Content marketing ROI for blog posts: The beginners’ guide for brands targeting runners
These days, most brands do have a blog, which they use as a place to occasionally dump some thoughts or company news. But what sets apart the brands who drive their businesses forward using content marketing is thinking like a publisher. That’s the true way to get content marketing ROI for blog posts…
There are some inspired publications out there today, produced not by publishing companies, but by manufacturing brands.
Take parenting – BabyCentre is an extremely good publication, made by Johnson & Johnson. In the beauty industry, Makeup.com competes with some of the best publications going – it’s produced by L’Oréal. And for marketers, the publication CMO.com is a tremendous resource; it’s Adobe who create it.
So what about the health and fitness industry, what about targeting runners? How can your brand join this highly successful bunch?
You first need a strategy for why you’re creating content. What are you hoping to achieve from it? The brands doing it best identify a need that their consumers have, related to the product or their wider life, then create blog posts that provide information, education or entertainment on a regular basis.
Think of the person who is your biggest fan and most loyal customer. What content experience would they most love to get from you? How often would they want to read a blog post by you? Do your blog posts explain the value of regular heart rate-monitoring, so that gradually it dawns on readers that they need to buy your device that measures their heart rate? What would have them share each blog post with someone they know, so that that person then becomes a paying customer too, sooner or later?
There’s some good thinking that’s required upfront, before you can establish how your blog can become a regular part of the lives of your core demographic. Your blog publication needs to really, truly benefit your business more than the alternative, which would be you not taking the time and money to have a blog publication in this way.
Having a regular publication that serves a deep purpose for a distinct audience – something they become a subscriber to (usually an email newsletter subscriber as a way to get your content delivered to them regularly) – is a way to make your brand indispensable and first-to-mind when someone thinks about the topic you cover and the products or services that you sell.
How do you measure the success of your blog?
This branded blog publication idea all sounds very nice, but what impact does it have on your bottom line? It’s not enough to produce something that looks pleasing, and that internally your team feels proud of. It has to help your business make money.
It’s important to emphasise that content marketing takes time. It can take months before you start to see tangible results, because your blog posts may need time to get into the top positions for search terms on Google, and it can take time to change the behaviour of your core audience so that reading your content becomes a habit.
But it’s those who stick it out in the long run who see the best results. This is in terms of a direct correlation between people consuming your content and paying for your running tech products or running event services – for every pound, Euro or dollar you put in to blog post creation, you make several times more back.
Beyond the most direct return on investment in monetary terms, there are other important metrics to measure the success of your blog. These start with a blog post getting visits, getting shares, getting backlinks. Gradually people start subscribing to your email newsletters, becoming customers, and eventually becoming advocates and telling other people about your blog in person via word of mouth or online. If your content is good enough, some of your customers will help do your marketing for you.
Some of the ways to measure success are pure numbers (quantitative) and some are based on people’s opinions (qualitative).
Measuring ROI: Quantitative KPIs
Within a week…
- Number of visits to that blog post
- Total number of social shares
- Number of backlinks
- Increased number of email opens vs average
- Increased number of email clickthroughs on that link vs average CTR
Within a month…
- Number of email subscribers
- Number of customer enquiries
- Number current customers you’ve sent the link to who have responded in some way
- Number of potential customers you’ve sent the link to (sending the link is good excuse for your team to get in touch with potential customers, or for your brand to stay front of mind for purchase consideration)
- Number of potential customers who have responded in some way
- Direct visits to your homepage, because people have started to seek out your content
- Increase in visits from branded search, with people wanting more from your brand
Within a quarter…
- Number of new customers who stemmed from this activity
- Total amount of new customer revenue
- Total amount of customer retention, in the form of additional revenue from previous purchasers
Measuring ROI: Qualitative KPIs
Within a quarter…
- Notable brands who have shared or linked to the blog post
- Increased positive sentiment about your company from readers, which you have picked up online or in person
A good way to get qualitative data from people – while also getting an aggregate of their behaviour on your blog pages – is to use a tool that provides visual and qualitative analytics. Hotjar is our go-to for this. It allows you to see video recordings of how people act on your site, hotspots of where people click, heat maps of how far down the page they scroll and surveys for asking people about what influenced their behaviour.
This not only helps you optimise your site, but it also gives you an indication of the quality of the leads being generated by your blog posts. A piece of content on building lean muscle might be generating lots of clicks, but if these users are all disappearing off your site very quickly – and it’s not leading to them buying your protein powder soon or later – something isn’t working. Hotjar can help you identify what the problem is and make the necessary changes to the content, or to aspects of your website itself such as the usability design.
Sometimes it pays to go old school, beyond tools like Hotjar. For some clients, we’ve conducted customer interviews, either in person or by phone, asking questions directly about their experience prior to purchase. If in doubt, get it from the horse’s mouth.
Content marketing ROI for blog posts: How much should you expect to spend?
The specific costs can vary wildly depending upon what each blog posts actually entails. Is this a medium-length list article, or a long-form authoritative guide that looks to make a complex subject manageable for people? Are you using royalty-free imagery from the web, or running your own photoshoots to illustrate the piece? In fact, are you creating your own illustrations or infographics? Are you conducting original research?
All these things impact on the time and expertise required to put each blog post together, which influences what it will cost you.
Content creation costs
As a general guide, if you’re outsourcing the production of a blog, then 50p a word could feel like a reasonable guide. So for a 1,000-word blog post, you might expect to pay £500. Meanwhile an extremely in-depth piece that takes several days to research and ends up as 2,500 words might set you back £1,250.
