Content marketing can be a rewarding endeavor.
For example, GE teamed up with BuzzFeed to create branded content, and most people who encountered this content thought that GE was “inspiring” and “innovative,” and GE saw a 138% brand lift on social media as a result of this branded content.
At Influence & Co., we’ve also seen content marketing pay off. We’ve used inbound marketing as a core component of our marketing strategy since our company was founded in 2011. But in 2018, we went all-in on inbound and pivoted away from conferences and most travel. As a result, we saw a 47% increase in marketing-generated revenue between 2018 and 2019.
The reason we could make the call to pivot our strategy? We knew what our ultimate content marketing goal was (lead generation), and then we worked from there to determine the most effective tactics we could use to continually work toward that goal.
Once you determine your primary content marketing goal and the tactics you’ll use to get there, you need to choose which metrics you’ll track. Otherwise, you won’t be able to tell whether you’re making progress on your content marketing ambitions.
How to Measure the ROI of Content Marketing for SEO
These days, so much content is being released into the wild that breaking through the noise can seem overwhelming.
Simply creating engaging, insightful content won’t cut it: You also have to set up that content to be found in search results. A technical website audit and keyword research can help you lay the groundwork for your SEO strategy. But if you want to know how effective your SEO efforts are and how they’re helping you see measurable results, you have to keep track of the right metrics.
Backlinks (especially follow links) are valuable because they represent a “vote of confidence” from one site to another. Basically, backlinks let search engines know that others vouch for your content’s credibility. To track the number of backlinks leading people to your website, you can use a tool like Ahrefs.
Organic search traffic
Organic search traffic is the number of visitors who land on your website as a result of unpaid (“organic”) search results. Organic visitors find your website after using a search engine, so they’re not “referred” by any other site. Data on organic traffic can also show you the specific keywords that a viewer searched before landing on your website. A boost in organic search traffic typically means that you’re effectively driving your audience from search engine results pages to your website. You can track this metric using Google Analytics, SimilarWeb, or your marketing automation software.
Search visibility refers to how easy it is for your audience to find your content online. You can use tools like Moz and Ahrefs to track search visibility and the number of keywords your website ranks for on the first page of search results. The higher you rank in SERPs for your keywords, the likelier it is that you’ll improve your organic search traffic. Information on your search visibility is helpful for blog posts in particular. For example, if you discover that a blog post ranks for only a few keywords, you can rework the content to strategically include more keywords you’d like to rank for.
Bounce rate is the percentage of people who visited one page of your website and then left before viewing another page. Visitors might bounce because the page they found from search results answered their question and they didn’t have a reason to keep engaging with your website. Another reason could be that the title of your content was misleading or unclear so visitors didn’t find what they were looking for and bounced to find it elsewhere. A high bounce rate indicates to search engines that the content on the page isn’t providing a good user experience, and this can hurt your search rankings. Google Analytics, SimilarWeb, or your marketing automation software can help you track this metric.
This metric is Google’s method of reporting visits to your website that originated from sources outside its search engine. This metric can help you see which guest-contributed articles or press mentions drive the most traffic back to your website. You can use Google Analytics, marketing automation software, or SimilarWeb to track this metric.
How to Measure the ROI of Content Marketing for Lead Generation
Content marketing and inbound marketing go hand in hand. In fact, content drives a successful inbound marketing strategy. If your goal is to generate revenue for your business, marketing’s main role is to drive leads for your business — and content can help.
Essentially, your off-site content, including guest-contributed articles and press mentions, encourage people to visit your website. Then, if your site contains helpful, informative, engaging content, you can use that on-site content to engage with those visitors, and then you can use gated content to convert them into leads.
Having all of this content at your disposal is great, but if you want to know whether your content is actually serving its purpose and leading prospects through your marketing funnel, you have to track certain metrics.
