The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing

23 Mins read

Going into 2020, content marketing has gone beyond buzzword, proving it has serious staying power.

A solid content strategy remains one of the most effective tactics you can use to drive traffic to your site and nurture visitors into customers.

In this guide, I’ll go over what content marketing means today, as well as the strategies, tools, and best practices to ensure that your content investment delivers the right results.

What We’ll Cover:

Content helps you build a dedicated community around your business, improves your SEO rankings, and helps you position yourself as a unique voice and authority in your niche market.

I wanted to put this guide together to help de-mystify all the concepts behind content marketing, as well as show you all the key strategies, tools, and ways you can measure your content’s results.

My hope is that after reading this guide, you will be a content marketing machine (or at least have learned a lot about it), able to produce content that leads directly to an increase to your company’s bottom line.

What is Content Marketing?

Though the term “content marketing” may sound like jargon, it’s one of the most impactful ways to grow your brand, regardless of industry, audience, and business model.

While the buzz surrounding content marketing peaked around 2015 or 2016, the concept wasn’t exactly new in the 2010s. In fact, Jell-O was into content marketing back in 1904, using free recipe books to attract new customers, an effort that generated $1 million in sales by 1906.

Today, content marketing is widely embraced. According to a 2018 report from the Content Marketing Institute, 91% of B2B survey participants have a content strategy in place.

In his book “Epic Content Marketing,” Joe Pulizzi defines “content marketing” as:

“The strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Essentially, your business or brand produces its own content that your target audience will find relevant and valuable. Over time, that audience content grows while your authority as a valuable content producer grows as well, making you an influencer and subject matter expert.

The idea is to attract leads by providing them with valuable content, and positioning your brand as the authority, making your company the logical choice when it comes time for the customer to make the decision to buy.

How Content Marketing Affects SEO

Google has long said that the best way to rank highly on the SERPs is to create great content.

And, given the latest updates to Search—from the high standards laid out in Google’s EAT guideline for quality raters, featured snippets, and the tight competition for organic traffic—SEO success hinges on a top-notch content marketing strategy.

SEO and content marketing both center around driving more traffic to your website. Because a large share of your website traffic probably comes from search engines, SEO done right helps you get in front of as many people as you can.

Here are a few types of content that play into a site’s rankings in the SERPs.

Rich Results

Optimizing your content for the chance to appear in Google’s rich results is now an essential piece of the SEO-content marketing game.

Also known as position zero, snippets are the holy grail of SEO placements, thanks to visual elements that catch users’ eyes, as well as the amount of real estate they get on the front page.

Additionally, adding schema to your web content can help you rank for certain features like featured news, the knowledge panel, podcasts, and more.

I go into detail in another recent post on using schema to claim a spot in the SERP features.


These days, Google Assistant, Alexa, and Siri are staples of our daily lives.

The rise of the virtual assistant has changed up the search landscape, and as a result, content marketing has become more conversational to rank for voice-based queries.

Getting Started: Perform a Content Audit

Now that we’ve covered the basics of content marketing, let’s take a look at how to put together a successful content strategy.

Before any new content comes into play, start by evaluating what you already have.

A content audit is an important part of starting your content marketing journey, as it helps you see what types of content you already own that might help you hone your strategy going forward.

You can also see what types of content are not present in your sales cycle. In addition, you are also going to want to find the channels the company is doing content marketing on. If you don’t have good distribution, your content marketing is useless.

For instance, maybe you have no visual content but work for a company that sells a product that has a big visual component to it, like an art gallery. Doing a content audit will help you see gaps like this where you will be able to determine how your new content marketing strategy will help your business.

For any business I work with, I like to sit down with them and have them show me all the content assets they currently have—all the blog posts, white papers, articles, etc. That way, I can get a sense of all the content they already have and see how I can assist them with their strategy.

A content audit will help define your strategy going forward, so it’s important to take a look at all the content you already have, and take note of what has worked and what hasn’t.

