May 11, 2021 in Strategy by

When it comes to content marketing, the majority of marketers find that measuring content marketing success is moderately or extremely difficult. Why is it so hard?

According to a recent survey (conducted by Ascend2) besides the lack of budget and resources (46%), determining ROI is the biggest challenge (44%). Perhaps that’s why only 43% of B2B marketers even bother to measure content marketing ROI. Even though over half of respondents currently don’t measure the return on investment of their content marketing efforts, a whopping 92% felt that it was extremely or somewhat important to do so.

Why does this discrepancy exist? Perhaps it’s because measuring ROI on content marketing isn’t as straightforward as measuring other metrics. There are different approaches and variables to consider when looking at content marketing ROI, and without a big picture view, you may not be getting the full scope of how your content is actually performing.

What Makes Measuring Content Marketing ROI Difficult?

First, it’s important to know the formula for calculating ROI. Here it is:

(Revenue – Investment) ÷ Investment = ROI

Looks simple, right? And it is when you’re tracking conversions from, say, a blog post written internally. However, very few customer journeys are that straightforward, especially in B2B marketing, where sales cycles can be very long, and attribution is hard to define accurately.

Generally speaking, marketers run into three major struggles when working with content marketing ROI, including:

  1. Some content marketing campaigns are not tied directly to revenue. Various marketing efforts aim to create awareness or a buzz for a product rather than directly resulting in a sale.
  2. Some sales cycles are too long to count. How long should attribution be tracked? This is a tough question to answer for B2B marketers. The sales cycles for some products can be more than a year.
  3. There isn’t a standardized method to determine what’s included in marketing costs. This seems to be one metric where marketers go rogue. They may feel it’s necessary to omit certain costs in the Investment variable because the higher the costs, the lower the ROI. There is a huge potential for creative accounting here.

You can see that calculating content marketing ROI isn’t as simple as it seems. You would need a long list of data and a sophisticated attribution model to get anywhere close to an accurate ROI.

That’s why it’s important to look at some other key metrics along with your content marketing ROI to get the full picture.

Get the Big Picture When You Measure These Metrics with ROI

To truly understand your content marketing ROI, monitor the following metrics:

Web Traffic

This metric is easy to track with analytics software. Many marketers use Google Analytics to do so, but you may have a different solution. Look at various aspects of web traffic, including overall web traffic, views per page, source of traffic (which channel), time spent on page, popular landing pages, referral traffic.

Use this information to identify the channels driving the highest amount of traffic, and then use those channels for future content marketing campaigns.

Qualified Leads

This metric is important to track, especially for B2B marketing, because this number can help determine content marketing performance.

Use this information to see if you are attracting prospects and if they are interested in purchasing your products. You can do this by tracking content downloads, white paper requests completed, and completed sales.


You can tell if your site visitors are taking action by monitoring your click-through-rate (CTR). This metric shows you how many potential customers click on specific links out of the total number of visitors to your site, email, or ad.

CTR helps with ROI because it measures the performance of ad campaigns on your site, emails, and social media.

Sales Volume

This metric is useful because it tells you how many of your leads turned into customers – which is the goal.

You have to monitor several sales components to determine if your content is working, including:

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is critical for content marketing success. If you are looking at SEO to help determine ROI, there are a few things you must give attention to:

Measuring Content Marketing Success Is a Multifaceted Task

Measuring content marketing success may not always be easy, but you’ll get a more accurate idea of your content’s performance when you combine the right data. Creating the right mix of relevant metrics to track your progress is the key to assessing the overall impact of your content marketing efforts.

Harvard Business Club of Charlotte MDP

David Zimmerman participated in the Management Development Program by the Harvard Business Club of Charlotte in 2018.

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