How do you find out if your content activities are literally paying off? In content marketing in particular, the answer to this question is unfortunately not as easy to find as you might hope. But don't worry, it's not impossible either. In this article, I'll show you how to calculate the value of your content.
Content marketing is not a project
If you invest effort, time and money in your content marketing, then the question almost automatically arises at some point whether it is actually worth it. It's all about the return on investment (ROI). There are different ways to calculate this. Ultimately, the question is always: How much measurable effect do I achieve for the effort I put in?
The Content ROI Formula
If you want to see your ROI as a percentage, this formula applies: ((revenue - expenses)/expenses) x 100 = ROI
In some marketing areas, ROI is comparatively easy to calculate. The hoped-for "return" of a landing page for a product, for example, is the number of conversions. The "investment" is essentially the effort to create this landing page for the first time and then to optimize it. Perhaps costs for an ad placement are added.
However, this example already shows a difficulty. Once you have created the landing page, there may be hardly any new effort, while at the same time it continues to bring in conversions. In other words, the return on investment is not a fixed number, but always just a snapshot.
This advice applies all the more to content marketing. After all, you usually create content here that remains current in the long term. Or, after an initial effort, it is primarily a matter of further improving the content and keeping it up to date. An advice article can bring new users to the website again and again over months or even years.
"Content marketing aims to create an asset that increases in value over time as the cost - in relation to the value the product provides - goes down as a percentage."Robert Rose, Content Marketing Institute
It is therefore important to understand that content marketing is not a project. It has no defined end. I always get a cold shiver down my spine when people talk about a "content marketing campaign." That's exactly the wrong mindset. I can understand where it comes from. After all, that's how planning is done in many places in marketing. But here, it's misleading.
Rather, in content marketing, you're building a growing and constantly improving content offering. This endeavor may have a more or less clear starting point. But it certainly has no end.
And while advertising campaigns, for example, are often self-contained, your content marketing activities should be as interconnected as possible. They can then even help each other and you can build on previous successes.
What "return" does content marketing bring?
Another important question for the search for content marketing ROI is: What is actually the "return" in this case? After all, the content in content marketing is precisely not used to make sales. So they usually don't directly contribute anything to revenue.
This then quickly leads to the question: Is content marketing optional? Especially in economically difficult times, you should save activities that don't directly translate into revenue, right?
Anyone who asks themselves this question has not yet understood the value of content marketing. Because it is not so easy to express in monetary units. But that doesn't make it any less important.
In another article of mine, you'll learn even more about how to find the right metrics to examine your content success. In it, you'll get even more tips on what basic considerations will help you choose your most important numbers (Key Performance Indicators). And of course, you need them to see the "return".
There, I also warn against "vanity metrics" - measured values that are easy to collect and look nice, but which, when looked at closely, make hardly any usable statements. For example, the number of hits for an article on the website is interesting in itself, but falls short for our purposes if it is not linked to any goal.
To calculate your content marketing ROI, you need to be clear about your goals. Do you want to increase awareness of all your offers? Do you want to reach a specific target group? Do you want to highlight one service or product in particular?
These goals should be clearly measurable and have a clear timeframe. And, of course, they should fit with the company's overall plans. Without such clear goals, you won't find meaningful metrics. And without metrics, there's no way to determine your success.
Content marketing: the basics
You want to know how you can give your content a boost to generate more sales in the long run? Then read Jan's content marketing e-book.
The value of your audience
But what is the real goal of content marketing? Ultimately, it's about building an audience that matches your products and offers. These people become aware of you through this content and over time you build up trust.
This should then lead to some of them taking action in a way that brings you closer to your actual goals. This is not always a monetary investment like a purchase. It can also mean that these people invest time in an article, enter their data or recommend you to others. The value of your audience should not be underestimated when it comes to market research.
I can explain this using the exact site, on which you are reading this article right now. Raidboxes affords this content because it appeals to people who belong to the company's target group. Thereby they become aware of Raidboxes, because, for example, they are just looking for how to calculate the content marketing ROI.
Or they are here because someone recommended the article. Rather incidentally, they find out what else this company has to offer. Maybe it's the first time they've heard of Raidboxes.
