The (technical) recipe for measuring ROI of B2B content

Content marketing is on most marketers agenda these days. Only a few people can prove the value their content generates. This results in content being neglected, undervalued, done for vanity or based on gut feeling.

At Dreamdata we have found a technical recipe that can prove the ROI of B2B content and we are sharing this in three steps with you below.

What you will get in this post

This is a long-read. We know. To keep you motivated, here’s some of the knowledge you will gain and be able to generate from reading all the way through:

  • Know how to see ROI of each piece of B2B content (URL) you make.

  • Help justify spending time on content. 

  • Instruct what types of content you should make, based on revenue generated. 

  • Give you the ROI of your content team by comparing salaries to revenue generated. 

  • And it should probably inspire which URLs to try and rank better in Google through link building and other tactics.

Content ROI.png

And now, over to the post.

Does this sound like a familiar content discussion?

CMO: “We need to do more content marketing.”

CMO to CEO: “Can I hire a writer, a designer and videographer?”

CEO: “What will the ROI of this team be?”

Also the CEO: “What’s the ROI of our current content”?

CMO: “Bla bla… Vanity metric 1… Bla bla… Vanity metric 2…”

CEO: “Ehm… Let’s not do that right now.”

We all know that we probably should start producing those nice evergreen pieces of content that for happily ever after can exist and continuously pull in relevant traffic for the business.

The following process and decision making then should be straightforward. 

Empirical evidence shows it’s not. 

Proving true value of content production remains an enigma for the larger part of most companies. 

Hence the plans and efforts are often scratched completely or postponed until honeymoon days of fresh funding or extra-ordinary profitable years.

CMO’s, and the likes, do not dare to put their head on the table betting on content, because they don’t really know - or can’t prove - the value of their content. That’s a shame.

It’s hard. We know. We’ve been there. Hiring content people. Produced heaps of content and seen rankings improve and visitors surge. While still not having a true clue about the ROI of the overall content project.

How many company user journeys, leads and deals did the content generate?

How many $’s came out of this?

Most people and businesses don’t know.

What they (the majority) do know is nowadays-basic-stuff: 

  • Search volume: They can use a search engine tool like Ahrefs, Semrush etc. to get an estimate of the search volume of certain search requests. 

  • Rankings: They also know that it’s the results on top of Google’s search results that most likely gets the highest percentage of visits.

  • Traffic: When people are on the page a basic tracking tool like Google Analytics can also tell how many visitors the page get, how long they stay and what they do after getting to the landing page and so forth.

  • Conversions: The somewhat skilled operators should then have set up conversion goals like a transaction or an email signup to something.

From here it gets… Iffy. 

At Dreamdata.io we would state that all of the above are to some extent vanity metrics.

If activities, through data, can’t be associated with more revenue generated, it’s a waste of time.

The questions to follow up on the above nowadays-basic-stuff metrics should be:

  • Transaction: If the conversion is a transaction you should ask; 

    • Of those who end up buying, how many come back and buy again? 

    • How many visits to your site did it take to convert?

    • Was sales, support or marketing people in contact with the buyers?

    • What’s the true Lifetime Value (LTV) of your customers? 

    • Of the customers who have a high LTV, what’s the leading indicator of this? 

    • What did those with high LTV do or what channel did they come from?

  • Email sign up: If the conversion is an email sign up

    • Similar questions to the above mentioned should be asked if your conversion is an email signup or demo request.

    • However, the troubles are even bigger when revenue is not immediately associated to the conversion. 

      • In many businesses there’s months and even years between first conversion and $-value. This makes transparent ROI understanding harder.

    • In good examples, there’s a CRM associated, that will have a deal value assigned, if the email at some point ends up purchasing. 

    • In worse cases, the email looks like a completely new user when they end up purchasing 8 months later.

B2B attribution is complex

Admittedly B2B attribution in general is hard(er), than the relatively simpler B2C buyer journey for a multitude of reasons: 

  • Sales cycles are looong 

  • You’re tracking companies and not individuals

  • Deals requires a lot of interaction with the leads and customers

  • Multiple people are often involved in the buying decision

  • Multiple media channels are used for marketing, both offline and online

  • Most companies today are multi-tech stacked meaning that one user might appear as 10 different users across your systems.

