Know How To Trace the “Buzz” (if you’re into B2B blogging)
A few weeks ago, I was publishing some work regularly on my client’s website, standard to our business.
After a couple of weeks of publication, the client expressed concern for the lack of sales he was seeing from the content. People were following through and reading but not ultimately purchasing anything.
We had about four thousand clicks a month, about 3,200 of whom were never exploring past the article through to the site. Of those who actually “converted”, marked by a lead form submission, there was only a fraction.
There’s this sort of notion that I think exists in marketing, a leftover of pre-internet advertising: that blog posts will build “buzz”, or attention, and enough people will take notice to magically convert to sales. In other words, the “buzz” is a non-concrete phenomenon that founders dream will yield concrete results. Sometimes they do, but sometimes hard work can go into a piece only for it to fall flat with nothing made of that buzz, and certainly no real financial results.
And yet, as a content marketer, it’s my job to make that dream come true.We had to shift our focus from reads to conversions.
Too Many Content Marketers Are Insecure
This massive challenge of using content to drive tangible sales forces content marketers to have a bit of a bedhead’s look in the mirror. So many marketers avoid the subject altogether, citing impressions as the only metric they’re beholden to. An insecurity quickly emerges in this environment. For example, Digiday covered Hearst Magazine’s introduction of a new metric to assess quality of content. The headline read, “‘The whole industry has to think about quality’: Hearst UK introduces new metric to prove branded content works”. The headline insinuates that this metric is needed not to improve the practice content marketing, but to prove it works altogether.
Brands feel unsure of the practice because they’re wondering how the content really led to sales. Granted, it takes time to build up an audience and see those sales. It’s not going to happen immediately. But even so, too many marketers have failed to ceaselessly track and probe which users came from where, returned when, at what rate, how much they spent, etc. that they’ve missed the point of the entire practice.
We champions of content marketing must atomize that behemoth, dreamlike “buzz” into metrics that trace user acquisition, site behavior, and page use. It forces marketers to ensure content is “accountable”, as Contently’s recent campaign put it.
Ironically, it’s the same platforms that enable tracking of that “buzz” that perpetuate its difficulty to nail down. Facebook’s an example, offering “brand awareness” as a campaign objective worthy of anything, while also aggressively iterating it’s pixel tracking and usability (for those who don’t know what a pixel is, it’s a tool Facebook offers. You insert some code into your website, which follows a person from their click of a Facebook/Instagram ad to the site’s landing page, monitors their browsing and reports back to you whether or not they’ve purchased, following them like a bounty hunter on their “buyer’s journey” through cyberspace.)
Tracking the Buzz for SaaS and Other High-Consideration Purchases
I want to preamble: If your company is an early CPG company, it is very difficult to justify spending for brand awareness campaigns, usually underwritten by content.
But what about when you have a product that requires high consideration — say you’re a tech company with a hefty monthly subscription — you might not want to be running Facebook ads that say “Buy Now!” Instead, you’ll need to build brand credibility, ensuring potential customers that their money is going into the right hands responsible for completing or assisting them with a complex goal.
So what’s the answer? How does a B2B, non-product goods company effectively track the “buzz” of their content to conversions without direct conversion ads? How do you figure out ways to lower the bounce rate on content and ensure in-site conversions?
Contently built a powerful tool that helps track performance of content to better build an ROI, from Facebook ads to Google searches. It can show you if one type of headline or article perspective or social media platform is performing really well, based on time spent on the page, clicks, bounce rate, etc. It tells you what’s working and what’s not, helping refine a strategy with time. This is all great. But, it’s also at a higher price point.
Google Analytics for the Win
The next option that we at Studio 96 rely on in full is Google Analytics, which is free. Arguably, it’s more powerful than any other site analytics page, and it’s free. It’s also constantly improving, both from innovations out of Google itself, like the Page Analytics tool, as well as open source Chrome plugins that help improve traffic analysis, like ObservePoint’s Tag Debugger.
With Google Analytics, you can very clearly see what content is converting and not by providing statistics on each of your site’s pages like bounce rate, time spent, links clicked, and acquisition (how each user got there) and exit (where they went after).
This allows us to identify patterns between the most successful pages (and blog posts). For example, you might find that the highest performing articles are all lists that start with a number (i.e. “5 Best Cameras to Take a Beautiful Summer Picture” versus “How to Take a Beautiful Summer Picture”). You might find that interviews you’ve conducted with industry leaders are read more than informational pieces with online references. Perhaps videos perform 5x better than articles. There’s an endless amount of permutations of what could work based on the industry.
This all helps to catch the “buzz”, providing insight on how to make content that is optimized for a specific audience.
How to Reduce Bounce Rate
Now that you’re able to track people on the site, you might discover that your content has a high bounce rate. This happened to us with the client I mentioned earlier. We had to solve for it; we were generating “buzz” by the measure of approximately 4000 users a month, but had to capture it into sales.
The first thing we did was move links to other product pages higher up in the article, so there was a prompt to click somewhere else without even having to scroll. The first paragraph of every page had to have at least two links to another page. Just those efforts decreased the bounce rate of the top ten pages by an average of 6%.
It’s important to expect, however, that blog posts generally have high bounce rates. Because Google defines a bounce as someone who was on a page for less than 30 minutes and didn’t click anything else, it will count someone who read the article in full as a bounce.
Because of this, the second thing we did was take a look at how long people were actually spending on the pages (before they were marked as “bounce”). Google Analytics reported that users were spending an average of 3 minutes and 14 seconds on the top blog pages, meaning they were, in fact, reading the articles to the bottom (each was about 500 words). So, we changed the bottom to read “Click here to learn more about the [Product]” That led to another decrease in the top ten pages by 9%.
In total, these efforts lowered bounce rate by 15 percentage points to around 71% on average. Of 4,000 visitors, we had 1,160 clients following through to the site per month.
The Page Analytics plugin tool, which reports a heat map of each page, proved that it was in fact these new links that led to the drop in bounce rate. The User Flow chart on the regular Google Analytics dashboard backed it up, indicating that people traveled from the top blog post pages to the product pages that were linked in each one.
Once they landed on these product pages, 11% of visitors filled out a lead form (this is a standard landing page conversion rate). So, by that measure, we were successful.
Another way to reduce bounce rate on the blog pages is through email marketing. If someone has subscribed to your mailing list, it’s because they know you or know your brand. Even more so, if they received an email, opened and read it, and clicked on the link to learn more, it’s safe to assume they’re likely to read the post and click through the site. Here’s another list by Traffic Generation Cafe of 11 Ways to Reduce Your Bounce Rate.
For high-consideration SaaS, content marketing must always yield conversions.
Leads and sales is how we have to quantify success at Studio 96. It’s the best way to justify content spend over time, just like CPG companies have to use straight sales to justify their ad spend on direct response ads.
If we didn’t, we’d have a terrible churn rate. Our clients wouldn’t be able to see ROI. SaaS companies themselves are measured by this rate and fail when they have a low churn.
I hope I’ve made a clear case for one of the ways we ensure our work is accountable and consistently producing results. This topic is dense, so if you have any questions, comment and I’ll reply or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will be coming out with more next week!