As our company continues to grow, we have invested pretty heavily in content marketing. Half of our marketing team consistently produces content, be it blog posts, ebooks, reports, webinars, etc. So it’s important that our content continues to contribute business value.
It has to build trust, generate leads that are good fits for our business, nurture prospects, and ultimately, it has to generate revenue.
We’ve done some interesting content analysis that has caused us to make changes, so we thought we’d share our approach, some of our data, and our learnings.
80% Of Our Visitors Take Our Desired Content Path
One of the ways we’re able to measure whether our content is working is by identifying our readers’ content paths. When readers come to our blog, where do they take the next step? Which ebook or report do they download? Or what webinar do they register for?
Now we could see some of this data in our marketing automation platform via call-to-action (CTA) click tracking. At the bottom of every blog post, we have a CTA that takes readers to recommended content for further reading. Tracking how many times that gets clicked is useful information, but to really understand our content path, we need to know more.
If someone reads our blog post and then navigates to another page or two, and then eventually downloads something, we want to know that. We also want to be able to filter the data to only include the behavior of qualified leads, or even just opportunities, not anyone who happens to read our content. We can’t get that information with CTA tracking.
Through our attribution solution, we know both the landing page URL and the form URL (the page that the form fill occurred on) for every website session. Then, we can create reports that tell us where the form fill happened, sorted for each blog post (landing page).
For our analysis, we bucket the form URLs into three buckets: 1) the primary content download path - the URL of the ebook in the blog footer CTA, 2) an alternative content download path - the URL of an alternate ebook, and 3) the blog post URL - we have two forms on the blog page, a sidebar offer and a demo form.
On average, about 80% of readers who go on to download content follow the primary path. About 7% navigate to a different page and eventually download a different ebook, and the remaining 13% fill out a form on the blog post itself.
In this report for the blog post, Leads Goals Are Dead And We Can Thank Pipeline Marketing, our blog footer CTA had two variants, the Definitive Guide to Pipeline Marketing and the 2015 State of Pipeline Marketing Report. Looking at the record count, we can see that in the time frame we used, there were 105 downloads that stemmed from the blog post. Of those, a combined 77 took the primary path through the blog footer CTA (73%). We can also see that 20 filled out a form on the blog post directly (19%), and 4 others downloaded alternate ebooks, B2B Marketing Attribution 101 and AdWords for Pipeline Marketers (4%). There were also a handful of other URLs.
Why do we care where people fill out forms?
Where people fill out forms informs the content team if we have recommended gated content that is relevant to what we’re writing about on the blog. For example, if we write a blog post about tactics to improve LinkedIn ads, it makes a ton of sense to recommend our Guide to Cracking the LinkedIn Ads Platform ebook. We’d expect that to have a high percentage of readers who follow the primary content path. If we recommended the CMO’s Guide to B2B Marketing Attribution, it would probably have a low percentage of readers who follow the primary content path because people who are interested in knitty-gritty LinkedIn tactics probably aren’t also interested in CMO-level content.
We want to make sure we’re providing relevant content to our readers. Seeing the content path enables us to make changes if we aren’t delivering on that great reader experience.
If we see that a blog post has a primary download path that’s significantly lower than our benchmark of 80%, we reconsider the blog footer CTA. Is there a different CTA that we could try? Do we need to create new content that fits better?
Content path analysis provides actionable insights.
On average, 40% of leads who download one of our top 9 pieces of content become opportunities.
We also want to see how our content provides value further down the funnel. Through lead-to-opp conversion analysis by form URL, we can see what percentage of people who downloaded a piece of content are now a sales opportunity. Is our content contributing to moving people through the funnel?
When we analyzed our top nine pieces of downloadable content, we found that 40% of leads who downloaded one of the pieces of content became a sales opportunity. For the top three pieces of content, the opportunity conversion rate was over 50%.
What’s the takeaway?
We know that content with a high opportunity conversion rate is resonating with our target audience. They serve as great qualifiers for fit between our readers and our products. If someone is interested in reading the the ebook, AdWords for Pipeline Marketers, chances are good that they are also interested in marketing attribution -- 51% of leads become opportunities.
We’re able to get this data because our attribution solution tracks form URLs, and can tie them to leads and opportunities in Salesforce.
Our top performing ebooks are worth thousands of dollars in pipeline per lead.
Finally, we can see how our content contributes to actual business value because the form URL field can be tied to opportunities in the pipeline with projected deal sizes, as well as actual revenue generated.
One of our content reports shows how much revenue, pipeline, and pipeline per lead is generated by each piece of content. Furthermore, because this data is driven by our attribution solution, we’re also able to filter out the contributions from our paid channels, so we can see how much value each piece of content is driving organically.
Each of these breakdowns in the report provides different insight.
Total revenue allows us to calculate ROI by comparing it to the amount we spent creating and promoting it.
Pipeline provides similar information, but opens it up to what we can expect in the near future. Because we are a B2B organization with a marketing and sales cycle that can take many weeks to months, the pipeline value allows us to get feedback a little bit faster.
Looking at either revenue or pipeline generated can be misleading on their own. If we look at an ebook that has been backed by tens of thousands of dollars in paid media, it will likely have generated a lot more revenue and pipeline compared to an ebook with no paid media. As far as immediate actionability (e.g. what content should get more ad dollars next month), evaluating content based on those numbers alone can point us in the wrong direction.
Pipeline per lead helps us normalize performance because we promote some ebooks a lot more than others. If an ebook has a great pipeline/lead ratio, but has so far generated few leads, it may be worth considering promoting it more heavily with paid media. On the other hand, if an ebook has generated a ton of revenue or pipeline, but its pipeline/lead ratio is declining, it may be worth looking into promoting it less.
This brings us to one of the key takeaways from this type of analysis: identifying audience fatigue.
Unless you have an infinite audience, your content will experience audience fatigue. This is sort of a catch-all term to describe declining performance due to over-repetitive impressions or general tiredness from seeing too much similar content.
After performing a pipeline/lead analysis on all of our gated content, we’ve noticed that there is a definite trend that our older content has a lower pipeline/lead ratio in the last six months. Through continued monitoring of this number, we can see when audience fatigue impacts content and can make changes like rotating it out of our paid media campaigns as warranted.
These are just a few possible ways marketers can use form URL data to improve their content marketing. Analyzing where people are filling out forms is a great way to understand the interactions between your gated content and the rest of your marketing. Combined with the granularity that attribution data offers (e.g. sorting by channels, landing pages) and the connection to opportunity and actual revenue data, marketers can gain a deep understanding of how much business value their content is contributing.