30-second summary:

  • Content marketing is a tactic 91% of B2B companies use to generate more leads, build customer loyalty, create a subscriber base, and boost sales revenue.
  • For most B2B marketers, this strategy helps them achieve top-of-funnel marketing goals.
  • Let’s face it, developing and distributing white papers, blog articles, videos, and other kinds of content costs time and money.
  • Statistics show that only 43% of B2B companies measure content marketing ROI.
  • A shocking 27% of B2B marketers say they do not know how to measure ROI while 21% feel the process consumes too much of their time.
  • This article takes you through a simplified yet super effective list of important metrics that your company can use to measure ROI and show you how they work.

Whether you are conscious about it or not, content marketing is the first strategy that comes to mind any time you think of B2B digital marketing.

It is popular among B2B companies. 91% of them use it to generate more leads, build customer loyalty, create a subscriber base, and boost sales revenue.

For most B2B marketers, this strategy helps them achieve top-of-funnel marketing goals.

Content marketing is broad.  It is a strategy that encompasses everything B2B companies do to attract and nurture leads. From white papers, email newsletters, videos, ebooks, webinars to stories, tweets, guides, and even case studies – the list goes on and on. 

See how content marketing spans all stages of a buyer’s journey in the image below:

Funnel content marketing roi

Source: The Marketing Eye

In a nutshell – it is a strategic way of marketing that involves creating and distributing valuable, consistent, and relevant content to a target audience.

Content marketing has a two-pronged goal:

  • To attract and retain a well-defined audience and
  • To encourage customer actions that are profitable to the company. 

Any company that uses this strategy invests a significant amount of money.

Let’s face it – it costs time and money to develop and distribute white papers, blog articles, videos, and other kinds of content. 

As a matter of fact, about 82% of B2B companies that used content marketing in 2019 had a budget for it. 

Since companies invest resources in content marketing, you would expect them to keep tabs of their return on investment (ROI). 

But this is not the case. 

Statistics show that only 43% of B2B companies measure content marketing ROI. 

The reason for this is simple – 27% of B2B marketers say they do not know how to measure ROI while 21% feel the process consumes too much of their time. 

So, how can B2B companies measure content marketing ROI? What metrics can they use to determine whether their efforts are paying off?

In this article, I’ll take you through important metrics that your company can use to measure ROI and show you how they work.

But before we do that, let’s take a quick look at what content marketing ROI is.

Defining content marketing ROI

In very basic terms, content marketing ROI is the revenue your company generates from content marketing activities compared to the amount it spends. 

Expressed as a percentage, ROI is considered an important measure of marketing success since it is directly linked to revenue. 

Seven important metrics to measure content marketing ROI

To measure ROI, there are seven key metrics you need to monitor. These are: 

1. Web traffic

This is a volume metric that is the easiest to measure. 

It involves looking at the flow of traffic on every page of your website. Monitoring web traffic enables you to know which content is popular among your audience. The easiest way to measure this metric is through the use of analytics software. 

Google Analytics is preferred by most people, but you can explore other options. In measuring web traffic, analytics software provides data that enables you to evaluate varying traffic aspects. These include:

  • Overall web traffic
  • Source of traffic (communication channels)
  • Views per page
  • Average time spent on page
  • Referral traffic
  • Popular landing pages 
  • Unique sessions

This information is invaluable when it comes to making content promotion decisions. For instance, if your site’s overall traffic is low, it means you need to focus more on promoting your content. 

To effectively do this, use the source of traffic data to identify communication channels that drive the highest traffic to the site. Use those channels in future content promotion campaigns. 

While web traffic can show you how successful your content marketing efforts are, it has its own limitations. For instance, traffic to your site can fluctuate because of variables like changes in SEO trends, site updates, promotional offers, and holidays. 

2. Qualified leads

The main reason B2B companies engage in content marketing is to generate more leads

The success of content marketing efforts can, therefore, be determined by looking at the number of qualified leads generated.

But, why measure leads? Am glad you asked. 

Remember the content marketing goal we discussed earlier? 

B2B companies engage in content marketing to attract and retain prospects. After that, they encourage those leads to take actions that result in sales. 

The sole purpose of measuring leads is to answer two key questions – are we attracting prospects? And, are those prospects likely to buy from us?

When you craft your content marketing strategy around lead generation, you can generate three times more leads at 60% less cost

When measuring ROI, your focus should be on qualified leads. These are prospects that show interest in making a purchase.   

So, how do you measure qualified leads?

There are three main ways to do this:

  • Keep taps of call-to-action (CTAs). For instance, looking at the number of white paper request forms completed 
  • Track the number of content downloads
  • Look at the purchases completed

3. Sales volume

Once your content marketing efforts generate more leads, the next thing you need to measure is sales.

The sales volume metric is at the heart of your content marketing goal because ultimately, you want to turn your prospects into customers. 

Once you have your leads captured, nurture them by sharing the right content. In the end, you should have some of them make a purchase. 

