By Hana Abaza published October 12, 2014

A Quick and Easy Content Marketing ROI Tip Sheet

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One of the biggest challenges facing content marketers today is how to measure the effectiveness of their content marketing. According to the B2B content marketing report, this is going to be a major area of focus in 2015, and with good reason! Content marketers have to be more accountable and demonstrate that they are contributing to the bottom line, not just adding a cost center to the business.

So where do we start? The reality is that we’re not lacking for metrics. Page views, shares, click-through rates, engagement — you name it, you can track it. We have more data about our content than ever before. But how many of us have real insight?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the information at our fingertips and get distracted by vanity metrics. Be honest, are page views really the most important thing for you to look at?)

So what should we be paying attention to? Which metrics matter more than others? And how do you measure the true business impact of your content?

Ultimately, it’s about the bottom line. All of the traffic in the world doesn’t mean much if you aren’t getting any new customers out of it.

Here’s a roundup of the core metrics that content marketers should keep an eye on if they want to know whether their content marketing is truly paying off.

Engagement metrics

Measuring your content performance starts with your content. You’ll need to track your content’s performance at a granular level to know whether it’s getting the exposure it needs, as well as to discover which pieces are performing best, so you can better tailor future content to your audience.

Here are some metrics to track for this purpose:

  • Social shares: Be it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, or all of the above, if people are sharing your content, that’s a good indication they’re into it.
  • Bounce rate/visit time: Have you ever been pulled in by a headline only to discover the actual blog piece isn’t what you’re looking for? Your bounce rate decreasing over time tells you that you’re giving people what they want. In conjunction with this, an increase in time on site means your content is engaging enough to keep your audience around.
  • Pages per visit: This speaks to your content’s relevance and exposure. If visitors are moving from one piece of content to the next (instead of reading, then leaving your site), it shows you’re producing more than just one-off pieces that hit the mark — and that you’ve created a content experience that allows for discoverability.

Growth metrics

Marketing and sales have always gone hand in hand. But this has become an even more important consideration now that content allows potential customers to explore your business and evaluate your company’s expertise before they even consider speaking with a sales representative (if they ever do).

While not all content is directly focused on lead generation, even a top-of-the-funnel piece could be just the catalyst a prospect needs to convert. Ideally, you’re using content marketing software that helps track the effectiveness of each piece of content, but if not, here’s where you want to start:

  • Click-through rates for your calls to action (CTAs): If a CTA’s click-through rate is low, consider changing up the language, placement, or even colors of your content to see if that brings different results. Or, if you have the same CTA in different places and one is performing better than the other, you may want to further promote that piece of content to drive more traffic there.
  • Lead-to-customer percentage: How many of the leads your content is bringing in are turning into actual customers? A low number indicates the need for a tighter sales funnel, a deeper look at the quality of leads your content is attracting, or perhaps more targeted content that will help the sales team close more and faster.
  • Cost per lead/cost per acquisition: This is the amount your company has to spend to bring in a lead and turn it into a customer. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that this cost should be far below the amount of money that customer is bringing in!
  • Average sales cycle duration: A sales cycle is the length of time it takes for a lead to become a full-on customer. While the initial length of a sales cycle is relative to your product and process, the shorter your average sales cycle becomes, the better your content marketing ROI.
  • Average revenue per user: If the average amount each individual customer is bringing in begins to dip, it may mean your sales and content teams need to focus on up-selling or targeting leads at a higher price point.
  • Customer retention/churn rate: Content marketing doesn’t end with landing a customer. A steady or increasing customer retention rate means you’re on track, while an increasing churn rate (the amount of customers you lose) should sound the alarm for more customer TLC.

Calculating content marketing ROI

When it boils down to actually calculating your content marketing ROI, it’s really just about the dollars and cents. Calculate your content marketing ROI thusly:

Take the dollars invested — including cost of writers, content marketing software, paid distribution channels, etc. Then, based on your campaign, determine the increase in sales that resulted from your content marketing efforts, and voila: The difference is your return, be it negative or positive. Simply put:


The math is simple, but the implications for your strategy will be huge.

