Content marketers want to know which blog posts catch users’ attention, push prospects down the sales funnel or convince leads to become customers.
We want to figure out how much a blog contributes to a company’s revenue. Are we actually helping the bottom line?
Knowing what makes the magic happen helps content marketers improve our skills and be more efficient with our blogging budgets.
Easy enough, right?
Calculating blog ROI isn’t straightforward or simple.
It would be great if we could easily tie every behavior by individual users directly to the revenue they create for a business. Every content marketing agency in the industry would rejoice!
While there are ways to close the loop with methods like offline conversion tracking, unfortunately, complete data sets on a granular level are not always feasible.
User privacy, limits to analytics and murky data sets mean we can't always track which behaviors led to a specific customer transaction as accurately as we'd like.
Service-based businesses — plumbers, electricians, designers, etc. — have it even tougher.
"For a service business, calculating blog revenue depends much more on your revenue tracking platform — and that's outside of Google Analytics,” says Carly Sila, senior technical SEO expert at Silverback Strategies. “Service businesses typically have a longer sales process, and Google does not collect that information. It’s hard to marry the data between the revenue tracking platform and Google Analytics because you can't easily go back and combine the two.”
Basically, if you don't have in-house development resources at your disposal, you may be, in plumbing parlance, SOL.
To continue the metaphor, this does not mean we should throw our blog budgets down the toilet with no hope of seeing a measurable return.
Measuring Blog ROI
Let's be clear: blog ROI isn’t always measured by direct, attributable revenue generation. Many marketers lean on shares, time on page, bounce rate, engagements on social and other top-funnel metrics to determine whether or not their content is resonating.
“You don't always want to get bogged down on the monetary value," Ms. Sila says. "There are so many other aspects that blogs can bring to the table."
But the fact remains: at some point, a client, or a boss, or someone who can directly impact your career, will ask you that hard question — what are we getting for all those blogs you're writing?
Yes, you want to pay attention to your blog's growth. And while attribution modeling can help you understand which individual posts drive conversions, that's often not enough information to show if those conversions are actually leading to customer spend.
To do that, you’ll need a more in-depth method of figuring out how to estimate the revenue and ROI for a blog. We want to dig into those numbers.
But before we start the math...
A Few Blog ROI Notes to Keep in Mind
We can’t read minds (yet). We can only look at data — and Google Analytics looks at users in sessions.
“Google Analytics' default is to attribute conversions to the channel that received the last click before the conversion," Ms. Sila says. "This often ignores the importance a blog can play in earlier stages and even throughout the sales funnel."
And, as our friends at Google point out, that means you're missing out on a lot of value because the way users interact with the digital environment has changed so radically.
"As marketers, we were taught to master the funnel — a linear customer journey from awareness to consideration to purchase," Google’s President of the Americas Allan Thygesen wrote in a September 2018 post entitled Beyond the Traditional Marketing Funnel — A New Formula For Growth on the Think With Google blog. "And using mass media, the key levers to drive growth were reach and frequency. We used demographics to approximate user intent and inform our targeting and creative...
"But this model no longer applies to today’s customer journeys," he continues. "In the last six months, Google looked at thousands of users’ clickstream data from a third-party opt-in panel. We found that no two journeys are exactly alike, and in fact, most journeys don’t resemble a funnel at all. They look like pyramids, diamonds, hourglasses, and more. Digital technology and mobile devices have put people in control. We all now expect an immediate answer in the moments we want to know, go, do, and buy."
There’s no perfect method for tracking blog ROI. By creating an estimate, we can get a general sense of a blog's revenue creation efficiency.
That alone can provide valuable information to content marketers as they work to improve their efforts.
Here We Go: The Blog ROI Math
(Ed. Note — Depending on what a business offers, how Google Analytics is set up and what the sales process is like, some of this may need to be shifted to fit each business’ exact situation. But everyone will need to come prepared with these numbers and factors before they get started:
- An average transaction amount
- What goals are in Google Analytics
- The percentage of people that converted who became customers
- The blog staffer’s yearly/hourly salary or agency fees for whoever runs the blog
- How long the blog staffer spends managing and writing the blog
- SEO and paid media spend
It’s good to break down revenue per goal to get the most accurate revenue estimate as possible. Using just the overall revenue may end up giving some conversions more or less credit than they deserve.)
