The ROI of Content Marketing

How to Measure Success

Key Highlights

This whitepaper explores the different factors that influence the overall return on investment (ROI) of an online content marketing program. We’ll explain some of the primary considerations that should be reviewed when developing a content marketing measurement framework.

Page Summary:

  • Rethink ROI to Properly Measure Success
  • Understanding Hard and Soft ROI
  • ROI Measurement Considerations

Only 38% of marketers reported that their organization is effective at content marketing.

Only 43% of marketers said it was clear what an effective or successful program looks like in their organization.

Source: Content Marketing Institute B2C Content Marketing 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Report,

Rethink ROI to Properly Measure Success

With an increasing allocation of marketing budgets moving into content marketing, how can the majority of marketers be so unsure of what success is? We often find that it’s because marketers haven’t clearly defined what success should look like before programs are launched. Much of that uncertainty is because of differing perceptions of ROI and how it should be applied as a broad measure of program value.

The reality is that while ROI may appear easy to understand, all of the complex factors in play within a content marketing initiative must be understood in order to get an accurate view of success.

Common Influences of Content Marketing ROI:

  • Business goals
  • strategic decisions
  • marketing tactics
  • channel support
  • activation approaches
  • media
  • promotional efforts
  • total program budgets
  • unique industry sectors
  • brand reputations

Another key point to keep in mind from the outset is that content marketing ROI isn’t solely about sales. There are other measures — visibility, awareness, engagement, lead generation, brand attachment, trust and intent to purchase, to name but a few — that factor into overall ROI.

At Pace we believe a one-size-fits-all ROI model is outdated, and that both hard and soft ROI must be considered.

Understanding Hard and Soft ROI

To build the most appropriate model for a client’s needs, we first need to look at the types of inputs that can go into the model itself. We divide ROI into two main groups — hard ROI and soft ROI. Hard ROI is the most traditional form of ROI, and it typically comprises business-centric measurements. Soft ROI is a more customer-centric metric designed to monitor changes in customer behavior or attitude.

ROI Measurement Considerations

When measuring content marketing ROI at Pace, we consider a multilevel measurement framework based on business goals using common factors. These factors do not comprehensively capture all the considerations of intent for program development. But they do provide a high-level measurement framework that offers direction in achieving success among our content marketing programs.

Because of the nature of and complexity of content marketing programs, there is no singular effective content marketing ROI model that exists for all scenarios. This is why using a static ROI formula does not provide an accurate view of a content marketing program’s full efficacy. Instead, ROI should be focused adaptably upon the following core tenets. 

ROI should:

  • Be based on a company’s specific goals and objectives.
  • Allow return to be defined by multiple factors.
  • Allow investment to be defined by multiple factors.
  • Be measured within a consistently defined time frame when possible.
  • Be compared with a benchmark to provide context when possible.
  • Be developed with models that are scalable.


Overall content marketing performance ROI can be measured either through hard ROI, soft ROI, or a combination of both. While measurement of content marketing ROI can be a complex process, it’s important to remember that not all content marketing programs are the same — nor should they be — and that the most effective models are tailored to the specific needs of the organization. By balancing both business and customer-centric objectives, content marketing can successfully drive meaningful business impact across a wide variety of strategic initiatives. Read the full whitepaper to learn more about our primary considerations when developing a measurement framework and how to translate the framework into insights.

Download the full whitepaper

Learn how to develop and implement your unique ROI measurement model.

Additional Reading

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Setting The Record Straight: Debunking Six Content Marketing Myths

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