How to Calculate the ROI of Your Content Marketing

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How to Calculate the ROI of Your Content Marketing

Do you know which of your topics resonate best with your audience or social channel?

You likely write on a variety of different topics around a central theme. Do you know which of your topics resonate best with your audience or social channel? Which topics get the most clicks, have the lowest bounce rate, longest time spent on your site, engage new or existing users?

Traditional social analytics won’t tell you this. To learn this information you need to look beyond vanity metrics (likes, shares and favorites).

Once you know which topics work best with your audience and social channels you can spend more time on the things that matter most.

You want to make sure you are writing “prime time” content.

Let’s say you generally write content around 3 topics; How to articles, What you don’t know about ____, Why our product is superior to the competition.

I like using the analogy of a TV network. Imagine your 3 topics are the TV shows that run on your network. On television there time slots that are more valuable than others, because more people are apt to be watching. The first slot is Early Morning (6-9am), Daytime (10-4) and Prime Time (8-10). The most coveted spot is Prime Time, followed by Early Morning and lastly Daytime. You want to make sure you are writing Prime Time content. These are the best shows on TV, that are watched and loved by the most people (Modern Family, Seinfeld).

How do you know what your Prime Time content is?

With UTM link tagging you can learn over time which topic is performing best. Then you can shift more time and resources away from a low performing topic to a higher performing one. That means you will generate more of the content your audience enjoys, and spend less time on a topic that is not performing or resonating with your audience. In turn that will garner you more clicks, lower bounce rates, and more time spent on your site.

In addition to learning what topics your audience enjoys most, you will also learn which networks perform the best. You may find that you have different Prime Time content for different social channels. It could be that you Facebook audience enjoys your “How to” articles most, but your twitter audience engages more with “What you don’t know” topics. This information is extremely valuable as it tells you what to share and where.

What is link tagging and what are UTM’s?

UTM parameters are tags you add to the end of the links you want to share from your site. UTM parameters will only give you info on links shared from a domain you own, that has Google Analytics on it. If you are sharing 3rd party content (points to a domain you don’t own) you will not have access to the data.

Let’s begin with a link that already has UTM parameters added to it and I will break down each section.

The utm_source value is ‘Social’. The traffic coming from this link originates on a social channel.

The utm_medium value is ‘Facebook_Post’. The traffic coming to this link originated on Facebook and was shared within a Facebook wall post.

The utm_campaign value is ‘Pacifiers’, this is where you enter your topic or content theme. Like “How-To”, to identify a “How to” from our above example.

There are many different ways to structure these tags, for our purpose we will be using “topical” or “thematic” campaign tagging. Doing this allows you, over time, to see which topics perform best with your audience and network. Tip: If you are sharing one link to multiple social channels you will need to create a link for each one. Instead of Facebook, you would write Twitter, Pinterest etc…

Don’t get intimidated by the garblie-gook nature of how these look.
There is an easy way to create these links. You can use Google’s online link tagging tool here. I actually prefer to using a workbook in Google docs created by Epikone. That way my entire team has access.

Using a workbook is ideal when you have multiple people sharing links to social channels. Using the workbook allows for the least amount of errors as you can include specific terms to be used when building UTM’s. It enables you to keep track of all your links, and even sort them by campaign type. Doing so gives you an easy way to see how many links you are sharing around each topic. This data is useful as it will allow you to see exactly how much effort is being put into each topic. You can grab a copy of my preferred link tagging workbook here.

How do you find and interpret the data?

  1. Log in to your Google Analytics account.
  2. In the left panel navigation choose Acquisition
  3. Then choose Campaigns (last option at the bottom)
  4. Review Visits, Pages/Visit, Avg. Time Spent on Site, %New vs. %Returning and Bounce Rate to make informed decisions about which topics are resonating best with your audience and on which social channels.

Click on any campaign name to drill deeper. Alternatively you can turn on secondary metric (secondary dimension) so that you don’t have to drill down into each campaign. Choose medium, because that is where we are identifying the social network within our UTM parameters.

That’s it, it’s really that easy!
Now you can see which “campaign”, which for us is our topic category/theme is sending the most traffic to your site and keeping people there the longest.


Helpful Tips


  • You can only get data from links to a domain you own.
    For example, you own On one of your  social channels you share a link from You won’t be able to see the data from that url in Google Analytics; but Mashable could. Don’t bother adding UTM parameters to links that don’t point to a domain you don’t own. This method is for determining how effective YOUR content is not others.
  • Plan ahead what your UTM terms will be.
    Google will see “facebook” and “Facebook” as different things. I like adding a second sheet to the excel workbook with approved terms to be used. I then ask my team to always copy and paste those approved terms into the field in the workbooks to ensure no discrepancies. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked in Google Analytics and seen “Facebook” and “Faecebook”
  • No spaces or special characters are allowed.
    If you need to write multiple words add_a_space_like_this or you can write-it-like-this. No special characters either. So if you have a hashtag campaign or something unique you would need to write hashtag-campaign-one, not #campaign1
  • Additional UTM parameters
    There are more UTM parameters than I have listed in this tutorial. These additional fields are used for PPC campaigns. You can’t leave any blank fields when using the workbook though. Use a (-) any other UTM fields. Remember we are only using Source, Medium, and Campaign.
  • Think before you type
    Don’t use any words or phrasing in your campaign names you wouldn’t want seen by someone. Anyone can read the URL in the browser. I recently saw someone using the campaign name “Recycling-Old-Content” and it was turn off when I saw it, no one wants old stuff.
  • Shorten your long links
    Links can be long before you start adding UTM parameters to the end of them; making them even longer. I suggest using a link shortener, like bitly, before you share your links. There are a lot of other benefits to using a bitly but I’ll save that for another article.


All of this may seem like a lot to take in at first. It may even seem like a cumbersome extra step to sharing your content, but in time UTM links will become second nature, and the insights you’ll gain will pay off many times over. Soon you’ll be tailoring how many posts to write on each topic and which social channel to target with that content.


I spoke with a company the other day called GShift labs. They just launched (Sept. 2015) a tool they are calling KontextURLs. It’s everything I showed you above but instead of using a workbook, or Google’s online tool they have built a complete dashboard interface.

It eliminates the risk of team members not using the correct terms, writing terms incorrectly (facebook, Facebook) and it keeps track of all your URL’s in a neat little dashboard. You can even set preset “recipes” for certain pieces of content. That way a team member can choose a type from a drop down menu and voila!

If your team has outgrown the approach I’ve outlined in this article, or you have a large team creating and sharing a lot of URL’s on social I’d suggest giving them a call for a demo. I spoke with John-Michael Irving, their Senior Sales & Account Manager and he was really informative about their product. I’m definitely keeping an eye on this tool to see how it evolves.