Content marketing is all the rage these days. I probably see 5 or more tweets per day about how to do effective content marketing. And it’s not just hype: content works, especially for high-consideration products or services that have a long sales cycle.
The phrase “long sales cycle” can strike fear in the hearts of PPC managers, though. Despite all the talk about conversion attribution, for many advertisers the focus is still on last-click metrics. That forces us into late-funnel tactics like hard-sell offers to try to show ROI.
The sale begins long before a user responds to a hard offer, though. Creating awareness of your company and products is critical to closing the sale, especially for high-ticket B2B services. Content marketing can be used in PPC to fill the gaps between awareness and decision. Measuring micro-conversions such as whitepaper downloads enables the PPC marketer to show the value of bidding on earlier-stage awareness keywords.
But most advertisers only have so much content. They’re likely using the same asset across multiple channels – yet conversion data is only available at the channel level in most analytics packages. Gauging the impact of a single piece of content across multiple channels poses a challenge. Also, PPC marketers might be testing multiple pieces of content in the same ad group or campaign. How do you know which asset is performing better?
Enter the content ID.
By assigning a unique ID to each content asset, you can use Google Analytics to track content performance across channels.
Assigning a content ID
To track content performance in Google Analytics, you’ll need to first assign IDs to all your assets. Before doing that, though, think about how you’ll use the data. Do you just care about individual asset performance? Then you can probably use simple sequential numbers as content IDs.
But what if you want to understand how different types of content are performing? Let’s say you’re interested in learning whether white papers or videos work better with your target audience. Sure, you could take sequentially-numbered content ID data and manually match it up with the name of the asset, and then cross-check them to see what type of asset it was… It’s easy to see how time-consuming this approach is.
Instead, develop a naming convention that incorporates the elements you want to analyze. Asset type might be one element. Another might be stage of the buyer journey: is the asset best suited for awareness, consideration, or decision? If that’s important to you, include it as well. Think of any other elements you want to track: product type, sales division, etc. You’ll probably still need a sequential number to identify individual assets. Work all of that into your naming convention.
When you’re finished, you might end up with something that looks like this:
In this instance, 0076 is the specific asset ID, “NEWS” means it’s a news article, and “awr” means it’s intended for an awareness audience. Figure out what makes sense for your business, and go with that. You’ll probably want a content audit handy to make this easier. Be sure to keep a master file of assets and content IDs, so you know what maps to what.
Use the content ID in your UTM strings.
To be able to see data by content ID, you’ll need to manually tag your links. Turn off auto-tagging in Google and Bing, and then set up your campaign parameters according to your PPC campaign names. Include your content ID in the utm_content parameter. I usually create strings that include other elements, so you can slice data a variety of ways. For instance, you can include ad group name and an ad creative ID, like this:
As long as you know what each element in the content ID parameter represents, you can create Google Analytics reports for each parameter in the string.
To create a report for PPC content performance, go to the Acquisition/Channels section of GA:
Then drill into Paid Search:
Then change your primary dimension to Ad Content by selecting “Other” and then “Ad Content”:
Now you’ll have a list of the utm_content parameters you set up earlier, along with data and stats. Export this to Excel, throw it into a pivot table and start slicing and dicing.
You’ll probably want to look at overall performance by asset, so you’d filter for the asset ID. Here’s one for asset ID 128:
This asset had 53 conversions out of 3,175 visits. You can then compare this asset to the other assets you’re promoting.
You can also filter for asset type, based on your naming convention, as well as buyer journey phase and any of the other elements you chose in the setup phase.
Use these reports to draw conclusions about what’s working with your content marketing. You can not only apply the learnings to PPC, but to other channels as well. I’ve used PPC as a test bed for content to see if it resonates before rolling it out to other channels.
By analyzing content performance across channels, you can streamline your content marketing and creating efforts by learning what works best.
Latest posts by Melissa Mackey (see all)
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