Most marketers seem to be taking it on faith that their work is effective: Only 35% of marketers say they think it's "very important" to know the return on marketing investment (ROMI), according to a survey from HubSpot. But that same survey found that 91% of marketers are confident that their campaigns are influencing revenue.

If marketers don't understand the ROI of their marketing efforts, they can't possibly know that those efforts are benefiting the bottom line.

That's especially true with content marketing, which is inherently a long-term investment: A single piece of content doesn't necessarily lead directly to an increase in sales, which means there's no simple formula for determining content ROI.

But just because measuring content marketing ROI isn't always easy doesn't mean it's impossible.

If you begin a campaign with an end goal in mind, you can both measure its success and optimize the campaign to drive more leads of higher quality. That way, when someone at your company asks, "What are the benefits of content marketing?" you'll have both an answer and the receipts to back it up.

Four Steps to Better Content Marketing Results

Before I touch on the content marketing metrics you'll want to use to track your results, let's take a look at some steps you can take to get better content marketing results.

1. Ensure that search engines can find your content

When's the last time you looked at how your site shows up in search results?

Take a moment and do it now. Type "" in the Google search bar, and see what comes up. You should see your site's sections and pages, uninterrupted, one after another.

If you don't see your content, create an updated sitemap that Google can index, and make sure all important info, such as headlines and subheadings, are written in text rather than displayed in images.

2. Pick a few keywords you'd like your content to rank for

Use a keyword research tool—e.g., the one offered by Moz—to find relevant keywords that people are searching for.

If you're just getting started, look for keywords with relatively low competition that still drive some search volume; that way, you're not starting out at a major disadvantage. Once you've selected some, start naturally incorporating them into your content.

3. Evaluate your lead scoring

Define what makes someone a qualified lead for your business. Take advantage of the automated lead scoring offered by most marketing automation systems.

The automatic lead scoring system looks at leads' demographics and their activity on your site. For each characteristic or action, it provides a positive or negative score based on the settings you choose.

If you already have a lead scoring system in place, review it to see whether your parameters are still accurate.

4. Set up a streamlined sales funnel

Think of an effective content marketing strategy as a chain: Each link leads from one piece of content to another, and the chain ideally ends with a sales call. Set up a sales funnel to reflect that process.

The sales funnel should include at least the following:

  1. An off-site piece of content that reaches a large audience and links to a high-converting blog post
  2. An engaging and educational blog post that offers a relevant call to action and thus entices readers to learn more about your products or services
  3. A call to action that leads to a landing page where readers can download a piece of high-quality gated content such as a whitepaper, checklist, or template
  4. An email sequence that readers are put into after exchanging their contact information for downloading your gated content—the goal of which should be to provide enough value that the lead will want to get on a sales call

After following the previous steps, you will be prepared to accurately measure your content marketing results with content marketing metrics.

Three Content Marketing Metrics to Measure Your Progress

After you have Google Analytics or another analytics solution set up, you can get started by measuring three major content marketing metrics that will tell you how your content strategy is performing.

1. On-Site Analytics

On-site metrics include total visitors to your website, the pages with the highest views, and visitors' time spent on your site. They can help you track how effective your content is at engaging your audience.

Content that attracts a target audience, engages them, and spurs them toward action helps you build a pool of marketing-qualified leads you can continue to nurture.

2. Marketing-Qualified Leads and Sales-Qualified Leads

The more leads you generate, the more marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) you're likely to have. From there, you can nurture those leads with content to nudge them toward becoming sales-qualified leads (SQLs)—i.e., ready to dive into sales conversations and ultimately become a customer.

To decide which leads are sales-qualified, use the BANT method (budget, authority, needs, and timeline). If MQLs start to demonstrate that they have available budget, the authority to make a purchase decision, a tangible need for what you offer, and the urgency to make it happen quickly, those leads have been transformed into SQLs.

3. Lead Conversion Rate

The lead conversion rate tells you how effective your content marketing efforts are at turning leads into paying customers. If you generate a lot of leads but few of those leads become customers, you might need to refocus your content on different audience pain points.

Actions to Take After Measuring Your Content Marketing Metrics

Those three sets of metrics will help you establish benchmarks that you can continue to measure against over time. Thereafter, before taking action, you can determine what you want to improve.

For example, if you get a ton of visitors to your site but few of them convert into leads, you'll need to work on improving the MQL metric. Or if you generate a lot of leads but have a low close rate, you'll need to work on improving the lead conversions metric first.

By taking the right steps to measure your content marketing metrics and making regular adjustments based on your results, you can ensure that your content marketing investment provides verifiable dividends for years to come.

More Resources on Content Marketing Metrics

How to Measure Your Content Marketing Efforts [Infographic]

How to Match Your Key Metrics to Your Content Goals

Beyond Content Marketing: 10 Steps to Real ROI With Content Operations

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image of Kelsey Raymond

Kelsey Raymond is the COO of Intero Digital, a 400-person full-service digital marketing agency that offers comprehensive, results-driven marketing solutions.

LinkedIn: Kelsey (Meyer) Raymond

Twitter: @Kelsey_M_Meyer