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How to Measure Content Marketing ROI

Creating content for the sake of creating content is not a good use of marketing resources. You have to take a step back and determine what you're trying to achieve and then build your content strategy around that specific goal in order to see measurable results.

Goals That Can Be Achieved Through Content Marketing

Lead generation might be your primary goal if you need to make more sales, you have a growing sales team, or you have a marketing automation system set up to analyze where leads are coming from and what content is persuading them to convert. SEO might be your primary goal if your website isn't ranking for keywords related to your industry, you aren't seeing much traffic coming to your website from organic search results, or you are driving traffic but the traffic isn't converting. Sales enablement might be your primary goal is you generate a lot of leads but have trouble converting them into customers, you have complex products or services that require more education before prospects are ready to buy, or your salespeople hear the same questions over and over. Thought leadership might be your primary goal if building trust is important in your industry, your company has a ton of knowledge but isn't sharing it, you aren't getting booked for speaking engagements or being nominated for awards, or you're in a crowded industry.

Content Marketing Metrics

Once you have an idea of what your primary content marketing goal might be and have outlined some tactics you might employ to get there, you need to choose which metrics you'll measure. Otherwise, you won't be able to tell whether you're making progress. Below, we've outlined what metrics you can track for each of the primary content marketing goals.

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Lead Generation

If your goal is to generate revenue for your business, marketing's main role is to generate leads — and content can fuel your lead generation efforts.

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.

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Average Lead Score

Lead generation is more about quality, less about quantity. In fact, when our company went all-in on inbound marketing efforts, we generated fewer leads than the previous year. The good news? Those leads were more qualified, which allowed us to achieve a higher close rate.

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.

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Lead Conversions

Your conversion rate illustrates how effective your content marketing efforts are at turning visitors into leads and then customers. If you attract 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 paying customers.

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On-Site Analytics

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.

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Referral Traffic

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 drive the most traffic back to your website. You can use Google Analytics, marketing automation software, or SimilarWeb to track this metric.

Below, we've provided a couple of screenshots that show you what reviewing referral traffic looks like in HubSpot. In the first image, you can see the number of sessions our site generated through referral traffic throughout 2020. In the second image, you can see information about specific referrers that led traffic to our site.

Referral Traffic Sessions in HubSpot
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Referral Traffic Referrers in HubSpot
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Are you just getting started on your lead generation journey or simply need help tracking marketing's impact on your bottom line?

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Search Engine Optimization

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.

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Backlinks

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.

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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.

The examples below offer a glimpse into what reviewing organic search traffic looks like in HubSpot. In the first image, you can see the number of sessions our site generated through organic traffic throughout 2020. In the second image, you can see information about a few specific keywords that led traffic to our site.

Organic Traffic Sessions in HubSpot
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Organic Search Keywords in HubSpot
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Search Visibility

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.

We typically use Moz to gauge how our website is performing in search results and what keywords we're ranking for. Below, you can see important information such as our site's domain authority and the number of ranking keywords, as well as a few of the keywords our site is ranking for in the top spot.

Search Visibility in Moz
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Bounce Rate

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.

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Referral Traffic

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.

Don't just focus on keywords alone. Let us help you maximize your content so your leads are not only finding you, but also converting.

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Sales Enablement

Any marketing strategy's ultimate goal is to generate new business, and it can be tricky to increase sales if your team isn't providing a helpful, educational, streamlined experience for prospects. That's where sales enablement content comes into play. When the marketing team creates content that answers common sales objections and questions, the sales team can then use that content to bolster their sales conversations and nurture prospects closer to closing.

And if you're maximizing your marketing automation system, your sales team can see the specific content leads have engaged with, which empowers your sales team with important insight into which topics are of interest to leads, allowing them to tailor the sales process to each lead.

To gauge the effectiveness of your sales enablement content over time, you can monitor changes in a few key areas:

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Close Rate

To monitor how effective your sales process is, an important metric to track is the close rate. The close rate is a ratio that is calculated by dividing the number of closed sales by the number of prospects the sales team worked with in a given period. You can track this metric for individual salespeople, as well as for the sales team at large. You can measure and track this metric in your sales CRM, like HubSpot's Sales Hub, or you can configure it manually and track it in a spreadsheet.

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Sales Cycle Length

The sales cycle length is exactly what it sounds like: how long it takes a prospect to make it through the sales process all the way to closing. A platform like HubSpot will allow you to see how long it takes for deals to close. Or if you're doing this manually, you'll need to keep up with a spreadsheet where you document the complete life cycle of each prospect your sales team interacts with so you can look back and determine how long it took them to sign on for services.

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Contact Form Sales

Contact form sales are sales that closed as a result of someone filling out a contact form to begin engaging with your company. This metric is an important one to measure if you want to see how your gated content and website are performing in terms of sales generated. If you use a platform like HubSpot, you can see how prospects engaged with your company and shared their contact information with you. Whether they initially gave you their information through a gated content form or a contact form, HubSpot will track this sale as a contact form sale.

As buyers continue to evolve, one thing is certain: Education will continue to grow in importance. Let us help you arm your sales team with content to bolster the sales process.

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Thought Leadership

If your primary goal is to build up your or your company's reputation as an industry leader, then your focus is thought leadership. While this goal can be tricky to measure, there are some metrics you can track to gauge how effective your thought leadership content strategy is.

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Social Shares and Engagement

When people discover content that they enjoy and that resonates with them, they tend to engage with it. They might give it a like, comment on it, or share it with their networks on social media. To track social shares, you can use a tool like BuzzSumo.

Below is a screenshot of BuzzSumo that shows the social engagement one of our blog posts has received. You'll notice that LinkedIn is missing from the list — that's because LinkedIn doesn't share its analytics data. Because much of our business- and marketing-minded audience spends a lot of time on LinkedIn, it's safe for us to assume that this blog post has received more shares than what's reported in BuzzSumo.

Another cool feature? If you click the people icon to the right of the engagement numbers, you can see your "top sharers." These are people who have shared your content who have large, engaged followings on social media.

Blog post share metrics in BuzzSumo
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Content Syndication

When other publications pick up your content and syndicate it on their sites, you know your content has struck a chord in the industry. Not only does syndication give you heightened third-party credibility, but it also gives you the opportunity to reach an even broader audience than before. To keep tabs on syndication, set up Google Alerts for your company name and the names of company leaders. This way, you'll get a notification when your content has been republished online. Then, create a spreadsheet where you can keep track of content syndication over time.

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On-Site Analytics

Keeping tabs on metrics like bounce rate and time on page can help you monitor engagement with the content on your website. 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.

To give you an example, here's a snapshot of what the metrics for one of our blog posts looked like in January 2021:

Blog post metrics in HubSpot. 2,646 page views, 5 form submissions, 5 new contacts, 0 new customers, 92.97% bounce rate, 6 minutes per page view, 93.42% exits per page view, 2,516 entrances
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Awards

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.

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Press Opportunities

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.

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Speaking Engagements

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.

Set up a consultation with one of our content marketing experts to get answers to any lingering questions and to discuss how our content marketing services can help your company reach its goals.

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