Generally, a Content Marketing Audit Looks Like This

  • Create personas for each customer segment. Use data from sources like Facebook, Twitter, Google Analytics, Google Ads, and more to inform your personas.
    • Example: Mary Rose
      • CFO who is 47 years old. Has 2 kids and very busy work schedule. Enjoys Yoga two times a week and free weekends. Is seeking <insert your service> because <insert reason here>.
  • Determine the main pain points and motivation for those customers.
  • Learn which platforms these groups use.
  • Determine the most popular content on those websites for your vertical (this could be a social site, a news site, etc.)
  • Create a content strategy that aligns with the main types of content that hit pain points
  • Identify gaps in content—look at your content and make sure content is up-to-date, easy to read, interesting, and that it provides a thorough answer to the questions your users are likely to ask.
  • Create distribution channels that mimic the channels that allow top content to reach maximum exposure. For example:
    • Instagram
      • Number of followers needed
      • Key influencers in space
      • Advertising budget needed
      • Posts per week
      • Content strategy
      • Etc.
    • Facebook
      • Number of followers needed
      • Key influencers in space
      • Advertising budget needed
      • Posts per week
      • Content strategy
      • Etc.

My Top Content Marketing Strategy: The Hub and Spoke Model

The strategy that I’m most fond of when I talk to companies and encourage them to embrace content marketing is the “Hub and Spoke” model.

The idea behind the hub and spoke model is that you have a central hub where your main content lives. Off the main content creation area there are spokes that feed off the main content on the hub.

Depending on the size of your business, you may even have layers of the hub and spoke model throughout your strategy.

For many, the general hub will be a blog, where the main piece of content lives. The spokes, then, would represent repurposing or promoting the main content on social channels, emails, SlideShares, even paid ads.

By creating effective communities and growing networks off the hub, you increase the exposure of your content and increase the probability of links and traffic/shares back to your hub. Links serve to send traffic and increase your search visibility.

But we can take this hub and spoke strategy one step further.

Inside of that blog or main hub, you may also have smaller content hubs.

Your content hubs are, generally speaking, the different segments your business specializes in. For example, at Ignite we would have a hub for SEO, paid media, social media marketing, etc. Each content hub would have a variety of articles and topics—or spokes—that fall under it.

By thoroughly covering and creating relevant content to support each hub, you’ll help to further cement your brand as an authority in its given niche. It will also help determine the topics you need to focus on and provide insight into any gaps you may have (ie if one content hub has a lot more content than another, you’ll know to focus on fleshing the lagging hub out).

Creating a Content Marketing Strategy

Content marketing doesn’t just mean creating content and throwing it up on your website. It’s also not posting one-off promotions on Facebook.

Content marketing is a strategic approach for attracting the right people and engaging them with the ultimate goal of turning your audience into loyal customers—or ideally, advocates.

This graphic from SEMRush breaks content marketing into four core components. There’s positioning, which is all about defining your brand and the experience it provides. There’s your value proposition, which is what your brand, products, and content bring to the table.

Business case refers to what you hope to accomplish with your content marketing plan, while the strategic plan is the means of achieving the desired outcomes.

To form a full-fledged strategy, your plan needs address all four components. That means starting with a clear brand identity, value proposition, and business goals. Then, you need to determine the content that will best support those goals.

What is Your Brand All About?

Before you can even start thinking about your content strategy, you need to define your brand’s look, values, tone, and unique value proposition.

This will inform everything you do and help you create a strategy across multiple channels. Today, content marketers must create content in multiple formats and in multiple places–as such, you need to stay focused on delivering a consistent experience to help you build trust and recognition with your audience.

It’s also worth mentioning that there are likely several companies that sell the same type of products or solve similar problems.

As such, it’s your job to define how you’re different, better, or more dedicated to helping your customers. Content is where you’ll make the case for your brand.

What are Your Goals?

You’ve defined your purpose. Now you need to clearly define your goals.

What are you hoping to accomplish? Examples might include any or all of the following:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Generating traffic to your site
  • Increasing leads
  • Increasing micro or macro conversions
  • Improving search ranking
  • Growing your email subscriber list
  • Getting more shares on your pillar content

Whatever your goals, you’ll want to make sure that you can tie them to hard numbers.

