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How to Measure Content Marketing ROI with Google Analytics

Though business goals range widely across difference industries, most marketers share the same content goals: generating conversions and building brand equity.

Content marketing can help you access and target people who are at any stage of the traditional marketing funnel. And so we have a lot of options here to tailor our content marketing message to where the audience is in that funnel. There're three major stages of content marketing:

awareness/discovery search/consideration buy/close

Beyond the Funnel: Retention

Once you convert leads to customers, your goal is to keep them. Content Marketing is part of that process too. The focus is on turning one-time customers into loyal, repeat buyers and possibly even brand embassadors (for saas companies with a subscription model, making sure customers continue their subscriptions instead of cancelling).

Any major investment decision for the consumer begins with the awareness/discovery phase. They then enter a search/consider phase, and finally end up at the buy/close phase which is when they undertake a conversion action. Understanding how consumers interact with our content as they navigate through each step of their investment decision process will greatly enhance the performance of our content strategy.

To understand our content marketing ROI we need to be looking at content conversion at every step of the marketing funnel. For this, we would have to track individual customers all the way through the marketing funnel. This is virtually impossible, unless you survey each and every customer.

Many of those customers will spend months or even years in the upper portions of the funnel, and cookies don't usually last for more than 90 days. For this reason, the numbers that we'll see later in our analytics report aren't going to be accurate. That doesn't make them useless though. Our best guess is far better than nothing, as long as we're careful about how we use it. Google Analytics (GA) provides us with multiple means of coming up with that best guess.

If you head into the Conversions section of GA, you'll find the Multi-Channel Funnels (MCF) report. The Multi-Channel Funnels report shows, over repeated visits, how users are interacting with your marketing efforts. By default, these reports are set up to illustrate the relationships between different marketing channels (e.g. paid search ads, social media, e-mail). To find our content attibution across the marketing funnel, we're going to modify the MCF reports to demonstrate the value of content marketing.

A Note on MCF Reports

The Multi-Channel Funnels reports are compiled using conversion path data. Conversion paths are the sequences of user interactions such as clicks/referrals from the various channels that took place over the 90 days (max) leading up to each conversion and transaction. Conversions credited to content will consistently be underestimated as time between contact with the content and conversion grows.

This is what GA's MCF Overview report looks like:


It shows the sequence of channels that led up to a conversion - conversion is defined as any goal you had setup (eg. purchase completed, account created, engagement, etc.)

Google Analytics Goals: How to Setup Goals in Google Analytics


In MCF reports, the Default MCF Channel Grouping is used. You can change the Primary Dimension to see your data ordered by the Default Channel Grouping. To see your data ordered by a Custom Channel Grouping or new view level Channel Grouping, select the name from the Channel Groupings drop-down menu.

To create a content-based MCF report, we're going to create a Custom Channel Grouping under Admin > Custom Channel Grouping. The key to this type of analysis is being able to use the Landing Page URL data attribute when we create Channel Groupings and Conversion Segments within an MCF report.

Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnels: How to Use Channel Groupings in Google Analytics


Content-Based Channel Groupings

The first major application of MCF for content marketing is to create Channel Groupings based on our content, which will demonstrate the most common content paths users take to conversion over the course of multiple visits. Start off by creating a Custom Channel Grouping under Admin > Custom Channel Grouping.

You'll want to group the major content sections of your site together into channels. For example here we've created this Channel Grouping that corresponds to the 'Case Studies' section of our website that includes any landing page URL containing '/case_studies'.


We also included channels that correspond to each of the major content sections of the website as we built out this content-based Channel Grouping. This is what the Content-Based Channel Groupings of our site looked like when we were done with them:


Your Content-Based Channel Grouping will likely be different, but each should include major product directories or service listings, blogs, sections that answer specific questions or solve specific problems, whitepapers, ebooks, etc.

Once the content-based Channel Groupings are set up, we’re able to access the MCF reports which show how many visits it takes before visitors convert, and how they start their website experiences for each visit. You can use the Channel Groupings that correspond to specific content sections as with the screenshot above, or you can apply even broader Channel Groupings to provide a high-level view of the most common content paths towards conversion by marketing intent, consumer action, or both. For example, you can categorize your content, depending on which phase of the buying process they facilitate: awareness/discovery, search/consider, and buy/close.


To group your content based on article section/category/tag, you need to either use Google Tag Manager or structure your site so that the section/category/tag name is part of your article URL. For example for articles under "analytics" secion the URL would be: mydomain.com/analytics/my_article_title

Pairing this information with traffic and conversion data makes it clear where to focus resources for new types of content, content edits, and expansion of existing website content, as well as demonstrates which parts of our content marketing strategy are driving results.

Content-Based Conversion Segments

The Channel Groupings are half the fun because they can only help to organize and present data. To determine the value of specific types of content, we need to create Custom Conversion Segments to pair with Channel Groupings.


Custom Conversion Segments are easy to create and work with just like any other segments in GA, however, these include the ability to segment based on user interactions:


For example, "Blogs last interaction" captures conversions where the last visit on the conversion path landed on the blog. Most GA conversion reports are based on the last interaction, but this segment allows you to explicity specify between first interaction, last interaciton, any interaction, and assisting interaction.

As a content markter, discovering some blogs asstist 150% more conversions than they produce directly was a powerful revelation, one that was made possible by Content-Based Channel Groupings and Conversion Segments applied to GA Multi-Channel Funnels.

Understanding how consumers interact with your website content is the first step in providing them with the best experience possible – the primary goal of every modern content marketer. Those who understand and execute content strategy with this knowledge in mind continue to drive highly efficient content.

How to Measure Content Marketing ROI with Google Analytics

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