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Understanding The True Attribution Value Of Your Content Marketing

reading time: 7 mins
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There are many metrics that are easy to measure when it comes to content marketing: pageviews, time on site, bounce rate, etc. But when it comes to lead generation, proving attribution and ROI on your content is tough. And we’re not talking about overcooked beef tough. What we’re talking about here is more like bringing Matt Damon home from Mars tough.
content marketing attribution
But fear not – there’s a readily available tool in your marketing toolbox right now that can help you track attribution from your content easily, quickly, and with actionable results!
What I’m talking about is a powerful, but often underused tool in Google Analytics called Assisted Conversions.
So hold on tight, it’s about to get attribution-y in here.
content marketing attribution
Now I know what you’re thinking: Fine, you’ve got my attention – what are assisted conversions?
Whoa there, eager beaver. Before we move on to assisted conversions, we need to talk about direct conversions. You’re no doubt running Google Analytics on your blog and website right now, and there’s even a good chance you’re already measuring conversions. If you are, then you’re already 90% there! If not, let’s do a very quick overview:
By the Google Analytics way of looking at it, a goal is an action taken by a site visitor that you want to measure and track, whenever they occur. This can include something as simple as completing a cart checkout on an ecommerce store, or complex as going through a specific order of pages before recording a success. It’s different for each GA user, but the overall goal is the same: track user actions that hold value to the company.
Setting up goals in Google Analytics is relatively simple, and it’s invaluable when it comes to content marketing. In NewsCred’s own case, we track 3 different types of goals:

  1. Filling out a Sales Contact Form
  2. Filling out a Marketing Form (whitepaper download, etc)
  3. Subscribing to our newsletter

While each of these goals is similar, they each carry very different value, and place the user in a very different stage in the buyer cycle, so we measure them individually. The value of this will become clear further on.
Once you begin tracking goals to your desired destination, you can use GA to examine how people get to that form completion, but beware – that’s only the surface of the the data. You’re going to be tempted to do what any good marketer does when looking at ROI, and you’re going to look at the source. Here’s an example of sources in NewsCred’s GA instance:
content marketing attribution
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s enormous value here in looking at the source, but it’s not going to be enough to keep your boss happy. What you need are results you can shape strategy off of, and Assisted Conversions are just how you’ll get them
Ok, ok. I get it – goals are a good idea. Tell me about the assisted conversions already!
When you think about attribution, the problem that you run into with goals and their source is assuming that there is a direct journey from content to conversion. The reality is that users can take any number of steps in between their first touch and their last, and knowing this is where the real value lies.
An assisted conversion is a metric that shows you which of your channels has contributed to a conversion, but may not have been the channel which received attribution – in other words, multi-touch attribution. Yeah, that’s right – the holy grail.
content marketing attribution
When evaluating the effectiveness of a channel, most marketing automation software is typically working off of last touch attribution, or in lesser cases first touch. The danger with this is that by looking at attribution by last touch, channels get cut when they appear to not perform. The truth is that they may be a vital step in assisting conversions. Not all channels are closers, but they may be essential to the success of the closer channels.
Let’s take a look at how Assisted Conversion appear in Google Analytics. Buried way, way down in GA under Conversions you’ll find a section called Multi-Channel Funnels, and this is where we’ll find our treasure.
When you go to the overview, you’ll be met with a typical GA graph, but underneath you’ll see something very unique to this section. Here you’ll see how many of your goals were influenced by assists from other channels during your selected time period:
content marketing attribution
So what is this number telling us? If we were to record direct conversions only in this time period, we’d report that overall we produced 34,368 conversions. But there were also 11,881 assisted conversions that we would not have factored in. Those are NOT small numbers to be ignoring!
Also on the overview page, you’ll be greeted with a very pretty venn diagram that’s worth looking at:
content marketing attribution
This colorful (and interactive!) visual shows you just how your different channels overlap with each other when it comes to conversions. Yes, you read that right. You can get a VISUAL representation of your multi-touch conversions!
But this is all overview stuff. You want actionable takeaways, and I’m not going to to disappoint. Get ready for the real treasure:
content marketing attribution
If you click one level further, you’ll reach a section called Assisted Conversions. In here, you’ll see a breakdown of your choice (channel, medium, source, etc), but instead of a single conversion number you’ll also see this:
content marketing attribution
In addition to your direct conversions, GA will also tell you how each grouping performed when it comes to assists. You’ll even be able to break this down by First Touch and Last Touch numbers to see how your content performs across each step.
So, what can you do with this information in a reportable way? Well, Google has already thought about this, and has provided you with a number that you can use.
Over on the far right of this report, you’ll see a column called Assisted / Last Click or Direct Conversions. I know, it’s doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it’s VERY useful. What it does is calculate the ratio of assisted to direct conversions and spits out a metric. If this metric is under 1, then this channel produces more direct conversions than it assists. If it’s over one, then it provides more value as an assist to conversions.
This simple metric is what will show you the true value of not just channels, but pieces of content. Let’s take a real example of how to use this metric in your strategy. In an imaginary case, let’s say that these are our numbers for Promoted Tweets:




