Today, businesses are investing more in content than ever for marketing, support, media products, and digital technology. Businesses invested nearly $43.9 billion in content production and distribution in 2014, the Custom Content Council found. Yet, that pales in comparison to the Global Content Marketing Forecast, which predicts content marketing will become a $313 billion industry by 2019.

All this investment in content begs the question for many organizations … are we getting a return? In other words, what is the ROI for our content? The question sounds simple enough, but …

Only 35% of content teams evaluate content ROI. – Content Science Leadership Report, What Makes Content Teams Thrive?

And, Over half of B2B marketers rank proving the ROI of content as a significant barrier to success, according to an Upland Kapost analysis

Part of the challenge is the sheer volume of data available. To combat ‘paralysis by analysis’ Content Science CEO Colleen Jones recommends mapping user journeys as these “help you and your organization avoid these mistakes by emphasizing context—what users intend, think, and do at each phase and why. With that context made clear, it’s much harder to choose content KPIs that don’t fit.”

Avoid data overload by starting with the right questions. – Content Science, Does Your Content Work?

After narrowing down which KPIs you’ll actually be tracking, things become much less murky. However, placing importance on analytics may be the first step to achieving higher content ROI.

Is your content working? Is it effective? If you don’t have data-informed answers to these questions, you are taking a terrible gamble with your investment of time, creativity, technology, and other resources in content. – 5 Content Predictions for 2016

Figuring out content ROI is a challenge for many content teams, on top of everything else they have to do. That’s why it’s crucial organizations secure strong, forward-thinking leadership on their content teams and give analytics the team members, resources, and weight they deserve.

95% of survey respondents rate a high level of trust of the team leader and team members as very important or critical to team success. – Making Content Teams Thrive

ROI is about much more than whether your content received page views, clicks, or other analytics. But content teams that overcome this challenge and move from content analytics to content intelligence are tremendously successful …

Kraft says it gets four times better ROI from content than ads – Ad Age

In a 2014 keynote speech at Content Marketing World, Kraft Director of Data, Content and Media, Julie Fleischer said, “Kraft now generates the equivalent of 1.1 billion ad impressions a year and a four-times-better return on investment through content marketing than through even targeted advertising.” That’s just one example of how a company arrived at ROI.

As Entrepreneur points out, “What is banner effectiveness at driving brand visits? This is easy. A dollar spent on digital banner ads will under-perform a dollar spent on content marketing in almost any category.”

It’s also critical that the myth that content equals copy doesn’t exist within your organization. Why? This undervalues the power, possibilities, skill, and most importantly, your audience. It’s also critical to dedicate the resources to ensure the content gets in front of the proper targets.

While a successful content strategy starts with publishing exceptional content, the strategic distribution of that content is the real key to positive ROI. – Harvard Business Review

Content ROI is not an opportunity that’s exclusive to the marketing department. Successful content has the ability to boost the bottom line for many departments within a company including IT, research and development, product development, and recruiting.

Defining the difference between content strategy and content marketing offers benefits such as clarifying the results you want, guiding your UX decisions, getting a jump on content patterns, gaining more insight from marketing + product/service mashups, and laying a foundation for ethics. – What’s the Difference Between Content Strategy + Content Marketing?  

With so much data available today, the prospects of sorting through it to evaluate content ROI can be daunting. That’s why successful content teams start not with diving into data but with asking the right questions. What makes a question the right question? It’s aligned with your content goals.

For assessing ROI of content marketing specifically, usually one question is “Did our content marketing increase or benefit sales?” If you can’t track the impact of your content marketing on revenue yet, make that a priority. As Arnie Kuenn notes in Chief Content Officer, “If your CRM [customer relationship management] system and processes do not allow you to track a visitor all the way to end sale, it’s imperative that you figure out how to fix this.” It’s also important to include both formative content analysis and evaluative analysis.

Content ROI is a “do or die” situation. Successful content teams find a way to overcome the challenges and calculate content ROI.

The Author

Content Science is a growing content strategy and intelligence company and the publisher of Content Science Review. We empower digital enterprises for the content era by taking their content approach to the next level. Customers of our professional services and one-of-a-kind products (such as ContentWRX and Content Science Academy) include the Fortune 50, the world’s largest nonprofits, and the most trusted government agencies.

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