Average lead score
Lead generation is more about quality, less about quantity. To help you decide which leads are the most likely to convert, use lead scoring. Start by determining what criteria make for a marketing-qualified lead, and then set and assign point values. From there, you can calculate your average. When you evaluate all leads in the same way, you can more easily determine the quality of leads you’re generating through your marketing. Lead management software like HubSpot can make this easier.
Your conversion rate illustrates how effective your content marketing efforts are at turning visitors into leads and then customers. If you’re attracting a lot of leads but a small number of them are becoming customers, your content might not touch on the right audience pain points. You can use your marketing automation software to track marketing-qualified leads and their conversion into customers.
Metrics like time on site, bounce rate, and finish rate can help you track how effective your content is at engaging your audience. Look to conversion rate metrics to see which pieces of content encourage which actions. For our blog content, for example, we use HubSpot to track the CTA rate, which is the percentage of people who saw a call to action and then proceeded to click on that same call to action. This lets us know whether our content encourages our audience to take action and interact with our company further.
This metric is Google’s method of reporting visits that came to your website from sources outside of its search engine. This metric can help you see which guest-contributed articles or press mentions are driving the most traffic back to your website. You can use Google Analytics, marketing automation software, or SimilarWeb to track this metric.
How to Measure the ROI of Content Marketing for Thought Leadership
Thought leadership can seem like an ambiguous goal that’s not easy to measure. That’s only partially true.
Thought leaders are experienced professionals who are looking to be viewed as experts in their industry. More important, they’re committed to sharing their expertise with the goal of engaging and educating their audiences. Because that can’t necessarily be measured and mapped out on a chart, it can be difficult to determine how to track the ROI of a content marketing strategy focused on thought leadership.
But thankfully, a few metrics can help you determine how effective your thought leadership content strategy is:
Social shares and engagement
When people stumble upon content that resonates with them, they tend to like it, comment on it, and share it with their networks on social media. If your content is starting conversations, you’ll know that you’re headed in the right direction. To track social shares, you can use a tool like BuzzSumo.
A telltale sign that you publish valuable content is that other publications pick up your content and syndicate it on their own websites. If publications are republishing your content, it means that others perceive you as an expert in your industry. And syndication allows you to reach a broader audience with your content, which benefits your thought leadership strategy. You can set up a Google Alert for your company name so that you’re notified when your company is mentioned, including when your published content is republished. And you can use a spreadsheet to keep track.
Finish rate, time on site, and bounce rate can help you track engagement with the content on your site. Page views can also be a valuable metric to track for your website and on-site content because it’s a reflection of how many people know about your business and engage with your content. And by seeing which pieces of on-site content get the most page views, you can test out similar types of content to increase the content’s performance. You can use your website hosting platform or Google Analytics to track on-site analytics.
Awards have to be earned; they aren’t just handed out to anyone who wants one. When you receive awards from industry leaders, that means you’ve demonstrated your thought leadership in your space. Keep a spreadsheet outlining the awards you apply for and receive nominations for, and keep it updated with the status of each award.
Press opportunities can include requests to contribute as a source for an article, being a guest on a podcast, co-hosting a webinar, or a number of other opportunities. Receiving these requests is a signal that people value your expertise and want to share it with their own audiences. Log these public relations opportunities in a spreadsheet to keep track of how many press opportunities you gain. If possible, note how these opportunities came about so you can understand whether certain types of content or publications drive the most visibility.
Industry events, whether they’re in-person or virtual, usually aren’t headlined by unknown speakers. Being asked to speak at events is an indication that you share valuable insights with the right audiences and are, therefore, considered an expert in your space. Keep a running list of your speaking engagements. If possible, also note where these opportunities came from so you can understand whether certain types of content or publications drive the most speaking engagements.
It’s no secret that content marketing can drive real business results. The tricky part is measuring those results and refining your content marketing approach accordingly. Start with the above metrics that apply to your primary content marketing goal, and you’ll be well on your way to understanding how your content strategy impacts your business for the better.