Measuring the ROI of content marketing


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An overview of key concepts, challenges and processes for attributing monetary ROI values against individual content marketing activities

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Measuring the ROI of content marketing

  1. 1. Measuring the ROI of content marketing @jonoalderson
  2. 2. What is ROI? “The concept of an investment of some resource yielding a benefit to the investor” - Wikipedia @jonoalderson
  3. 3. SLIDE #3 NOTES • There’s a perception that because digital is highly measurable, that this should be an easy question. It is and it isn’t. • The challenge is the language; it’s a dangerous(ly easy) term to use without thinking about what it means • It doesn’t necessarily mean “conversions”, “sales”, or even “ecommerce revenue” • It’s multi-faceted, and completely bespoke. It differs by organisation, and by context. We’ll explore this. • There are challenges beyond definition; even if you can articulate what it is, how do you break out the ROI of content marketing from everything else you do? How do you measure the ROI of a piece of content, vs. the campaign you invested in to send traffic to it? Or vs. peripheral contributions, such as the colour of your logo, or the physical brochures you sent out? Is content the asset, or the context? It’s where things come together. • Measuring it as a whole is impractical; you need to break it up into pieces. • Three places where we need to at or for ROI:    Activity or content which improves revenue …which decreases cost …or which builds brand – DANGER! @jonoalderson
  4. 4. No fluffy stuff @jonoalderson
  5. 5. SLIDE #5 NOTES • There’s a temptation to start talking about halo effects, branding and intangible value. • This is equally dangerous, because it takes us away from data, from metrics, and from business cases which rely on more than just good storytelling. • Everything can be measured or approximated and given a value; but it’s a conceptual challenge @jonoalderson
  6. 6. ROI is about value Image credit:, on Flickr @jonoalderson
  7. 7. SLIDE #7 NOTES • Introducing another intangible concept… Value • The question isn’t “what’s the ROI”; this masks a bigger business question, which is always “which levers should I move in order to make more money / spend time/resource more effectively / build brand”. • That’s a better question, it’s the actual question being asked, and it’s easier to answer. • In most cases, value == money; but the same principles apply for non-profits and charities; measure ‘equivalent economic value generated’ @jonoalderson
  8. 8. What if this mapped value? @jonoalderson
  9. 9. SLIDE #9 NOTES • Who’s ever looked at or used heatmaps or clickmaps? • Who’s found them pretty but disappointingly un-actionable? • …so people are clicking on stuff. Helpful. Not. • This is useful! • Typical content analysis focuses on the what. • More advanced stuff, as our tools and cultures evolve, looks at the why. None of that matters if you can’t answer the so what. • How do we get to this? @jonoalderson
  10. 10. There are some challenges to overcome @jonoalderson
  11. 11. The Funnel • • • • • Zealots Converters Prospects Passives Haters @jonoalderson
  12. 12. SLIDE #12 NOTES • Paid media (PPC, SEO, Affiliate marketing, etc.) and other mainstay digital activity goes after the tip of the Prospects group. Grab people who are swayed, go after what works and where there’s volume. • This is brute force marketing. • Why are paid search landing pages radically different from organic search pages when the consumer generally doesn’t know the difference? How often do you see paid search marketing on a content page? A blog post? A research piece? • • We live in this ecosystem because people struggle to measure and prove the ROI of content Challenges around differentiating the effectiveness of the traffic vs. the destination, and ownership of budgets/performance + channel segmentation • PPC landing pages etc. don’t “work”, and they don’t tap into a different market; you’re not “removing distractions” and refining targeting - you’re just refining your filter bubble (global warming, Facebook). • “TAKE OUR THING, TAKE OUR THING!” • Where does content sit in this? How do you either isolate or integrate it in a channel-centric marketing world? @jonoalderson
  13. 13. The role of content Risk of damage Value & Performance Truly viral Content Marketing Boosts conversion Newsworthy Pub chatter Links & citations Social sharing Needs compelling Needs validation Poor Average Good Needs supporting Great Excellent Outstanding @jonoalderson