Who are You Talking to?

Creating content for the sake of creating content is not going to do you any favors with your target audience.

Make sure you spend some time digging into real data to understand your customers. This will allow you to combine your content marketing strategy with your target customer’s buying journey, and offer the right content at just the right time.

Without understanding who you’re talking to and why you’re talking to them, you risk creating content for a group other than your customers and people like them.

Here are a few places you can start collecting info:

  • Demographics: Look toward Google Analytics to learn more about your audience demographics. Navigate to Audience » Interests » Overview to get a breakdown of things like age, gender, location, income, and so on. Twitter and Facebook also offer detailed information on your customer segments.
  • Behavior: On social media, dig into which posts performed best, drove the most engagements, conversions, etc. On your website, look at which pages get the most traffic, have the highest bounce rates, drive the most conversions, and so on to gauge which content works best.
  • Feedback: Collect feedback from social media polls, email or on-site surveys to get answers to specific questions. Combine those efforts with social listening (I provide a list of tools here)—what are customers talking about? What do they think of your brand? What industry challenges do they face? Additionally, look toward questions, complaints, and service requests to help you identify where you’re falling short. Is there a need you aren’t meeting?

How Does Your Product or Service Solve Your Audiences Problems?

Your brand should fill some sort of gap in the market and address a problem you already know your audience has.

These days, buyers have more information than ever before, to the point that it’s almost overwhelming.

Your content marketing strategy serves as a way to make sense of all of these options and guide your audience through the process of identifying and addressing the problem.

As you think about your role as a problem solver, consider building your content around question keywords. The website, Answer the Public is a great way to find “question keywords,” as is Google’s “people also search for” section.

In addition to making yourself useful to your audience, answering questions can help you optimize for Voice Search.

You’ll want to also keep in mind that the problem-solver role doesn’t end with the conversion.

If you’re operating in a space like SaaS, creating content that helps users master your product is a great way to retain customers by continuing to offer something valuable.

Look at Your Competitors and Do One Better

How do your competitors approach content? Ask yourself the following questions to determine how well they’ve solved problems for their readers.

  • What topics do they cover?
  • How thorough are the answers?
  • Is anything missing?

The other thing to think about is, you’re probably going to be speaking to multiple users; this means different segments, as well as stages in the sales funnel.

Make sure you create content that addresses all of these groups and funnel stages, from those who don’t realize they have a problem to those who have already embraced your brand as their choice solution.

Where Does Your Audience Hang Out Online?

Depending on the type of business or industry you work in, certain channels or formats might not work for you.

For instance, if you’re selling sustainable cosmetics to Gen Z and millennial consumers, sinking resources into a LinkedIn marketing strategy might not be a great way to spend your budget.

Generally, you can get a good idea of whether or not your demographic is on a website by running ads and reviewing the demographic targeting they offer.

But even if your customers are on a particular platform, you also need to get a feel for the website to make sure you create the right piece of content—each platform has a certain set of “norms” that come with the territory.

For example, any type of mainstream product post won’t work on Reddit, which is more about community building and sharing information, but would work well on Facebook or Instagram. YouTube is great for demoing products, sharing reviews, tutorials, and how-tos, while Instagram Stories are great for revealing what life at your company is like behind the scenes.

Plan, Create & Distribute

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of creating a content marketing strategy is figuring out how to best create content and push it out into the digital world.

A popular way to tackle the overwhelm is to manage content by topic. This allows you to cover all of your bases and visualize how your company’s message both stays consistent and adapts to diffferent formats.

For example, if you’re covering content marketing—you might make a list of subtopics to cover: think content marketing basics, understanding the buyer’s journey, etc. From there, you’d decide which formats work best for sharing this information.

You might create 1500-word blog posts on various content marketing strategies, a series of short video lessons, and an eBook that dives deep into everything covered in those more “digestible” mediums.

