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Elise Dopson on June 25, 2020 (last modified on January 14, 2021) • 11 minute read
Measuring sales attribution from specific blog posts can be tricky.
It’s why vast majority of marketers don’t consider themselves “successful” at measuring the ROI of their content. Just 8% feel confident in their ability to attribute sales to a specific piece of content.
Why? Because visitors can arrive on your blog post, continue to browse the pricing and product pages, and then purchase.
It all depends how you set Google Analytics. When now set correctly, GA reporting won’t be accurate, making it look like your blog post didn’t play a role in the journey customers have on their way to purchase.
In this guide, we’ll share a few simple tweaks you can make to your Google Analytics account to track blog attributions accurately.
Think of attribution as a way of giving credit.
For example, you want to give the right blog posts, web pages, emails, etc., the credit they deserve for any subsequent leads and sales they help generate.
You can track attribution in Google Analytics by leveraging the myriad of dimensions available (i.e. “previous page path”) in combination with any custom conversions you set up (i.e. trial signups, purchases, etc.) to track the “credit” specific campaigns deserve.
This is just one small example for how to track attribution using Google Analytics. As you’ll see below, we polled more than 20 content marketers and asked them to share their best tips for using Google Analytics to track the attribution of your blog posts.
In general, there are several types of attribution models you can choose from when determining which campaigns or URLs should receive credit for a conversion.
Google Analytics uses a last touch attribution model.
That means if a customer visits these three pages in this specific order:
…the pricing page (the “last” page visited) would receive attribution. It’s important to note this when using Google Analytics to measure attribution––the last page, or click, is how attribution is measured.
Last-touch attribution models can be problematic for most content marketers. Since Google Analytics only gives credit for the last page someone visited, blog posts rarely get any attribution inside their dashboard.
In short: It looks like your blog content doesn’t do anything for conversions.
When in reality, it does. Some visitors might not convert if they’d never seen that first blog post.
We wanted to find out how content marketers work around that and prove the ROI of their blog posts. So, we asked how they use Google Analytics to accurately track blog attribution. Their answers include:
*Editor’s note: Think the Google Analytics interface is overwhelming? You’re not the only one. That’s why thousands of marketers use our custom Google Analytics dashboards. It shows the metrics you actually care about all on one screen:
Before we dive in, you need to make sure your Google Analytics account is set-up accurately for you to track blog attributions.
Hannah Young of Power Digital Marketing explains how to do this: “You would first need to make sure you have lead tracking set up in Google Analytics by creating a custom goal.”
“For example, for our lead gen/B2B clients, we typically create a goal when someone completes a form fill to “get in contact with the sales team.” Then you can see which landing pages drove the goal completions and whether your blog posts drove any!”
“There are many ways you can set-up Google Analytics to track the performance of blogs,” writes William Chin of mywifequitherjob.com.
“One way is using custom events, to track interactions with the DOM (document object model). I myself like to track scroll rate / threshold and all clicks as an event action. Both of these features are easy to set-up within Google Tag Manager (GTM).”
Chin explains: “Creating custom events and then configuring them as custom conversions is one of the best ways to do this–especially if your conversion funnel is in disarray. If your conversion funnel is clean and simple, it may just be better to set-up custom conversions with Google Analytics.”
You should already have goals created inside Google Analytics to reflect your content marketing goals.
“The additional settings you add is a $ value to your conversion goals,” The Marketing Introvert team explains. “Goal tracking is used for both macro and micro goals.”
“For example, for a simple website like mine, I track email signups/newsletter subscriptions. I don’t sell anything or at that point yet, so I don’t have any revenue tracking. I also don’t have consultations, etc.”
“But the idea is to create goals for each of those and assign a monetary value to them using a portion of your LTV (lifetime value). Then, applying a percentage of your customer close rate (or lead to customer ratio, or the percentage of customers you close depending on how you want to call it).”
They continue: “Let’s say your LTV per customer is $5000. You close approximately 20% of your leads. In your goal conversion, you add $1000 because, all things being equal, after generating 5 leads, you would have closed one of them and you would have earned $5000.”
Earlier, we mentioned that Google uses a last-touch attribution model by default. However, they do offer another reporting tool that helps you play around with attribution models.
Luke Fitzgerald of RightFitz Consulting explains: “We use first-click attribution to give us a broader picture of how blog content plays a role in the user acquisition funnel for a website using GA’s Model Comparison Tool which gives us goal comparison across all blog touchpoints. i.e. visitors who have interacted with the blog at some point over the past 90 days in their voyage through our site.”
