7 Tools to Improve the ROI of Content Marketing

content marketing dillemma

[updated from an earlier version] We all know content marketing is the new SEO, but many of us struggle with creating valuable content on a consistent basis because it’s so time-consuming. And, it’s challenging to monitor the ROI achieved through content marketing because data are fragmented across individual social platforms and web analytics. What we need are integrated tools to improve the ROI of content marketing, which also means providing analytics that helps optimize ROI. The checklist below offers a strategy for ensuring you produce valuable content on a consistent basis and achieve your marketing goals.

content marketing checklist

Without some support for the ROI of content marketing, it’s difficult to:

  • get the budget necessary to do a good job
  • to optimize your strategy with insights from the performance of existing content marketing efforts

Improve the ROI of content marketing: Evaluating tools

Today, I’m focusing on free or almost free tools (<$50/ month) to improve the ROI of content marketing. In next week’s edition of Analytics in Action, I’ll talk about some newer paid options (>$100/ month) to improve the ROI of content marketing.

First, let’s talk about what it takes to improve the ROI of content marketing.

Optimal content

The first challenge to improving ROI is knowing what content works best with your target audience.

A perfect tool both evaluates how well your current content marketing performs based on some metric or metrics that map to KPIs (shares, reach, engagement, clicks …) and offers suggestions to make content curation/ creation easy.

Build community

You need a community to improve the ROI of content marketing. An engaged community (get great advice on building an engaged community from Inc) amplifies your message and acts as a brand advocate to encourage purchase.

A perfect tool helps identify potential engaged members of your community.

Reduce costs

Content marketing is expensive. Curating content that works for your audience from the millions of potential pieces of content available online takes time. Crafting posts (or modifying automatically curated posts) takes even more time.

A perfect tool makes it easy to share content you curate or create.

Tools to improve the ROI of content marketing

1. Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a great tool for managing content marketing — it takes a lot of time out of the process and provides some resources to improve your ROI, such as auto-scheduling so posts appear when your community is likely to see them.

content marketing tool

The free version provides management for 3 platforms and some simple analytics. Additional analytics are available for a fee (which I happen to think is pretty steep). The paid version also allows the integration of additional platforms and analytics. They also offer Hootsuite University to help folks just starting out with content marketing.

Pluses

  • Free
  • Easy to set up
  • Visual platform
  • Quick daily management to ensure consistent content sharing
  • You can add RSS feeds to help curate content from great websites
  • Browser widget eases curation of content as you surf the internet

Minuses

  • too few platforms for the free version (recent dramatic increases in pricing mean this product starts at $49/month with 10 platforms and 1 user — the previous price was $9.99)
  • analytics are expensive and not really ROI-focused
  • unclear how the auto-schedule feature calculates the best post times so the posts might not be optimized
  • no help with curation or creation of content (what to share)
  • extra costs for additional users

2. SproutSocial

Sprout social provides more control over content marketing and helps improve the ROI of content marketing with better analytics, but that comes at a price since there is no free version. The major advantage is the enhanced ability to actively build relationships with your community and build that community so you get more earned media.

Here’s what a general group report might look like:

improve ROI of content marketingPluses

  • Much more information about your social platforms’ performance to help improve the ROI of content marketing
  • Easily add folks to your social networks via keyword search
  • Easily follow/ unfollow
  • Easily integrated RSS feeds through Feedly
  • Manage multiple groups
  • Easily schedule content curation with a browser widget
  • Provides ideas of what to share/ create
  • Social CRM tools
  • Review option makes this a great tool for larger operations where controlling post content is a requirement

Minuses

  • Cost, minimum $89.99/ month (billed in an annual amount) for 5 platforms
  • There are extra costs for additional users
  • Can’t manage certain platforms such as Facebook Profiles

3. Buffer

The free version of Buffer lets you schedule posts (either by using the browser widget, selecting from their curated content, or by creating your own posts). The paid version offers scheduling suggestions to improve the ROI of content marketing and analytics.

Pluses

  • Free
  • Easy to set up
  • up to 3 profiles with the free version
  • engagement tools in the paid version

Minuses

  • no analytics; to get analytics the cost is $5/ social channel
  • no approval option with the free version

4. Buzzsumo

I recently started using Buzzsumo and find it really simple and helpful for finding trending content across any keyword. Looking at the resulting report (below), you see you get valuable insights about major players associated with this keyword and how much traction they’re getting across social platforms; providing competitor intelligence.

