Content marketing is one of the most popular modern business strategies for a simple reason: it works. A survey by HubSpot found over two-thirds of companies are actively investing in content marketing.

You’re probably already aware of content marketing and its value, but you may be wondering how to quantify its benefits to your business.

You likely know that investing in marketing techniques like blogging, email newsletters and search engine optimization (SEO) is important, but how do you understand that importance with data?

There are plenty of simple metrics that you can track to help you understand the direct cost of marketing assets in relation to the revenue they generate for your business.

However, you should also think about some of the more indirect benefits of content marketing: creating a brand and voice for your business.

This article will go over some key performance indicators (KPIs) of content marketing that you should track in the short and medium-term, but also help you see some of the bigger-picture benefits that are harder to directly measure.   

Understanding your content marketing metrics

Broadly speaking, there are two types of metrics or KPIs you should evaluate to understand the success of your content marketing: engagement metrics and sales metrics.

Engagement metrics tell you how many people are viewing and sharing your content, while sales metrics tell you the direct impact your content has on business revenue.

Engagement metrics

Engagement numbers might not be directly correlated with new sales, but they should still be monitored.

Comparing the individual metrics of your content pieces over time can help you understand which ones are most interesting to your audience. 

A few of the most commonly-used engagement metrics include: 

  • Views
  • Shares
  • Email subscribers
  • Post likes
  • Comments

Sales metrics

As the name suggests, these numbers are more directly related to business revenue. These metrics generally take more time to increase substantially compared to the prior set of KPIs, but they also have a larger effect on the overall health of the business.

Sales metrics for content marketing include:

  • Purchases
  • Subscription sales
  • Appointment requests
  • Contact forms completed

Some companies might assign these metrics to the sales team, but they can all be impacted by content marketing campaigns.

Content marketing ROI
(Source: Semrush)

Creating your system for content marketing metrics

The numbers above can be helpful to improve your marketing, but without a framework for which you can track and interpret them, they are just concepts. You have to give meaning to your content marketing analytics by deciding how to measure them.

Let’s illustrate this idea with a real-world example. Say you have decided to start creating blog posts for your website every other week.

You might decide that you want to measure views and shares for engagement and contact forms completed as your sales metrics. Besides picking which metrics to track, you should also set a cadence for how frequently you pull these metrics – maybe you decide on once per month.

From there, all that’s left is creating a marketing process that allows you to generate a report every month that outlines the number of views and shares as well as contact forms completed for each blog post.

Even the most basic marketing automation platforms will allow you to track these metrics, though you might need to draw data from several different places if your marketing stack isn’t set up properly.

After you’ve spent enough time blogging and tracking these reports – at least a few months, though at least a year is ideal – you’ll have a much better idea of how your content is performing.

Connecting metrics to content investment

Once you have a significant enough set of data to use, the only step left to determine ROI is to calculate the total costs of creating these blog posts. If you’re using an agency or external resource to produce the content, those costs are easier to quantify.

You simply add up the total amount of money you’ve spent on their fees or retainers, then divide that by the number of leads you receive from the content. 

For example, if you spent $20,000 on a resource to produce content over six months, a time frame in which that content earned you 200 leads, you are paying roughly $100 for each lead. This number is also referred to as your cost per lead (CPL).

It’s difficult to create a generalized statement about what your cost per lead should be, since so many companies have different types of products and services that come at different prices.

For a complex B2B software service with a five-figure price tag, averaging around $100 per lead could be fine. On the other hand, if you are selling consumer goods, $100 per lead is probably too expensive.

Take the example a bit further by adding in sales metrics and you can determine exactly how much you need to spend on content marketing to meet your revenue goals.

Continuing the above example, let’s say your sales team has a close rate of 25%, and each customer has an average lifetime value of $1,000. That means out of the 200 leads you generated with content, you can expect about 50 of them to convert into customers, bringing in $50,000 in revenue on the $20,000 you spent initially. 

This is a basic example with just a few simple metrics. You may want to gather more information by dividing up your leads by channel, or tracking individual members of your sales team.

Also, if you are producing the content internally and aren’t sure exactly how much money you’ve spent on it, you might have to come up with an estimate for how much you invested based on a typical hourly rate.     

Less tangible benefits of content marketing

Content marketing assets that help you build an audience compound just like financial investments. A single blog post may not feel like much of a contribution to your business in a vacuum, but when you make a habit of producing a single blog post each week, they will combine into a powerful library of content that plays an important role in your sales and marketing.

You should also consider the value of giving your customers and prospects the ability to find the information they need exactly when they need it, without having to contact a customer service representative via phone or email.

The Internet has changed the way people research their purchasing decisions – today’s buyers expect to have a lot more information than in previous eras, particularly if they are making a large purchase or one for a business.

[bctt tweet=”Think of the content on your website as a salesperson that is on the clock 24/7. How much value would that bring to your organization? “]

Finally, you should also consider the branding implications of having a strong content program. In today’s business landscape, customers are so used to getting information that simply having valuable content on your site makes your company stand out in its industry.

Research shows 82% of consumers feel more positive about an organization after reading custom content and 70% feel closer to a company as a result of content marketing.

Executed the right way, a consistent content marketing plan will not only add tangible revenue to your business by increasing sales, it will improve your perception among existing customers and prospects.

Just make sure you have a way to track both what you are spending and what you are making from your content so that you can make the necessary adjustments to keep your efforts on track.