How to Measure Content Marketing ROI in 7 Steps & Track Your (or Your Client’s) Success

It gets asked in a variety of ways:

“How do you measure content marketing effectiveness?”

“How do you track content performance?”

“How do you know if content is successful?”

But really… they’re all asking the same thing:

How do you measure good content?

As a creative entrepreneur working in content, you know how important SEO research and content marketing ROI is to you and your clients.

After all, SEO is the nuts and bolts 🔩 of showing people the impact of your services. Even when you’re killing it with branding and building a content strategy for your people.

But only 43% of marketers measure content marketing ROI.

Here’s why are so many people aren’t seeing and measuring their marketing results:

They simply lack the knowledge.

Are you in that 57% who don’t track content ROI? Don’t worry if you’re missing this skill — it’s completely teachable if you’re willing to be taught. And you’re smart (plus…you know your self-worth) so you can absolutely learn this.

So if you’re a contractor, freelancer, or content-based business creator (or dream of ditching your 9-5 to be one) who needs to get crystal clear on tracking content performance, this blog covers everything you’ll need.

Let’s do this.

content marketing roi

So How Does Content Marketing Make Money, Really?

To sell your services, you need to master explaining how they work. More specifically, you need to learn all the ways content marketing can grow a brand’s revenue.

One of my favorite examples of this is how much money is within the content marketing industry as a whole. It’s expected to be worth a mind-boggling $600 billion by 2024 — skyrocketing up $269 billion from 2019’s worth. 📈

content marketing roi industry growth

But let’s get into the specifics.

serious business owner map

Digital marketing works in lots of powerful ways to pull in profits for businesses that commit to using it. And while it’s all a machine with multiple working parts needed to operate correctly, you can generally sum it up into two major categories.

Here are two main ways content marketing makes money and how to track the ROI on it.

1. Content Marketing Attracts Highly Qualified Leads

When done right, content marketing can make you a ton of money by bringing in high-converting leads of great quality. Content marketing generates over 3x as many leads as outbound marketing and costs 62% less!

content marketing roi stats

Source: DemandMetric

Now… the higher the quality of your lead, the more likely they’ll engage and buy from you (in a general sense). So if you’re getting thousands of leads but zero sales, you need to focus on getting the quality of your leads up, not the traffic.

And as we’ve covered, this is why lead quality is insanely important. And it’s why learning how to do keyword research step by step is so vital. 📚

 

Once you’ve built your content marketing strategy properly, you’ll know exactly how to help yourself or your clients bring in a flood of excited leads that already trust and feel attached to your brand through content.

How to measure it: Check Google Analytics for your conversion rate. This tells you how many of your website visitors are turning into customers. This varies by industry, but the average is 2.35% (with the top 10% of any given industry getting around 11.45%).

average conversion rate by industry

Source: WordStream

2. Content Marketing Can Sell While You Sleep

While I don’t love the term “passive income,” it’s definitely what’s being referred to when we talk about how content marketing makes money with automation — and why I coach students how to build evergreen sales machines based in content.

How to measure it: Overall sales as well as all engagement (web traffic, inquiry calls, demos, email subscriptions).

How Is Marketing ROI Calculated?

We know how effective and powerful content is for sales — and I whole-heartedly believe content marketing is the only marketing left.

Want in on the action? You’ll need to learn how to measure ROI in content marketing. And good news, content marketing statistics prove the results are amazing if you’re doing it right. 📐

Here’s a straightforward formula to use as a (manual) content marketing ROI calculator:

content marketing roi formula

Let’s put that into practice:

Say you attributed $3,000 in sales to content marketing.

And, you spent $600 on production and promotion.

The calculation would look like: ($3,000 – $600) / $600 = 4 x 100 = 400%.

This means the ROI of content marketing in this situation would be 400%. (Nice! 😉)

content marketing roi formula in action

Some people believe the myth that the measure of content marketing can be impossible to track. That’s simply not true, as you can tell with this simple calculation. Of course, it gets much more granular, so let’s dive into the specifics and juicy metrics.

