A key part of my job as a product manager at Contently is talking to people. Before we ever ship a new feature to the public, we gather intel and ask for feedback. By getting a sense of how people think, act, and solve problems, I can help tailor our product to their needs.
Earlier this year, as we were planning our 2021 product roadmap, I interviewed dozens of CMOs about their approaches to measuring content marketing ROI. These leaders represented a diverse set of companies, but they all agreed on one thing: quantifying content’s impact on revenue was their biggest challenge.
A lot of the CMOs mentioned attribution modeling, which attempts to assign a weighted value to all the actions and contact someone makes on the path to a purchase. There’s first-touch attribution, last-touch attribution, and custom attribution. Multi-touch attribution modeling seems to be the best option, according to the people I spoke with, because it paints the most complete picture.
“This is the holy grail,” they said. “This is content ROI.”
And in some ways, they’re right. With so many marketing channels available, determining content’s role in revenue is a logical way to keep executives bought-in and budgets flowing.
So, what’s the catch? None of the subjects I interviewed had actually applied multi-touch attribution to their content marketing efforts. They’re certainly not alone. For the majority of brands, the cost of implementing new technologies for user tracking and attribution analytics, and integrating them within existing tools is prohibitively high. Not to mention the expertise it takes to stay on top of all the data.
However, the bigger issue—and the one we’re set out to address at Contently—is that attribution modeling doesn’t capture the complete value that content delivers to your organization. High-quality content allows brands to build relationships directly with their audience and elevate their brand equity in addition to supporting purchasing decisions. That content also unlocks one of your most important marketing channels: organic search.
Cracking the ROI code on search
According to an internal study, 67 percent of our customers’ traffic came from search over the past year. But only a small number of our customers had invested in tracking the SEO value of their content.
By occupying valuable real estate on search engine results pages, content was not only driving traffic to their websites, but also improving brand recognition at the crucial research stage of the buying cycle. Forrester research tells us that executive buyers look at an average of 17 pieces of content before signing a contract. These assets provide a steady stream of qualified visitors without forcing brands to repeatedly spend money on paid ads.
Meanwhile, in 2019, VP of news Richard Gingras revealed that Google was shifting to reward more ambitious content. “An important element of the coverage we want to provide is original reporting, an endeavor which requires significant time, effort and resources by the publisher,” he wrote.
Google has been recognizing the benefits of quality content, but there’s wasn’t a great way to measure that value… until now. We’re very excited to launch our Content Value dashboard that quantifies what your organic search traffic is worth to your brand every month.
It proves the value of content, down to the dollar, using a proprietary formula built by the product team. We’re able to do this by using the unique cost-per-click (CPC) values that Google assigns to keywords within its Adwords program. In other words, our algorithm is able to determine how much money a competitor would need to spend in order to replicate your keyword rankings and visits with paid advertisements.
We also put together a short animated video so you can see it in action.
We’re confident this new addition to our analytics suite will help marketers transform their approach to content measurement and better capture the true value of their work. It doesn’t require any complicated pixel implementation—any content pieces with a valid URL can be tracked with ease.
And unlike attribution models, which are retroactive indicators of ROI, Content Value is a leading indicator. The dashboard makes it easy to understand what pieces of content are currently making an impact on your audience, even before a deal closes.
As one marketing executive in healthcare told me during an interview, “This shows us something great that we didn’t even know we needed to look for.”
In the future, we’re hoping to add more to the dashboard for different regions and channels—like social and email—so brands can quantify value beyond just search. We view this as a stepping stone for marketers as they continue striving toward multi-touch attribution models.
Content is by far the most cost-effective way to reach people on search and feed your marketing funnel. When done right, it signals the expertise, authority, and trust that Google loves. When you think about it this way, CMOs can still go after the holy grail, only now it won’t seem so much like rocket science.