The "Science" of Content ROI

By Tim Bradley

Disclaimer: there is no exact science to producing ROI information on creative content. No one has figured this out. However, last week when some of my Matter colleagues and I attended the Boston Content “Business of Content Creation” workshop, discussion leader and Associate Director of Content Creation at Wayfair, Trisha Antonsen, provided really useful insight as to how she equates and achieves successful content ROI for her company. And in just 3 steps!

  1. Outline your goals and objectives into a document that can be shared (Trisha’s example for Wayfair)
    • Start with 3 goals and don’t have more than 5.
      • Wayfair’s goals: brand building, drive product discovery, drive conversion, drive repeat behavior, customer acquisition
    • Don’t create your goals in a vacuum
      • Talk to all stakeholders and get their buy-in on goals
      • Remind them later that this is what they agreed to
    • Reference your goal document often with yourself and others. No one can say “oh you don’t have a strategy” if have it written down.
    • Use the same exact words every time you refer to something (e.g. “brand sentiment” vs “brand perception”). Create a glossary of terms.
  2. Once you have your goals, map your KPIs
    • Against each goal you’ll have a set of KPIs (e.g. impressions, downloads, social sharing, conversion, time-on-site, bounce rate, open rate, view-throughs, etc.)
    • Create content that’s going to move the needle
    • Review your worst-performing content and try to fix it – don’t take it away!
  3. Calculate your investment in content
    • What is the cost of the content? Add up all the different elements involved and consider these different types of metrics:
      • Consumption Metrics: page views, video views, document reads, downloads (whitepapers, etc.)
      • Content Sharing Metrics: social engagement, inbound links
      • Lead Generation/Acquisition: contact forms, subscriptions or registrations, RSS subscribers, blog comments on social
    • ROI Calculation:

Some tips & tricks:

  • Get “numbers” from the people who you know have numbers, but don’t be afraid to use hypothetical numbers if you don’t have someone.
    • Types of “numbers”: pay-per-click budget, click rate, total site traffic, etc.
    • Trisha provided an example for the sake of our conversation to help understand the numbers in action. Say you know that the cost of acquiring a visit costs your company ~ $1 (hint ask your advertising team how much it costs them…). If your content receives organic click-through from search, you are therefore saving your company at least $1 from having to pay to acquire that visit (not to mention whatever profit results from the prospective sale). This is why SEO and organic traffic are so important to content strategy…
  • Testing to a small portion of traffic is a great way to roll out new content features and gather data. But don’t test something unless you have a plan for if it works and you’re ready to scale it.  As with all testing, you’ll need volume of visits and time to get a read on how it performs.
  • If you are challenged, ask “do you have a better way to calculate this?” The answer is probably “No.”

These are the just the main takeaways from the “ROI for Y-O-U” session of “The Business of Content Creation”; you can reference all the notes HERE. Ultimately, content is a long-lead marketing channel, but if you follow these steps it will pay off in the end. Plus, now you can say “nobody’s figured out Content ROI, but I think I have the answer because of these assumptions.”

How do you measure ROI for your content?

Editors’ Note: “The Business of Content Creation” was hosted by Boston Content and broken into sessions. Check out some other takeaways in these Matter blog posts:

4 Tips to Stay Creative when the Inspiration Just Isn’t There

Follow me on Twitter at @MatterStudioC and @MatterComm on Instagram.