Step 1: Figure out goal conversion values
Not everyone who converts turns into a customer. To estimate the ROI for a blog, you'll need to know, on average, what a single conversion on your site is worth.
Meaning: if a person converts, what is the company expected to earn?
Find this value by taking the average transaction amount and multiplying it by the percentage of people that converted who became customers.
This value is used in the next part of the equation, but as a side note, it can be plugged into Google Analytics.
For more information about calculating goal conversion values and goals in general for Google Analytics, check out Google’s help page about goals.
Step 2: Figure out the blog’s average estimated revenue per goal.
Are the conversion values for all of the goals are figured out? Good. It’s time to estimate the average revenue that the blog creates.
This revenue represents the dollar value for goals completed on blog pages AND when a blog page was part of the conversion path that ended in goal completion.
To do this:
Take the number of goal completions from your blog URL (found under Behavior -> LandingPages -> Advanced Filter: landing page containing “blog” with the time frame set for the time that you’re looking at) and multiply that figure by the conversion value.
Then, add the number of assisted conversions from your blog URL (found under Conversions -> Multi-Channel Funnels -> Assisted Conversions -> Secondary dimensions: Landing Page URL -> Advanced Filter: Landing Page URL containing “blog” with the time frame set for the time that you’re looking at) and again multiply that by the conversion value.
Complete this process for each goal.
Step 3: Figure out the blog’s average estimated revenue
This part is easy! Add up all of the blog conversion revenue numbers to get the average estimated revenue the blog helped create during the time frame you selected.
Step 4: Figure out the investment
(Ed. note - This is not a perfect formula for figuring out actual investment; rather, it's a pretty simple estimate that gets close to what that digital investment would be.
Want to do more math and work in the company’s overhead and other nitty-gritty details? Go for it. Otherwise, use this one.
If an agency manages your blog, use their fee as the investment figure for the blog.)
To get the blog investment, start by figuring out the blog writer’s hourly fee. Divide the blog writer’s salary by the hours he or she works in a year (usually around 2,000 for a full-time employee, according to Timesheets.com).
Once you have that number, multiply the hourly wage by the number of hours spent working on the blog (which includes writing, maintaining, boosting and optimizing for SEO).
Add that number to the blog’s monthly hosting fees and any money spent to boot your blog post on social media. This will give you the estimated investment in your blog for that month.
Step 5: Figure out overall blog ROI
Congratulations! You now have the blog’s estimated revenue and investment.
All that’s left to do now is figure out the ROI percentage.
To do this, follow the basic ROI formula: revenue minus investment, divided by investment. For your blog ROI, it’ll look like this.
A few things to remember before you get too excited or disappointed:
- This number is based on single sessions for the selected time frame. As a result, numbers may overlap.
- Some of the conversions or traffic may be counted twice. Your investment calculation may be off.
- Consider this formula "impressionistic." You'll get a pretty good idea of the value you're providing (or if you're losing revenue), but it's not necessarily accurate down to the nearest cent.
So I (Generally) Know My Blog ROI. Now what?
We've estimated our blog’s revenue and blog ROI. This information is helpful when we internalize it and act on it.
Picking up on trends between blog content and goal completions can help tailor editorial strategies going forward.
But there’s much more to do than simply following data trends if we want to improve and maximize ROI for a blog.
“At the end of the day, the blog comes down to publishing good content. But if it's about proving ROI, blogs need spin to get people to convert,” Silverback Senior SEO Manager Team Leader Mat Ingham says. “To drive that, include call to actions and conversion points or put in a way to navigate to conversion points.”
To have a financially successful blog, we need to include those calls to action and conversion points on the page itself in order to really drive conversions and revenue.
Just putting up a post and hoping people click around our site can only do so much for us in the end. We need to help our visitors find the things we want them to do.
Plus, a blog doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It needs help to be as useful to your business as it can be.
How to Build Blog ROI in 3 Simple Steps
Courtney Voegele, a senior content marketing manager at Silverback, lays out three tips for maximizing ROI on organic blog posts:
- Create interesting, well-written content that actually answers real audience questions or solves real audience problems.
- Optimize your keywords for organic search. I you're not optimizing your content, no one’s going to find it.
- Include compelling creative that’s also optimized for search. Great creative will help you get noticed in social media and has real SEO value, too.
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