Every company wants it. Very few achieve it.
Companies are investing lots of money and time creating content marketing – blog posts, video content marketing, and then promoting it all on social media. But can we really measure whether or not we’re getting any return on this marketing investment?
The answer is – sort of.
Almost every small and mid-size company uses Google Analytics (GA) to measure their online marketing efforts. The main inadequacy of GA is that it stops measuring cookies after 30 days. So if your product or service is what is known as a considered purchase, good luck on getting accurate measurement. We have a client whose consumer-targeted product costs over $5,000. Medicare covers the cost for most users, but the added complexity means prospects spend a lot of time pondering. Many of them wait past the 30-day washout period and we can’t track them from first contact to final sale.
One of our favorite clients found a way around this. They installed software called Mix Panel. It keeps tracking cookies, even if it takes years.
But there’s still a problem.
Not everyone likes cookies
I’m a huge fan of cookies, especially the chocolate chip variety. Then there’s the less tasty variety. I clear my cache multiple times a day. It’s a habit. But when we’re tracking visitors through a considered purchase process over a long period of time, we really don’t know how many people in the world are sophisticated enough to “clear” their cookies.
This introduces uncertainty into the measurement process. It’s difficult to explain uncertainty to your upper management. They think you’re dealing with digital absolutes: completely provable analytics. Telling them that there is no such thing scares them.
Facebook is fuzzy
Want to have some fun? Study your website traffic from Facebook. It’s one of our favorites for this exercise.
- Log into your corporate Facebook account. See how much traffic they say your recent campaign sent over to a particular landing page on your website.
- Log into Google Analytics. Go to your referral traffic and see how much traffic Facebook sent over to that same landing page we’re investigating.
If those two numbers match, I’ll buy your entire marketing department lunch.
But it gets much worse.
Google Analytics and Google Adwords don’t agree
Even different divisions of the same company don’t report the same numbers. We manage Adwords campaigns for several clients. It’s incredibly frustrating that Adwords and Analytics numbers don’t match up. How hard could it be? We’re talking about paying per visit. Google takes our money on each Adwords click, yet Google Analytics doesn’t quite agree.
Does anything give you accurate referral measurement?
We like Bit.ly for this. We have a technology company for whom we use over 20 different bit.ly addresses, one for everything from Tweets, to Facebook posts, to email blasts. We feel like they are an unbiased intermediary. Problem is, you can’t build UTM codes into such links.
Getting comfortable with uncertainty in content marketing measurement
Give up looking for precision and begin to watch the ebbs and flows of your content marketing. Take YouTube for instance. Do you only look at the number of views on your videos? Then you are failing to understand how your prospects interact with your videos. Dig into your YouTube account. Study the average amount of time your prospects spend on your videos. Now you can gain real insight.
Don’t beat up your social media measurement. Social media use in content marketing is complex. Stop demanding return on investment from every tweet and every Facebook posting. Look at the wider role of social media in your overall marketing efforts. In digital marketing, social media’s role is brand building.
Want to get real ROI? Employ a landing page strategy and measure form completions by “thank you” page visits. You will have all the precision you need.