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One objection I constantly hear from leads is “What’s the ROI of all this content marketing? How will I know if it’s worth it?” This is a fair question—but the problem is that too many talented content marketers don’t really know how to answer it properly.
What Is the True ROI of Content Marketing?
This is something I've struggled to explain in the past. It's really important to talk about what you're doing so you're not just producing content for content’s sake.
Because I see a lot of people out there, myself included, who just created a bunch of content that fell to the wayside and ended up in archives that no one ever reads.
There’s a great post by Matthew Barby on how you can measure the results of your content marketing efforts. You could start with an Excel Spreadsheet or a Google Sheet and track what's important to you. You also look at the leads who are coming into your email list. There’s product sales, too. If you're really looking for SEO ROI, you can measure links. You can measure all these things.
Personally, I like to get a pulse on the ROI of my content marketing efforts by looking at the revenue coming from the specific channel where the content is being distributed. You can look at the metrics in Google Analytics.Keep in mind that content marketing takes time and you may be looking at a roadmap of 2-3 years. Click To Tweet
Reliable Content Marketing Analytics Tools
Some of you may already be rolling your eyes, saying, “Eric, I just want the tools. Give me the tools.” If your content marketing is already doing okay by you and you really just want to measure it, then try out Cyfe. You can build dashboards that measure your content marketing efforts.
If you want something that’s free, use Google Analytics. Make sure you have Google Search Console installed as well and sync them together. Google Analytics will tell you what's going on with your top-performing organic pages. Google Search Console helps you measure your conversions inside of Google Analytics.
Why Neil Doesn’t Measure Content Marketing ROI
Neil doesn't really track his conversions or ROI from content marketing. The way he got into content marketing was with a blog called Turn It Advertising. It was a Tech Priority 100 Blog that got really popular, and Neil started getting business from it. It was easy to maintain because he had started the blog for fun and his costs were basically nonexistent. But he gave it away because he got tired of blogging.
Nowadays, Neil spends a ton of money on content marketing. But because of that first positive experience and many since then (like with QuickSprout and Kissmetrics), he doesn’t really feel the need to track the metrics. He knows it will pay off if he commits to consistent, high-quality content that solves problems.
The point is that looking at content marketing ROI or trying to treat it and measure it like an SEO play is not the right way to do things. You won’t get big returns if you treat content like that.Anyone who’s been successful at content marketing knows that it’s a long-term game. Click To Tweet
You don't get any real measurable ROI in the first six months. You might start seeing significant traffic by the end of the first year if you’re lucky, just as it did with my entrepreneurial interview podcast Growth Everywhere.
What’s the Right Time to Start Collecting Emails?
But if you’re dead set on trying to measure your content marketing ROI as soon as you start, then obviously you want to look at traffic and how relevant that traffic is to your core product or service. If the traffic keeps going up, eventually you can figure out how to monetize it, whether by selling your own product, affiliate marketing, or whatever it may be.
If your traffic goes up on a monthly basis, then measure it per channel (on social, email, etc.). Once a single channel starts getting over 10,000 visitors per month, you have momentum. You want to make sure that at least 5-10% of the unique visitors are converting into email subscribers. If you have less than that then it may be hard to monetize your blog.
Simply put, the more emails you get, the more valuable your email list becomes. It will become your highest-converting channel for sales.
Related Content: The Content Marketing Funnel: When to Use Different Types of Content
Case Study #1: Calculated Risk Blog
I was actually listening to a Wall Street Journal podcast this morning and this guy has a blog called Calculated Risk. It’s a financial blog that he's been running since 2006, so it's been over 10 years. He realized he had something on his hands when he got 100 visits to his website one day. Today, due to persistence and consistency, his blog gets 2-4 million visits per month.
There was no secret to his success. He just kept writing. Some of his stuff went viral, some of it didn't. He wasn’t actively reaching out to people and asking them to link to him or anything like that at all. He was just producing really good content consistently.
Case Study #2: Kissmetrics Blog
When Neil started with Kissmetrics, he had the blog before the product. They were generating sign-ups through the blog because it was getting a million visitors per month. This was back when Neil was writing on a variety of topics, many of which had nothing to do with Kissmetrics' eventual analytics niche.
But in writing on all those topics, he learned that whenever he wrote an e-commerce post, he didn't get as many visitors. Yet those visitors were more loyal. They'd come back to the website and were ultimately much more likely to buy the product because e-commerce companies are an ideal pick for analytics.
Once Neil figured out what was converting best, he started writing more e-commerce and marketing posts that helped solve problems for e-commerce companies or subscription-based companies. When he started doing webinars and nurture campaigns, they were much more likely to convert.
The point I’m trying to make is that in the beginning, when you’re just starting out with content marketing, you should try to focus on attracting the right type of readers. Don't just write content purely for traffic—make sure you have your ideal customer in mind when you're writing your content.
Once you have traffic and are collecting emails, then you can switch to a “What’s my ROI?” mindset a bit more.
Content Marketing Is More Like PR than Advertising
If I had to leave you guys with one piece of advice, it would be to think of content marketing more as PR (reputation management and brand awareness) than advertising. With content marketing you can’t just spend money and make money right away.Content marketing can get you more targeted traffic more affordably than advertising ever could. Click To Tweet
When it comes to blogging, patience is definitely a big virtue. Remember that you are in for a 12-to-18-month journey before you’ll really see success. If you look at your analytics over time, you’ll notice that in your first year, everything is flat, but then by year two and beyond traffic really starts picking up.
This is due to a number of cumulative factors.
- First, you’ll get better at producing the type of content that your audience actually cares about.
- Second, they’ll start to remember you and visit your site more often.
- Third, you’ll probably be able to secure bylines for yourself in high-traffic sites in your niche or industry.
- And fourth, Google will keep lifting you up in the SERPs.
Your mileage may vary, but that’s the general journey.
This post was adapted from Marketing School, a 10-minute daily podcast in which Neil Patel and Eric Siu teach you real-life marketing strategies and tactics from their own experience to help you find success in any marketing capacity. Listen to the podcast version of this post below: