In recent years search engines (particularly Google) have worked towards making their algorithms more responsive to quality information – content– than to the search engine optimization (SEO) guidelines as they were in the past. Once upon a time, keywords and link building ruled, but too many online “entrepreneurs” tried to cheat the system, with the result that search was often a hit-and-miss affair. Google has worked diligently to foil the cheaters and to maintain and improve the integrity of search. Using the old-school SEO tricks these days will only result in penalties.
Many have grumbled about Google’s changes, but one positive development is that there has indeed been an increased focus on providing quality content on web pages, blogs, and social media sites. That’s definitely good news for search engine users who are seeking useful information. But what about the companies providing the information – what sort of tangible ROI are they getting from creating all of that quality content? There is no easy answer to that question.
“Quality” is a subjective judgment
Financial managers in any company want to know what kind of return the company gets on its investments, whether those investments are new technology, personnel, inventory, or marketing programs. Unfortunately, there are so many variables in the effectiveness of any marketing effort – particularly one as subjective as content quality – that coming up with a valid ROI per content-creation dollar ends up being about as easy as measuring apples by the inch.
For one thing, the reader ultimately determines content quality, and there is no such thing as a “typical” reader. You can target your content to a given demographic, but within even a narrowly defined demographic, there will be dramatic differences in perception among the individual members, rendering even an attempt at establishing a “mean” or a standard deviation highly elusive.
Even so, there are ways to gauge your efforts so you can hone your content marketing strategies.
What you can do
Elusive measurements aside, there are several things you can do to determine whether the content in a specific marketing effort is delivering as the company had hoped (and as the marketing people probably promised). Here are just a few things you can do.
- Check your pages’ statistics. You can determine which pages are garnering the greatest number of hits and more importantly, the number of interactions, such as inquiries, registrations, requests for additional information, and, of course, actual orders.
- Monitor social media sites. On your social media sites, you can get a feel for the quality of the content by observing how many clicks, likes, and re-tweets a given posting or tweet receives.
- Participate in appropriate forums. On forum discussions such as those held on Linkedin, subscriber participation will let you know very quickly whether the information you’ve provided is deemed to be helpful.
While such measurements might not give a totally accurate picture as to the effectiveness of a given element of content, they can provide you with an idea about prospective customers’ attitudes, and can better inform you of the progression from initial search to actual order placement. It’s still not an exact science, but it can offer you some direction.
It all comes back to content.
Despite the difficulty with determining ROI relative to specific content, keep in mind that searches are indeed still motivated by a desire for quality content. Thus, the smartest approach for a business to take is to ensure that its web site contains the information that customers are likely to want, and to focus its online presence on providing that information at the lowest possible cost.
While SEO is still an important part of your efforts to achieve higher search engine ratings, the old tricks such as keyword stuffing and irrelevant links really do not work. However, you can’t go wrong by providing as much valuable content as possible for your online visitors.
For some ideas on what you can do to improve your content marketing ROI, see this March 2014 post on the Marketo blog.
This is a guest post by Sarah Brooks from people search. She is a Houston based freelance writer and blogger. Questions and comments can be sent to brooks.sarah23 @ gmail.com.