Feeling disillusioned?

Have faith.

Now to the recipe for proving ROI of your B2B content. We’ve found a way to show you the ROI of the B2B content you produce.

#1 - It’s time for businesses to own their customer data

The first, and foremost, critical part that needs to take place is: 

A paradigm shift, where companies move away from other services owning and restricting access to their user behavior data.

You, not someone else, need to own the access your data.

Today, most businesses rely on a techstack which is a combination of ad platforms, simple tracking platforms like Google Analytics, marketing automation systems and CRM’s that store information about their users and their behavior in 3rd party silos.

This used to be the cutting edge. 

It’s not anymore.

None of them have your business as their prime interest. 

Software companies build stuff that you for a period, where they are the prime supplier of the service, are willing to pay for. 

The time will come, when whatever service you like today, is not the best anymore. At this point, you will want to transition. You will want to move your data somewhere else. But you probably can’t. Many platforms like to restrict access to your data, to increase the friction of your move away from them. 

Now what?

Stay on the not-cutting-edge-service anymore, because they sit on your data?

Move away, and lose all historic data, de facto meaning starting to learn from scratch again, somewhere new?

It’s often a tough question, with no obvious answer.

To make sure you do not end in this situation, you need to: 

  • Firstly, work with software that allows you to own your own data. 

  • Secondly, have open access to move your data around and out the systems as you like. 

  • Thirdly, store your data in your own database ie. Google BigQuery or a Customer Data Platform.

With all of your data in one place, that you have free access to, you have completed the first step towards data independence. 

Now you are continuously storing what takes place. You can move the data to whatever new system you want to use. You can join and clean the data for the analysis you wish to perform.

A data warehouse solution that stores all your customer data touch points, as described above, is increasingly being described as a customer data platform.

A customer data platform per the Wikipedia explanation

A customer data platform (CDP) is a type of packaged software which creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems. Data is pulled from multiple sources, cleaned and combined to create a single customer profile. This structured data is then made available to other marketing systems.[1] According to Gartner, customer data platforms have evolved from a variety of mature markets, "including multichannel campaign management, tag management and data integration.

Customer data platforms is indeed a technology which is being more and more widely adopted as we speak. Have a look at the Google Trends for “customer data platform”:

customer data platforms.png

#2 - Connecting the user journey through historic data

How would the perfect tracking scenario look for you? 

It would probably be something like following every step of the digital customer journey, everything a business does, before buying your product: 

  • From when they are anonymous and come to your site for research 

  • Signs up to your newsletter 

  • Start using a free version

  • Become a paying customer 

  • Repurchase and generates LTV

  • Perhaps at some point churns

That would be very valuable, right? It's actually possible to do, but I must warn you. It’s going to get a bit more technical here. Hang in there, you will make through to the other side. 

If you read on and feel a bit confused or technical challenged, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We will be happy to elaborate everything.

Firstly, you need to make sure that you give anonymous ID’s to users on your website. This is something almost all tracking solutions do. As a standard though, Google Analytics do only do this in the browser cookie. The problem with browser cookies is they often get deleted.

Side note: When talking specifically about the ad platforms, most of them will start to struggle extra hard to prove their attribution as Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) is increasingly rolled out by more internet browsers and cookies start to be deleted after 24 hours.

What you should do is to make your tracking tool set an ID in the local storage of the browser as well. Local storage of browsers is normally not emptied. Segment.com do this out of the box. 

Disclaimer: Dreamdata.io have a partnership with, and has official integration to, Segment.com. Our views are affected by our appreciation of their tech.

If you are using Google Analytics some tweaking is needed to do this and to make matters worse, should you get the IDing right, it’s hard to pull data out of Google Analytics, so you can’t really apply the knowledge, that the data could provide you.

Below is an example of an anonymous cookie set in the browser by Segment:

On the left, marked with grey, you can see we are looking at the browsers cookies.

On the right, we are showing the ID segment gave the visitors cookie on our demo request page.

