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A short guide to assessing the ROI of your content marketing

Make sure you’re getting the best return on investment for your content marketing by measuring its performance. Here’s how. 

ClickZ’s first intelligence report on Digital Trends shows that content marketing will lead the way in 2016. But while more and more companies are looking to invest a greater amount of time and money into content curation, some are still struggling with its measurement, and the understanding of what is working and what isn’t.

Of course, every brand has its own goals for content marketing. This can be in the form of sales, leads, social shares and brand awareness, to name just a few. No matter what your end game is, however, here are some ways to assess the return on investment (ROI) of your content to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a comprehensive tool for measuring the monetary value of your content. You can assign a dollar value in Google Analytics in two ways. One is setting up Goals. We walked through how to set up a Goal in our beginner’s guide. When it comes to content marketing, Goals are a common practice to measure content engagement, newsletter signups, and brochure downloads.

For example, if you set up a Destination Goal for report downloads and assign $5 to the conversation, Google Analytics will record $5 when a site visitor downloads a report and lands on the page you’ve specified.

There is a drawback to this approach, however. Values for Goals are set at Google Analytics’ reporting level in admin and are not set in or grabbed by the Google Analytics tag. This means that values are recorded only once during a session, so if a user downloads a $5 brochure five times, it counts as $5 in Google Analytics, not $25.

Another approach for valuing your content’s monetary benefits is using Google Analytics’ ecommerce capabilities, which tends to be associated with hard, transactional events like product purchases.

To do so, you need to turn on the Ecommerce Settings. Google Analytics records values every time a purchase is made. For example, if a visitor converts five times on the same product during one session, Google Analytics records the sum of conversions. The product values either need to be hard coded in the Google Analytics tag, or grabbed by it upon conversion.

According to Adam Canissario, director of marketing insights at UNICEF USA, the best practice is to not duplicate monetary value tracking with both ecommerce capabilities and goals.

“Google Analytics won’t reconcile the data and you’ll have inflated values. You should pick one system or the other when tracking monetary values. Specifically, you should not associate both an ecommerce value and a goal value with the same event. You could use both on the same site, but should not on the same event,” he explains.

Social media

Aside from your site content, social media posts may represent a big chunk of your content marketing. It’s smart to link social and Google Analytics with UTM parameters so you can get performance metrics such as bounce rate and pageviews in addition to shares, likes and comments.

If you are paying for social, you may want to equate those soft content consumption measures back to dollar value. However, it’s really hard. Generally speaking, you need to analyze what percentage of each engagement  type leads to a sale, determine the average sale price, and then calculate a metric’s monetary value accordingly.

But it all depends on your goal for a particular campaign. You may want to drive some type of action on the consumer’s part with paid social posts, for example, instead of sales. And those soft metrics may not have transactional values by nature.

“Particularly with influencer campaigns, brands are looking to drive a contest entry, a consumer-generated video, or even generating a lead for our insurance or auto clients. One lead can literally mean thousands of dollars for a client,” says Greg Manago, co-president of Mindshare Content + Entertainment.

“Lead generation is one type of ROI for brands, but in many cases the focus is on generating awareness and views which help content become part of the cultural conversation – this has its own value, but it’s harder to quantify in dollars and cents,” he adds.

Google AdWords

In some cases, the ROI of a piece of content can be the amount of traffic you receive. If you are a search marketer, you need to constantly optimize your keyword bids in Google AdWords in order to drive paid traffic to your site.

Take Magnolia Bakery, for example. You can enter its URL in SEMRush and then you will see what keywords work best.

Paid users can see the full report and then calculate a rough budget for Google Adwords by multiplying cost-per-click by the number of organic search visitors to their site.

You can also use free keyword tools like WordStream to decide your keywords and ad groups, and then run your budget in Google AdWords (please note that my Magnolia Bakery campaign is not active).

Some keywords are really expensive while its click-through-rate is low, which could reduce the effectiveness of your campaign. So you need to look at Google AdWords on a daily basis to add or retire keywords in order to stick within your budget.

by  Yuyu Chen