Often, in content marketing, fees like this aren’t just about paying for the writing. Typically you’re also paying for an editor to write a brief, source a specialist writer to commission if there isn’t already a specialist in house, and then doing some back-and-forth amends with the writer when the copy is submitted, to fine-tune it and get it just right.
There may also be additional steps that you’re paying for within that fee, such as a sub-editor to proof read and check for house style, brand tone of voice and search engine optimisation, someone to do picture research and picture editing or source video or social post embeds to include, somebody uploading the blog post into your content management system, a social media specialist working out just the right copy and imagery to make the article compelling to click on from within a social feed, and an account manager to liaise with you on it.
Some agencies or individual freelancers will charge vastly less, for instance under £100, but you’re typically get the quality you pay for. In other cases, the cost could be a lot more – it could run into the thousands of pounds – in order to make a blog post so original and unique that it’s designed to pick up press coverage or get shared by influencers in its own right.
The two other things to bear in mind is that we’re only talking about the cost of producing a single blog post here, and so when thinking of ROI, you should bear in mind that you’re likely to also have to pay for the strategy that comes before the production and the distribution that comes after it.
Content strategy costs
The strategic phase to plan blog posts that meet the specific informational gaps that your distinct audience have, including looking at the keyword opportunities to get into one of the top 3 positions on Google for that search term, might take anything from a day to a week or even longer. This depends on whether you’re planning an initial series of 3 blog posts, or 6 months of content at two posts per day, or something in between.
A single day’s quality strategic thinking that results in a very effective plan for you needs might cost you anything from £200 to £1,000 or even more. Similarly, a strategy that takes a week might require anything from £1,000 up to £3,000 and beyond. If you already have a plan that you’ve created in house then you can save on this, but either way, it’s worth budgeting for a day a month or at least a day per quarter of strategic time to check that everything is performing as it should over time, and if any aspect of your blog post plan needs amending as you go.
Content distribution costs
When you’ve built it, will they come? Or other words, once you’ve published your blog post on your website, and promoted it organically on your relevant social media channels, is that job done, will it get lots of traffic that converts in terms of the KPIs we mentioned earlier?
It might do, if your social media copy and imagery really the piece leap out from people’s feeds – and if you have a big enough following. That’s particularly if you have a community of people who have good or trusting follower bases on social media, who all share your article at the same time, gaming the social algorithms to get your post in front of lots of people for free.
Also, if you have regularly proven that your website and blog posts have offered the definitive page on the Internet that satisfies someone’s search query, you’ll have a high ‘Domain Authority’ and your latest blog post could quite quickly get into a high position on page 1 of Google for the search term you’ve geared it towards.
But, these things may not happen in such a perfect way, which means you might need to put more budget into distribution in order to make sure that you get your full money’s worth from the strategic and production phases and that enough people read your blog post for it to have a proper impact that generates a return on investment.
On social media, typically you might boost the Facebook post, targeted to just the right people, and optimising the ‘ad’ to get link clicks. You can do the same with sponsored Tweets, promoted Pins and other paid media solutions across the various social networks. You could pay as little as £4 per post to reach 1,000 more people than you would have done – or you might want to spend £500, if you’ve built up your content distribution experience to know that you’ll get a lot more than that back in product sales.
You could also pay the most relevant influencers to post links to your blog post, which they could charge you £500 for, up well into the thousands.
To distribute your content using search engines, you can also of course use Google AdWords to get your blog post to the top of Google’s sponsored search results and jump the queue of organic results. This could set you back £2 per click, or even up to £5 or £10 a click for very competitive terms. Not to mention perhaps £200-£1,000 per day for someone to operate your paid search campaign, at anything from a day a month to 20 days a month.
Link-building is another vastly effective method of content distribution. After creating your blog post, you reach out to specific journalists at the most relevant publications to insert a link into a piece they’ve already published, or to the most relevant influencers in the space and ask them to link back to your article from their website. If your blog posts excites them enough, and they know how much value their audience will get from it, then it might not be too hard to convince them, but still this process takes time. Link-building might be a day a month in total up to 5 days a month or more, at £200-£1,000 per day depending upon who is doing this for you. Overall, the bigger the Domain Authority of the website linking to your blog post, the faster and higher it will rise up the Google search positions, because the Google algorithm will understand that it’s the authority on that topic and more likely than any other page to satisfy users.
Finally, don’t forget good old email. If you already have an email newsletter going out, that sees a decent open rate and click-through rate, then that’s another distribution method that won’t cost any more than it is already. But if you need to set up a regular email proposition, then could be another £200-£1,000 or more, depending on whether your emails are daily, weekly, monthly, and what needs to go into them.
As a rule of thumb, start with monthly costs of £1,000 for strategy, £3,000 for production and £2,000 for distribution as a decent starting point to get your head around.
How quickly should you expect to see ROI?
It can be immediate, but it depends upon the purchasing tendencies of the individual customer at hand.
Some people spend more time reading about which brand of protein bars they should be eating than someone else might take working out which luxury hiking holiday to purchase. Some folk are at checkout within 30 seconds of first considering a purchase, while others take years to finally hit ‘Confirm’.
The key thing is to commit to a regular cadence of blog posts that get quality information, education or entertainment to your customers – leaving you with the best possible chance of grabbing someone’s attention and converting them into a buyer.