-website engagement” such as the visitor going at least three pages deep. Answers the question: “Did this content generate interest in my overall brand?”
What it tells you: You are actually looking at two aspects of engagement behavior – did someone take an action (click) and what was the intensity of that action (reading and attention). The more action taken, the better the engagement and the better chance of moving the prospect to the next step in their journey with your content, and by proxy, your brand.
3. SHARING: Answers the question “Did anyone share our content?”
Determining if the reader thinks highly enough of your content to share it with their social network or with a colleague via email can say a lot about the quality of your content.
Sample KPIs: Sharing on social networks, forwarding a link on page to a colleague’s email, forwarding of email newsletters.
What it tells you: A “virtual” endorsement of your content as IT decision-makers are not likely to forward content unless they feel it has utility for them and their colleagues. Sharing also extends your content’s reach to the social network of each person who shares it.
4. CONVERSION: Answers the question “Did anyone raise their hand to engage us in a conversation?”
A very key step – did the reader opt in to any of your mechanisms for capturing a lead. By doing this they are proactively entering into a permissioned based relationship with your company. You now have the ability to place them into your lead nurture program and/or sales funnel where you can continue the conversation.
Sample KPIs: Email list sign up, form completion for a content download, webinar sign up, asking for a sales person to contact them. It can be any form where a prospects offers personal information in return for more content or information.
What it tells you: The reader has found your content useful and is possibly interested in exploring a business relationship with your company. Most often, this relationship should begin with additional content via a nurture program email or paid media retargeting. Unless they directly asked for a sales person to contact them, it may not be the ideal first move.
5. REVENUE IMPACT: Answers the question “Did anyone buy anything after reading our content?”
The ultimate measure of content analytics would enable you to know if a new customer came in contact with your company via your content. They also could have been part of your nurture program; or they were a current customer retained or upsold based on content that you created for current customers.
KPIs: This can get tricky…first you must be careful to code all your inbound contact tactics with codes so you know where the web visit or conversion came from originally. And then, carry that attribution over to your CRM or sales system so you can credit the content or marketing tactic with the sale. This can be as much art as science.
What it tells you: This is the true financial ROI of your content strategy and plan.
By creating a measurement plan that follows the sales funnel with appropriate KPIs you can start to get a better handle on how your content is performing and if you are generating a return on your investment.