Peter Drucker famously wrote that, “What gets measured, gets managed.” Return on investment (ROI) has long been the gold standard for measuring marketing campaign success, as tracking this particular ratio shows marketers how to better manage their efforts in order to produce better results.

But while some forms of marketing and advertising, like PPC, lend themselves naturally to measurement and critical analysis, others are harder to quantify. Measuring the impact of content, for example, requires taking a closer look at how ROI is defined and how credit can be attributed across multiple content pieces.


Defining “Return”

Technically speaking, ROI is “a ratio between the net profit and cost of investment resulting from an investment of some resources.” If you spend $100 on advertising and make $500 in net profit, you’ve produced a positive ROI of 400%.

Because it’s difficult to attribute net profit specifically to any single content piece, measuring the “return” associated with content can take a number of different forms. In an article for Content Marketing Institute, contributor Leslie Carruthers shares the example of Shutterstock’s 2017 Creative Trends infographic.

According to Carruthers, the infographic earned:

  • Mentions in more than 100 articles
  • 6 billion unique site visits
  • 5,300 social media shares
  • 11,000 social media engagements

If Shutterstock’s primary goals for the infographic were expanding brand awareness and increasing social engagement, it could use numbers like these to compare the performance of its infographic against its other content pieces. In this way, it could approximate the return produced by the infographic relative to its overall goals.

But what if Shutterstock wanted to take this analysis a step further, looking not just at social shares or mentions but at any actual revenue created by the infographic? Estimating content ROI in terms of revenue is possible (to a certain degree), but it requires the use of more complex attribution models.


The 3 Most Commonly Used Content Attribution Models

Attribution modeling is an inexact science. After all, how certain can you be that viewing a single piece of content led directly to a purchase? Despite the grey area here, there are several different models you can use to offer enough insight to make tactical campaign decisions:

First-Touch Attribution

In a first-touch attribution model, full credit for the net profit of a sale is given to the first piece of content a customer engaged with. If they found your business because one of your blog posts came up in the search results and wound up making a purchase, the net profit would be attributed to that first blog post – even if they then consumed additional content, talked to a salesperson or engaged in any other activity before buying.

Last-Touch Attribution

Last-touch attribution works in reverse of first-touch attribution. Rather than crediting the first piece of content a buyer engaged with, the final content piece in the buyer’s journey receives full credit, based on the thinking that it must have substantially contributed to the customer’s decision to buy in that moment.

Multi-Touch Attribution

Multi-touch attribution attempts to strike a balance between first-touch and last-touch attribution by dividing credit for the net profit generated by any eventual sales across the different stages in the buyer’s journey. Several multi-touch attribution models exist:

  • Linear distribution assigns equal weight to every stage in the buying process
  • The U-shaped model gives greater credit to the first and last touches in the buying process, dividing the rest evenly across the intermediary steps
  • Time decay models pass more credit onto later stages on the customer’s journey than to earlier interactions

Organisations that want even more granular insight into their content ROI may even come up with their own custom multi-touch attribution models to account for their internal knowledge of the relative influence of different points in the buying process.


Getting Started with Content Attribution

If the thought of multi-touch attribution is overwhelming, don’t worry. You don’t need to jump into the most complex attribution models in order to improve the performance of your content marketing campaigns.

Start small, and ask for help from partners like Windsorborn as needed. As you begin to use basic content ROI measurement practices, you’ll discover ways to deepen your analysis and further improve the performance of your campaigns.

Are you measuring content ROI? Share the attribution process with us or get in touch to create outstanding content together.

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