You will definitely need to optimize the sales pages on your site to drive conversions if you own an ecommerce site.  

So, how do you measure ROI using the sales volume metric?

You need to look at several sales aspects of your analytics software to do this successfully. These include:

  • Page Value:  This is sales performance data that shows which pages on your website contribute the highest revenue
  • Transactions: This is the number of purchases that are completed at any given time.
  • Conversion rates: This shows the percentage of website visitors that actually make a purchase
  • Time to Purchase: This shows you how many days visitors take to complete a purchase

If you own an ecommerce site, you can easily get this data on each of these aspects by enabling ecommerce on your Google Analytics. This way, you can tell how much sales revenue is generated directly from your site at any given time.

4. Click-through-rate (CTR)

If you are driving traffic to your content pages, you expect your visitors to take action. 

You can tell whether they are doing this or not by tracking your click-through-rates (CTR). The CTR metric shows you the number of visitors who click on specific links out of all those who visited your website, advert, or email. 

You can use CTR to measure ROI for advertising campaigns that you run on emails, social media, or websites.  

Calculating CTR is pretty easy, let’s look at an example. 

If you are running an online advert on Facebook and you establish that 5,000 saw it, but only 500 clicked it. 

CTR = 5,000 / 500 = 10

You can say your CTR is 10%. 

5. Social media shares

Want to know whether the content you are creating and distributing is of high quality? 

Check whether it is attracting social shares. 

Social media has become a major communication platform for both companies and customers. Measuring social shares gives you an idea of which content resonates well with your target audience. 

To measure social media engagement, you can track:

  • Likes
  • Comments
  • Content shares
  • Views for video campaigns
  • Increase in followers

Interestingly, each of these social media elements has its place. 

Content shares expose your brand and content more to your audience. Likes and followers show you how popular your content is. Comments tell you how well your audience is interacting with the content

Are people sharing your content on social media? See what motivates social shares in the image below.

Why people share content content marketing ROI

Source: Marketingdesks

Social media engagement is easy to measure – most platforms come with inbuilt analytic systems. For instance, Instagram and Facebook use the Business Manager system to generate analytics for users. 

Even so, there are other options out there that can help you generate detailed analytics for your content marketing campaigns. 

For instance, BuzzSumo can help you find articles and topics that get shared more on social media platforms. Leverage this information to boost your content for more shares.

6. Search engine optimization (SEO)

This is certainly the most important measure of content marketing success – but it’s not that easy to nail. 

If you decide to measure ROI using SEO – the first thing you’ll need to do is conduct a technical audit on your site. This will show you which keywords are already being ranked and others that will be great to rank. 

There are three key aspects you need to pay attention to when measuring ROI with SEO:

1. Site authority

This involves looking at improvements in your site’s domain authority. Some pointers to this could be: 

  • Increments in the time that people spend on your site
  • People linking back to your site 
  • Improved page scores 

2. Keyword ranking

This requires you to look at your site’s keyword performance. Ideally, your content marketing efforts should convert on certain keywords, long-tail phrases, and brand keywords for your SEO performance to improve. 

The best way to target keywords for your site is to find a tool that gives insights on keyword data like volume, CPC, and clicks. There is a host of free tools to choose from including:

  • Google Trends
  • Search Console 
  • Google Keyword Planner

You can also use paid tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs to boost your efforts. 

3. Backlinks

These are a huge deal in SEO tracking because they help you stamp authority in your industry. Though they may not generate conversions for you, it pays off to find out which inbound links are connecting to your content. 

7. Onsite engagement

To succeed in content marketing, you need to keep your audience engaged.

This metric enables you to measure engagement by transcending web traffic and beginning to look at how your visitors are interacting with your content. 

There are two aspects that you can use to track onsite engagement – bounce rate and time on page. 

The bounce rate shows how long your visitors stay on your site or how often they come back to it. 

A low bounce rate is good – it means people are taking time to explore your site and are even returning to it. 

It also tells you that your content strategy is working. With this kind of bounce rate, you should be able to generate more leads and ultimately, sales from the content you produce. 

For “Time on Page”, the focus is on the duration visitors spend on specific pages. It allows you to identify pages that are not generating the attention you wanted and improve them. 

The easiest way to track onsite engagements is to pay attention to engagement data that your analytics software generates. On Google Analytics, you will find this data on the ‘Audience Overview’ section.  

Final thoughts

The only way to know how profitable and effective your content marketing efforts truly are is measuring ROI.

Though your marketing campaigns may be generating high web traffic, it does not necessarily mean they are generating revenue. You need to look beyond the traffic and evaluate metrics like on-page engagements, quality of leads, and sales to know whether the campaigns are effective.

There are many other metrics you can look at. But, the seven metrics discussed above are most important when you want to know how well your campaigns are generating revenue for your company. 

Sumeet Anand is a Digital Marketing Expert, who specializes in SEO, social media marketing, and content marketing. You can find him on Twitter @Sumeetanand143 or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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