A number of marketers still haven’t embraced content marketing as a means to drive sales and boost brand awareness. In fact, just 36 percent of Fortune 500 companies maintain an official blog, according to a study by Statista. Why such reluctance? One reason is because it takes time before you start seeing a good return on investment on your content marketing efforts. Brands can produce and distribute great content, but they don’t always know how to measure its effectiveness. This is where such data as key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics come into play.

Types of KPIs

The main KPIs you should be looking at to validate your content marketing are:

Lead generation. This involves tracking contact and lead forms where you would put a dollar amount per lead. For example, if 100 forms generate five sales, and those sales are each worth $1,000, then the leads themselves would be worth $50 each ($5,000 in revenue/100 leads = $50). This is a simple way to calculate cost per lead without going down a rabbit hole of net vs. gross profit.

Product sale. This should be rather self-explanatory: The sale of a product equals revenue. In short, a piece of content convinced the visitor to purchase the product or service you’re selling.

Ad click. This could be an affiliate-style program in which a business gets a commission after the click or CPM ad revenue (page views).

After determining your KPIs, you’ll want to use Google Analytics to track them.

Content metrics

Jay Baer, the mastermind behind Convince and Convert, notes, “Content cannot be measured with a single metric.” Baer suggests examining four key metrics:

Consumption metrics. Such fundamental data as page views and downloads.

Sharing metrics. The amount of shares your content receives on social media (if you don’t already, make sharing your content easy by including social buttons on the page that hosts your content).

Lead generation metrics. How many visitors went to a lead form after consuming your content. According to Baer, “This is where we start determining whether the content marketing effort is making financial sense.”

Sales metrics. By using software like Sugar CRM, you can keep tabs on which content was digested by your potential customers. From there, your sales team would convert that prospect into a sale.

Short-Term ROI vs. Long-Term ROI

You’ve determined your KPIs and have the metrics to measure the effectiveness of the content marketing strategy you’ve put in place. But there’s one final consideration that deserves your attention: knowing the difference between short-term and long-term ROI.

Short-term ROI. You publish content, and then you look at the goals/KPIs to determine if any revenue was generated from that content. You would look at your goal completions or events in Google Analytics and then filter out those that came from your specific URL, analyzing traffic that came directly from the URL (as an entry point to the site/landing page), or traffic that started elsewhere from the site but then went to that page and converted.

You would also analyze the source of all that traffic to see which channels converted best (search, social, direct, referral).

Long-term ROI. Successful content marketing attracts links and social signals which lead to a long-term increase in search engine traffic — not only to that page, but to the entire site in general. These types of links can only be found in great content.

Using the same ideas for short-term ROI, you would track increases in overall search traffic to the entire site every month and attribute search ROI growth to your content marketing. So if you spent $5,000 on content marketing one month and didn’t see the ROI in the short term, and your search traffic increases month over month because of the success of the content, you have to take that into consideration when looking at proving the ROI.

Sometimes it’ll work in both the short and long term, and other times it may take longer for search to justify the spend — but the ability to track the ROI is there, and it is just as important as the content itself.