What to report on

The above metrics are all well and good to know, but when it comes to reporting to your CMO or executive team, there’s no need to recite every cell of your spreadsheet. Here are three big questions to answer that will wrap all of this information up into a nice, little, digestible package.

  1. Are leads turning into customers? As stated above, it’s all about the bottom line. Knowing the number of social shares or bounce rate is valuable to you for strategy and execution, but on their own these metrics don’t say much when you are tasked with reporting content marketing ROI to others in your organization.

Your content is meant to engage, educate, and entertain — but, above all, it’s meant to bring in customers. Knowing how many leads are brought in with your content and how many of those leads show you the money is what matters most to the C-suite.

  1. Are we saving money? You’ve got to spend money to make money, but if you’re spending as much or more to bring in customers than they’re giving back, that’s bad for business. A decrease in cost-per-lead or cost-per-acquisition means you’re on the right track (and may even free up some more money for your marketing budget — hooray!).
  1. Are we keeping customers? A lot of companies tend to forget about the customers they have in favor of the customers they’re trying to get, and an increase in churn rate will signify this. If you’re losing customers at an unreasonable rate, then your team will know to place more focus on retention efforts, be it with content that better answers product questions or a more hands-on customer success approach.

Check out the infographic below for more on measuring your content marketing ROI. And if you think a crucial metric is missing here, let us know in the comments!


For a deeper look at these metrics (and more), check out CMI’s eGuide on measurement.

Cover image by Jarmoluk via

Author: Hana Abaza

Hana Abaza is the VP Marketing at Uberflip where she combines a metrics driven approach with a commitment to creating an exceptional brand experience. She has a knack for communicating inspired tech solutions to mainstream audiences and, with over a decade of experience in digital marketing, she gets results. In addition to her role at Uberflip, Hana is also a speaker and contributor to Forbes, The Huffington Post,, and other publications. Find her on Google+ or follow her on Twitter @HanaAbaza.

Other posts by Hana Abaza

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  • Chester Teck

    Thanks for this – fantastic sum-up for the metrics greenhorns among us. What about awareness, though? Conversions, retentions, and savings are all great, but being able to point out how many networks you’re penetrating through shares and engagements helps too.

    • hanaabaza

      Great point, Chester. Awareness is still important. However, in my experience, most content marketers focus too much on this and not enough on the insights that are directly related to revenue (hence the focus of my article)

      That said, there’s a great case study from Buzzfeed about Virgin mobile and how they saw a huge lift in awareness as a result of content marketing. Check it out, I think you’ll find it interesting!

  • Amy Butcher

    I really love this post; it provides such an easy tool for measurement. I am definitely in the camp of making it simple, because it’s true that calculating these things just boils down to simple math. Thanks!
    Do you have any resources when it comes to benchmarking some of these metrics? Of course a company can benchmark against previous performance, but I’m wondering where to find industry stats about let’s say click-through rates per niche, for example. I have this info for the non-profit sector, but not sure where else to look for other types of organizations.

    • hanaabaza

      Thanks Amy, glad this was useful :)

      As for benchmarking, this can be tough. There are many factors to consider including company type (B2B vs. B2C), industry, type of content, business model (i.e. what is considered a lead, conversion etc) and most importantly type of call-to-action.

      For example, at Uberflip, we see a conversion rate between 20% to 50% for premium content (i.e. ebooks / whitepapers etc) but this is very different from signing up for an Uberflip free trial, which can be anywhere from less than 1% to 10% depending on the channel.

      In the meantime, we’re working on putting something together at Ubeflip that we hope will help. Stay tuned!

      • Amy Butcher

        Great! That information itself is extremely useful, especially if I ever have to inform people about metrics and about what to reasonably expect from content efforts, i.e., it’s all about context, channel, CTA and other factors. Just knowing that is a step in the right direction. I’ll definitely stay tuned!

  • DougBratman

    Great, insightful article, Hana. The ability to measure content or even social media success is the difference between bringing abstract or concrete information to clients in the C-Suite. One simple question, in what way are these metrics measured? I understand the metrics you’re looking for, cost per acquisition, average revenue per user, etc, I just want to know how they are specifically tracked.

    • hanaabaza

      Thanks Doug!