  14. 14. This should be easy, right? @jonoalderson
  15. 15. Challenges from living in a DM world But… we use data badly @jonoalderson
  16. 16. SLIDE #16 NOTES • We use clickstream-level terminology, rather than business terminology. Conversion rates. Bounce rates. Pageviews. Repeat visits… • Because it’s not as easy or joined up as we’ve been told, but we’ve all been in the industry for so long that it’s embarrassing to admit that it’s not… That it needs as much – maybe more – thought than the kind of complex econometrics models we see with established and mature brick-andmortar brands. But the tools and the industry tells us it’s easy – just put the code on the page. Goals, context, and actual understanding are ‘nice to have’ extras. Data is worthless. More is not better, or more useful. Better is better, and this is something we’re not very good at. • Limitations of the tools and processes means that:    Marketing activities are segmented by channel We’re limited by visit-centric metrics (conversion rate) and optimisation. We’re focused on last-click attribution • Who’s familiar with Google’s ZMOT principle? We need a model which aligns with this. • But… PPC works. Channel segmentation works. It all works, because that’s all you’re doing. How do you pitch in multi-visit, ZMOT behaviour when all of your research says that it doesn’t happen? @jonoalderson
  17. 17. Attributing value image credit: Smart Insights and First10 @jonoalderson
  18. 18. SLIDE #18 NOTES • What’s the ROI of somebody reviewing an eBook? How do you get buy-in? • Unfortunately there’s no easy win – you have to do one and show that it works before you can get the big buy-in. • But the first one rarely works. So work your way through this list in order of most likely to demonstrate any kind of tangible return. Win on *one* and scale it. • Which channel or segment of marketing does this belong to? Awkward! • Survey on conversion influences, reverse-engineer value • Apply at action-level, e.g., eBook = 1/100th of a £100 conversion, eBook = £1 per click. Or per read? > 1 min, scroll to bottom; more complex with PDFs? • Move away from asset segmentation, and work on per visit goal value, cost per visit and value per visit • This is out there… This should be normal! • What drives change? The competitive landscape. Who goes first? Nobody. Mediocrity rules. • Be first to market and actually market. All this stuff we’re doing? It’s still just shouting into the wind. @jonoalderson
  19. 19. Challenges from living in a DM world There are two routes @jonoalderson
  20. 20. SLIDE #20 NOTES • • You need to understand what’s actually happening. What happens if somebody follows a link to a blog post from a Tweet, signs up for a newsletter, comes in three weeks later from an email about a special offer, buys a product, and three weeks later returns it? • You need to understand that behaviour, spot it, and use it to steer your direction – but you can’t rely on it for tactical or practical decision-making. Join all this up, import/integrate downstream data, but don’t aim to use it at the ground-level. • …what about service- or subscription-based models? Single value? Multiplied by duration? Lifetime value? Propensity to renew as a percentage of average lifetime value? More and more out of sync. Time delays, bad decisions. • • Day-to-day… Work with approximates, and accept value inflation (multiple overlapping values). You’re not trying to understand how much money the website makes – that doesn’t make sense (differentiate site from brand, content, traffic, marketing, etc). You’re trying to understand which combinations of activity generate value, and do more of that. @jonoalderson
  21. 21. Guestimation requires stakeholder buy-in @jonoalderson
  22. 22. SLIDE #22 NOTES • • “We’re not going to talk about conversion rates and numbers of sales – we’re going to talk about a theoretical, abstracted notion of propensity to generate value” [frame] • Needs definitions; objectives process • This is much bigger than just content marketing • …and most organisations don’t have this kind of framework • • HIPPOs Can’t educate them; but you can trap them. And there’s a process. • • They get the concept of content marketing. They read the blogs and listen to their peers. • But if you can’t make a business case, prove the numbers and make a compelling argument for spending money on content rather than where it “works”, you won’t get buy in. @jonoalderson
