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Demystifying the ROI of content marketing

Demystifying the ROI of content marketing Adam Weinroth

As many brands vowed in 2016 to devote more than 30 percent of their annual marketing budgets to content marketing, the proof is at our fingertips, on our phones, and if it's done well, in our heads. Most brands have now recognized that content marketing has an opportunity to significantly drive sales and improve brand perception. But with this increased focus comes increased scrutiny. To support their content marketing investment, big brands must now have more meaningful metrics in place to measure results. However, ROI means different things to different people. The first step is to figure out exactly what your brand is trying to measure. While there may not yet be a standard for ROI in content marketing, there are numerous data-driven ways to measure your content marketing's effectiveness. Though there's no one-size-fits-all approach, the following are four key approaches to measuring ROI we see in our work with major brands on content marketing initiatives.


From our vantage point, measuring engagement can take several forms. At the surface level, more traditional media metrics like clicks and page views are the standard. Going a level deeper however, it's also important to understand "attention metrics." To get a handle on actual attention paid to content, marketers should be analyzing signals for more nuanced interaction like dwell time on content as well as scroll rate. Even further, marketers are now starting to focus in on "relationship metrics," which are concerned with measures like repeat engagement rate and number of pieces of content consumed per person in a period of time.

Operational ROI

Another solid approach is calculating the operational ROI of your content marketing efforts. We can define operational ROI as the value of content consumption on a cost equivalency basis. In other words, with operational ROI, we're analyzing various programs, techniques, and channels on a cost-per-view basis (or something similar) in order to determine which tactic is earning the most per dollar spent. Noted content marketing expert Michael Brenner has explored this topic extensively, and astutely cites examples of comparing the value of organic traffic driven by content marketing with the value of paid traffic. Taking approaches like this, marketers can compare content marketing's costs and savings with nearly any marketing expense line in order to judge relative performance per dollar.

Brand lift

We've also seen successful measurement strategies building in surveys to quantify brand lift. Based on our partners' measurement scenarios, common measurement areas focused on brand lift include brand consideration, brand preference, attribute association, and purchase intent. As an example, one of our partners deployed a survey to measure lift in brand usage intent comparing responses of a control group to those exposed to three pieces of branded content. The survey's goal was to measure key brand KPIs such as preference, attribution association, purchase intent, etc. In this particular case, the results showed a 24 percent lift and increased likelihood to choose this popular CPG food brand for an afternoon snack.

Sales lift

Finally, brands can approach ROI for content marketing initiatives to assess the actual sales impact vs. a control group. Providers including Oracle's Datalogix and Nielsen Catalina can measure sales attribution to content marketing just like they do with other marketing assets and programs.

Only 23 percent of B2C marketers think their organization is successful at tracking the ROI of a content program. Clearly, while demystifying ROI is an imperative, in exploring these four key areas for measurement it's important to remember each brand's investments and goals are unique. Ultimately, in order to execute an effective content strategy, marketers should think through the central question: "What's the original motivation for doing content marketing in the first place?" and ensure there is a tight link to ROI. The key to success for marketers aiming to strengthen brand storytelling through content marketing hinges on their ability to create highly personalized content, drive repeat engagement, and build long-term sustainable relationships.

Adam Weinroth is OneSpot’s Chief Marketing Officer. With more than a decade and a half of experience as a marketing executive, entrepreneur and internet product innovator, Adam brings numerous marketing leadership experiences to OneSpot. Most...

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