You could, for example, reach out to these individuals and build relationships that promote your own content marketing efforts or find influencers for a marketing campaign. And, don’t forget to look at the backlinks and shares already accumulated for each piece of content.

improving the ROI of content marketing

5. Guest posts

Guest posts are a win/ win for website owners and folks wanting to enhance their online reputation and, regardless of the cause, online reputation management is a high priority for your brand. By publishing a guest post on a popular website, you gain valuable backlinks (a major factor signaling your expertise to users and a major factor in SEO. You might use Buzzsumo to discover options for your guest post efforts. When submitting a guest post, be sure you provide valuable content that fits the nature of the site hosting your post rather than a commercial for your brand. Laws in most regions require you to notify readers if your recommendations involve some type of compensation, so disclose these relationships to keep the website owner out of hot water. Proofread your content carefully before submitting it to ensure it’s grammatically correct and supports SEO factors by using your keyphrase in the heading, subheading, and appropriately within the body. Include images and any other information (such as an author bio) requested by the website owner.

User-generated content (UGC), either on your website or social platforms, really helps meet your need for fresh content on a consistent basis, which is a major factor for SEO. Of course, you must control the UGC or you can damage your reputation. I get a large number of requests to guest post on Hausman Marketing Letter, mostly because my content is syndicated on Business2Community, The SAP Innovations Blog, and often on Social Media Today — which enhances the distribution of guest posts I publish on my site. Of course, this means I have a bunch of guest posts submitted and only publish those providing superior value to readers. Other sites may have more room for guest posts or might offer to publish your content for a small fee. Flattery gets you nowhere, at least with me, so sending a long email full of praise for my website does nothing to increase your chances of publication, so stick to the facts and produce an outstanding piece of content that requires no editing.

I use a plugin (User Submitted Posts) to make it easy for me to moderate submissions (I get way more than I can use) and for authors to submit their work on some of my websites. I’m not crazy about the user interface (although the Pro version is better), but it does the job. If you’re interested in publishing high-quality work on Hausman Marketing Letter, see my guidelines here and expect to wait a month or more before you see your post on screen as I have a large backlog.

User-generated content also taps into the social networks of the guest authors — giving you an enhanced distribution of your long-form content, which can improve the ROI of content marketing by getting more eyeballs and increasing the SERPs (move you up in keyword searches) of your pages. As a condition of publication, I require guest authors share the content with their social networks, although I suspect few have a large enough network to provide many benefits to my site.

6. CMS

Speaking of long-form content, a CMS (content management system) makes it easy to create, update, and manage long-form content — a blog on your website, for instance. Many CMS themes now offer the option of creating flexible home pages and mobile integration means you serve up the same site across different infrastructures — tablets, smartphones, computers, and smart TV.

I use WordPress and highly recommend it. WordPress is very flexible and easy to use without coding experience. A little knowledge of HTML and CSS, however, allows you increased functionality, although plugins really handle many of your marketing needs.

In the bad old days, websites were custom coded from scratch — which was very time-consuming (expensive) and made it difficult to adopt new standards that enhance your ROI by either improving your SERPs or increasing reach. With a good CMS, you easily (and with less cost) improve the ROI of your content marketing.

7. Analytics for long-form content

Long-form content relies on analytics that assesses long-form content. For most of us, that means using Google Analytics, which provides incredibly detailed analytics to manage your website. Here’s an overview of how to use Google Analytics to improve the ROI of content marketing. I use the MonsterInsights plugin from Yoast to install the proper tracking code into my head section to allow monitoring of activity on my website.

I also use an SEO tool to help improve how my website performs in search. I love WordPress SEO by Yoast. Once you get the settings right, this is the best SEO tool for marketing if you want my opinion.

Both these products from Yoast offer a well-featured free version while both also offer a premium version for a fee. I find the free version works just fine but I like free stuff.

Your turn

What are your favorite FREE or low-cost content marketing tools?

Do you have experiences with these tools that improve the ROI of content marketing?

If you’re willing to share your experiences, I’d love to include your story in a future post. Just enter your email and story in the comments section below.

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