  23. 23. Use top-level business objectives Objective Goal Be seen as thought leaders Get people reading and engaging with our blog Increase sales revenue Double revenue by 2014 Increase customer lifetime value Provide the best customer service Create and curate great content that helps users find the information they need Achieve and maintain a high conversion rate to sale Improve marketing efficiency Increase self-service actions on the website @jonoalderson
  24. 24. SLIDE #24 NOTES • Cut down summary of the process; link at the end. • Get HIPPO business objectives. These will be poorly defined, ambiguous, some will be radically abstract, some will be overly-specific and metriccentric. Doesn’t matter. • Translate these into things which digital does. Get their sign off. @jonoalderson
  25. 25. Build HIPPO opinion into explicitly defined metrics Objective Be seen as thought leaders Goal Get people reading and engaging with our blog KPI Key Segment # triggers of time on page > 2 mins on a blog post (per month) Category, author # average comments-per-post (rolling) # sales (per month) Increase sales revenue Double revenue by 2014 Provide the best customer service Improve marketing efficiency Increase customer lifetime value Provide great content and help users find the information they need Performance Department, channel, product £ sales revenue (per month) % of new consumers via the website making a repeat purchase within 3 months (rolling, YoY) % task completion rate (per month) % satisfaction rate (per month) Channel, source, campaign, keyword, gender, geographic region, entry page Initiating page, Channel, source, campaign, keyword Maintain a high conversion rate to sale % visitors to macroconversions + calls (per month) Channel, source, campaign, keyword, call type Increase self-service actions on the website £ value of microconversions (per month) Microconverion, channel, source, campaign, keyword @jonoalderson
  26. 26. SLIDE #26 NOTES • Add explicitly crafted KPIs. Don’t use stock. Don’t leave any room for interpretation. • • Specify the unit of measurement, and the framework of reference (total, rolling, proportional, etc.) Identify key segments to allay fear. • Get sign off at this point (they won’t challenge the KPIs) • Set sensible targets, thresholds and champagne moments; these won’t exist, and it’ll be a guestimate. Get sign off. • • All those intangible, fluffy brand objectives the HIPPO committed to? They’ve got content-related KPIs. And if they’re underperforming against targets, great. There’s your budget signed off. • This can take months, because nobody’s ever asked anybody to write down their business objectives. @jonoalderson
  27. 27. Key Concepts 1. Lower the threshold of success with microconversions 2. Gain incremental permissions and build a longterm relationship 3. Utilise nurture funnels and marketing automation @jonoalderson
  28. 28. SLIDE #28 NOTES • This allows you to… • Micrconversions: small actions; a like/share, a comment, a newsletter signup, a PDF download, a registration, a rating. • Permissions: sign up, give details, commit to next steps, reinforce commitment, etc. • Nurture: Progress the user along a bespoke funnel. Entry and exit may happen at any point. There is no one funnel. • Need these in place in order to be doing the kind of activity which drives content ROI, and you need the kind of buy-in we’ve explored to get to this stage. This should be your core processes; it’s a constant, evolving and iterative process @jonoalderson
  29. 29. Picking metrics, and driving ROI It’s all bespoke (but here’s some food for thought) @jonoalderson
  30. 30. Value per visit and cost per visit Understand how much it costs to bring them in, and what you get out @jonoalderson
  31. 31. SLIDE #31 NOTES • This is your ROI! • Import production costs, marketing spends, even lighting and heating if it makes sense against channels and content. You can do this in GA. • Look at dimensions which are the most profitable; beyond keywords and pages, look at combinations and segments and see what works. Do more of that; much easier than brute forcing areas which under-perform @jonoalderson
  32. 32. Self Service What’s the cost/value/savings of somebody reading an FAQ and voting ‘this was useful’ vs. phoning the call centre? …or “this resolved my problem” in a help section @jonoalderson