Then, there’s also the process of promoting this content on social. Because there are so many moving parts, the best way to scale the creation process is by assigning teams to tackle projects together.

For a deeper dive, here’s my approach to scaling your content strategy using blog posts, videos, podcasts, and social to get 10x the reach on one topic.

Setting Up a Content Calendar

An important piece of any content strategy is the editorial calendar.

An editorial calendar allows brands to see and organize their content. Because your company might have lots of different content creators, an editorial calendar allows you to effectively manage all the content producers, pieces/types of content, and schedule for that content.

It’s a great way to stay on top of your content marketing efforts. Plus, if you’re on vacation or the CEO is asking about it, you can easily point to your editorial calendar to show all the marketing and content work you have coming up.

HubSpot created a guide for an editorial calendar that you can use when creating your own, along with offering a few simple steps to help you organize all your content marketing efforts.

Content marketing editorial calendar. Image courtesy of Hubspot

There are plenty of different things you might want to include in your editorial calendar, but I would recommend including most of these sections:

  • Date
  • Author(s)
  • Content Topic
  • Content Type
  • Call to Action
  • Main Keyword
  • Category
  • Editor(s)
  • Publish Date
  • KPI

For smaller organizations or businesses with fewer employees doing content marketing, you don’t need to overcomplicate your calendar. You really just need a simple visualization of deliverables, deadlines, and distribution channels.

It’s important to have an editorial calendar in place though, because you want to be able to organize, plan, and visualize how your content marketing will take shape.

Once your content goes live, now the work of promotion and syndication begins.

This is where things like the “Hub and Spoke” model become important, because it gives you a framework for all the places you can promote your posts. The more channels you have access to, the higher the likelihood that your content gets picked up and linked to, or shared by an “influencer.”

What Kind of Content Goes into a Content Marketing Strategy?

There are a ton of options for building out your content stack.

While you don’t necessarily need to use all of these formats, keep in mind that diversifying can help you reach more people at the various stages in the buyer’s journey.

Whether you use one, some, or all, this list should be enough to get you started in the right direction.

While most of us think of content marketing as blogging, content includes everything from podcasts to white papers, videos and even Google Actions.

Blog Posts – You might have one already, but this is where most businesses start.

A blog gives you the ability to churn out content regularly and is easy to get started. Keep in mind, blog content is held to a higher standard than it was a few years back.

Email Marketing – Email marketing campaigns remain a great way to keep in touch with your audience through regularly-scheduled communications.

The content is usually centered around industry news or descriptions with links to articles on your website.

Visual Content – We’re not abandoning the idea that words still power the content marketing engine.

However, it’s unwise to ignore the fact that roughly 90% of the information the brain processes is visual. Visuals capture our attention and help us understand concepts faster than the written word.

It’s also worth pointing out that SEJ found that 68% of content marketing-related tweets contained visuals themselves. While most visuals were static photos, 14% were infographics, 3% were videos, and 1% were GIF images.

White Paper – A white paper is a topical report that ranges in length from 5-15 pages long, and are generally used for topics that require a lot of explanation.

These could be referred to as “research reports” or “technical briefs” that show your thought leadership on a particular subject.

Article – An article is one of the more useful and dynamic pieces of content you can create. Because they vary in length and are relatively easy to produce, articles are a flexible content asset for any business.

With articles, you have so much creative license when it comes to topics that it’s relatively easy to position yourself as a thought leader.

E-book – An e-book takes a deeper dive into a specific topic and is often designed for middle-of-the-funnel prospects, offering more information about your solution than you’d get with a standard blog post.

E-books can range anywhere from 12 pages to more than 100 and are generally found in a reader-friendly format perfect for small tablets or smartphones.

Case Study – A case study is a short document that provides some first-person authority on a particular product or service. Case studies generally have a “storytelling” feel to them and are usually centered around real-life events that are designed to create trust with the content’s audience.

Testimonials – Along the same lines as a case study, a testimonial is a “boast” by a customer or user.

These come from real people who leave a review or comment describing how a particular product or service worked for them. They work best when they’re authentic and come from a reliable source.

