The trouble with digital content is that its purpose and its effect can be annoyingly intangible. Any content marketer worth their salt should be implementing strategies with clear, measurable goals, but ultimately, demonstrating the return on investment generated by content can be challenging – especially when its your boss asking to see hard evidence, stat!
Picture this: It’s going on 4PM, you’re at work, you’re just tying up some loose ends with the web developer and thinking idly about what to have for dinner. Suddenly, from nowhere, a higher up approaches. They want to see evidence that proves what you do is generating returns. They want cold, hard facts. They want numbers. Effectively, they want you to justify your professional existence…all by end of play.
Here is your go-to plan for this exact scenario. Follow this helpful recipe and you can pull together a fast content audit which demonstrates exactly what you’re doing, precisely what it’s achieved and how this translates into real ROI…
Recap the Theory
Even when confronted with impressive data which shows a traffic upsurge through your content, those higher up the chain of command don’t necessarily speak your language.
That’s why its essential to recap the theory behind what you do and draw all your data back to these crucial points. Before beginning your presentation or discussion, describe in broad strokes your overall approach. Typically your thinking about content marketing will boil down to these basics:
- More high quality content posted more frequently = greater visibility, reach and engagement
- Greater visibility, reach & engagement = more leads
- More leads = more sales
- More sales = better ROI
With something as intangible as content, it’s not easy to demonstrate a concrete link between the more abstract metrics of visibility, reach and engagement, and the more measurable outcomes that are: more leads, sales and ROI.
However, there are a few things you can do to show correlation between the two, from demonstrating a correlation between regularity of publishing & traffic, to evidencing increased engagement and mapping that to a simultaneous increase in leads. We’ll talk more about this a little later on…
Consolidating your content
First things first, you need to show exactly what content you’ve been creating and how it has been performing. If you haven’t been keeping track of your content and its key metrics, it’s time to start now.
Tools like XML-Sitemaps.com will help you quickly collect all of your on site content in one definitive list. This list should form the basis of your content audit and should be stuck in a spreadsheet post haste! You can now begin looking at Analytics to flesh out each piece of on site content with information about its performance.
This is the part of your audit which will take time. If you’re on a tight deadline, you can speed up this process by choosing a small , representative sample of data to minimize the workload.
You may choose to look just at your latest month. Alternatively, you may want to examine content published in the week before you started your strategy alongside that published a week or two prior to you audit to provide a clear, quick comparison.
Distil your data
Whether you’re undertaking an exhaustive audit or a quick snapshot, you’ll need to include some key pieces of data including:
- A unique ID for each piece of content
- Date published
- Type of content (blog, infographic, guide etc.)
- Unique IP addresses
- Time on page
- Time on site
- Pageviews per visit
- Social shares (subdivided into platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.)
There are all sorts of figures and measurements you could include here, from the content’s author to the precise calls to action used. In the interests of keeping this audit nice and speedy, we’re recommending the essential facts you’ll need to demonstrate ROI. When you have time at a later date, it is well worthwhile creating a more comprehensive content spreadsheet to help you continually improve your content marketing performance.
What to do with the numbers
Now that you’ve mined all of the crucial facts for your quick audit, it’s time to paint a picture with data! The key figures you’ve put together break down into two rough groups:
Visibility & Reach
Social shares and backlinks (try a tool like this to get details) are clear indicators of how much traction your content is getting out there on the web. The more shares and backlinks the better. Make sure you flag up any especially authoritative linking domains which don’t just boost your own domain authority, but also demonstrate your reach and reputation in your sector – invaluable stuff!
Traffic, time on page, time on site, pageviews and comments are all good metrics to use when you want to take a closer look at how effectively your on site content marketing strategy is engaging visitors to your website.
Unique IPs will show you how many new visitors your strategy is bringing to your site, while pageviews per visit will hint and the effect your content is having on sales and leads. If visitors go on to explore more of your site after coming in through a piece of content, they are progressing down the sales funnel towards the Holy Grail: A conversion.
If you can show that these figures are on the increase , you can start to demonstrate the positive impact of your campaign. If you can then show a correlative increase in leads or sales since the start of your campaign, you’ll be well on your way towards proving that your content marketing and SEO is generating real ROI.
One way to do this is to examine online sales and conversions over time. If you can flag up less impressive figures from before your campaign began, you’ll hopefully be able to demonstrate a clear trend which tallies with the work you have been doing, growing as your strategy developed.
But with many variables in play, it’s not always easy to convince others that your content strategy is behind steady digital gains. If possible, look closely at the time and date of sales spikes and look for correlations with the launch of a particular piece of content. You can then drill down to data from that particular day to show a surge in traffic through that specific piece of content.
If you can show a general upswing in line with your content marketing activity, plus pick out some key sales spikes which match the launch of individual pieces of content, you can convince others that your content is generating ROI. Unfortunately, this return is very difficult to quantify precisely.
If your higher ups are looking for cold hard financials, you may want to pick out a piece of content which has had a month or two to “develop” (we all know that content can be a slow burner). Work out the investment which went into the content (man hours, resources etc.), then highlight the data you collected during your audit to demonstrate its worth. If possible, trace any resulting sales that come through your content to prove a return on the money spent.
Your quick audit checklist
As you can see, there’s a lot you can do to prove the ROI of your content strategy, however, when you need facts fast, you’ll need to streamline the process. We recommend:
- Laying out the general theories & goals behind your content marketing strategy
- Presenting a snapshot content audit (as broad as your timeframe allows) that shows increased reach and engagement
- Displaying gains such as increased traffic (or similar) resulting from your content marketing activity, next to a correlative increase in conversions to give a more holistic view
- Pick out one or two examples of successful content to clearly spell out ROI
Put this under the noses of your team and they should become content converts just like you. Don’t forget, you can turn this fast, initial audit into a powerful resource for ever-better content marketing by fleshing it out with more detail, recording the results and honing your strategy in line with your findings.