  33. 33. Equivalent Savings What would it cost to advertise to 1m on TV? What’s the equivalent cost/value of the social reach and syndication of your content? …Or of 1,000 watching your 20 minute video end-toend? @jonoalderson
  34. 34. Survey on the impact of key assets “Was our white paper on *x+ influential in your buying decision?” Reverse-engineer the value of the consumption of this asset in terms of its propensity to be part of the buying decision @jonoalderson
  35. 35. Visits or Visitors? @jonoalderson
  36. 36. SLIDE #36 NOTES • Nature of purchase, scale of spend? Impulse or considered? B2B? • GA metrics are all visit-centric. This isn’t great. Encourages bad behaviour. • Use your own metrics. • API, custom dashboards, etc. Perception that it’s expensive and/or complex; it’s not if you’ve got explicit definitions and know what you need. You should be able to design exactly what the output looks like. Outsource it. • For GA, Analytics Canvas is a great entry-level tool, and also couples as a good proof of concept visualiser • Other tools; assess monthly unique visitors vs. visits, etc., and make a sensible decision @jonoalderson
  37. 37. Big Conversions are still important Sales. Subscriptions. Revenue. Don’t overlook these; and grab actual £ metrics whenever they’re available @jonoalderson
  38. 38. GA - per visit goal value @jonoalderson
  39. 39. SLIDE #38 NOTES • GA does this automatically if you give it goal value; but it’s limited. • Too big/high; need to account for the little things which add up. • Conversion rate stops meaning ‘number of macroconversions’ and starts meaning ‘% of traffic which we gained value from”. At this level, it doesn’t matter what that action was; what matters is these are the segments where you should be focusing your marketing efforts. • Dimensions can be anything. Channel and keyword are obvious; what about time of day? City? Recency and frequency? All of these dimensions start to become useful and actionable with the context of “value per” metrics. @jonoalderson
  40. 40. Data Import Upload content production costs Utilise page-level custom variables and passive events @jonoalderson
  41. 41. SLIDE #41 NOTES Content production costs, GA automatically re-calculates per-visit value, etc. • Retainer costs. • Call centre? Actual costs of time spent on phone answering questions where you have content which answers that…? • Lighting and heating? Fewer staff, lower costs… • This is technically easy. It’s conceptually challenging, and it needs bravery from high up to implement. @jonoalderson
  42. 42. Variable Events _gaq.push(['_trackEvent', ‘Value Add', ‘Blog Comment', 'UGC‘, 25]); @jonoalderson
  43. 43. SLIDE #43 NOTES • • If the cost of producing good content is (for arguments sake) £1 per word… Due to SEO, brand perception, nurture impact, etc… (reverse engineer better numbers, work it out loosely, refine periodically) • Then a 100 word UGC response to a blog post is probably worth 1/4 of that (lower quality, less editorial, but valuable in pure equivalent content) is worth £25. • Tweak the maths so that it makes sense for you, review and refine it periodically. • • Event-based goals, use (variable?) value Group, categorise and structure • Dealing with fractional stuff; GA doesn’t allow for fraction values… Use server-side analytics (UA) to keep tally of tiny events (e.g., individual blog post reads) and fire events at integer increments @jonoalderson
  44. 44. Reaching out • • • • • Zealots Converters Prospects Passives Haters There’s value here • Generate value from people who’ll never buy your product or services. • Passives and haters can generate value too; UGC example, or links/citations/reviews @jonoalderson
  45. 45. In summary… • Think about content in terms of value generated • Lower the threshold for the measurement of success, get buy-in from commitment to the ideals, and get proof of concept in order to scale • Put review points in place to sense-check downstream and big-picture data to steer understanding, decisions and value estimation • Conversion rate isn’t a useful metrics; unless you’re only marketing to your core audience. Look at value per metrics @jonoalderson
  46. 46. Your aspiration… @jonoalderson
  47. 47. SLIDE #47 NOTES • Anyone from, work with, or use HL? • Display & retargeting on content • Various entry levels • Nurture email campaigns and advancement triggers @jonoalderson
  48. 48. Thanks! Any questions? Resources: • My talk on data driven marketing: • GA data import/export manipulation with Analytics Canvas: @jonoalderson
  49. 49. Jono Alderson @jonoalderson @jonoalderson