How to Measure Content Marketing ROI

Here are the step-by-step stages to follow to measure your success and ROI of content marketing:

Content Marketing ROI Stage #1: Get Clear on Cost

I’ve had a lot of budding content writers and strategists ping me to ask “What is a good ROI for digital marketing?” and I always tell them to go back and look at 1.) cost and 2.) budget to determine this. ✏️

Here’s why it’s important to get clear on cost and budget up-front: You can (and should, if you want to grow!) charge for executing strategy over your services. Accounting for everything you charge is important if you want to make sure starting an online business ends up being worth it for you.

Don’t skip this or you risk getting complaints that you’ve fallen short on goals. Here’s what I mean:

You’ll need to audit their execution of your content. You can only do so much on the services side, so you’ll need clients to follow through. To make sure your content marketing ROI will be tracked fairly, you’ll need to check for things like:

  1. A consistent publishing schedule
  2. High quality and helpful content that meets all the requirements in SEO blogging
  3. A website that people don’t hate and that isn’t slow

(…among other things that are included in your strategy services.)

free training

All of this needs to be built into cost.

Get clear on this upfront, so you can move into creating content that wins (without ANY budgeting surprises that may make it look like your content marketing services aren’t succeeding 😰).

And because you can’t properly set and explain your pricing without being able to measure your output in numbers, let’s break this cost clarity stage down even further:

Step #1: Calculate What You Spent on Production

It’s not free to produce content. You know that — and your skills and time are worthy of being paid. You have to (get to!) charge for that.

But how do you add it all up? Here are some common costs incurred for services provided by content creators and strategists.

content marketing roi content costs

  1. The content writer’s and editor’s pay (or the pay going to a content writing agency)
  2. Images and graphic design 🖥️
  3. Video or audio production (in some cases)
  4. Strategic auditing of content performance analytics
  5. Any other delegated work related to production
  6. Recurring costs for software and tools used for content production (writing software, image apps, keyword research tools, etc.)

There are multiple costs involved with producing content. Get clear on the true expense beforehand so you understand everything that’s involved, how much time tasks will take, and how much you’ll be charging for your services to cover all your costs.

(You’ll need to know this WELL to be able to explain it to clients when needed, too).

Step #2: Calculate What You Spent on Distribution

After your content is published, it needs to get distributed. Don’t skip this step just because you’re only delivering content to your clients and not in charge of distributing it for them — you need to be distributing your own content on your own site to get clients, too.

If you’ve assembled a rock star team for delegating to, you can immediately tap into your social media and PPC pros for this. Or, if you’re handling distribution yourself (plan to scale out of that for real growth!) then you can charge for your own time doing that. Calculate that as part of your distribution charges. 💳

10 laws to a self-sustaining business

That being said, this is what the general costs for distributing content usually looks like:

  1. The social media manager’s pay
  2. Recurring costs for software and tools used for content distribution (social media management software, email marketing tools, etc.)
  3. PPC if you’re running paid ads
  4. Paid ads in other platforms

content marketing roi distribution costs

Both the lists for content production costs and content distribution costs aren’t wholly inclusive of the way you and your business operate. To create a truly sustainable online business that lasts, make sure to add any additional costs that come up for you, within reason and fairness to your clients/customers.

Step #3: Add the Totals for Step 1 + Step 2

Once you’ve calculated the costs for production and distribution of your content in the above steps, it’s the moment of truth — time to add them together to get the total true cost of your content services.

This number is key to calculating an accurate content marketing ROI. Hang onto it. ✔️

Step #4: Calculate Total Sales From Content

When you’re producing great content over and over and helping people — expect to get leads organically.

Then, those leads should be highly qualified and work their way through your sales funnel through content, resulting in simple, automated sales. Sound like a dream? All it takes is good content executed with a clear strategy. If you can do this, you can win at this. 🏆

Calculating revenue that comes directly from your content is an easy (but not 100% accurate and fool-proof way) to come up with an ROI number.

Although high sales from great content is certainly something to be expected, some other more nuanced metrics still matter very much. In the past, these less obvious metrics gave measuring the ROI of content marketing a bad rep (some people claimed it was impossible to do).

Don’t stress — I review tracking those metrics at a later stage in this guide. For now, let’s keep things simple and grab the total sales your content has generated.

Got it? This is your return number. ✔️

I bet you know where this is headed…

Step #5: Calculate Total Sales From Content

Let’s use the content marketing ROI calculator formula from above and combine our two numbers from steps 3 and 4.