      What you use to measuring depends a bit on how your org is structured and where you’re tracking things like marketing spend, new customers etc. For example at Uberflip, we track new signups within the Uberflip application but also have that data in Salesforce, Kissmetrics and HubSpot, so its easy to pull up a report of new customers and they’re average revenue.

      From a content perspective, you also want something that gives you full visibility into the effectiveness of your content. We use Uberflip’s content score ( in conjunction with our marketing automation platform to get full visibility.

  • Jimmy Wong

    Thanks for the very helpful post, Hana. I’m all for simple straightforward ROI calculations to demonstrate value as well. Do you have any suggestions about establishing marketing attribution though, particularly for the lead-to-customer conversion metrics? From your experience, what methodology have you seen work well, or at least sufficiently for buy-in from stakeholders?

    • hanaabaza

      Attribution is tough. We typically use first touch attribution in our standard reporting, but also look at things like % of people who consumed content prior to making a purchase and % of people who clicked on a paid ad prior to purchase to give us better visibility into the things that are pushing people through the buyer journey. Its also worth looking at last touch attribution, although we don’t typically report on this.

      As for getting stakeholder buy in, its all about demonstrating value. If you’ve got hard data, great, but you can also speak to the value in other ways. Here’s a great post that was published by CMI sometime last year:

      Hope this helps!

  • Logan Flatt

    Unfortunately, the accounting and math are not right for the ROI calculation. the example shown shows a loss, not a positive ROI for this initiative. ROI is not based on revenue, it’s based on profit. You have to subtract the costs of the products/services (Cost of Goods Sold, or COGS) from the revenue first and then point the remaining gross profit at the marketing investment (expense) to see if the ROI is positive. Here the gross profit after COGS is subtracted is $20,000. The investment is $37,050. That’s a negative ROI of -46%, not a positive ROI of 53%!

    Logan Flatt, CFA

  • Richard Swinburne

    First of all, I enjoyed reading the insight; it’s well broken-down. So please don’t take this the wrong way but.. you’re generalising too much. If you’re just being paid to work on one product (like a freelancer), fine, the theory works, but it greatly WORRIES me that ‘business’ will be demanding a net result’ with easy to digest metrics, without understanding the nuances.

    Firstly, it depends what you’re writing. Not everyone is writing to directly generate revenue. If you’re creating brand awareness and insights not covered by media, you’re never going to get attribution to any one item and content marketing is never isolated from other marketing and sales efforts.

    Secondly you’re attributing everything to ‘immediate effect’ of sales boost, no consideration is given to the long-tail benefit of SEO. If you get x00k hits over a year the product is on shelf, that’s still good, but when you did your report 9 months ago you wouldn’t have come to the same conclusion if the hits were only in the x00s.

    Thirdly not all social media is the same. Generally you should see more click-throughs from LinkedIn and Twitter than Facebook will ever generate, but everything depends on the audience that you’ve gathered. So I’ve found driving traffic from FB is difficult, and v.costly these days. SEO is still ‘free’, but .. see point 2.
    When you mention time-on-site and bounce-rate – this is all down to web design. Not content. You can write GREAT content for a crap site and it’ll be worthless if no one finds it. It’s a symbiotic relationship. ‘Content is king’ but investment needs to be made in design as much as content in the long-term.

    • hanaabaza

      Thanks Richard, great points. And, yes this is a general overview. In my experience working with a ton of marketers in the B2B space, this seems to be the area that most struggle with. They simply don’t know where to start when it comes to tracking ROI (as evident by the recent CMI and Marketing Profs report).

      Also agree that there will likely never be an immediate boost (perhaps I should have made that clear) – metrics are to be tracked over time. In most cases, especially if you’re just starting your content efforts it can take months before you can start to see results that you can directly attribute to your content efforts.

      That said, there are a lot of ways that marketers can optimize the content experience (it’s all about the design, as you said!) and start to see at least a few micro-conversions – i.e. depending on your business that might mean a subscriber, a conversion for an eBook etc.

      Thanks for the insights!

  • K. Weathers

    Great post! I enjoyed reading how you took a data-driven approach to quantifying content marketing ROI. I especially liked the investment vs ROI section. This demonstrates the tangible benefits of content marketing to the business–something every content marketer should be doing.