Promoted Tweets




If we spent $1,000 on this campaign, a little simple math would tell us that we spent $40 per conversion, using the direct metric. If our email campaigns are producing at $20 per conversion, it might be tempting to call this channel a failure, until you view the ratio.
In this particular case, Promoted Tweets assist other channels in converting nearly 3 times more than they convert directly themselves. If you were to act on last touch attribution only you might cut this channel and lose out on 73 conversions that depended on Sponsored Tweets.
That’s great for channels, but what about pieces of content?
This strategy works just as well, but may require a little bit more digging. Let’s say we wanted to see which of our content pieces was producing conversions, but we want to be sure it’s not impacted by our paid channel efforts.
No problem! By clicking through to the Organic Search channel, you can view only content that’s producing conversions. If you want to avoid regular company pages, you can even apply segments to only include domains, like in our case filtering only to the hostname www.blog.newscred.com/.
Now, when you add a secondary dimension of the landing page, you’ll get something like this:
content marketing attribution
Here’s a very recent snapshot of first click conversions which came from our blog and led to a contact form, and suddenly you’ve got a list of pieces of content that drive conversions. This can be vital in a number of strategic ways:

  1. It allows you to identify topics that convert well and you can increase the percentage of this topic in your content marketing mix.
  1. You’ll have insight into how your content performs differently across your channels so you can tailor the topic and medium to suit each audience.

I mentioned earlier that the value of recording sales and marketing forms separately is valuable, and here’s why. If you bundle all conversions together you may not see how differently channels perform with different content. It’s highly likely that a different piece of content will push readers to subscribe to your newsletter than would push them to fill out a contact form.
When you can see what’s driving each action, you’ll have a better understanding of what type of content drives each stage of your buying cycle. This will lead to enormous opportunity when it comes to building a nurturing strategy.
Finally – understand what the data is, and what it isn’t.
If you’ve managed to stay with me so far, then kudos to you. This is a dense topic, but by building out an infrastructure that allows you to capture the right data puts you ahead of the curve by a mile. There will always be discrepancies between the data in GA compared with that of your marketing automation software, and that’s where following the trends becomes important.
Making quality content is an evergreen method of driving leads. The lifespan of a piece of content has no expiration date if it provides real value, and so you can’t put a definitive ROI on it. What you can do is identify key performance indicators that help you shape your content strategy so that you produce the right mix, and distribute it effectively through your traditional channels.
And one last thing to remember – Matt Damon has been stuck on different planets in two different movies. This problem has a solution, which puts you ahead of Matt Damon. Which is nice.
content marketing attribution
Liam Moroney is a Demand Generation Manager at NewsCred

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