Many of our customers and prospects are new to the concept of content attribution. In this post, we provide some basic guidance on how content attribution works and then illustrate additional, more advanced metrics on the example of FlowMapp.
Background on content attribution
How does a company know if the blog in general, or a specific content strategy in particular, is profitable?
Many content managers believe tracking content performance is complicated and so they often don’t track the performance of separate types of content when assessing its profitability. Such an approach, however, seriously increases the risk that these companies will fail with their content marketing in the long run, for one simple reason: return on investment.
Every software business, whether bootstrapped or VC-funded, eventually needs to justify the investment it makes into content marketing to the board of directors or to the Chief Marketing Officer. Do you plan on spending $100,000, $500,000, or $1M+ on content marketing per year? Content being good for your brand strength isn’t enough, you need to show results and return on the invested time and funds.
If you are an early stage startup or software company competing against big brand incumbents, then getting the correct attribution for specific content is critical. Larger companies will have access to a larger budget, so as a startup your best bet at winning the content marketing battle is to get really good at it. And you can’t get good at something without clear and specific feedback.
Common approaches to content attribution
If you want to know which parts of your content marketing are profitable, a classic method of accountability is to attribute product sign-ups and revenue to specific articles and pages that contribute the most to the conversions.
For example, in a SaaS app there are two common ways to implement attribution:
- First-visit attribution (we recommend this option to most clients) - the first page the user hits during a session that converts is the one given credit.
- Last-visit attribution - the last page the user hits is the one given credit for the conversion.
These tracking approaches are straightforward to set up using tools like Google Analytics. As the result of implementing attribution, it’s possible to understand which blog articles generate conversions and which don’t. Because the tracking focuses on conversions rather than traffic, it’s much more likely to give you the specific feedback that’s needed to produce more conversions and more revenue for your software business through content marketing.
Some companies, however, want more than just conversion tracking. They require additional direction for their content strategy, and they choose to combine these direct attribution metrics with additional, secondary measurements like average conversion rates, social engagement, and inbound partnership opportunities.
Below, we cover how FlowMapp, a B2B SaaS company, approaches tracking content marketing performance.
FlowMapp is a bootstrapped SaaS company with 21 employees. FlowMapp’s product is a web tool for creating website user-flow maps and user journey maps.The tool is used by thousands of customers like UX/UI designers, customer experience architects, product teams, developers, independent digital agencies and creative studios, startups, and design departments of large corporations.
FlowMapp started out as a web development agency. “4 years ago, we were a small web studio building websites and doing graphic design,” says Paul, one of the FlowMapp founders. During the studio days, the future FlowMapp team looked for a visual website mapping tool that would fit their requirements. A sitemap tool would make the website design process much easier. So the agency launched an internal side project to try and build the perfect sitemap application.
The company slowly increased their commitment to the FlowMapp tool as their use of it grew. “At first, we spent 5% of our time on it, then 10%, 30% and so on. A year later, we closed the studio and became a full-time product team,” says Paul. FlowMapp team members were the target audience for their app themselves, as they had experienced the pain of not being able to build great sitemaps firsthand. It was a classic “scratch your own itch” solution.
FlowMapp is a fully bootstrapped business with no outside investment. The founders opted to prioritise organic growth, and that meant investing in content marketing as their main customer acquisition channel.
FlowMapp’s challenge: content attribution in the age of multi-channel conversions
The FlowMapp blog today contains hundreds of posts and generates between 100 and 500 new sign-ups per day. To understand that these sign-ups came specifically from the blog, FlowMapp follows best practices for content attribution including having analytics set up with sign-up goals in mind, regularly reviewing traffic stats, and calculating conversion rates for individual articles.
However, getting a full picture of the blog’s performance can be challenging. “There is always the temptation to start looking for the number of visitors who have turned into regular readers, or readers who signed up for the app after visiting the blog,“, explains Paul. “But accurate tracking of these and other stats is impossible! For example, you can’t track multi-channel conversions reliably, there will always be inaccuracies in your website data, and many readers’ web browsers will block analytics scripts on your blog pages.“
The complexity of implementing accurate tracking isn’t an excuse for not getting data on the blog’s performance at all, however. To address the attribution challenge, the FlowMapp team needed to find a way to see the revenue the blog generates without having complete data on visits or sign-ups. Without seeing the revenue numbers, the FlowMapp team couldn’t confidently continue investing in content marketing.
FlowMapp’s solution: track secondary factors in addition to traffic and conversions
In order to address the tracking challenge, FlowMapp decided to not only analyse the blog statistics regularly, but also periodically review additional contributions of the blog to the business’s performance.
Specifically, FlowMapp chose factors that aren’t directly related to traffic and conversions, but determine what future traffic and conversion numbers can be. “We track the correlation of the blog traffic to active users, sign-ups, top-line revenue and profit numbers. If the blog and business charts both point up and to the right, we know we’re on the right track,” says Paul. But if one of the secondary metrics starts to decline or behave in a surprising way, it can serve as a signal to the FlowMapp team to review the situation and adjust their content marketing mix.
Here are the attributes that FlowMapp currently monitors:
- Correlating the number of users with traffic and conversion growth
- Conversion growth from posts overall
- Subjective content quality vs throughput
- Post virality - are more posts appearing in the “viral” category?
- Social shares and social engagement metrics
- Requests from contributors who want to publish on the FlowMapp blog
- Requests for partnerships and co-promotions
- Friendly startups calling to participate in their projects
- Organic mentions growing in channels where FlowMapp isn’t active
FlowMapp’s content marketing team reviews these attributes regularly and steers the content strategy based on the results.
FlowMapp’s results: 250% YoY growth through content marketing
The secondary attribute approach has clearly worked for FlowMapp. Currently, hundreds of new users who found FlowMapp’s site through organic search sign up for their product every day, and the number of content-driven signups is growing.
At peak times, the product’s usage was growing as quickly as 800% YoY. As this article goes live, the number of all-time users that have visited the FlowMapp website will have reached 1,000,000 unique visitors. “The structure of our traffic is 45% direct, 35% search organic, 20% referral,” according to Paul.
In 2022, FlowMapp plans to continue investing in content marketing, as it’s been one of the most impactful engines for growth for the company so far. With the current tracking systems in place, Paul and the FlowMapp team are comfortable underwriting the additional investment.
Need help achieving results similar to FlowMapp’s?
Content attribution is only one part of the success equation for FlowMapp. The company is successfully executing on the four pillars of content marketing: understanding the customers’ needs and pain points, a strategy that focuses on those pain points, continuous measurement and improvement, and world-class content creation.
You’re looking to implement a similar content marketing strategy but don’t know how? Wizard on Demand is here to help. We specialise in helping developer-focused software companies get paid customers and traffic through content marketing.
Contact us today for a no-strings-attached expert evaluation of your content marketing potential.