How content is fed and influenced by attribution modeling

Attribution models can help measure how effective content is.

The standard configuration of most content generating organizations has authors on one side and marketers on the other. This division of labor facilitates the creation and distribution of content, yet fundamentally both sides serve the same ends: to create compelling content for a particular audience.

Attribution modeling – the process of determining the most effective pathways that deliver desired results – feeds content creation and influences authors in several distinct ways. While ostensibly a marketing diagnostic and analytic process, understanding how content drives valuable operational metrics like conversion, retention and sales leads can help authors and reviewers better tailor content for audiences.

Single-touch attribution
There are several varieties of attribution models that marketers focus on, each with its features and ways to reflect on content. Nevertheless, there are two major categories within attribution modeling—single-touch and multi-touch.

Single-touch attribution refers to when a customer is converted after a single interaction with content. Typically, single-touch attribution models are broken into first-touch or last-touch attribution, referring to what the analyst determines to have been the most meaningful interaction that eventually drove conversion. First-touch emphasizes the importance of the moment the customer enters the marketing funnel, essentially attributing the conversion to this single moment. Last-touch takes on the perspective that the final step in the marketing process was the one that prompted the customer to make the leap.

“The virtue of single-touch attribution is it’s simplicity.”

The virtue of single-touch attribution is its simplicity: It can be implemented with ease and marketers and analysts can point to a singular moment in the marketing process, thereby zeroing in more effectively on these stages in content strategy recommendations. Within single-touch content strategy, it’s easy to emphasize the importance of customer “hooks” that prompt conversion. CTAs, sign-up forms and customer personas all feature heavily into this attribution model and the conversion process is seen as linear, which in turn allows content authors to focus in on these features.

However, one of the pitfalls of single-touch attribution is that, due to its simplicity, there is a significant risk of errors and improper attribution. As Jordan Con of bizible points out, technological limitations – combined with marketing speculation – often lead to conclusions that may not accurately reflect the customer pathway.

“The issue here is that if you are using conversion tracking (e.g. Google Analytics) in a B2B setting, the time between first touch and the conversion can be longer than the common 30- to 90-day expiration on the tracking cookie,” Con wrote. “So often times, this model is really attributing credit to the first touch that’s within the cookie expiration window, and not the true first touch.”

Multi-touch attribution
Recognizing the shortcomings of single-touch attribution models, multi-touch is a more nuanced approach to measuring the efficacy of content. Multi-touch attribution presupposes that there is rarely a single piece of content that drives conversion. Instead, a sustained and multi-step process of encountering content is what will eventually result in conversion. Data from MarketingSherpa suggests that multi-touch attribution models may increase ROI by 22 percent year over year.

The nuance of this approach lends itself to both a variety of different models within the umbrella of multi-touch attribution as well as its likelihood of filtering into a greater content strategy. Rather than presuming that single exposure will be enough to hook a potential customer, multi-touch attribution allows content to be crafted in more subtle ways. Content authors may be better served focusing on branding, thought leadership and the creation of a conversion-encouraging environment instead of leading with a strong CTA or forms.

While neither single-touch or multi-touch models are perfect, they both can inform a content development and management strategy in distinct ways. The close relationship between marketing and authorship means that focusing on determining the most operationally helpful modeling for what is key.

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