✔️ Step 3 totaled up your costs for content services (or, what your client paid you). Insert that number.

✔️ Step 4 totaled the sales of all of your published content. Insert that number.

content marketing roi formula

So if your client gave you $3,000 (cost) for content that got them $21,000 (return) in sales, you can calculate an ROI of 6,000% using this formula.

And there you have it!

A simple content marketing ROI calculation you can use today. 💥

Learning how to do this (good on you for researching it!) and then implementing it in your business will get you remarkable results — it’s all in the data. You just have to be able to show it.

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Content Marketing ROI Stage #2: Always Publish on a Great Website

Whether it’s your own website or your clients’, it’s incredibly important your content is going on a good site.

A fast, solid website that works well and looks great is absolutely critical to your content’s success. So don’t put out content on slow sites with broken WordPress themes that will devalue your incredible service (and impact ROI). Just say no to cheap marketing.

This is a standard you’ve GOT to hold yourself to if you want to be among the ranks of professional content writers. Because website conversion rates drop by an average of 4.42% in each additional second of loading time. 📉

load speed impacts conversion rate

Image Source: HubSpot

Content Marketing ROI Stage #3: Clarify Goals Up-Front

When you can present a client proof their investment in your services returned them more revenue than they spent, you’ll be succeeding big-time.

To do this, you have to set clear goals before you start producing any content and tracking content marketing ROI. (Both short-term and long-term goals.)

Because you won’t be able to answer the burning question of “What is the ROI of content marketing?” for a lead, a client, or yourself, without 100% understanding and clarifying what the client wants. 💯

So, make sure to sit down and ask them, then document where the big content KPIs stand currently.

And yes, you can absolutely use a tool to track content analytics. I love Semrush for many reasons, including the data on content analytics, goals, and projects.

semrush report example

Don’t just jump into content without doing this first.

The real, practical way to access trackable ROI is to have a measurable bar you’ve set at the beginning.

Content Marketing ROI Stage #4: Guide Clients on How to Think With Keywords > Traffic

You do not need a ton of website traffic to make massive revenue.

It’s about getting the right traffic.

Tell that to yourself and your clients early, because once you go after very specific keywords (the “how” is covered in the next stage), those leads are going to be hot. 🔥 These target website visitors are the people who are going to be ready to buy, and your inquiries will explode.

When it comes to web traffic… quality over quantity.

For example, I saw $50k months from just five clients spending $10,000 on services. THAT is what you can do for yourself and your clients with the right keywords.

Search intent, one of the content trends of 2022 I predicted, can be a tricky skill to master, but it’s an incredibly important one to have in your digital toolbox. It’s powerful stuff. 💪

Think you know your content marketing (or need to test the knowledge of someone on your team)? You can always take this quick content marketing quiz to help gauge where you’re at (and which areas might need some additional focus).

Content Marketing ROI Stage #5: Understand Keyword Difficulty

If you’re wondering how to increase the ROI of content marketing with SEO, you’ll love this step.

You want to look for keywords with a low keyword difficulty score. Meaning, it will be easier to rank for. The lower the number, the less effort it’ll take to rank on the first page in Google (aka, the money spot). 💰

ranking first in google search with content marketing

But getting to #1 like this takes faith in the data, patience, and time. If you can see this through… it’s super powerful and can absolutely help you hit and exceed the goals you’ve set up.

Because when you can produce low KD content that moves the needle, you’ll reap great rewards:

  1. Google will recognize your site faster as you rank for lower difficulty keywords, and help the site move up in the rankings overall.
  2. Since keyword volume is aligned with how many people will be coming to your site from that keyword per month, you can get predictable traffic streams per keyword, so you can validate goals easily. 🙌
  3. Your web traffic will be coming from highly qualified leads. For instance, 40 users from a targeted keyword with a low keyword difficulty are WAY better than 100,000 irrelevant visitors clogging your resources. Trust me here — I saw this over and over again with the 40,000+ client projects I oversaw at my 7-figure content writing agency.
  4. BONUS: Not only do lower keyword difficulty blogs work better, but they move the needle faster. So you can get data-backed proof of your content’s ROI within just a few months (especially if the site has existed for a while, even without content).

