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Marketing has taken another large turn in its evolution cycle during 2012. The growth of digital and social, the maturing nature of search marketing, and the growth and relationship with content marketing opens up more opportunity for the CMO.

However, with it comes a certain level of complexity when looking at how to structure, attribute, and measure marketing campaigns across your organization.

I have been working with CMOs and CEOs for the past 10 years and suffice to say every marketer has their own model. Some are traditional, others digitally focused, some are brand and product focused, and others are pure content marketers or SEO consultants.

The common challenge they all face is attribution in a multitude of formats.

Attribution is not just an apt term to describe digital marketing interaction.

Defining marketing attribution

Attribution has many meanings and is a phrase that is often over used in some areas such as digital marketing but also under-used in wider marketing circles.

For example, look at converged marketing fields such as content and SEO and you will see that authorship begins to attach itself to the word attribution. 

Attribution is not just an apt term to describe digital marketing interaction, it also relates to psychology, copyright and content, organizational performance and behavior and talent. All are relevant in today’s integrated marketing ecosystem.

1. Content and Attribution

The new buzzword in marketing is in-fact not really new as content marketing has been around before the days of dot.com. What has changed is a renewed focus of content in the search and social fields.

Google has driven this change with algorithmic changes such as Panda and Penguin – all aimed to improve relevancy and reward quality and unique content. 

In many ways content is directly related to digital marketing attribution and certainly forms the linchpin of organizational attribution. 

The growth and attention is has received as of late suggests it deserves some specific attention and I would encourage you read more here. Look at authorship as a prime example of attribution within SEO and content marketing.

Attribution of content is now a vital part of the CMO agenda as it feeds into digital distribution and attribution. Content is also central part of digital and organizational attribution. More on that later.

2. Digital Marketing and attribution

Most CMOs now have a digital marketing background. It’s an essential part of any marketing strategy. For many organizations the people who drive digital, online, and content marketing lead marketing. I first wrote about Digital Attribution back in 2010 and 2011.

When looking across digital marketing channels, the CMO in 2013 needs to have an excellent grasp on digital marketing. Attribution data is the glue that helps piece together understanding and understand performance on the search, display and digital marketing efforts of your organization.

How you analyze, use and attribute data value is key to managing and optimizing your digital and content marketing spend. 

What's more, how you use your data and understand the user is pivotal for audience targeting, content marketing, retargeting, and SEO success. What data you factor in as past media performance, as well as audience intent data, allows you to better understand campaign results and return on ad spend. This enables real insight into behavior and allows the retargeting of users across a multitude of platforms. 

Understanding this consumer journey on and offsite and assigning value to different segments of data and content is essential for any marketer in today’s new media age. I had the opportunity to catch up with the team at Adobe UK last week and talk about this very topic. 

In the attribution comparison report provided by Adobe Adlens first event, display clicks are assigned 2.5x as many conversions compared to last click. For the CMO this gives great insight into where to allocate budget across channels.

SEO and social media attribution

One of the biggest challenges for many years has been how to incorporate social media into attribution modeling. Its close alliance with content and SEO make this every so more difficult.

Social campaigns focus on engagement, relationships, content and community building. Measuring awareness and brand engagement and the path to purchase is a key priority for many a social media marketer.

In October this year Marketo spent close to $250,000 to show us the value of social media advertising in B2B content marketing in the “The ROI of Paid Social Media Ads”.

From another angle SEO platforms such as BrightEdge http://www.brightedge.com/twitter-seo-tinyprints are beginning to look at attribution relationships using SEO data to make decisions on Twitter investment http://searchengineland.com/take-twitter-campaigns-to-the-next-level-with-seo-data-140738

3. Organizational attribution

As channels and markets change and converge so should your marketing organization. Search, social and digital growth has redefined the role of the CMO.

For many it is a process of reorganization to adapt to change and move from traditional structures based on pre-defined departmental structures to build new and innovative ways of working and matrix management that are more flexible, less political, and are built by optimizing talent first.

The forward thinking CMO places this marketing talent at the center of all activity and across all areas of the organization. Marketing should be driving strategy, producing content, leading demand generation activity and distributing and measuring success across all channels.

However, discord can occur across numerous departments such as sales, marketing, digital, product, and client services. Debate rages as to who really booked revenue and how much did everyone contribute?

Was it down to the expertise of the sales, marketing, or client service department or was it the killer content produced within the company or outside the company.

Big questions can be asked such as who is accountable and whom gets the credit for revenue – person, department and channel. How much credit do they get and how can you use that information to help plan and build to win that next big piece of revenue?

Mastering ‘big data’ AND building a successful marketing organizations around talent is going to be a key CMO challenge in 2013.

Accountability is key and this comes from the talent in your organization. Who creates the content, authors thought leadership, works with the brands? Who drives digital strategy, who creates product and brand messaging, and who is responsible for content and digital collaboration are just some of many questions the CMO and CEO need to address.

Structural innovation can add accountability and address many of these issues. For example, Chief Revenue Officers become accountable for all digital revenue and attribution and Chief Content Officers drive marketing strategy and accountability for content.


Attribution is not just about looking at the performance of the your digital channels. It is also about how you build, create and attribute content that feeds into these channels.

What’s more how you structure, build and manage the talent that fuels this is essential when building your marketing organization of the future The growth of digital, the convergence of media, and the renewed focus of content marketing provides great opportunity for the companies that use talent management as there structural baseline.

This talent should be integrated across all business functions.

Your marketing team can no longer be sat in the corner, at least not all the time, it has to be working throughout all of your organization and all of your brands and all of your digital channels!


Published 12 December, 2012 by Andy Betts

Andy Betts is a digital marketing strategist working with agencies and direct advertisers. He blogs here, and can be found on Twitter and LinkedIn

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