Of course, not every single person reading this article will book a service from Raidboxes. That's fine. What is important is that the intended target group is also part of the general user base. These people will then ideally get a positive impression of the company and over time will be more open to doing business. There is, of course, a certain hierarchy with regard to the value of these users. At the beginning there is an anonymous person who appears as a "visit" in the statistics. It becomes more valuable when they subscribe to the newsletter. Even more valuable if they signal a concrete interest in a product.
Generally, the more engaged and active your audience is, the better.
At the same time, there are companies that monetize their audience directly. After all, the target group reached is also interesting for other providers.
Use the target group
One example is the Cleveland Clinic's "Health Essentials" website. It is also used for marketing on its own behalf. At the same time, the readership of this site extends far beyond the hospital's catchment area. Rather than viewing this as "wasted coverage," this audience was recognized as valuable. Through ad placements, other companies such as insurance companies can now reach these people. And for the Cleveland Clinic, their content marketing is refinancing itself directly in this way.
Attribution: Which activities have which influence?
Now that we have a clearer view of the goals, we move on to the next step: attribution. This topic is a key factor in marketing. The main question is: Which of my activities actually has what impact on my business results?
After all, this is rarely clear and unambiguous. The easiest way is to place an ad that points to a product page. Clicks on the ad and the resulting conversions and sales can be measured quite well. However, it still remains unclear what role, for example, awareness of the company brand played. Perhaps the new customer in question only ordered spontaneously because she had seen the company and product before.
In the B2B sector in particular, decision-making processes are known to be quite long. The more expensive and complex the product in question, the more extensive the evaluation. And the longer the customer journey.
Explained by an example: Perhaps a blog article brings a person to the website for the first time. Then she reads a second article, downloads an ebook, or signs up for the newsletter. Weeks later, she attends a webinar. Finally, she clicks on an ad at LinkedIn and makes a purchase. How much of this revenue is generated by each step in the process?
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Sometimes a simple "last click" attribution model is used here. In the example above, everything would then be attributed to the LinkedIn ad. This is nice and simple to understand, but it distorts the picture enormously.
Another variant is to assign the same value to all these touchpoints. This is better, because it at least acknowledges that there were a number of influencing factors that ultimately led to the sales. If you want to go one step further, try weighting these points.
For this purpose, you'll also need appropriate measurement tools like a powerful web analytics tool. You'll also want to track clicks in your emails. Logically, all of this must comply with data protection regulations.
Furthermore, you should be aware that you will never know the whole truth. Because not every person who visits your website always reveals themself. Only when they sign up for the newsletter, for example, can you see what other content and offers are actually accepted and how.
Tim Soulo from SEO tool provider Ahrefs has therefore provocatively stated in a Twitter thread worth reading: It is impossible to comprehensively calculate the ROI of content marketing. But even if he can't clearly express the value in numbers for each individual element, he continues to invest. He still knows that it pays off in the end to be found, to bring his own target group to site, and to gradually convince them of the value of Ahref's offerings.
So there will always be a certain amount of uncertainty. And even though this may be difficult for you to accept, you (or your superiors) will have to learn to live with it. At the same time, however, you will hopefully see that at least a rough estimate of the value of your content activities is possible.
Calculate content spend
Now the expenses are still missing for the calculation of the ROI. Here, too, you will have to work with estimates and generalizations. After all, the costs of an article, ebook or whitepaper do not only include the salary or fee of the author. At least proportionally, the website operation or time that a newsletter needs for the creation, in which the new content is promoted, are also included here. Other expenses include project management as well as images, graphics and other design elements.
Ideally, you can use approximate values for different content formats. Combine this with a content audit and you can extrapolate how much has already been invested in content.
Content marketing only works in the long term
But what if your management just can't see the value of content marketing? Then it makes no sense for you and you (for now) to continue. Content marketing can only be successful if it is supported in the long term. You don't see results after a week or a month. You should expect to put in 12 to 18 months of consistent work before results start to show. As described at the beginning: The longer you stay focused, the more favorable the ROI usually turns out to be. So the proverbial staying power pays off here.
If this is not acceptable, shift your content activities to other marketing topics. Look for areas where ROI is easier to see and calculate. Once you have the necessary support for this, you can later consider how to bring back content marketing in an initially minimal variation. For search engine optimization alone and as fodder for colleagues from social media marketing, this content is always welcome.