THE BLOG
08/28/2015 02:11 pm ET Updated Aug 28, 2016

How to Measure Your Content Marketing ROI

Let's be honest. Content marketing really sucks. For the most part you're doing it as a means to an end to get new leads and sales. You really have no desire to spend hours channeling your inner Maya Angelou writing blog posts about your topic that all sound the same to you. Nonetheless, you've drunk the content marketing Kool-aid and now it's time to see the leads roll in and sales spike! But is that the only way to measure ROI? Not really. Here are some of the non-traditional ways you can measure content marketing ROI.

Website visits

One major content marketing goal is to be the website/video/blog post presenting the information that someone's looking for. Mostly online. Your website visitor and organic search numbers are great ways to measure how well you're doing. Traffic should increase and become more relevant after 4-6 months of creating helpful content intended for your target customers. Theoretically, this means your ability to get on the radar of your target customers has improved.

Consider this, 80% of the content marketing battle is 'showing up.' Most businesses give up after a few content pieces go online and don't immediately result in new leads or sales. Don't let that be you. Instead, picture each content piece you do as a vending machine in a room full of people. Once it's live it's there forever with no overhead or inventory cost. If people are going to the room and seeing the vending machine the law of averages will prove that eventually some thirsty chap is going to put a coin in that vending machine. You just need to make sure the vending machine actually exists first. The more vending machines you have, the more likely you are to get people putting coins in them.

Inbound links

This is where the most slip-ups occur from even the most devout content marketing supporters. Posting a blog and just hoping people read it is the surefire way to content marketing failure. Millions of blog posts and thousands of hours of video are published online each day. Translation? The world has no shortage of content. However, there is definitely a shortage of promoted content. Promoting your content and sharing it with relevant authors and experts in your field is a great way to establish yourself as an authority in your industry and get potential leads to your site. Those inbound links let you stand on the shoulders of giants to build your name and reputation.

Yes, there is a lot of traffic on the Internet, but there are also a few 'markets' of traffic named Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter who are all more than happy to sell you targeted traffic through pay-per-click ads, sponsored posts and other avenues. Don't be afraid to pay and promote links to your blog posts or content offers if you feel they are worth people's attention.

# Of signups/tire-kickers

Leads and top-of-the-funnel issues are the main metric and problem that content marketing addresses. Some content (such as a blog) will be free for visitors. However, you can ask for an email address in exchange for premium content like ebooks, templates and reports. Then, at the very least, collect this data in a database that you can share future pieces with. Yes, some signups will be tire-kickers (here's looking at you John Doe with the flyguy25 @ Hotmail.com email address), and that's totally fine. Over time you can build trust with Mr. Doe and maybe get their real name and corporate email account. After all, only someone interested in your ebook would sign up to download it and stay subscribed to your list.

Networking connections

A funny thing starts to happen as you get deeper into content marketing. People actually start reaching out to you! You may start getting kudos emails, LinkedIn invitations and unsolicited phone calls to your office. You may also get pitched article ideas, free stuff to review and partnership opportunities if you're lucky. Not all of these connections will be bottom-line new revenue, but it shows that your content marketing efforts are working. Plus, there is something pretty cool about someone you don't know taking the time to reach out to you in a meaningful way. Isn't that what you wanted in the first place?

Again, content marketing sucks. It's like exercise. It takes a lot of effort before you see any results and it leaves you exhausted. The good news is it does work and it does get easier to see progress if you broaden your ROI expectations. Use this guide to help you save 10 hours a week on content marketing and figure out which content marketing tool to use and when.

Author's note: This article first appeared on GetApp. GetApp is operated by Nubera, a Gartner company. Nubera serves as an ecosystem of user-generated and editorial reviews of software and apps for businesses.