As with any form of marketing, content marketing can only be proved to be effective if it makes more money than it costs. Some critics say that one of the biggest problems is that it’s too hard to measure while others would go further to say that it doesn’t convert into sales at all. One of the misconceptions comes from the fact that although content can be updated immediately, sometimes the best pieces take weeks or months to begin converting to sales and, so long as you set up benchmarks at the beginning, you can accurately measure its worth.
The intangible benefits of content marketing
Almost everyone agrees that content marketing – when done right – does have its benefits, it’s just that they’re not always easy to relate in dollar figures. Unlike advertising, which can be translated simply from expenses to income, a huge proportion of content is there to attract and retain viewers to a site.
What happens to these people depends on the quality and direction of your content. At its most basic, content gives your company a voice and gives people (often potential customers) something to read. When it’s done well, it also improves your SEO (which in turn brings even more people to your site), gives people a reason to come back to your pages (which builds a sense of loyalty) and also makes you an authority in your industry (which builds trust).
Another benefit that well thought out content has is that it can reduce costs elsewhere in the business. For example, informative web copy, factual blog posts and well-written FAQ pages can all lead to reduced customer service costs as well as reducing the time valuable team members spend answering similar questions to customers instead of focussing on their core roles.
While these are all clearly good attributes to associate with your company, many of them are hard to quantify which leads to people writing off content marketing as a flash in the pan. So before you invest time and money into in-house resources, hiring an agency or outsourcing your copywriting, you’ll need to know how to judge whether you’re getting a return on your investment.
Metrics to judge by
There are three metrics which you can best measure your content marketing campaigns: traffic, lead generation and sales. These show not only how many people are reading your content but also how they interact with it. If you’re having trouble deciding how to best start tracking your content, it’s recommended that watching traffic numbers is a good way to begin.
As far back as 2012, a study by Kapost and Eloqua showed that content marketing had a better return on investment than other forms on online marketing, something which will only get better as content strategists get more experienced.
The biggest difference between a site that has implemented a content marketing strategy and one that hasn’t is the sheer volume of information available. Whether this is through videos, blogs or images what it does is give people more entry points to your site and more ways to discover your message. It doesn’t much matter if they find you through social media, Google searches or another manner, but what you’re likely to see is an increase in visitor numbers. While this is a great start, you’ll also hopefully see increased time spent on your site (both in terms of seconds/minutes and page views) and a lowered bounce rate. All of this proves that people are absorbing your company and its message more than before – putting numbers to some of the intangibles above – which can only be a good thing for you. What they do next is dependent on your aims, strategy and actual content, but with the right building blocks in place that’s something you can work on over time.
Another benefit of content marketing is that the work you put in now can potentially reap rewards for months and years to come. While an advertising campaign may give a short boost that leads to a few long term customers, content done well can sit on top of Google for a long time, giving you increased traffic long after you’ve published.
- Lead generation
While content can have many goals, one key aim that is has is to increase leads. This can be done in a number of ways but most often a well-crafted call to action can direct readers in the right way – whether you’ve decided that’s to download a document, sign up for a newsletter or call for a quote. Once you have this goal in place you can track how many people are doing this and find out how they got to that page – either by using an analytics package or by asking them on the phone.
There are other times when the content can be a treat which people sign up to view. One common tactic is to create an e-book or PDF that requires users to give their details to access. This content, if well targeted, will then attract potential customers who give you e-mail address and phone numbers that you can use to follow up with, not only to check that they received their content okay but also if they needed help with anything else.
The use of analytics packages and cookies can help give a clear picture of where users came to your site and the path they took to becoming a lead. If this shows that your content marketing strategy played a part, then it’s another verifiable win for this approach and a reduction in time for your sales team chasing new customers.
Over time you’re likely to see that certain pieces of content work better than others. This can help shape future strategies and can show you which pieces of content need a bit of tweaking so they pull their weight.
At the end of the day the most important figure in any business is its profit and if content is helping you make new sales then your company is going to be in a better place. Depending on your business, tracking content in relation to sales may be less of a true reflection of its worth than tracking lead generation, simply because there may be a step between that your company is faltering in. For example, if you sell products online your ordering process may be too hard for all customers to stick with or if you’re generating leads to follow up over the phone your sales team’s manner with customers may be turning them away. Over time you’ll start to see a pattern of the type of content that leads people to want to make purchases and the types that get them to interact in another way or simply leave your site.
Again, you are able to track the path a visitor on your site took so can see if people reading your content are heading in the right direction. Looking at these stats may also point to where problems in your site lay – maybe people are ending their sales process when they see the price, the delivery time or because of a convoluted sign up process.
As with any form of expense, content marketing can be tracked to show your return on investment. Make sure you know what you want to track from the offset and have the provisions in place and you can soon see just how beneficial it is your company.
What do you think? Are there any additional metrics you use to measure the ROI of your content marketing?
About the Author:
Adrian Cordiner accidentally stumbled into digital marketing after starting an online travel company and realizing there was a whole world out there of SEO, SEM, Analytics, CRO and so on that he knew absolutely nothing about. Many years of reading, researching, testing and making lots of mistakes along the way have lead him to where he is today, running his own digital marketing agency (Digital Rhinos) and founding a content marketplace start-up (Prozely), still reading, still researching, still testing and hopefully making a few less mistakes.