Cookie+id.jpg

We then go on and delete the ID set in the cookie.

In the standard Google Analytics or Facebook/Google ads scenario, you’re tracking would now be gone.

However as we are using Segment.com to help us track, an ID has also been set in the local storage of the browser (see image below).

In the image below our CTO Ole identifies himself through a conversion on our demo page. 

Local storage id.png

As the ID in the local storage of browser is still there, we can now identify him.

That was a bit technical, so let’s recap what just happened. In the old cookie tracking paradigm, the understanding of how the user arrived and what the user did on your website, would be lost. 

By using Segment.com to track through an ID in the browsers local storage, we are now able to track what happens through the often months long B2B sales cycles.


Emily Byford   , writer and content marketer.

Emily Byford, writer and content marketer.

“Linking individual content pieces back to real dollars generated is so valuable for marketing teams. Not only will it help you justify scaling your content efforts and growing your team, more importantly it will help you focus on what really matters for your (potential) customers. You can spend your time creating content that meets their needs, and has the biggest impact on their decision-making process.”

#3 - Putting revenue on content

Now that you own your data and you, with historical data, can identify users over longer time periods, you need one last piece to the puzzle: Associating the identifiable piece with your CRM and revenue system.

By looking up the email in your CRM and revenue system, you will get dollar-value of the user. In other words “this user was worth $X revenue”.

When you have the dollar-value of the user, then you can start to look at the customer journey for this revenue to arrive in your CRM. 

You can examine this in different ways, depending on your needs.

The data you have stored in your database can be juggled into a metrics of two aspects: Attribution model and Revenue model.

Revenue and attribution model.png

Attribution model:

  • First touch: What was the first channel that led the user to arrive on your website?

  • Last touch: What was the last channel before the user ended up buying?

  • Multi-touch: What was all the touches this user had with us, before the user ended up buying and what the most important part?

  • Custom / W-shaped: Construct your own model, depending on what you know ads value in your user journey.

  • Equal weight: Each touch attribute equal value, even though this probably is not the truth.

Revenue model:

  • First purchase: At the first transaction, what revenue did you record?

  • First year revenue: What revenue have you made on the customer after 12 months (or what number of months you prefer)?

  • Lifetime Value (LTV): What’s the total revenue number for this account?

The choice of attribution and revenue model often depends on what your job is about. Ie.

CMO: If you’re a CMO responsible for new growth, you’re probably interested in the first touch model, that explains where new leads comes from. 

CEO/CFO: If you’re a CEO/CFO responsible for the budget and money on the bank account growth, you’re probably more interested in the customer/w-shaped model, that gives a better combined insight to ROI on activities.

Either way, must people will find value and insights through switching the models and looking at the numbers from several perspectives.

Focus on the content made for traction:

The next step that would be nice for you to do, is to focus on the content you are making to drive growth and revenue. 

Here’s an example of a business that puts 95% of their new content in two groups: 

  • Blog: Targeting a bunch of relevant industry topics.

  • Compare: Comparison articles between the company’s product and alternatives.

Content for traction.png

Instead of looking at all content URL’s, including your front, product and pricing pages that normally will do well, you can isolate the URLs where you do content for growth and traction.

With this in place you can generate lists of all your URLs and see per URL:

  • How many visits the URL had

  • How many contacts (emails) the URL generated

  • How many new companies the URL generated

  • How many deals came from this URL

  • How much revenue the URL generated

Quite magical.
You no longer have to “guestimate” whether content pieces that generated emails actually resulted in what really matters: Deals and revenue. 

Content ROI.png

Now the revenue it generates is pulled directly from your CRM and displayed according to the attribution and revenue model you have set.

For savvy marketers, these insights should:

  • Help justify spending time on content. 

  • Instruct what types of content you should make. 

  • Give you the ROI of your content team by comparing salaries to revenue generated. 

  • And it should probably inspire which URLs to try and rank better in Google through link building and other tactics.

And there you have it. That’s a technical recipe for proving ROI on content.

What do you think? 
Is there something we’ve missed in this recipe?

If you have questions on how to do this, please let us know.