For most businesses, organic search is the single largest source of web traffic. It’s often high-quality traffic too because that’s how people find things: they have a question and they search for answers.
Organizations that publish content with answers to those questions have a solid chance of showing up in a search page with potential answers. In fact, you must publish content in order for it to be indexed and returned in response to search.
That’s the gist of a piece Michael Brenner wrote for the Content Marketing Institute last week titled The Best Reason to Do Content Marketing? Organic Search. He goes on to make the case that content marketing delivers organic search results that:
- Yields the highest volume of visitors;
- Produces visitors are more likely to convert;
- Facilitates conversions that tend to transition to higher quality leads; and
- Supports customer loyalty and retention.
But he also notes that content marketing lets you have your cake and eat it too because it supports softer metrics that at the same time:
- Builds brand;
- Drives engagement; and
- Leads to a reputation for thought leadership.
There are a few benefits I’d add to that:
a) Content marketing facilitates media relations. Content marketing is pivotal to media relations and done well, media relations will, in turn, help your content marketing; and
b) Content marketing drives integrated marketing. When you run content marketing like a professional publication and program – and not a campaign – it becomes a natural point of integrated marketing that supports not just external communications, but also internal communications, sales enablement and market education.
None of this is fast or quick: these results evolve over time. So how do you make the case in the interim? Here are three easy measures.
1) Benchmark cost-per-word.
This measure is useful for making the case to invest in content marketing. No doubt your organization is creating content and that has a cost. A professional writer easily costs $1.00 per word. That’s an old school freelance writing metric, but it’s still a solid benchmark. You can assess what you spend on content today, and back into your own number.
Keep in mind, this is purely the cost of content creation, where there are additional costs in distribution. By contrast, a big part of content marketing is building an additional distribution channel. It’s a channel you own and scales and brings the cost of distribution down over time.
2) Compare cost-per-click.
This is a measure of effectiveness that compares organic search traffic to paid sources: spend on content marketing divided by traffic. If you spend $3,000 per month and get 7,000 visitors that works out to about .43 cents per click. That’s very competitive with virtually any other source of traffic.
Making this comparison is usually easy because chances are, someone in your organization is responsible for buying traffic, whether that’s through pay-per-click (PPC), paid social, paid email distribution or other paid channels. That person can tell you definitively the average cost-per-click (CPC).
If they can’t there are a gazillion studies online that provide good paid benchmarks. For example, Mr. Brenner cites two that look at this across mediums in his CMI piece. Another source, WordStream, which makes software for PPC and social media advertising, puts the average Google CPC at $1-$2.
Caution! Averages can be misleading: the most competitive keywords can easily cost hundreds of dollars per click. The higher the cost, the clearer the benefit of content marketing. You can begin measuring immediately as soon as you start publishing content. It’s a great way to show interim results as you build out the program.
3) Cost per acquired email address.
Good content marketing programs build more than just web visitors, it builds subscribers through RSS and email. Email subscribers are an excellent measure of effectiveness.
Why? Because many organizations count emails as a “lead.”
Putting the debate about MQLs and SQLs aside – the fact is an email address is generally the starting point and the cost of acquiring that email address can be quantified. A 2014 study by Salesforce, which I haven’t see replicated elsewhere since said the average B2B marketing organization spends $150 to acquire a single email address (PDF).
It’s older, but what I like about that Salesforce data is that it is unambiguous and it looks specifically at the cost of acquiring an email address. It provides a basis for determining a clear measure of success: if you have 500 subscribers, that’s a marketing value of $75,000. In other words, you’d have to spend $75k to get the same number of email addresses if you just published gated content.But don’t stop there! When your business closes a deal, go back and look to see if anyone from that organization is an email subscriber. That gets you a whole lot closer to sales value.Click To Tweet
But don’t stop there! When your business closes a deal, go back and look to see if anyone from that organization is an email subscriber. That gets you a whole lot closer to sales value.
If you don’t like the Salesforce data, there are many other studies that benchmark the cost per lead (CPL). In addition, your marketing shop probably already knows with some precision its average CPL.
A Word of Caution
Pitch these ideas as a comparison – a case for investing or investing more in content marketing – and not as a replacement. Ideally, all the options in marketing are well integrated. You should be putting some spend toward PPC and paid social distribution. And if your organization relies on gated content, that’s not likely to change. To that end, content marketing is complementary to most other marketing activities. If you do it well it will bring results and enhance the results you get from everything else.
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