How to measure the ROI of Content Marketing

What makes content great? Is it the uniqueness, informativeness, visual appeal, social shares, tons of backlinks or all of the above?

If you think that the greatness of contents can’t be measured and the definition of a great content is subjective then I strongly suggest you to reconsider your views esp. if the contents you are developing is for commercial purpose.

Because if a content is not adding any value to your business bottomline then it is not a great content. It can’t be. You may have a hard time justifying the cost of its production sooner or later esp. if you are spending crazy amount of money in content development and marketing each month with no apparent return on investment in monetary terms.

Commercial definition of Great Content

A great content is a content (blog post, infographic, video etc) which is most frequently viewed prior to conversion(s) and/or transaction(s) on your website.

Here is the formula to calculate greatness:

Great Content = (Total Revenue which the content helped in generating + Total Value of the conversions which the content completed) / Number of unique pageviews of the content prior to conversions and/or transactions.

I have not made up this formula. That is how Google Analytics calculates the economic value added by a piece of content to your business bottomline in monetary terms.

In Google analytics the metric which is used to calculate the greatness of a piece of content is known as page value (formerly known as $index value). Let us understand page value through a case study.

Case Study: What is my infographic worth?

Let us suppose that production cost of your infographic was $400

Let us suppose the marketing cost of infographic was $100 (time it took to promote the infographic * marketer’s salary/hr)

So total cost of the content production and marketing = $500

Now once you have published this infographic on your website, you need to measure what your site visitors did after viewing this infographic.

I am not talking about measuring social sharing (number of tweets,Facebook likes etc) here or the number of back links the infographic acquired. I am talking about determining the number of people who completed a conversion or made a purchase after viewing the infographic.

Let us suppose that your site visitors made a purchase of worth $121 and completed conversions of worth $50 after viewing the infographic. Let us also suppose that your infographic got 171 unique page views in total, prior to conversions and/or transactions. So,

Greatness of your infographic

= (Total Revenue + Total Goal Value)/Number of unique pageviews of the infographic prior to conversions and/or transactions.

                                                         = ($121+ $50)/171= $1

Google Analytics measure this greatness in terms of ‘page value’.

Now head to the ‘All pages’ report (under Behavior > Site Content) in Google Analytics and sort the report by ‘page value’:

sort by page value

From this report we can see that the maximum value added by a piece of content to the business bottomline is $71.

Our infographic added a value of just $1. Since page value is a ranking metric which is useful only when you compare it with the page values of other landing pages, our Infographic has added very little value to the business bottomline when you compare it with other piece of contents on the website.

You need to do such type of comparisons when you are measuring greatness /profitability of a piece of content.

The page value of $1 doesn’t mean anything on its own. It is a ranking metric which means it is a metric which is useful only when you compare it with others.

If you are still in doubt about the performance of the infographic, I am sure you are, then check the performance of the landing page on which you published your infographic via the ‘Landing Pages’ report:

infographic performance


From the report above we can conclude that infographic resulted in a sales of $121

If you are a super Geek, you will off course head to the ‘Assisted Conversions’ report (under Conversions > Multi channel Funnels in Google Analytics), to make sure whether the infographic played any role in assisting conversions if not directly completing conversions.

To do this select ‘landing page URL’ as primary dimension and then note down the assisted conversion volume and assisted conversion value of your infographic:

infographic performance2

Here the assisted conversion value of our infographic is $41

So total economic value added by our infographic to the business bottomline

= Total Revenue which the infographic helped in generating (Last Click Conversion Value) +

Total value of the conversions which infographic assisted (Assisted Conversion Value).

= $121 + $41 = $162

Since the total economic value of $162 is less than the production and marketing cost of your infographic ($500), we can conclude that we have a negative return on our investment:

ROI = (Total economic value added by the infographic – Production and marketing cost)/production and marketing cost

ROI = ($162 – $500)/$500 = -67.6%

At this point you can show the links and social shares your infographic helped in generating which improved brand awareness and the SEO and which may help in generating some indirect sales in the future.

You however don’t really have any solid data to back up the claim that infographic was worth the ROI.


I have a huge content marketing budget. How do I justify my spend?

Say your content marketing budget is $25000/month.

In that case reporting just social sharing and links is not going to help if the economic value added by the contents to the business bottomline is very low or worse $0.

