Content Marketing ROI

Content marketing ROI is the trickiest part of the business. World class marketers can strategize, plan, and tailor their content to the exact needs of their audience, but if they can’t measure the impact, they will never get the credit they deserve.

Because of the pressure to push for short-term gains, marketers over-rely on easy-to-understand metrics like pageviews and unique visitors, giving a narrow picture rather than a comprehensive understanding of long-term return on their efforts. At the same time, wrangling a host of different metrics across multiple platforms makes it tricky to nail down one clear, definitive number.

Whether you have found a formula or not, you’re probably underestimating the return on your content ROI. Here are 4 reasons why you’re underestimating your content marketing ROI and some simple steps for boosting your perspective:

1.   Consider Metrics for Every Stage of the Buyer’s Journey

If you only measure basic metrics like social shares, you probably have a decent sense of the first step in the buyer’s journey, but only one stage of it – and from there, you lose perspective. To build a clear ROI, you need analytics that measure your impact at each stage of the buyer’s journey — from first look to a closed sale.
As Daniel Tolliday reminds marketers on the CMO blog, metrics should capture customer interaction at each stage of the buyer’s journey:

Integrating a tool like Marketo into your content marketing strategy enables you to track a specific buyer through each of these stages, measuring their engagement, consumption, and interaction until a sale takes place. Aligning your metrics with the buyer’s journey not only gives you a true glimmer into the ROI of your content, but it also empowers your sales team with greater awareness regarding each lead.

2. Account for Boosts in Organic Traffic

Some marketers keep SEO in its own corner, but it’s important to include SEO while calculating content marketing ROI. Without interactive and static content, your website would be a lot less likely to show up in the first page of a Google search. Authentic, quality content is the easiest way to boost organic traffic from SEO impact.

Scott Severson, president of Brandpoint, shared  a quick and easy method for calculating ROI from SEO alone on the Content Marketing Institute’s blog. Consider taking these steps to give another angle to your ROI:

1. Look at only the organic traffic to a piece of content or group of content assets on your website.

2. Locate the number of entrances to the articles (or interactive content) over a particular length of time.

3. Turn to the Google AdWords Keyword Planner tool to find the cost per click (CPC) for the primary keyword in each piece.

4. Multiply your organic entrances by the CPC for each primary keyword in every piece of content.

5. Use Excel to extrapolate the data — it should follow a shallow bell curve.

Even if you already have an ROI formula that works, give this method a spin. It will help your team to add a layer of value to the time you take to craft spot-on keywords without the need for a complex analytical model and expensive tools.

3. Don’t Forget About Compounding Return

When you create content, you build an asset that contributes to your company over time. Buffer, for example, found that when they didn’t publish any new content for one month, they only experienced a 4% drop in unique visits. Because of the deep pool of content they already created to attract an interested audience, they were able to refurbish pieces with new graphics and statistics and make a similar impact.

Just like Buffer, organizations that balance short-term content with evergreen topics will see the biggest returns over time as their content stays relevant well into the future. Venture Capitalist Tomasz Runguz describes on his blog:

Like a bank account that starts out small and earns incremental gains, but over time becomes quite large, content marketing efforts require consistent investment but ultimately can yield enormous results.

When calculating ROI, make sure to account for this compounding return. If you apply content marketing principles with a longterm view, each investment in an assessment or interactive infographic should have an exponential impact over time. Each content asset can and should contribute to hundreds or thousands of leads.

4. Include Brand Lift as a Valued Component

Imagine that you’re a marketer trying to connect with a twenty-something audience looking for car insurance (a not so exciting topic.) If you nail your content marketing plan, covering the ins and outs of the insurance business from the empathetic and informed perspective, your perception in the eyes of your target audience will rise.

Too many companies fail to account for the ROI of this kind of brand lift, or the increased perception of a company in the eyes of consumers. Although the term traditionally refers to the results of an advertising campaign, it applies to content marketing too.

Just in case you think brand lift is impossible to measure, here’s an awesome example. Check out this Virgin Mobile’s case study. Contently brought attention to the concrete impact of content marketing by breaking down this study. When an audience read 5-9 articles by Virgin Mobile published on Buzzfeed, they were 389% more likely to agree that “Virgin Mobile is a brand that understands me and the things that I like.”

You need to account for brand lift in ROI calculations — it speaks to the trust that builds between brands and consumers through meaningful conversations. This kind of relationship metric honors the long-term impact of content marketing, rather than short term gains.


Effective ROI requires that you track relationships, not just surface metrics. It’s harder to capture more elusive indicators like audience loyalty and brand lift, but the trickiest metrics can shed the most light on your impact. Do you have any ROI tricks or tips that help fortify the value of your content marketing campaign?

Want to increase your content marketing ROI? Learn more about interactive content.