Here’s more about how you can incorporate testimonials into your own content strategy.

Webinars/Webcasts – These are essentially presentations that have been put online for people to see. A webinar typically has slides and audio, while a webcast combines slides, audio, and video.

They require a bit more technology and manpower, but they’re quite effective at establishing the presenters as thought leaders and industry experts.

Videos – Videos are relatively easy to produce, especially given the rise of platforms like YouTube and Vimeo and easy editing tools anyone can download.

Hubspot found that videos are 40x more likely to be shared on social media compared to other types of content media straight from the platform, making it a very direct way to get your content out there.

Still, you’ll need to consider the platform before you post. Stories and live streams are more informal and provide a candid peek behind the scenes.

Here’s a look at how to create Instagram videos that connect with your audience.

Online Press Release – When you have an important announcement that the general news media might find interesting, an online press release can help syndicate your news online and help you get faster and wider distribution.

Online Learning Course – An online learning course is essentially a course that focuses on a particular topic, but can include several different mediums: slideshows, audio presentations, videos, etc.

You automatically position yourself as an expert when you create one of these courses. And the content usually comes with a built-in audience, making it even easier to use content marketing.

Podcast – Podcasting is on the rise. According to Statista, the number of adults who have “ever listened to a podcast” has increased from 22% in 2009 to 51% in 2019.

And while sure, comedy, entertainment, and true crime content rules the landscape, that same study reported that the main reason adults listen to podcasts is to learn something new. For brands, podcasting is an opportunity for you to establish yourself as an authority on any given subject.

Keep in mind, podcasting involves some serious planning, as most are produced weekly and often include relevant guests.

Book – The granddaddy of all content marketing is the old-fashioned book. A book isn’t easy to produce, but it’s a great way to build authority in your particular industry.

With the rise of self-publishing houses, it’s gotten easier to publish a book, even if it is a lengthy process to write one.

Branded Tools – A branded content tool or app is where you gather information from prospects/customers, then provide them something in return.

For instance, if you were a realtor and provided someone who filled out your app with their information, they might get a free home estimate or mortgage rate in return.

Infographic – An infographic is a visual representation of data, and are incredibly popular on social media lately.

You can use infographics to explore the relationship between different pieces of information. They’re tailor-made for social media, and the best ones are easily spreadable and shareable online.

Example Unique Content Marketing Strategies

Oreo is easily one of the most recognizable brands in the United States. But in the 21st century with social media, how could an iconic brand like them utilize content marketing to get people interested?

Take a look at what they’ve done with the visual content on their Instagram page.


They’ve used the medium to create all kinds of creative and fun content that appeals to people, gets them to share it, and gives Oreo a platform to market to those people at the same time. As of this blog posting, Oreo has more than 2.7 million followers.

Birchbox sells subscription boxes filled with different kinds of beauty and grooming products, and you can see that their blog is a logical extension of targeting the kind of customers that would be interested in those types of posts.

Not only can visitors to the blog find useful tips on beauty and beauty products, but they can easily purchase those products without much work.

Beyond that, Birchbox engages in extensive influencer marketing, pairing with celebrities and social media stars on Instagram and Facebook who help promote their monthly subscription boxes.

Back in 2015, the famous hotel’s content team put together a short action comedy film that racked up more than 5 million views on the company’s website.

This is the kind of outside-the-box approach that makes content marketing such a unique strategy. How else would a hotel chain be able to get that kind of recognition in the normal marketing channels of advertising on TV and radio?


If you’re in the online marketing or social media space, you’re probably aware of Buffer, a company that provides social promotion tools for businesses. What you may not have realized is that they’re a content marketing powerhouse.

Buffer’s blog is filled with all kinds of useful information that, even if you’re not a customer of theirs, you’d still find useful and enjoy. Buffer’s posts are hooked on the idea of reaching influencers, who then reach potential customers.

