Gone are the days when marketing (and marketing analytics) were primarily used to kick off the buying cycle.
We were generating leads, “throwing them over the wall” to sales, and cheering from the sidelines.
The internet, blogs, and social media have greatly expanded the role of supporting sales efforts throughout the entire buying cycle.
Studies show that between 57-77 percent of the typical buyer’s journey involves self-directed research, often prior to contact with a salesperson.
Now, marketing plays an increasingly larger role in moving buyers through their decision process.
The Sales and Marketing Relationship
From lead generation through purchase or prospect drop-off, marketing is responsible for creating content that matches a prospect’s needs at every step.
What’s more, marketing must tailor content for audiences of specific communication platforms. It’s a growing list which includes Facebook, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, Twitter, and more.
As a result, marketing is generally considered to drive approximately 60 percent of the sales funnel. And sales drives the remaining 40 percent.
The Sales and Marketing Feedback Loop
Under this new order, the sales and marketing feedback loop is more important than ever. It provides answers to questions like these and more:
- What marketing tactics and platforms are driving quality leads?
- Which marketing tactics and platforms are driving substandard leads?
- Where are prospects dropping off?
- Which messages/content are succeeding?
- Which messages/content are failing to meet expectations?
“You can’t manage what you can’t measure” rings loud and true in today’s increasingly complex world of content marketing.
And without detailed information, it is extremely difficult to make intelligent decisions to improve your results.
Fortunately, there are plenty of marketing analytics tools that measure and evaluate the results of content marketing activities.
And, they support data-driven strategic decision-making to gives sales organizations a competitive advantage.
Four Types of Essential Information
Let’s begin by categorizing marketing analytics tools according to the four types of information they provide:
- Website trends – If you want to continue growing website traffic, you need to know where your traffic comes from. Which sources are delivering visitors—organic search, external links, email, etc. Understanding how long visitors spend on a site and on specific pages is valuable for creating content that holds attention. Identifying who is visiting the site will help craft compelling calls to action (CTAs). Assessing the effectiveness of your CTAs in driving conversions will pay off in creating future campaigns and landing pages that improve lead generation.
- Competitive benchmarking – Comparing results across various channels for key competitors identifies gaps and enables comparison of strategies and tactics. By continuing to track results, you’ll get valuable feedback about the effectiveness of marketing tactics in growing your share of web traffic and beating competitors at their own game.
- Performance – Tracking the impact of certain types of content and channels is critical for assessing marketing ROI. Knowing where high-quality and low-quality leads are coming helps you make better decisions about budget allocation and planning. Comparing campaign performance to past efforts, new content and creative, and expectations can help determine how to improve ROI.
- Predictive/prescriptive – Current and recent results can help identify both topics and channels likely to yield the best performance in the near future. For example, where to do more and where to do less as well as what needs tweaking.
Marketing Analytics: Web Tools
Now, let’s examine three broad classes of content marketing analytics tools.
These will help you perform the analyses that provide the four basic types of information above.
Overall, this class of tools provides data such as traffic by source to help determine the effectiveness of brand-driven tactics, like PR and promotions.
These tools can also provide data on organic search that is keyword driven via SEO, social media prevalence, and paid sources of traffic (AdWords, banner ads).
Keeping an eye on traffic trends from these sources is valuable input for adjusting strategies and tactics to reverse weak performance and capitalize on strong performance.
In particular, pay attention to landing page results and navigation behavior for potential issues needing attention.
For most marketers, Google Analytics is synonymous with web analytics.
After all, it’s free, powerful, extremely popular, and used on more than half of the top one million websites.
But, it is by no means the perfect be-all, end-all.
In reality, it’s but one tool in this class of dozens of marketing analytics tools on the market.
Others are designed to supplement and extend the capabilities of Google’s offering rather than replace it.
For example, Chartbeat shows referral sources and popular pages and enables headline testing and viewing.
It can show how far down the page visitors are scrolling. These are valuable details for developing content which both grabs and holds reader attention.
Marketing Analytics: And More Web Tools
When tracking real-time activity and analyzing individual visit activity, there are several choices that exceed the capabilities of Google Analytics.
PaveAI runs 16 million possible correlations using Google Analytics and gives you a report depicting those correlations and document recommendations.
Some of the correlations could be coincidences (such as geographic and time-based), but others are unique.
Meanwhile, gShift Labs extends typical website measures, adding analysis of industry influencer identification, backlink monitoring, and competitive metrics.