10 laws to a self-sustaining business

These reasons are why I always recommend my coaching students start and grow their brands by publishing blogs with low KD keywords vs. keywords that are already saturated.

Here’s an example. Let’s say Crystal wants to promote her creative business that teaches artistic moms how to do beautiful and safe face painting at home with their kids. 🎨

Something like “best face paint for kids”, which has a KD score of only 23, would be a great keyword to target…

low keyword difficulty

…versus a more broad keyword that looks enticing because the volume is high, like “face paint” or “face painting.”

high keyword difficulty

Crystal needs to put herself in the searcher’s shoes. Someone searching for “face paint” could be looking for something completely different than a person searching for “best face paint for kids.”

facepaint facepalm

BUT, because Crystal knows all about search intent, she understands that moms looking to facepaint with their kids will be searching for that lower KD keyword. 💥

Understanding this is how you get super excited leads vs. unqualified ones. Don’t let a focus on total traffic distract you or your clients from getting a higher conversion rate from your website visitors.

It’s super easy to find keyword difficulty, too.

Nearly every content marketing tool I’ve used for content analytics includes a “KD” (or a slight variation in name, like “competition score”) column with this number. And keep in mind this score is an estimate and can vary a bit on each platform — they all score it a tad differently.

Content Marketing ROI Stage #6: Keep Up-to-Date with Reports

You should set up a report that automatically sends updates on your content marketing progress.

I know many top-tier and some free DIY SEO tools offer this, but I personally use and adore Semrush — not only is it a powerhouse for keyword research, but it also lets you send out reports on multiple websites (known as projects in Semrush) automatically.

semrush report example

You can set it up to email tons of different snapshot reports like this one daily, weekly, or monthly. 📅

Some of the reports offered in Semrush include:

  1. Monthly SEO (pictured above): Traffic, keywords, backlinks, and site audit
  2. Organic Search Positions: Your top 100 keywords sorted by traffic
  3. Full Site Audit: General info, issues, pages with issues
  4. Full Report on Backlinks: Track your backlink health and measure your link building efforts
  5. Full Organic Research: Positions, position changes, top keywords, etc.
  6. Full Advertising Research: Positions, position changes, competitors, etc.
  7. Overview Site Audit: General information about a website’s health
  8. Monthly Competitor Analysis: Details about your competition, including website traffic, ads, SEO, content, PR, and performance details on the most popular social media platforms for business
  9. Google Ads: Reports on Google Ads campaigns with important metrics like impressions, clicks, cost, conversions, and more
  10. Domain Comparison: Organic research data, paid traffic, and top keywords

…and more. (I know right?! …Semrush is incredible.)

One of our coaching students had been working in content for years and just discovered you can set up automated progress reports to send to clients. 📧

You’ve got enough on your plate if you’re trying to scale your business, so don’t do this manually — use a tool. I love Semrush for this, too (on top of my keyword research).

Here’s an example of one of their beautiful reports you can generate:

sample semrush report

Semrush is a powerhouse for content performance marketing, and is consistently spot-on with keyword positions, organic traffic rankings, KD, and more.

The automated reports are amazing — but for in-depth meetings when you need to validate your goals and ROI, use a manual report where you show data from before, during, and after.

Within the 30+ template library inside the Content Transformation System, I’ve included a trackable ROI template that contains the key content marketing metrics you’ll want to report on, which look like this:

  1. Before: Forecast/Goal Setting
  2. During: Strategy Quality & Execution
  3. After: Analyze

My coaching students can put their brand name on this gorgeous template and send it directly to their clients, so paying customers can see the data behind the service first-hand. 📝

If you do content as a service in any way, these reports can exponentially increase the worth of your packages (while also building tons of brand trust).

So… what are content marketing metrics, specifically? They’re the most important pieces of data you’ll want to track before, during, and after your content gets published and starts to age, covered next.

Content Marketing ROI Stage #7: Focus on Content Marketing Metrics That Directly Impact ROI

Tons of content marketing KPIs (things like engagement, Instagram Reel views, etc.) live in a gray area that’s really difficult to track.

free training content transformation

Instead, you should focus on measuring the content marketing metrics that matter for revenue. This is how you’ll keep clients happy — by proving you’ve met and exceeded their initial goals.