Leo Widrich, one of the founders of Buffer, explained it this way:

“‘We want to scale this.’ We want to really, really have a large audience that could be inspired, be interested by the content we produce and go away and maybe tell someone, ‘Hey, I read this great post on the Buffer blog.’ And this guy says, ‘Actually, that’s cool, and also Buffer looks cool—I might use that.’

That’s quite possibly the greatest argument for content marketing that anyone can use.

A company that sells an “action” camera for extreme sports.

Perhaps the most famous example of content marketing done right, their YouTube channel is filled with user-generated content that is often shared on the company’s site. Users are encouraged to share content they’ve created with their GoPro camera.

The outdoor clothing and gear company creates blog content and videos that highlight the company’s values—social and environmental responsibility, as well as content that resonates with the target audience. Blog posts cover topics like mountain climbing, travel, and climate change.

A business software company, they create contests where the winners get cash and help solve entrepreneurial business challenges.

Content Production Tools

Content Marketing Discovery Tools

  • Buzzsumo – Buzzsumo offers a wide range of content marketing tools, but two stand out for content discovery. The content research tool serves up the most popular content on the web and on social—allowing you to identify the formats, topics and strategies that yield the best results. The content discovery tool looks for trends, keywords, and topics you can use to create relevant content that resonates with your audience. The platform also offers social listening tools, so you can create content based on what your audience is saying on social platforms and review sites.
  • Feedly – allows you to combine all the blogs you follow into one collection of articles, so you’re never short on reading material.
  • Quora – Users ask questions and get them answered by members of the community. And while many of the questions center around topics like “what’s it like to have a high IQ?,” it can be a great place to find out what people want to know about your niche—build blog posts based on relevant Quora questions.
  • Reddit – and online (and extremely popular) forum where users share thoughts, ideas, or ask questions on certain topics. It’s extremely useful for finding insight and uncovering the kinds of questions your audience may have about your given niche.
  • Alltop – content that is indexed from a variety of different online publications, and is searchable by many different topics.
  • Medium – Medium’s blog content is all over the place in terms of quality, but I like it because you can find different perspectives on niche topics and get a pulse on the conversation happening around high-tech topics like cryptocurrency, cybersecurity, and AI.
  • Social Animal – A relative newcomer to the space, Social Animal allows users to explore the best performing content from across the web. The tool also includes insights into keyword performance, trending Facebook posts, and helps you identify influencers and domains that mention your competition, making this a good option for finding topics, backlink opportunities, and influencers to connect with.

Content Marketing Writing Tools

  • Hemingway – A distraction-free writing app that helps you write without interruption, Hemingway helps you get straight to the point, highlighting unnecessary adverbs, overly complex language, and passive voice to help you create more readable content.
  • Grammarly – A web app/plugin you can use to check your work. Grammarly goes beyond basic spelling and grammar and checks engagement, originality, tone, and points out all of those instances of passive voice. Plugin available for Microsoft Word and Google Chrome.
  • Contently – An all-inclusive platform that lets you find freelance writers to write your content while the platform itself handles payment, etc.

Content Marketing Distribution Tools

  • Buffer – a social media tool that lets you curate social media content ahead of time, then shares it on a schedule that you arrange.
  • MailChimp – an email marketing tool that helps you create campaigns, build a list from scratch, and schedule campaigns.

Content Marketing Content Creation Tools

  • Canva – for anyone to create custom visuals—from logos to social media graphics. Use it to repurpose product and brand imagery, create infographics, and make your stock photos, well, look less like stock photos.
  • Google Keyword Planner – lets you see the estimated numbers of searches per month on a given keyword.

How Do I Measure Content Marketing Results?

After you’ve created your content, planned your content output going forward, and sent it out into the world, you’ll want to make sure you’re on the right track.

If you’re reporting to the CEO or any C-Level executives, they’re going to want to know the return on investment (ROI) of any content marketing campaign you undertake.

Essentially, you need to answer one question at the end of the day… How is this content marketing strategy making us more money?!

Any executives are going to want to see trackable results in any big content marketing push. Luckily, there are a few different ways you can go about tracking your content marketing results.

