How to Measure Your ROI for Your Business Blog
By Robyn Short
Unless you are a professional blogger, you have probably found that writing frequent, quality blog posts is much easier said than done. As a matter of fact, a 2008 Technorati survey suggests an abandonment rate of 95% for corporate blogs. Most small business owners and employees wear numerous hats, and the hats that just don’t fit that well are the ones that are worn the least. For example, as the owner of a creative agency, I am pretty darn creative. I have no problem staying current with my own blog and meeting deadlines for creative projects. I generally “work” on the weekends (it’s a Saturday afternoon as I write this) because it’s what I love to do. But as the owner of a small business, there are tasks that fall on my plate that I push around and avoid for as long as possible—bookkeeping is one of them. My ledger is not near as pretty as my blogs!
Because I understand the importance of blogging and know the value it plays in consumer engagement, brand management and search engine optimization, it is a service I discuss with my clients each time we discuss marketing initiatives. But one question that always comes up is, “How do I know if I am getting a return on my investment?” This can be a tough question to answer because the rewards of online content marketing, though numerous, can be difficult to quantify. Imagine purchasing a new iPhone and the specialist at the Apple store saying, “Thank you for coming into the Apple store. How did you hear about us?” Think about that … how did you first learn about Apple? I am certain, unless you are old enough to remember when Apple launched its first computer, that you cannot answer that question. Repeated exposure from numerous sources is what eventually plants a seed of awareness in the brain. The same is true for content marketing, or “blogging.” Someone may read your blog for years before ever contacting you, but that very same person may share links from your blog with her contacts (via social networks and email) and those people may contact you. However, if you ask how she first learned about your business chances are she will not know. She just simply knew.
Content marketing strategies are becoming increasingly relevant across all industries.
Before the Internet, businesses had to buy brand exposure in the form of radio, television and print ads, but times have changed. We have become a society of online consumers. From news to social engagement to shopping and education, people turn to the Web before seeking alternative methods for obtaining information. Netflix, Hulu and iTunes are all making conventional television and radio less relevant. Businesses are therefore moving from outbound marketing initiatives such as paid media towards branded online content that can be shared across numerous social platforms. Research conducted by the Custom Content Council demonstrates that 68% of CMOs are moving from traditional advertising to online content marketing. And, according to a recent B2B content marketing survey nine out of ten organizations utilize content marketings strategies.
Read more about the importance of blogging here.
Of course, since most blogs have an 95% abandonment rate, logic dictates that if you want to keep your business blog active, you will have to spend some money to hire a professional to create that content. It is important to note that an effective content management strategy requires consistent work, but it does pay off (just ask Apple). A blog every three months is not going to do the trick. I recommend to my clients six blogs per month with one outbound newsletter.
If you are considering hiring a content marketing company to manage your business’s blog, or you have already done so and are wondering if you are getting a return on your investment, below are three steps for effectively measuring your content marketing strategy.
1) Understand what you are actually measuring. As obvious as this may seem, the reality is far less obvious. Many people lump “content marketing” into the general term of “social media marketing” because social media is a word people think they understand and believe they have a need for. Therefore, a content marketing strategy is often measured by the by the number of “likes” on Facebook and “follows” on Twitter that a company has (PS: feel free to like and follow goodmedia!), although those are important too. Some form of conversion and an increase in brand awareness, a rather ambiguous yet important metric, are important goals of content marketing.
So what are conversions? A conversion may opt-ins to a mailing list, increase in a RSS subscriber, a user signup of some sort, an increase in in-bound phone calls, an increase in sales or any other increase in user interactions. I client recently told me that she has had an unusually high number of previous clients return for no “apparent reason”—this just happened to be six months into her content marketing strategy. She was able to draw the connection although the returning clients did not have an answer as to why they were returning. Her content strategy was planting little seeds and slowly but strategically nurturing them.
When launching a content marketing strategy, be sure to set a conversion goal. And know your baseline. I suggest inserting Google analytics into your site and setting the goal of increase web traffic. You can easily measure this through Google’s extensive reporting system.
2) Measure initial successes through the use of proxies. It is important to manage your expectations when starting a content marketing strategy. Your conversions will take a little time to build up momentum, but they will increase. Using proxies can help you chart your progress and even increase the conversion ramp up.
The following proxies may offer some immediate and tangible progress, but overtime you will reap great rewards with search engine ranking. Use proxies for encouragement and as gauges but not as definitive measures. The following is a list of proxies for measuring a blog’s ROI:
- Facebook likes
- LinkedIn and other shares
- Links back
- Time spent on page (see Google analytics)
- Average page views per visitor (see Google analytics))
3) Measure primary and secondary conversion indicators. While you can keep a spreadsheet to track conversions, Google analytics offers a simple and thorough reporting system that geeks like me enjoy as late-night reading. Tracking raw conversions—percentage of increase in actual leads—is important, it is equally important to track secondary indicators such as the following:
- Increase in overall web traffic;
- Increase in keyword related searches;
- Increase in referral sites;
- Increase in time spent on site;
- increased traffic on specific dates in which blogs published and pinged.
Be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was Apple!
When it comes to content marketing, the tortoise always wins the race. Blogging will bring steady traffic to your site, which will lead to steady a steady flow of conversions. ROI data may take some time to manifest, but it will generally increase as you continue to consistently publish.
Robyn Short is the founder of goodmedia communications, llc. She passionately assists small businesses build and strengthen their brand and gain recognition for their expertise in the marketplace. Contact Robyn by email or by phone at 214.240.4503. goodmedia communications, 25 Highland Park Village 100-810, Dallas TX 75205.