Reporting social shares and links can be equivalent to adding icing to a cake provided you have the cake.

Here ‘cake’ is your report which shows the economic value added to the business bottomline and ‘icing’ is the secondary benefits like ‘links’, social shares, brand visibility etc.

I called them secondary benefits because you can’t easily prove the impact of  ‘links’ , social shares, brand visibility etc generated by your infographic on the business bottomline in monetary terms.

If you present a cake without icing it may work. But if you present icing without cake then it not going to work.

If the contents you are producing are not adding any monetary value to the business bottomline then you may have a hard time justifying the cost of its production and marketing sooner or later.

One quick way to determine all those pages on your site which are not adding any value to your business bottomline is by looking at their ‘page value’.  A page value of $0 means they have not added any value to your business bottomline.

We often take content consumption and engagement (average time on page, pageviews, number of tweets, number of facebook likes etc) as a measure of success in content marketing.

But this content consumption and engagement may be for all the wrong reasons.

So before you declare content consumption or engagement as success, look at the ‘page value’ metrics.  If it is a big $0 for every piece of content published on your website then your contents are not adding any monetary value to the business bottomline at least not in the manner which you can easily prove and you should then seriously reconsider your content strategies.

Some facts about Page Value Metric

1. Make sure that you have set up goals, goal values and enabled ecommerce reporting before you look at the page value metrics. Otherwise you will see a page value of $0 for every piece of contents.

2. Pages that were least frequently viewed prior to conversions or transactions get the lowest page value.

3.  Pages that were not viewed prior to conversions or transactions get the zero page value.

4. Pages that were most frequently viewed prior to high value conversions or transactions get the highest page value.

5.  Page value is not useful as a standalone metric. It is useful only as a point of comparison.

6. Don’t measure the success of a piece of content only on the basis of page value. Also look at the total economic value added by the content to the business bottomline.

Note: You can get more details about how Google calculates page value metrics from here.


Social Media Hit does not always mean Success

Your content marketing efforts can’t be considered a success just because it got lot of tweets, pageviews, backlinks, facebook likes etc.

Off course social shares give a warm, fuzzy feeling but businesses don’t run on warm, fuzzy feelings.

So unless you write for personal delight, you need to compute the economic value added to the business by your contents.

Social media hit is not a guarantee of success.

Your content must add value to the business bottomline in monetary terms and you must be able to compute and show the monetary value added.

I have found following piece of contents which can be a social media hit but they don’t really add any considerable economic value to the business bottomline:

1. Curated Contents

2. Interviews

3. Ego Bait

4. Contents which moan about the industry, criticize other bloggers, businesses

5. Infographics

6. Contents which have nothing to do with your target audience, niche or the products you sell

So if your content marketing strategy is heavily focused on producing such type of contents then I would strongly suggest to reconsider your strategy.

Of all the contents I have analyzed so far, I have found infographics to be the least profitable. The chances of their success is generally bleak, cost per acquisition is generally high and above all they can be very costly to produce.

Biggest mistake marketers make is by producing contents which have nothing to do with their target audience or niche.

If you won’t align your content marketing goals with your business goals then you can’t expect to improve your business bottomline. It is as simple as that.


Purge your Analytics Data before your measure Content Marketing

I have seen many analytics accounts where marketers set up and measure irrelevant goals and add random value to the goals they are measuring. Such practice can greatly skew the conversion rate, page value, per session goal value, per session value and various other metrics across several analytics reports esp. multi channel funnel reports.


always question how the data is collected in the first place.

It is wise that before you measure your content marketing efforts make sure you are measuring only those goals which are beneficial to your business.

Make sure that true value is assigned to each goal. If you don’t purge your analytics data then you will make wrong business decisions which can result in loss of revenue.

Now read the next article in this series: Measuring Content Marketing Success in Google Analytics and let me know what you think.

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Himanshu Sharma

Certified web analyst and founder of

My name is Himanshu Sharma and I help businesses find and fix their Google Analytics and conversion issues. If you have any questions or comments please contact me.

  • Over twelve years' experience in SEO, PPC and web analytics
  • Google Analytics certified
  • Google AdWords certified
  • Nominated for Digital Analytics Association Award for Excellence
  • Bachelors degree in Internet Science
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