It's the lifeblood of marketers. ROI gives our work meaning. It lets us know when we're doing our best work and when we're doing our worst.

But it's something we're having a really hard time calculating when it comes to content marketing. 

AdAge had a telling headline yesterday: Advertisers Struggle to See the ROI on Branded Content. This isn’t the first story of its kind and it won't be last.

So, what’s a marketer to do?

Let’s stop for a moment and remember that embracing content marketing is a paradigm shift in modern advertising. To be successful, you will have to rethink some of your other preconceived notions you have about what to do and how to measure it.

For instance, marketers often cling to the notion that their efforts need to bring visitors to their website. Even for fans of your brand, it’s almost a ridiculous notion to expect them to frequently visit your websites — whether or not there is compelling content there. Your site may have some content consumers enjoy, but it can’t compete regularly against all of the exciting sites and apps out there.

However, by delivering content off your site, in social media or in content advertising, you actually reach consumers where they are on the web right now.

Many content marketers also wrongfully think that embracing content marketing means focusing on purely inbound activities and abandoning all uses of paid media. The reality is unless your brand is wildly successful in becoming a publisher and media company, outbound methods are a necessary tactic in generating the reach that your content needs.

Publishing content to paid media, in the form of content ads, promoted posts, or native advertising solves that content distribution problem and provides a cornucopia of measurable results. With paid media publishing, you continue to deliver value to consumers in the form of content, but you apply the scale of paid media to reach a broader audience as you apply that value.

In fact, advertising is already a core competency of most marketers. Content advertising combines the old skillset of advertising with the new skillsets of content marketing. 

Below I’ve made some comparisons to highlight just how measurable promoted content is:


On your site you can measure:

  • Searches
  • Website traffic
  • Social follows
  • Search engine ranking

...but it can be difficult to attribute these factors to specific content or campaigns.

Content ads however, give three perfectly simple success metrics for awareness:

  • Impressions
  • Interaction Rate
  • Time-on-Unit (a.k.a. Dwell Time)

Brand Lift

You can measure:

  • increase in website pageviews
  • longer visit duration
  • lower bounce rate
  • various social media metrics

...but many of the consumers you’re reaching are offsite, and again, attribution of which content worked best becomes very challenging with many of these metrics.

Paid media offers proven success metrics for content:

  • Engagement Rate
  • Expansion Rate
  • Video play metrics
  • Shares

Lead Generation + Sales

Demonstrating what content influenced a successful lead capture form or sale can done, especially if you are running some kind of marketing automation.

Online advertisers have already found a variety of tactics to track sales resulting from an ad interaction.

Online media offers:

  • Form completion
  • Clickthrough rate
  • Click tagging (inject variables      into links to provide attribution)
  • 3rd party tracking options


The next time you want some cold, hard ROI for your content marketing, try paid media. If you're interested in using rich media as your canvas, I suggest you check out The Essential Guide to Paid Media Publishing and get started with content advertising today.