Today, businesses are investing more in content than ever for marketing, support, media products, and digital technology. A recent report from ANA and The Content Council found that spending on content marketing showed a 73 percent average budget increase over a two-year period. In the same survey, “respondents also showed their commitment to content marketing has grown substantially over the past two years with 52 percent indicating a ‘strong commitment’—double the figure from two years prior (26 percent).”

Despite the heavy and increasing investment, content teams continue to struggle with how to show content ROI. Being able to demonstrate your content ROI or content marketing ROI is essential to your content operation.

The State of Content ROI

Many teams aren’t measuring ROI. Only 35% of content teams evaluate content ROI. But those teams that do measure ROI are thriving the most. Content Science Leadership and Operations Report

Just 8 percent of marketing teams are all in on ROI. A recent Upland Kapost survey found that only 8 percent of marketers report that they have live dashboards across baseline and goal metrics, and key attributes. Upland Kapost, State of Content Operations 2020

Facebook content rules social media ROI. “Facebook remains the top social channel used by marketers with the highest return on investment.” HubSpot

Email content provides strong ROI. A study of marketers in the UK finds that ROI from email marketing now stands at just over £42 for every pound spent; a rise of almost £10 from the previous year. DMA, Marketer email tracker 2019

Visuals help drive ROI. A survey of more than 1,000 marketing and creative professionals found that 75 percent said they get better marketing ROI when they use visuals with their content. Contently, Engaging Your Audience with Visual Content, 2019 Libris Research Report

Define Your Content ROI

ROI is about much more than whether your content received page views, clicks, or other analytics. In addition, it is 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. So, what makes up your content ROI? Consider the following facts. 

Content effectiveness is a strong indicator of ROI. Not sure how to start defining content ROI? Try looking at your content effectiveness. If content is highly effective with content users, then usually it brings a return on investment. So, what matters in making effective content? In our research, we identified six dimensions of content effectiveness, and these dimensions have held up over the course of collecting data from more than 150,000 people. – Content Science Review, How To Measure Content Effectiveness

Determine what matters to your organization. “Create your own scoring system for the KPIs that matter most to you.” Semrush

Expand how you define ROI. “Consider the various levers that drive brand success, such as engaging with consumers in a way that establishes trust and loyalty. Achieve this by participating, reflecting, and shaping the culture of their consumers—don’t just influence, but lead a category. Brands can drive cultural moments of influence through content. Another way to think about this is ‘share of culture’ vs. ‘share of wallet.’ How is your brand measuring trust and ‘share of culture’ today?” Deloitte, Brand marketing effectiveness study

Content ROI matters even for nonprofit and government sectors. What if you’re a nonprofit or government agency? Does content ROI apply? We say yes. Let us share an example. In public health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regularly estimates the return on investment in health communications and content by developing appropriate formulas. The TIPS from Former Smokers campaign to encourage smoking cessation cost only $480 per smoker who quit and $393 per year of life saved. The widely accepted benchmark for a successful public health intervention? $50,000 per year of life saved. In this case, content and its promotion was an efficient and effective use of taxpayer funds. CDC arrived at its ROI metric for the TIPS campaign through reasonable assumptions and calculations. Content Science Review, 5 “Don’ts” to Move from Content Analytics to Content Intelligence

How to Measure the ROI of Your Content 

With so much data available today, the prospect 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.

Don’t fall for content vanity metrics. Page views! Shares! Likes! More = good and less = bad, right? Sure it feels good to have your content receive attention. But, unless getting attention or raising awareness is the main goal of your content, those metrics don’t tell the full story of your content’s impact. To avoid dwelling on vanity metrics and start to make the case to learn more:

  • Note down the content goal.
  • Write down questions about whether your content is accomplishing the goal.
  • Write down possible data points to answer those questions. You don’t have to be a data or numbers expert to think about the possibilities.

Content Science Review, 5 “Don’ts” to Move from Content Analytics to Content Intelligence

Make sense of all that data. Part of the challenge for measuring content ROI 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.” Content Science Review, 4 Ways to Make User Journeys Actually Useful for Content Strategy

Ensure your CRM is tracking visitors properly. 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 for Content Marketing Institute, “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.” Content Marketing Institute

Bottom Line

Content ROI is a “do or die” situation. Successful content teams find a way to overcome the challenges and calculate content ROI. After narrowing down which KPIs you’ll actually be tracking, things become much less murky. Placing importance on analytics may be the first step to achieving higher content ROI.

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.

The Author

Content Science partners with the world’s leading organizations to close the content gap in digital business. We bring together the complete capabilities you need to transform or scale your content approach. Through proprietary data, smart strategy, expert consulting, creative production, and one-of-a-kind products like ContentWRX and Content Science Academy, we turn insight into impact. Don’t simply compete on content. Win.

Last Updated: March 11, 2021

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