According to Hubspot’s 2014 annual State of Inbound Report, blogging delivers the most substantial impact out of all marketing tactics. Blogging gets companies “found” and marketers who prioritize blogging are 13 times more likely to enjoy positive ROI.
Positive ROI? We decided to give it a try, and really invest in our blog.
First, we had to decide how to measure performance. In addition to standard blog metrics such as pageviews and shares, we decided to measure revenue, a key metric for SaaS startups.
To do this, we had to figure out a way to attribute revenue to the blog, separating it from our other channels and activities. This post is going to explain how we report revenue from our blog -- and how you can too.
Make The Cold Hard Commitment
First, I'd like to explain the cold hard commitments we made before investing in our B2B blog.
Blogging takes time. Particularly, time searching for the QUALITY in “quality content.”
According to Rand Fishkin of Moz fame, you can improve your “hit” rate by blogging a lot, building your skills with practice. Or you can spend more time in ideation and planning. The Wizard of Moz believes in the latter.
In an editorial on developing thought leadership, Rand Fishkin’s first point about becoming a thought leader is this: blogging every day didn’t actually help.
Fishkin often talks about blogging 5 nights a week for the first 5 years of Moz’s existence. Most of the posts flopped. But, the constant production allowed him to get good enough to increase his “hit” percentage. This might not be the best approach though:
Certainly, publishing regularly might help you get better at blogging and at earning “hits,” too. But if I were starting fresh, I’d spend far more time per piece of content (often in the ideation and validation phases) and less time pumping out content against some pre-conceived schedule.
--Rand Fishkin, Non Obvious Advice on Thought Leadership
Marketers must invest time in planning and brainstorming the contents of their B2B blog, revenue from blogging comes after.
Quality (Content) Over Quantity
How do we generate fresh ideas? We keep a running a list of ideas on a separate tab in a in our editorial calendar.
Blog Post Ideas Tab
Google Spreadsheets allows our team to add ideas anytime we feel the most creative, whether it’s early in the morning or late at night.
Yes, we do add to this list late night or early in the morning, whenever an idea comes to mind. Perhaps, this has to do with the nature of creativity.
In one of my favorite talks, actor and comedian John Cleese describes the space needed to be creative.
Ideas don’t come from laptops, they come from the unconscious, which requires us to create boundaries where we cannot be interrupted. We must get into the correct mood and mode of thinking, says Cleese.
“You have to create boundaries of space, and boundaries of time,” explains Cleese.
Creating an enclosure from the stress and distractions of everyday life is required for creativity.
If all this doesn’t scare you, let’s dive right into how we track blog metrics like revenue.
The B2B Blog As The First Touch
We attribute revenue to the blog using a first touch model. That means we credit the blog if it is the first web page a visitor lands on. To track this we eat our own dogfood by using our Salesforce marketing attribution app which cookies anonymous visitors and tracks their original marketing source.
When that visitor becomes a lead their blog visit data is accessed and becomes attached to their newly created Salesforce contact record. The blog visit log looks like this:
One Bizible field I think is under-used is the “Landing Page field” which is a record of the first URL the lead visited. It can be the home page, or any landing page. But if the URL has /blog in the url then it means the blog is the first page they landed on, at least for us.
Traditional web analytics software like Google Analytics take a last touch approach, greatly under-attributing revenue to the blog since blogging is a top of the funnel marketing activity, where first touches take place.
Revenue Reporting in Salesforce
Revenue tracking is a key input for helping us improve the quality of our content, the audience it attracts, and communicating our return on (blogging) investment.
Here’s how we created the revenue report:
Click the Reports tab, and select Opportunity in the Report type. Then click Create.
Select Show All Opportunities, set the Data Range and add a Filter. The Filter selects only closed-win opportunities whose first touch came from a blog page. This generates a list of all Salesforce opportunities where their first visit to the website was generated via the blog (regardless of the channel). Be sure the revenue column is included in the report. Parameters should look similar to this:
Then click Run Report. This shows how many opportunities converted into sales that month, even if the initial blog visit happened months or even years ago!
Reporting the Data
Salesforce uses Annual Contract Value (ACV), meaning it reports total annual revenue from a customer by default. But we want to track monthly revenue from the blog so we take a few more steps -- to be sure we are growing our blog.
We want to track our blog’s Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR), so each month we report our blog results in Excel, shown here:
Monthly Blog Performance Report
We measure growth by looking at MRR, each month there should be more recurring revenue than the last month.
Here’s what it looks like using an Excel graph from previous months:
Using these reports we know how effective the blog is as a revenue generator and how well it resonates with audiences. Without reporting we’d be directionless in building a successful B2B blog.
Purpose Behind the Numbers
So that’s how we measure revenue from the blog. It's effectively integrating Salesforce and Google Analytics to make the best decisions. It’s a lot of numbers, and we focus on the numbers to make sure we are building a blog that is valuable to the community.
But we also pay attention to something else: taking the time to create quality content. The accounting follows blog performance -- and performance follows unique content.