The Content Marketing Pyramid

The Content Marketing Pyramid is an analytics tool that you can use to visualize and measure your content marketing results.

As you can see, the pyramid is segmented into three distinct sections:

Primary Indicators – these are the indicators that your C-Level executives are going to care most about:

  • Number of Converted Leads
  • Total Cost Per Lead

Secondary Indicators – these are things like blog subscribers, email subscribers, etc. that are a step below actual money-generating conversions. They’re still very important to track, because these are qualified leads that may result in sales eventually. For example, it is generally industry standard that a qualified email is worth $5.

User Indicators – these are more general analytics that are still useful to know, but might not result in a sale. Things like page views, visitors, keywords, comments, etc. are all important to track because every piece of analytics data tells a story. This is also where you’ll be able to get an idea on what content is working and resonating with people, as well as content that’s not working. From there, you’ll be able to hone your content marketing strategy even further.

Other Types of Content Marketing Metrics

In his book, “Epic Content Marketing,” Joe Pulizzi goes on to provide four distinct forms of metrics that you can apply to your content marketing that will help you tell a fuller story and extract loads of analytics data from your results.

  • Consumption Metrics – these are things like page views, video views, social conversations, etc. that help you see a bit clearer how your content is performing with people.
  • Sharing Metrics – these are likes, shares, tweets, +1s, pins, forwards, inbound links, etc. that show you whether a piece of content performed like you wanted it to.
  • Lead Generation Metrics – downloads, email subscriptions, blog comments, conversion rate. This is an important group of metrics because it lets you see how a piece of your content marketing can move someone from a prospect to a lead.
  • Sales Metrics – the most important metric. If you’re not growing your business with content marketing, there’s no point. These can be online sales, offline sales, even handshake deals your sales team has made.

Calculating the ROI of Content Marketing

Once you’ve taken stock of all the content marketing metrics you have available to you, it’s important to see the full business impact of your content marketing strategy.

I’ll walk you through how you can calculate the ROI of your content marketing with a hypothetical blog from “Epic Content Marketing.”

Step 1: Calculate the investment.

  • Multiply the hours per month needed to create the content by the hourly pay rate of the employees or contractors used to create the content.
  • Add the overhead factor. (This accounts for rent, insurance, utilities, and so on.)
  • Add all other costs, such as design fees, hosting fees, subscriptions, and software. Allocate them to a content program specifically, or amortize them monthly and spread the costs evenly across each content program.

For Example: Assume 20 hours per month at $50 per hour to produce a corporate blog, multiplied by a 50 percent overhead factor. Add in $1,000 per month for design, $50 per month for hosting, and $200 per month for miscellaneous fees.

The true monthly blogging cost = $2,750

Step 2: Calculate the return. Multiply your leads per month by your lead conversion rate, average lifetime customer value, and average profit margin.

Example: You collect 40 leads per month from the corporate blog (determined by lead form, CRM system, and so on). At a 10 percent lead conversion rate, you’ll generate four new customers. Assume a $5,000 average lifetime customer value and a 30 percent average profit margin.

True monthly blogging return = $6,000

Step 3: Calculate ROI. Subtract the investment from the return, then divide by the investment, and multiply by 100 to find out your ROI.

$6,000 – $2,750 = $3,250

3,250 / 2,750 = 1.18

Return = 118% for the one month period

The importance of being able to prove to anyone in your organization what your content marketing is bringing in is key to proving the validity of your content. You’re not blogging for the sake of blogging. You’re blogging because you are able to prove that it brings in money for your business.

Bottom Line: Content Marketing is No Longer an Optional Strategy

As I’ve mentioned throughout this guide, it’s important for your content marketing strategy to be tied to making your business grow.

Otherwise, there’s no point in creating all this content.

I’ve gone over what’s involved in building a content strategy from scratch, why it’s important, the different formats, and how to calculate the ROI of your efforts.

The most important takeaway here is that you should always approach content marketing as a way to deliver value to your audience.

Writing about how great your products are will not only send your customers into the arms of your competitors, but also can cause your SERP rankings to drop.

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