Can You Tie Your Guest Blogs Back to Sales?

We’ve seen time and time again that high quality guest content can have enormous benefits as part of a digital marketing campaign. Yet when it comes to reporting on their contribution on sales, their impact has traditionally been much harder to measure.

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that it is both worthwhile and simple to report on revenue and conversions from a guest blogging campaign. In our experience, many content marketers shy away from these figures for two main reasons. The first is the volumes are usually very low, as a direct sale resulting from one of these pieces can be much scarcer than from other channels such as paid or organic search. The second is that this may distract from the primary focus of the campaign, which could be to raise a brand’s profile or generate valuable links for SEO.

The latter is a fair point, although in our opinion, it’s used too often as an excuse to not examine the effectiveness of a campaign in enough depth. Instead, even if sales volumes are low, there is much to be learned from assessing the overall impact of your guest blogging work.

Tracking referrals

When trying to understand revenue from guest blogs, the simplest thing to do is to take a look at your Referrals report in Google Analytics.

Here, you can see the domains that have sent you traffic over your selected reporting period. Below you can see one recent example from Smashing Magazine that points to the Ad-Rank site.

If you have goal and ecommerce tracking set up, you’ll be able to view these figures against each domain. So far, so simple.

In terms of insight though, this isn’t that in-depth. We’re pretty much just seeing how many sales or conversions each referring domain is responsible for. It’s important, no doubt, but we can go much, much deeper.

One simple place to start is with some of the freely available dashboards in Analytics. A favourite of ours is this Referral Traffic Dashboard, which you can import just by clicking the link. This will show metrics such bounce rates by referrer, as well as data regarding devices and landing pages.

Attribution modelling

Again though, there’s a lot further we can go. In the real world, the typical user journey is extremely complicated. For this reason, at Ad-Rank we often use attribution modelling to show how off-site content can be tied back to revenue.

This principle here is simple. For example, a potential customer might stumble on one of your guest blogs or a press release hosted on a third party site, and then visit your business, but not buy anything or make an enquiry. There’s plenty of reasons why this could happen – aside from your offering not being up to scratch.

They might not have the time right then, or they want to think a little more before pressing the button. They could be distracted, or their phone could ring or an urgent email pop up in their inbox. Either way, this hypothetical customer might come back later directly, or use social media or organic search and make a purchase. In analytics, this as a conversion for one of those channels – not your off site content.

Attribution modelling is a different approach, and helps show the impact of guest blogs and other material at various stages of the buying process. Perhaps the most effective way to visualise this is with the Top Conversion Paths report, which can be found under the Conversions tag in Analytics.

This shows the most frequent paths to a conversion, including referral traffic, for your site. Here is an example from one of our clients covering a seven-day period following a guest blog campaign. As you can see, referral traffic contributed heavily to the most frequent paths.

This is very much a top level view though. The Assisted Conversions report allows you to isolate by channel, and then drill down further.

This provides a detailed overview of your referral conversions, on a first click and assisted basis, which is somewhere between first and last.

You can also view these metrics at a URL level, as in the image below. By doing so, we can see that this guest blog has contributed roughly £11,250 of revenue over a 7-day period on a first click basis. Without using attribution modelling, this would have been recorded as around £5,814.86.

We’ve only scratched the surface of what attribution modelling can do here, but this method is easy to replicate and can provide quick and easy information on the sales value of your guest blog or third party content.

Again it is worth stating that guest posts are not primarily driven by revenue. There are plenty of other aspects, such as brand awareness, link building for SEO and demonstrating thought leadership. Yet it is always useful to be able to justify these projects in terms of sales, and to understand what type of content performs most efficiently.

Key points:

  • Guest blogs are a fantastic marketing tool, but sales and conversion reporting is often vague
  • Make sure ecommerce and goal tracking is active and implemented correctly
  • Referral reports are useful – but they don’t always tell the full story
  • Some simple attribution modelling can show the impact on sales of your guest content, no matter where it lies in the user journey
  • Learn from your best performing content and work any positives into future campaigns


Want to write content that will earn links? Don’t miss Dan Shure’s web clinic on May 10 about the 5 Steps to Naturally Earn Links by Finding the Right Content Ideas. Save your seat now.