Finally, several tools can merge results from Google Analytics into customizable dashboards using data from social networks and other sources such as email.
Competitive Intelligence and Benchmarking Tools
This class of tools compares your current results to your competitor’s current results.
They give a snapshot of the progress your content marketing efforts are making in capturing more share of mind (or “share of web”).
There are two categories within this class.
The first is competitive special-purpose tools, which narrowly compare competitive results in a specific digital marketing channel.
And the second is all-in-one tools that broadly look across multiple channels.
Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular tools of each type.
- Website popularity and traffic sources compare high-level website performance to top competitors using tools like SimilarWeb and Alexa. Since these tools do not have access to other sites’ Google Analytics, they are not perfect. But while they aren’t precise, the information they provide is surprisingly close and generally accurate.
- SEO and SEM tools such as Ahrefs, and iSpionage compare backlink profiles, target keywords, keyword rankings, and other optimization-related information such as influencer marketing.
- HowSociable is an SMO and competitive analysis tool. It provides a “social magnitude score” for any name or brand across two dozen social networks.
- Social media presence tools BuzzSumo, TalkWalker, or Vaizle compare a brand to its top competitive brands based on social media measures like response rate, engagement rate, and follower growth.
- Multi-channel performance tools TrackMaven and Rival IQ compare activities and results to those of competitors across social media, SEO, and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns. Information is gathered based on a generic industry or keywords.
Content Marketing, SMO, and Marketing Performance Management Tools
This third class of tools has emerged as a result of the burgeoning complexity of marketing outlets, and the volume of content marketing teams must deal with as they grow.
A basic web-monitoring platform like Google Analytics definitely has its place.
But alone, it lacks the sophistication to help drive strategy and support strategic and tactical decision making.
There are tools which provide granular, real-time visibility into marketing performance and have the ability to combine and consolidate data from multiple sources.
These can help CMOs demonstrate marketing ROI and determine the effectiveness of marketing strategies and tactics in supporting their sales teams.
This arsenal of information feeds data-driven budget decisions. And it enables marketing teams to visualize the performance of content assets and campaigns to improve marketing operations.
There are four types of software tools in this group which are based on what they measure:
- Lead attribution tools give marketers the opportunity to abandon faulty first-click or last-click attribution models. These models were much easier to implement than more sophisticated, accurate, multi-touch attribution models. Today’s tools like Allocadia and Bizible apply technology that simplifies the task of more precisely understanding which content and activities drive lead generation. They allocate a percent of the lead attribution credit to each touch point.
- Content performance tools help marketers to strategically plan, develop, and distribute content based on insights gleaned from the performance of existing content assets such as a research paper, product piece, etc. Most offer project management features to organize the workflow of content development teams. Popular tools in this category include DivvyHQ, BrightEdge, Kapost and Percolate.
- Multi-channel marketing performance tools are all-in-one applications that help marketers assess performance across a range of tactics and sources. GinzaMetrics is a marketing intelligence platform enabling brand marketers to monitor their performance across organic search, email, social media, and online advertising channels, and benchmark results against competitors. Agency Analytics is geared toward marketing agencies, enabling them to report to clients on multiple SEO metrics, social media engagement, and pay-per-click campaign performance.
Completing the Content Marketing Loop
Marketing analytics tools can play a vital role in informing the initial stage of content planning and strategy.
They enable marketers to make informed, data-driven decisions about content topics, formats, and distribution channels.
And they help to improve the effectiveness of content marketing efforts to optimize the sales funnel, grow sales, and ultimately, revenue
To this end, feedback from the sales team should play a key role in the continuous improvement effort.
Modus enables the marketing team to create a secure online repository of sales content for salespeople to access.
As an intersection between sales and marketing, the application provides feedback about how and when content is used.
Of course, marketing also should be receptive to requests for additional types of content.
This feedback, combined with marketing analytics tools, is a winning combination that helps marketers master content production volume and tactical sophistication.
Marketing Analytics: Optimize Your Content Marketing Operations
In light of today’s complex marketing landscape, Google Analytics scratches the surface with real-time website visitor tracking, dashboards, and competitive intelligence tools.
Furthermore, marketing teams with established processes can benefit from advanced content and multi-channel performance monitoring tools.
As businesses grow and adapt to address their competition, marketing leaders must periodically re-evaluate their marketing analytics tools.
Ultimately, by using the most suitable technology, they can optimize their content marketing operations and accurately demonstrate the value of marketing to their organization—in terms of ROI and sales growth.