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November 3, 2016

How to Get Actual ROI Out of Your Content Marketing

Content marketing: there’s such a buzz about why it’s a very good idea and how it can overhaul your company.

But for many marketers, the ROI of content marketing is tough to track and measure. Because of this, 28 percent of marketers don’t bother to measure it, at all.  If you fall into this trap, it’s easy to keep focusing on content marketing, without ever actually understanding how to produce a positive ROI for your efforts reliably.

What if your content produced 10, 20, or 100x ROI on your initial investment? It’s happened to me, and can happen for you. Keep reading.


A True Story of 100x ROI on One Piece of Content

To help you understand how to produce a positive ROI with your content marketing, I want to start with a personal example: the lifecycle of one real piece of content, a guest blog I wrote here on SiteProNews. That piece of content produced a 100x ROI on my initial investment. Here’s the full story:

Now, to fully understand the example I’m going to give you with this piece of content, you’ll need to know that very few of my guest blogging engagements are one-off deals. In many cases, they’re ongoing columns for a given platform. In addition to allowing me to build an ongoing presence with a given audience, this approach also helps me build a reputation, drive leads and enjoy more traffic.

That said, let’s dive into the example. The guest blog I want to talk about, specifically, is the column I write at SiteProNews. On Jan. 1, 2015, I published a piece in this column called “How to Create Sharable, Likeable, and Organic Content.” At 2:25 p.m. that same day, Express Writers received an e-mail from someone we’ll call Dave. Dave reached out in hopes that Express Writers could help his company “vault past the competition for good.”

After a few weeks’ worth of e-mail exchanges and custom content bids on the part of my staff, Dave purchased an expert copy package, including content planning and written material to populate several sites. The total of his purchase? Right around $5,000.

While I spent plenty of time crafting the piece that Dave saw on SitePro, there’s no question that this ROI is outstanding, and that this goes to show, conclusively, how crucial content marketing is.

With that in mind, marketers who want to succeed in the realm of content marketing need to stop stressing about if content can create a positive ROI, and learn how to take the proactive steps needed to ensure it does.

How to Produce a Positive, Consistent ROI from Your Content Marketing: Measure Cost, Utilization, and Performance

To create a positive ROI in your content marketing, it’s essential first to understand the various components of an ROI. According to Content Marketing Institute, ROI is comprised of three things:

  • Cost
  • Utilization
  • Performance

To calculate your ROI, you must first understand these three things. Content cost, for example, is the measurement of how much your content costs to produce. This could include the costs of hiring a writer, purchasing stock images, buying a custom infographic, and having an editor look over your content. Depending on your business, it may also include the cost of project management.

Next, you’ll need to consider your utilization, which indicates the percentage of content you create that subsequently gets used. Think this is an unneeded calculation? Think again. According to Sirius Decisions, approximately 60 to 70 percent of all content goes unused. Any content that falls into this category represents a complete waste both in terms of ROI and effort, so it pays to keep your utilization numbers high.

Once you’ve considered your content cost and utilization, it’s time to review content performance. While most people judge content performance according to page views, clicks, or sharing on social platforms, engagement is also an important performance metric that many marketers overlook.

Understanding the Content Marketing Lifecycle

We told you about a piece that produced an especially high ROI based on its lifecycle, but what is content lifecycle, really?

Generally, it goes like this:

  • You publish a piece of content on a website;
  • A visitor reads the piece of content on said website;
  • The reader connects to that piece of content;
  • The reader decides to visit your site;
  • The reader reaches out to you and contacts you through your site;
  • The reader becomes a loyal visitor quickly and easily.

While most content follows the same general life cycle structure, the lifecycle can be more or less profitable depending on how you run your content and manage your online presence.

How to Produce a Positive ROI for Your Content: 3 Tips

Now that you know about the general structure of content lifecycle and the three critical components of a content marketing ROI, it’s time to start producing a better ROI for your company. Here’s how:

1. Measure everything

In addition to measuring your cost, utilization and performance, you’ll also need to measure additional metrics. These include things like the average time people spend on your page, the bounce rates of your visitors, and the conversion rates of your content as they pertain to your goals.

For example, if your content was meant to drive people to click “subscribe” or download a PDF, how many people do? At the end of the day, ROI is about much more than page views; it’s a whole-picture approach that requires a great deal of data to understand fully.

By collecting relevant measurements and understanding how things like bounce rates and engagement pan out on your site, you can identify weak points in your content strategy and improve them as needed.

2. Measure how good your content is at driving decisions

Ideally, content that produces a high ROI will drive customers toward profitable decisions that benefit your company. If yours is doing this, you’re hitting the nail on the head. If the conversion rate of clients who read your content isn’t much different than that of customers who don’t, though, you’re missing the mark.

Keep in mind that all content-focused decisions don’t come about as an immediate result of your content, though. Some of it is delayed, and it’s also wise to track metrics like the lifetime value of your customers, any and all repeat purchases your clients make, and the loyalty they express on social media.

This helps you develop a full picture of your content marketing ROI, and is an excellent way to identify areas in which your content can be improved to be more persuasive and compelling.

3. Equip your content with goals

While I didn’t necessarily demand that the goal of my SiteProNews piece be to drive $5,000 in sales, I did write it to build awareness of and drive traffic back to my company. In this sense, it was a success.

By attributing a goal to each piece of content you write, you can then measure the content against said goals, determining if it was a success or a failure, and understanding what you need to do to boost the ROI. This, in turn, ensures that your content is performing in a way that supports and uplifts your goals. It also gives you a way to evaluate which of your content performs the most efficiently, and which should be reconsidered.

Measuring Content Marketing ROI Made Simple

While it’s true that measuring the ROI of content marketing can be confusing, it’s critical, and marketers who take the time to learn to measure their content marketing ROI are in a better position to enhance and improve their programs in the coming years.

As you saw from our example regarding the guest post on SiteProNews, publishing content can offer an astounding ROI, and it’s well worth the time it takes to learn how to produce a positive ROI with content, and adjust your content’s lifecycle for maximum effectiveness.

From driving sales to driving traffic and promoting engagement, there are dozens of ways to improve your content marketing ROI and help your content perform more efficiently for your company.

By using content to drive revenue, generate leads and generate traffic for your site, it’s easy to improve the functionality of your content and your site, and become a better marketer across the board.


Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and bestselling author. She founded a multi-million dollar content agency, Express Writers, with nothing more than $75 at 19 years old. Today, her team has nearly 100 expert content creators on staff, and serves thousands of clients around the world. She's earned her way to the top 30 worldwide content marketers, and has a passion for sharing what she knows in her books and in her online course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia also hosts The Write Podcast on iTunes.