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How do you measure the value of content marketing?

Well, that’s completely dependent upon your business model. However, if you sell products or services that have high search volume, links are vital to your success.

By creating quality content and then telling people about it, websites will link to your content, thus improving organic rankings. The problem is measuring the worth of those links.

In our quest to helping businesses understand the value of content marketing, particularly from organic search, we took a few months to develop two things:

  1. A calculator for estimating content marketing ROI using your numbers
  2. A 36-page guide that walks you through this calculation

Each will help you measure the effectiveness of your content marketing with organic search.

1. The ROI Calculator

Content marketing is an investment – particularly for driving organic traffic. It takes time. But after you continuously build the best content in your industry, search revenue from content marketing is the gift that keeps on giving; aggregating thousands, if not millions, of additional dollars each month.

This is what the Content Marketing ROI Calculator helps you discover:

You’ll get a 15-year timeline of data, filled with expense and revenue estimates, total profit to date, an ROI ratio and graphs for each year.

In order to get this data, you’ll need to input nine numbers, which are marked in red on the first tab:

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 8.20.29 PM

You’ll input numbers based on the following quesitons:

  1. How many linking root domains (LRDs) are needed for the domain?
  2. How many LRDs do you average per piece of content?
  3. How many pieces of content do you create per month?
  4. How many LRDs do you get per month for all other reasons?
  5. What is your estimated link attrition rate?
  6. What are your content marketing expenses per month?
  7. What are your SEO expenses per month?
  8. If you’re creating a new web business, how much will the first, fully-completed version of your website cost? (Optional)
  9. What is your target traffic value, as based on SEMRush’s “Traffic Cost” metric?

This tool was developed for you to experiment with different scenarios and give you a rough idea of what it takes to compete in search.

It’s not 100% accurate because there are several areas you can attribute different costs, and also, profit from search is obviously not a linear path. But to get you thinking and to do our best to get close to the answer, we kept it as simple and useful as possible.

It’s meant to start getting you thinking about bottom line, which may inform a more complex analysis for your own business with the variables discussed in detail in the guide. If we’ve accomplished that, we’ve done our job.

2. The Guide

Without the knowledge how to use this calculator, it won’t be nearly as valuable as it could be.

This is what the guide, How to Estimate Content Marketing ROI From Organic Search, helps you understand. You’ll discover how to:

  • Determine the timeline required to reach your desired ROI
  • Estimate costs to develop a content marketing budget
  • Estimate revenue potential from organic traffic against competitors

Generating ROI from search traffic is an intensive process. No longer can spammy, link-building methods be utilized. Content marketing is the only effective, long-term solution to building ROI from search traffic.

Ready? Get started here.

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  • Yuriy Yarovoy

    This is a fantastic resource. Thanks for putting it together and sharing it with the community!

    I’m curious, beyond link attribution, wouldn’t it be beneficial to factor in conversions and/or conversion rate in order to calculate how content marketing impacts the way in which and the rate at which users convert on your website? Obviously conversions vary from site to site depending on the vertical and goal but I would argue that beyond link attribution, tying an ROI to content marketing as it applies to your overall site conversion rate or specific conversions would be just as, if not more beneficial.

    • Scott Tousley

      Hi Yuriy, thanks for the feedback!

      Agreed, conversion rate is critical for content, but it’s not directly related to SEO-driven content marketing. Assuming you’re referencing conversion rate for email-gated content (i.e. this eBook, tools, resources, etc) versus an eCommerce conversion rate (i.e. how many visitors to the domain purchase a product), it’s not directly related to the number of LRDs.

      Your website’s organic rankings certainly depend on more than just links, but it’s arguable that number of links are the most important metric for organic rankings.

      Thus, for these measurements, we’re valuing the ROI of content marketing, only through the organic search acquisition channel. This doesn’t include ROI of content marketing for email / social media / referral, rather just through organic search.

      However, if you click Make a Copy of the spreadsheet, then adjust the numbers to include conversion rate in a logical fashion that improves the resource, I’d be happy to update the sheet. 🙂

      • Yuriy Yarovoy

        Right, what I’m saying isn’t so much that rankings depend on more than just links – links are most definitely one of the largest factors, if not the largest.

        I’m saying that rankings acquired from increased LRDs drive X amount more traffic and so should increase the conversion rate by Y. If that conversion rate does not go up, it’s an indicator that the content marketing efforts, while effective at increasing the rankings, isn’t necessarily driving the right type of traffic and the right keywords to rank.

        I would rather rank 3rd and have 1000 conversions than rank first and have 100.

        In this way, optimizing purely to rank without attributing value to conversions resultant from those rankings only portrays half of the picture. Obviously we’re now getting into other factors like CRO, UX/UI, etc. but it’s not to say these aren’t connected to the conversation.

        Again, this is a really awesome doc. I’ll definitely incorporate it into our measurement planning. When I add conversion rate, I”l be sure to share it with you.

        • rosshudgens

          Hey Yuriy, those are good points. I believe they are strongly accounted for by using the “traffic value” metric from SEMRush, which I believe is the other half you mention “value to conversions”.

          Traffic value uses CPC times traffic based on ranking. If people are bidding, that means the traffic has monetary worth to companies. They need to convert for us in order for that to matter, but if we look at the value at the start of the analysis (and are doing a good job of picking the right keywords) we know that we can potentially generate X dollars by ranking. If we end up ranking but figuring out the traffic doesn’t do much for us, there’s also the possibility secondary monetization could occur (such as Adsense or affiliate products).

          Obviously we need to make sure we are also optimizing the site to convert that traffic, but at the start of the analysis, it’s hard to know the future value/look at conversion rate. By using the traffic value as a predictive metric, it helps inform the future without saying it’s 100% accurate, which we also mention here.

          I think the spreadsheet could definitely be built on and is a “minimum viable product”. Could definitely include conversion rate in some way. But I think we definitely look at the “other half” by considering the traffic value using SEMRush’s metric.

          • Yuriy Yarovoy

            Hey Ross,

            Thanks for the explanation. It definitely makes sense in terms of traffic-driven value based on CPCs. I wasn’t approaching it from that angle so I can now see where you’re coming from. In any case, this is definitely a great framework to build on or use as-is to make the case for Content Marketing to the clients curious about their investment.

  • Wow, awesome guide. These steps really motivate me and now I start implement also.

  • Awesome guide! You guys rock for making this available.

    What is your view on the production of e.g. a research report or a guide that I would like to see rank high. Would it be worthwhile ROI-wise investing in having it online as a micro-site, or is the print-PDF sufficient?

    • rosshudgens

      Bart, I would recommend hosting it on-site. I’ve seen examples of PDFs ranking but not a lot. Also, the web tends to be a more elegant experience in order to get users to do whatever you want them to do, more than a PDF which most of the time, seems like a one-hit solution comparatively.

  • Amul Patel

    This guide is really good.

    We all know that organic is the best traffic source in terms of ROI but there’s nothing like a tool to open your eyes to how good it can be!

    Fantastic blog.. keep up the good work!

  • Stanislav Dimitrov

    Great guide! Thank you