For the last few years, I’ve been consulting as a senior content marketer for a performance marketing agency. There was a constant pressure to prove the return on investment of content strategies and tactics deployed for our clients. I’m only figuring out that, all this time, while trying to defend the poor business value of our top-of-funnel content, we might have been barking up the wrong tree.
Indeed, proving the rentability of content strategies and measuring the income directly generated by a piece of content has always been one of the most significant challenges for B2C marketers: once in a blue moon, a customer books a hotel in Italian Alps, right after she read a blog post about travelling the Dolomites. In fact, according to a Forrester Research¹, 96% of shoppers won’t purchase at their first visit to a site.
Therefore, content is still a significantly underrated asset among performance marketing professionals. Allegedly, content can eventually drive visits (think SEO, referral and social media traffic) but it’s very rarely meant to convert.
This mistrust in content worthiness has its origin in a widely accepted convention, defining content as organically inspirational and informational, by opposition to advertising – paid by nature – and intended to drive sales.
However, while combining owned and paid channels through retargeting tactics, I recently discovered that it becomes possible to track, very precisely, the business generated by content assets such as your blog posts or your funny cat videos (at the important condition, if you operate within the EU, that you are compliant to GDRP). Isn’t this great?
Retargeting your readers with paid campaigns
Retargeting will consist in tracking the behaviours of your visitors to better address them, offsite, with paid campaigns. Assuming that content published on your website or blog already drives traffic.
It means you can retarget visitors that engaged with your content – your audience – to promote your product or service through Google Ads or Facebook Ads (these two companies capture the most significant share of the online advertising market, while Amazon climbs fast behind). At the condicio sine qua non that they are relevant to your content.
Depending on your strategy, you’ll prefer to retarget visitors based:
- On their search intend, with Google Ads;
- On their social interests, with Facebook Ads.
Let’s walk together through the two variants.
In Google Ads (previously named Adwords), retargeting is instead referred as remarketing and can be used with Search ads (text ads, shown in Google Search) or Display ads (banners, placed on third-party websites).
Google Analytics, the software widely adopted to track website traffic grants you access to traffic and audience data, thus, allowing anonymous segmentation of visitors that engaged with content in some extent: by viewing a specific page, by spending some time on your article or video, by completing a preset goal*.
Once this audience has been isolated, it is possible to target it with Google Ads, cross-devices, with specific advertising aimed at product purchase or goal completion:
- through Search channels, ads are displayed when user pursue her search journey on Google;
- through Display channel, ads are displayed when user pursues her journey on third-party websites, affiliated to Google Display Network.
At Facebook, the equivalent of Google Analytics tracker is called Facebook Pixel. Like its Google counterpart, this little piece of code records the behaviour of your website visitors: pages visited, session duration, actions and goal completion*.
Thanks to this data, you can create Custom Audiences that will be later retargeted: people that played your video, women that visited more than one page of your site or friends of people that read your blog post.
After your target group has been isolated in Facebook Ads, you can target it, on desktop and mobile, with specific campaigns, designed and optimised for conversion:
- through Facebook, ads are displayed in various placements of the user’s newsfeed, depending on the tactic you’ve chosen;
- through Instagram, ads are displayed in the feed or stories of your targeted audience.
The performance of your retargeting campaigns, supposedly higher than classic search and display campaigns, relay now, for a big part, on content.
However, once the campaigns are over, to prove the efficiency of content when it comes to sales, the Return on Investment must be calculated following an attribution model. Wich one?
I would suggest the following:
- where A, is the average conversion rate of classic campaigns ;
- where B, is the average conversion rate of remarketed campaigns ;
- where C, is the differential performance of remarketed campaigns conversion rate.
Once the conversion rate’s uplift has been determined, it becomes easy to calculate, precisely, the business generated by content and the ROI.
That’s it for the theory. I’ll come back to this article with more data and insights as soon as I can apply this model to a case. If you’ve already implemented these content marketing tactics and can share your feedback, it would be great to read your comments!
* It is also always possible to detach a specific population using conventional socio-demographic criteria (gender, age, location…).
¹Understanding Shopping Cart Abandonment, Forrester Research, May 2010
Grégory is a student at Grenoble Ecole de Management and editor of Content Marketer, a French blog dedicated to content marketing
Photo credits: GD