Content marketing has grown into a powerful force in reaching and influencing a customer base that is mobile, empowered, and bombarded by brand messaging at every turn. But while it’s fun to share your knowledge with the world, content marketing needs to answer the question posed by every budget manager: What’s the return on investment?

Content marketing’s long-term, customer-focused approach has somewhat of a learning curve due to the technologies required to implement. Don’t be discouraged, though. Here are three methods of tracking ROI that build on each other, from simple to complex:

Engagement metrics

Track basic content metrics from the site that hosts your content: total visits, unique visits, time-on-site, bounce rate, and cost-per-visitor. Make sure to pull reports from social channels as well to measure clicks, shares, and mentions.

Don’t expect these numbers to have a 1:1 relationship with your bottom line, but they can show positive engagement and create customer service feedback that has value. Regular monitoring of these indicators will also help you be more efficient in creating and delivering content.

Lead generation

Simple forms for newsletters, requests for information, applications and more allow you to collect name and email information and affiliate it with a particular product or service you offer. Your sales team still needs to complete the transaction, but you’ve initiated a difficult part of the process, and that has value.

Calculate the value of individual leads by dividing the sales revenue generated during a particular time period by the number of leads generated over the same period. Multiply that number by the average percentage of profit you make on every sale. This approach generalizes all of your campaigns, but it does explain your content’s contribution to financial success.

Sales tracking

Systems that track site visitors through lead generation all the way to the end of a sale are the most sophisticated, but offer the greatest value. Marketing automation and integrated customer relationship management software are required to attain this level of insight.

Once in place, however, sales and marketing teams can dig in to campaigns, messaging, and even individual pieces of content to determine what works best in every channel. It takes time to fully incorporate these systems into your organization, but they provide the most direct look into content ROI.

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