A sad fact: content marketers can’t read people’s minds.
A shame, we know.
We want to know which blog posts catch users’ attention, push prospects down the sales funnel or convince leads to become customers.
At the end of the day, we want to figure out how much a blog contributes to a company’s revenue — and if it's 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 revenue isn’t straightforward or simple
It would be great if we could tie an individual's user behavior 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, that's not always feasible.
With privacy laws protecting user data, we oftentimes can't easily or accurately track which online behaviors led to a specific customer transaction.
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 that's outside of Google Analytics,” Ms. Sila adds.
“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.”
This does not mean we should throw our blog budgets into a void with no hope of seeing a measurable return.
Measuring the Success of a Blog
The success of a blog isn’t always measured by direct, attributable revenue generation. Many marketers lean on softer metrics like shares, time on page, bounce rate, engagements on social and so on to determine whether or not their content is resonating with the intended audience.
“You don't 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: ROI stands for “return on investment.”
Sure, 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.
Before we start the math...
A Few Blog ROI Notes to Keep in Mind
As mentioned earlier, 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."
That means we can only attribute revenue to the conversion that occurs during a session that ends in a conversion, not with the lifetime interaction of user and blog.
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.
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, and as a result, numbers may overlap.
Some of the conversions or traffic may be counted twice. Your investment calculation may be off.
Look at this formula the way you look at a shadow: you get a pretty good idea of what you're seeing, but you can't be exactly sure.
We've estimated our blog’s revenue and 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.
Courtney Voegele, a senior content marketing manager at Silverback, lays out three tips for maximizing ROI on organic blog posts:
“Number one is well-written, quality content. Number two is keyword optimization — if you're not optimizing for anything, no one’s going to find it. And three, compelling creative that’s also optimized for search.”
Blog ROI Lessons for Your Content Marketing Agency
Measuring a blog’s direct monetary ROI isn’t and shouldn’t be the only way of measuring success. It is, however, important to do a monthly ROI checkup.
Measuring ROI helps identify critical areas for improvement and success, giving you a more well-rounded view of your blog and more comprehensive understanding of where you stand on a financial level when it comes to more creative endeavors. And those insights are worth their weight in gold.