Measure Your Content Marketing ROI With These 10 Steps

It’s getting harder and harder not to feel like life’s one big Zoom.

Because of the pandemic, we’re living within the rectangular screens that sit on our desk and in our pockets. But this reality has a silver-lining for creatives—marketing leaders are shifting their budgets into content.

The one thing that keeps me up at night, though, is how marketers measure content success.

In a recent Contently survey, 95 percent of marketers told us they expected their budget to increase or stay the same this year. But just 36 percent said they were satisfied with their company’s ability to measure the success of content.

This is because measuring content marketing is more complicated than performance marketing. Content has a huge impact across all stages of the customer journey, but you can’t capture ROI with a simple attribution model on Day 1. While everyone wants to attribute content directly to revenue, it’s silly to attempt that before you gauge how effectively you built an audience or generated leads.

Since content marketing is at such an inflection point right now, we wanted to share what we learned about tracking success over the years. So, with the help of our team, I published the industry’s first ever Content Measurement Maturity Model. You can read the whole thing here, but I also wanted to briefly walk through how it works.

Our 10-Step Content Measurement Maturity Model

Our Content Measurement Maturity Model consists of 10 steps spread across four stages—crawl, walk, run, and fly. When companies master measurement and optimization in one stage, they’ll be prepared to graduate to the next.

  • The crawl stage is strategic to audience building.
  • The walk stage is strategic to lead generation.
  • The run stage is strategic to revenue generation.
  • The fly stage is strategic to revenue attribution.

content measurement maturity model

In the graphic, you’ll notice there’s only one measurement step in the fly stage—multi-touch content attribution—because it’s incredibly hard to do right, and if anyone else tells you different … well, frankly, they’re lying.

Let’s take a closer look at each stage.

Crawl: Strategic to Audience Building

The crawl stage is all about measuring audience building. You need to attract an audience before you can measure the down-funnel actions people take.

  1. Audience Reach. Here, we’re looking at tried-and-true reach metrics, as you’ll see in the table below. According to our survey, this is the step most commonly adopted by marketers, with 80 percent tracking audience reach key performance indicators (KPIs).
  2. Audience Engagement. AKA how deeply are you engaging folks with your content? It’s not enough to get people to come. You also need them to stay.
  3. SEO Effectiveness. SEO is foundational to building an audience. According to Contently Analytics, 67 percent of all traffic to brand sites comes from organic search. Surprisingly, though, only 57 percent of marketers track these metrics.crawl stage content roi

Walk: Strategic to Lead Generation

Once you’ve started successfully building an audience, you want to inspire people to take actions that’ll create a deeper relationship with your brand—like signing up for a newsletter or virtual event, using an interactive tool, or requesting a demo.

Here we measure:

4. Leads Generated. The number of people taking a conversion action that’s important to your brand.

5. Lead Engagement. Using a marketing automation system like Pardot, you’re able to track how a lead engages with your brand’s content—the emails they open and click through, the pages they visit, the articles they read—and assign an appropriate “score” for that behavior. Similarly, tools like Contently Docalytics and Adobe allow you to see how a lead engages with “big rock” downloadable content like research papers.

6. Share of Voice. This measures not only how effectively you’re inspiring folks to take an action that pushes them into your pipeline, but also how well your content is controlling the conversation and boosting your brand in the market relative to your competitors.walk stage content roi

Run: Strategic to Revenue Generation

In the run stage, we cover the areas that’ll get your CMO and CFO excited—content attribution to revenue.

Our model recommends three complementary approaches that will help capture the full picture of content’s impact on your bottom line.

7. SEO Value. SEO Value calculates how much your organic search traffic is worth to your brand. It’s a leading indicator of revenue returns—we launched Content Value in our platform this past fall, and it’s been a revelation for our customers, allowing them to measure the monetary impact of their content proactively, instead of just retroactively.

8. Lead Value. A straightforward approach in which you multiply the number of leads your content generates by the traditional cost-per-lead (CPL) for your marketing team.

For instance, a leading B2B software company that Contently partners with recently launched a large-scale content campaign that drove 22,000 leads. Since the company’s average cost-per-lead was $71, the marketing team was able to attribute over $1.5 million in revenue impact to their content efforts, a 7x return on their investment.

Ex: 22,000 x $71 = $1.56M

9. Single-Touch Content Attribution. A single-touch attribution model gives 100 percent of the credit for a sale to one marketing effort. The downside of a single-touch model is that it’s limiting, particularly in a B2B cotext, when there are many touchpoints across the buyer’s journey. The upside is that it’s relatively simple to implement, as most marketing automation systems and customer relationship management systems (CRMs) make single-touch attribution easy to track.

first-touch attribution

Everyone wants to jump to this step off the bat, but remember: It only makes sense to focus on attribution once you’ve built an audience and started measuring your ability to drive and engage leads.

On their own, each of these approaches has gaps, but when factored in together, they provide a holistic picture of content’s impact on stage content roi

Fly: Strategic to Revenue Attribution

In the “Fly” section of our maturity model is the final step: Multi-Touch Content Attribution.

A multi-touch attribution model factors in all actions a customer takes over the course of the sales cycle, often divvying up the credit on a weighted scale. For instance, it may give double credit to the first and last touch in the cycle, but equal weight to all other touches in between.

content marketing ROI

We made this the final stage in our model because it’s so difficult to implement—especially inside enterprise organizations with poor data hygiene. It’s the white whale of content measurement—much discussed and desired, but rarely captured, even after a long odyssey.

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fly stage content roi

If you’re still at the crawl or walk stage—you’re not alone. And you can still produce really impactful work there. Less than a third of marketers we surveyed measured are currently looking beyond lead generation.

content roi metricsThe good news is that our maturity model is designed to help you reach the next stage and get comfortable with these content marketing ROI metrics. After all, the whole point of content measurement is to make smarter decisions.

Check out the full model here. And to evaluate where you stand right now, take the interactive assessment below.

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