“Filtering by landing page, we look at Last Interaction, First Interaction, and Linear regression, meaning that for each conversion where a particular blog post was one of the touchpoints, it got equal credit as all the other touchpoints.”
Fitzgerald continues: “For example, if a converted user visited the entire site 10 times, and the blog post was visited 2 one of those sessions, it gets 0.2 of a conversion attributed to it, and so on.”
You can use this to define your own attribution model as Omniscient Digital‘s Alex Birkett explains: “I set up both first touch and last touch attribution models to explore users who first visited the site via a blog post and eventually converted (first touch) and users who, during the session that they converted, came in via a blog post (last touch).”
“Last touch is higher pressure for content, but the signal to noise ratio is better. First touch is wider in scope, but still way better at judging ROI than something as generic as traffic.”
“All of our blog posts are compiled under one main landing page, which we track with Behavior> Landing Pages in Google Analytics,” says Jennie Neylon of Supplement Warehouse.
“We track individual blog posts/links through the Behavior > Landing Pages function, to see how traffic is stacking up to other pages, number of sessions, and if there have been any transactions (if applicable).”
Neylon explains that this is a superb way to attribute sales and leads to a blog post: “The nice feature for Landing Pages in Google Analytics is that all of this information is already available through the Transactions, Revenue, and Conversion Rate features, which you can find under Conversions.”
*Editor’s note: Grab this Google Analytics Landing Page and Lead Tracking dashboard to easily spot the blog posts your customers are landing on, and converting from. You can even share the dashboard with your team if you’re struggling to explain blog attributions:
“I use a variety of UTM parameters and attribution properties to track who is coming to that blog post and from what referral source,” writes Daniel Lynch of Empathy First Media.
“I believe that it is pivotal that we can identify the sources like social media, organic SEO, and if using PPC, what utm_term=keyword the visitor and potential conversion originated from.”
“I set up my Google Analytics to focus on conversions and the origin of those site visitor sessions. Did the lead come from a social media post or is it because the content was recently ranked higher on the SERPs for a particular keyword?”
Lynch continues: “Quantifying segments of your site traffic help to identify trends, such as SEO rankings, that we can then verify using tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush, and learn if we get better conversions from organic SEO traffic or paid PPC visitor origins.”
Brad Driscoll of Leveling Up Your Game agrees: “I make sure to implement UTM parameters on all links posted to social media so I can track which source are pushing the most traffic to my blog. This works exceptionally well in conjunction with Facebook posts and Facebook ads you may be running to lead traffic into the site.”
“Google Analytics will then be able to display traffic coming to specific blogs from specific sources rather than just guessing what the leading driver of traffic to your blogs are.”
Similarly, Kiwi Creative‘s Lynne Wilson adds: “To attribute leads and/or sales to blog posts, we look at each posts’ acquisition data.”
“For example, the most common source/medium for a blog post can show us which marketing campaign the users originated from. We can differentiate between a sales HubSpot email and a LinkedIn prospect ads campaign.”
“To help separate the performance of our blogs from the rest of our online content, we have a view and a filter within our Google Analytics property that filters out all traffic aside from that to our blog,” writes Kiwi Creative‘s Lynne Wilson.
“This helps us access our blog data quicker and removes any data that could inflate the performance of an individual blog post.”
You might have calls to action at the end of your blog content. They’re small nudges that push readers through to a higher intent page–such as a product, features, or pricing page.
Simon McCullagh explains that the team at SEO Services NI “insert CTA buttons on specific pages and set up goals to track how many times the button was clicked.”
“Whether it’s a button to fill a form or go to a product page, we can evaluate the success of a page by the percentage of users that take the action.”
Muhammad Tahir Iqbal says the team at AbayaMarket.com attribute leads and/or sales to their blog posts “by tracking the conversion paths.”
“Customer journey mapping helps in tracking user behavior across the touchpoints on the website. The ideal customer journey can be: Organic traffic > Blog Post > Product Page > Cart > Checkout.”
Nick Chimonas of Local SEO Guide adds another report that can help you find this data: “Once you’ve set up meaningful goals, just go to Conversions > Goals > Reverse Goal Path. This will show you up to a few clicks previous which posts were viewed before converting.”
By default, Google Analytics won’t credit your blog posts with a sale–even if a visit to a blog post was involved at some point in the purchase journey. That’s because it uses a last-touch attribution model.
However, these tips can help you attribute sales to blog posts regardless of where they were visited in the sales process.
You’ll soon start to see that blog posts are crucial in many sales decisions–and prove the ROI of content marketing to your team.
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