How to Prove the Value of Content Marketing with Multi-Channel Funnels

Friday, October 26, 2012 | 9:56 AM

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The following is a guest post contributed by Josh Braaten, Senior Online Marketing Manager at Rasmussen College, Google Analytics enthusiast, and avid content scientist.

Conversion is rarely straightforward, especially for products or services with lengthy or complicated buying cycles. Working for a college has made it clear to me that every consumer is different, and so are their research needs as they navigate their unique buying process. 

It takes a holistic content strategy to address the extensive information needs of potential students, and rarely do blogs and other types of content marketing get the credit they deserve for the role they play in influencing conversion.

Luckily, Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnels provides marketers with amazing new ways to see how users interact with web content on their path to conversion and to prove the value of content marketing.

Introducing Google Analytics Multi-Content Funnels
Consumers begin any major investment in the awareness/discovery phase, are triggered into a search/consideration phase, and finally end up at their buy/close phase when they take the conversion action. Imagine how your content strategy could perform if you understood how consumers interact with your website content as they navigate their investment decision. 

That’s where the idea of Multi-Content Funnels started. To be clear, Multi-Content Funnels is not a new Google Analytics feature, but rather a specific application of the existing Multi-Channel Funnels reporting features that illustrates the direct and indirect effects of your website content instead of your marketing channels.

Multi-Channel Funnels launched a little over a year ago as a way to help show how users interact with your marketing efforts over multiple visits. By default, these reports are configured to report the relationships between marketing channels (e.g., paid search, social media, email), but we’re going to modify them to demonstrate the value of content marketing.

The key to this type of analysis is being able to use the Landing Page URL data attribute when you create Channel Groupings and Conversion Segments within a Multi-Channel Funnel report. When I first wrote on their inbound marketing benefits, Multi-Channel Funnels didn’t support this deep dive into your website content because they didn’t include landing page in the source data.

Turns out the Google Analytics team had it on the road map and added it to Multi-Channel Funnel reports within the last few months. Content marketers, get ready to geek out with these content-based applications of the Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnel reports.

Building Content-Based Channel Groupings
The first major application of Multi-Channel Funnels for content marketing is to create Channel Groupings based on your content, which will demonstrate the most common content paths users take to conversion over the course of multiple visits.

Start off by creating a new Channel Grouping within the Top Conversion Paths report. You’ll want to group the major content sections of your website together into channels.

For example, here I’ve created this Channel Grouping that corresponds to the Degrees Catalog section of our website that includes any landing page URL containing “/degrees.”

Creating a Channel Grouping in Multi-Channel Funnels:

I also included channels that correspond to each of the major content sections of the website as I built out this content-based Channel Grouping. This is what the content-based Channel Groupings of a college website looked like when I was done with them:

Content-Based Channel Grouping:
Your own content-based Channel Groupings will likely be different for every website, but each should include major product directories or service listings, blogs, sections that answer specific questions or solve specific problems, whitepapers, ebooks, etc.

Top Content Conversion Paths
Once the content-based Channel Groupings are set up, we’re able to access the Top Conversion Paths report, which instantly becomes the content marketer’s best friend because it shows how many visits it takes before visitors convert, and how they start their website experiences for each visit.

You can use the Channel Groupings that correspond to specific content sections as with the screenshot above, or you can apply even broader Channel Groupings to provide a high-level view of the most common content paths towards conversion by marketing intent, consumer action, or both. 

Channel Groupings Based on Buying Cycle Path
Creating Channel Groupings based on marketing intent and the consumer buying cycle requires a deep understanding of how consumer interact with your website. These Channel Groupings can be created by combining multiple sections of the website when constructing each Channel Grouping, depending on which phase of the buying process they facilitate:

Pairing this information with traffic and conversion data makes it clear where to focus resources for new types of content, content edits, and expansion of existing website content, as well as demonstrates which parts of our content marketing strategy are driving results.

(Fascinating side note: Looking beyond the most popular conversion paths, some degree seekers’ research processes can see them returning to the website 50 times or more before they are confident in their conversion decision. As a student of web analytics, the next question is whether this conversion path is long because it should be, or is it fraught with unnecessary abandonment that can be overcome with improvements to the content?)

A Long Conversion Path:


Determining the Value of Specific Content with Conversion Segments
Channel Groupings are half the fun because they can only help to organize and present data. To determine the value of specific types of content, we need to create custom Conversion Segments to pair with Channel Groupings

Content-Based Conversion Segments in Multi-Channel Funnels:

Custom Conversion Segments are easy to create and work just like any other segments in Google Analytics, however, these also include the ability to segment-based interaction: First interaction, last interaction, any interaction, and assisting interaction.

Custom Conversion Segment Setup:

This segment captures conversions where the last visit on the conversion path landed on the blog. Most of Google Analytics conversion reports are based on the last interaction, but this segment allows you to explicitly specify between first interaction, last interaction, any interaction, and assisting interactions.

As a content marketer, discovering some blogs assist 150 percent more conversions than they produce directly was a powerful revelation, one that was made possible by content-based Channel Groupings and Conversion Segments applied to Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnels.

The Many Uses of Multi-Channel Funnels for Inbound Marketing
Understanding how consumers interact with your website content is the first step in providing them with the best experience possible – the primary goal of every modern SEO and content marketer. Those who understand and execute content strategy with this knowledge in mind continue to drive highly efficient campaigns.

The Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnels with content-based segments and groupings, or Multi-Content Funnels as I like to call them, provides you with several new ways to leverage these amazing reports, boost your content marketing efforts, and better serve your current and potential consumers.

How have you used Multi-Channel Funnels in your content strategy?

(Note: Some screenshots were edited to remove site details.)