So, what metrics are used to measure content marketing ROI? And why is content analytics important (a fancy word for this process)?

Impactful KPIs to measure content marketing include but aren’t limited to:

  1. SEO rankings: Where and how a specific blog appears in a Google search for a particular keyword, with the #1 position ideal since it receives the majority of click-through traffic.
  2. Page views: How many times specific pages have been viewed. One blog could have much higher page views than another.
  3. Traffic: How many visitors come to your website (reminder: it’s about the right traffic).
  4. Bounce rate: How quickly visitors leave the page/site. A high bounce rate kills content success, and can happen for various reasons (slow loading times, bad intro, low-quality, essay-style content that doesn’t actually help anyone).
  5. Click locations: Using heat map software like HotJar (that shows where people are clicking on your pages) is a MUST if you’re seeing lots of traffic but low conversions).
  6. Inquiries: Less tangible conversions that happen as leads move through a pipeline but before a sale… things like calls/demos/leads booked.
  7. Revenue: The well-loved, most obvious way to track and measure the ROI of content marketing success.

These are just some of the powerful benchmarks of content marketing success… ⚡

The last few metrics on this list tend to be the most important ones to your clients (especially if they aren’t well-versed in digital marketing) — so much so that 67% of companies use lead generation as the sole metric to determine content success.

content marketing tactics and metrics

Image Source: Semrush

So keep this in mind, and simply remind them and yourself that stepping back and looking at the big picture here will provide you success in the long-run.

And content is absolutely a long-term game.

Content Marketing ROI Stage #7: Put It All Together Within a Strategy

Here’s the thing about all this ROI, KPI, and metrics talk. 🤔

It might SEEM a little intimidating at first. But when you tap into the high-achiever mindset, you recognize it’s not hard — it’s just new to you.

But once you learn all these new, shiny skills — you need to make sure you employ a simple, repeatable system that includes immediate use of them.

REAL TALK: A lack of CLEAR-CUT STRATEGY is one of the problems in the online coaching industry today. So many 1:1 coaches DO teach valuable skills, but lack a system their students can instantly implement with those skills — carrying them from one step to the next, for complete clarity in their businesses. Since I’ve been a real-world content strategy practitioner for 10+ years, I knew I needed to create a program to teach these skills.

That’s exactly what The Content Transformation System (enrolling now) does.

Visual learner? Watch me tell this story live on stage at The Thing — a conference for entrepreneurs held in Orlando, Florida.

Get Clear on Your Content Marketing Strategy (Use a Coach Who’s Been There)

You can look up all these content marketing ROI details on your own, spend years trying to learn what works and what doesn’t, and still fall flat in your business online.

Instead, consider investing in yourself through business coaching — and access a proven system for successfully launching or finally scaling the sustainable business of your dreams. You’ll get the exact skills, strategies, and systems I used to scale and sell a $1M+ business in the fall of 2021.

In Phase 2, Skillset, I’ll teach you exactly how to track and measure your ROI for massive impact. But it’s not just about gaining these skills. My program is best for serious business owners ready to ditch the struggle and finally get clear with a proven path to digital success. 🛣️

In my five-phase Content Transformation System, we’ll give you a complete, in-depth, repeatable methodology to follow to scale your passion-fueled business to six and seven figures, while allowing you to step away more and leave a lasting legacy.

You need to get clarity to be more in your business, NOT to do more. The burnout stops here.

Ready to put in the hard work to rocket your business to the next level? (and the next, and the next)? 🚀

Your proven pathway for transformation is inside. I know you’ll get there with the right mentor, ready and willing to offer you this golden ticket — complete clarity on the HOW of your business and where you’re headed. Apply to the Content Transformation System today.

About Julia McCoy

Julia McCoy is an entrepreneur, 6x author, and a leading strategist around creating exceptional content and brand presence that lasts online. At 19 years old, in 2011, she used her last $75 to build a 7-figure agency, Express Writers, which she grew to $5M and sold ten years later. In the 2020s, she's devoted to running The Content Hacker, where she teaches creative entrepreneurs the strategy, skills, and systems they need to build a self-sustaining business, so they are finally freed up to create lasting legacy and generational impact.