As content has evolved, so has the way we measure the return on investment that we get from it.

Back in the early days of content marketing, it wasn’t uncommon for companies to have a set-it-and-forget-it attitude about the pieces that they published. After all, so long as their content was serving in some vague way to increase brand awareness and credibility that was enough — right?  

Today, we have loftier goals — and higher expectations — for our content, and a lot more ways to track performance, too. There are so many areas that contribute to how successful your content marketing is, and knowing what they are is crucial to ensure you’re getting the most out of your efforts.

To help you put everything into perspective, here are some of the most important indicators of just how much of a return you’re getting on your content.

Brand Awareness

Brand awareness remains a central concern of content marketing, and for good reason. Eighty-nine percent of B2B marketers cite brand awareness as a top content goal, and that’s remained consistent for years. Fortunately, if you’re producing quality content, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting it to boost awareness and steer more eyes in your direction. But measuring brand awareness isn’t as straightforward as one might think. 

In order to ensure you’re creating brand awareness from your content marketing efforts, make sure you’re asking your marketing team the right questions:

How to track brand awareness:

  • Ask your sales team if leads and prospects express their familiarity with your brand in initial sales conversations. 
  • Track increased site traffic from any content you’re placing on outside publications.
  • Track your social media following each month to determine if your numbers are increasing. Also, track likes, comments, reshares, etc. and see if those are on the rise as well.
  • When you log on to your social media accounts, check your notifications for reshared content and engagement.
  • Set up a Google alert that lets you know every time your company is mentioned online.
  • Pay attention to industry events and speaking engagements. Often when brand awareness is increasing, companies get asked to participate in these networking events ahead of time. 

Credibility

Effective content marketing can help you increase your brand’s authority within your industry, in turn opening up new doors for strong and reliable partnerships. This is a big win since long-term success relies heavily on how you’re esteemed within your industry and how well you’ve established yourself as an authentic leader. Content gives you a foundation to start with, and when it’s done right, can offer more opportunities to further increase your credibility.

When checking-in on your brand’s credibility, ask the following questions: 

  • Are you getting awards for your content?
  • Are you getting invited to speaking engagements?
  • Are you solidifying columns and growing your guest-contributor portfolio?
  • Are you getting more press?
  • Are you getting more backlinks from reputable sources?

How to track credibility:

  • An increase in company awards. Make sure you’re submitting your company and your work for prestigious awards within your industry.
  • Track the amount of speaking engagements your CEO and other members of your leadership team get asked to participate in. But make sure you’re on the lookout for these engagements and submitting your team for speaking spots.  
  • If industry publications ask you to write for them more regularly, that’s a good indication that your credibility is increasing. Make sure your marketing team is getting your articles published in noted publications your audience reads, and again, track website traffic from these sources to see if it’s increasing. 
  • Track your webinar performance and partnerships to see if registrants are on the rise and if more partners want to team up. 

Website Activity

Is a great website really so great if nobody is visiting it?

One of the primary ROIs you should be getting out of the content you create is an increase in site activity, which should be consistently measured through various on- and off-site metrics. While content might be only one piece of the puzzle driving your site’s success, if your activity is on the up-and-up, then it’s safe to say your content marketing strategy is probably doing its job.

Make sure to ask these questions when checking your website activity:

  • Do you see an increase in organic search traffic?
  • Are you getting more backlinks to your content?
  • Is your referral traffic on the rise?
  • Is there are decrease in your bounce rate?

How to track website activity:

  • Some marketing automation platforms can show you exactly where your traffic is coming from and how much of that traffic is from what source. 
  • Check-in on your Google Analytics to get a better idea of your site’s performance. Run monthly reports and compare them against the previous month, quarter, and/or year to determine how well you’re doing. 

SEO

SEO is a major ingredient in the recipe for successful content. From your alt tags to your keywords and everything in between, every detail of your content should be optimized to ensure that it ranks higher on the search page — especially when you consider that 67.6 percent of all clicks go to the first five organic results.

Ask yourself these questions to see how well your SEO is doing:

  • Is your content ranking high in the search results?
  • Is your content ranking higher than the content of your competitors?
  • Are you ranking for competitive keywords?
  • Are you reaching the right audience with your content?

How to track SEO:

  • Again, check-in on your organic site traffic through your marketing automation tool or your Google Analytics.
  • Perform routine searches using your keywords to see if your content is ranking or climbing up the search results page. 
  • Measure your website’s domain authority on sites like SEMRush
  • Track your keyword rank using special tools, like iSponiage.

Sales

At the end of the day, your content marketing ROI usually comes down to sales. Increasing your profits is largely an important part of calculating whether your efforts have paid off, and it makes the investments in time and money that you put into your content marketing strategy all worth it. 

You’re likely tracking your sales metrics closely already, but these questions will help you pinpoint how and where your content played a role in getting you to where you are.

  • What source are your leads coming from? Did they find you from content you created online? Did they do a search and your content popped up at the top of the results? 
  • How qualified are your leads? Is your content helping you connect with the right audience?
  • What are your content conversion rates?
  • How quickly are your leads converting to customers?
  • Is your sales team using your content as an enablement tool?

How to track sales:

  • Get very familiar with your inbound marketing funnel to determine how many leads are coming from off-site content, like guest-contributed articles, press mentions, awards, etc. 
  • Track the performance of your drip campaigns to see which emails and which content are converting the most. 
  • Look at your gated content to see which pieces are converting the most site visitors to leads, and then determine how many of those leads ended up becoming clients. 
  • Check-in with your sales team each month to see if any content they’ve used resulted in a sale. 

Understanding your content marketing ROI will help you understand your broader marketing outcomes. And on the flip side, you may be able to make up for a lack of ROI in one area by putting more focus — and more resources — into your content strategy.

A high content marketing ROI doesn’t happen by accident. Put in the effort first, and you should see it pay off later.