Leveraging Data to Maximize the ROI of "Extra-Web" Content

By Sean Filidis

Leveraging Data to Maximize the ROI of

Measuring the return on content is fundamental to proving the value of your marketing efforts, yet it’s one of the most challenging things for marketers to do.

Research by Allocadia shows that 84% of marketers are under pressure to prove ROI in order to justify their marketing budget. 

For most companies, downloadable content assets like white papers, eBooks, and reports are an indispensable part of their lead generation strategy.

They’re also one of the toughest types of content for performance tracking. 

Ideally, you should be able to gather metrics that help you judge readability, interaction, engagement, and conversions.

You want to know if these assets really help move leads further through the funnel, and ultimately, how much ROI they're responsible for.

Unfortunately, metrics on this "extra-web" content doesn't usually extend beyond the number of times downloaded, leaving you with no idea on how they perform.

Luckily, with the right technology, it’s possible to not only measure the direct ROI of extra-website content but also maximize lead generation and performance.

This post will show you what essential analytics insights you're missing and how to measure their real performance beyond mere downloads. 


A checklist for gaining insights from extra-web content 

Downloadable content like white papers, ebooks and industry reports take lots of time to prepare and produce.

To make all this worth the effort and ensure you’re not throwing money down the drain, you should be able to gather insights that help you maximize not just downloads, but SQLs and, ultimately, revenue.

Below, is a list of questions to get started with measuring your ROI.

1. How many people downloaded your asset? 

This one's a no-brainer.

If your content is a file in an email, or something gated behind a form on a landing page, the number of downloads serves as a good metric to help you optimize your email copy or perform A/B tests on your CTAs. 

However, if this is your only available metric, you've got a problem.

2. How much of your asset do they actually read? 

Do readers get all the way to the end, or do they give up a few pages in? The latter could indicate that your content isn't valuable, interesting, or that the reading experience is poor.

Measuring the time they spend reading and the number of pages they get through is crucial for understanding your content's contribution to bottom line results

More importantly, it can serve as a lead quality score. If a particular lead reads your content asset cover to cover, it might warrant immediate follow-up by your sales team.

Conversely, you can avoid fruitless labor by putting fewer resources into following up with leads who are less engaged. 

3. Which pages and topics do people spend the most time on?

Knowing which specific chapters or sections readers spend the most time on is not only useful for optimizing your content, but it allows you to segment your audience by their interests and use a personalized follow-up approach.

You can use marketing automation to assign different readers to different sales teams based on the topics readers focus on. 

4. How often do people share your assets? 

This is one of the most telltale signs — proof that your content is good

As your downloaded asset is passed along, you not only get a better grasp of its value, but you get the opportunity to collect data from all those 2nd degree leads as well — that is, if you've gated it properly with an embedded form. 

5. How many new customers are coming in through your asset?

The big question is, did it work? Did your eBook, magazine, or brochure bring any new customers? If you can’t track it beyond mere downloads, it’s impossible to know.

Immediate access to metrics like those mentioned above will help you evaluate your content, optimize and perform A/B tests, save time and money in the long term, and make educated decisions without wondering whether your asset is working or not.


Oh, snap... 

If you're using PDFs for downloadable extra-website content, you may have noticed that most of the aforementioned metrics are impossible to gather. 

PDFs lack all modern requirements for measurability. Your only available metric is the number of downloads, which alone, doesn’t say much. 

More specifically:

You can't see engagement

The more engaged your leads are with the content they've downloaded, the more valuable they are to your business. But you can't follow up quickly with highly engaged leads if you don't know who they are. 

You can't optimize and improve

With PDFs, the only data you have is how many times they've been downloaded. You have no data regarding what happens to them afterwards. You don't know if the content is effective, thus any attempts to improve it will be based on assumptions.

You can't attribute success

Customer journeys are complicated. Just because someone downloads a PDF and some time later becomes a customer doesn't necessarily mean it was your PDF that influenced their decision.

Let's be honest. You don't know whether they even read it! 

You can't collect data from people with whom it was shared

Once someone downloads a PDF, you lose all control over it. They can share it with as many people as they want and you forgo all those potential leads. 

Traditional PDF content is simply no longer suitable for modern data-driven lead generation.


There's a better way to do it

You can't afford to use a file format you can't track.

PDFs are dead, and online interactive content is the new black. 

In an age where virtual assistants are winning IQ tests, marketers simply can't afford to use file formats they can't measure. Extra-website content must be modern, interactive, and highly effective — and trackable! 

Online interactive white papers, magazines, presentations, brochures, (etc., etc.) are the next generation format that can supercharge your content marketing strategy. 

Because they're infused with web technology, these hosted variants are fully measurable. They also allow for personalization and more human interaction with your leads as they move through your funnel. 

Read more about how we use interactive web-based content to leverage our marketing efforts.

Hosted extra-web content can help you land more customers by supporting your sales funnel with assets that are measurable, mobile-friendly, and functional.


Why use online interactive content instead of PDFs?

Measure engagement within your assets

See what readers do after they download your content to both determine the quality of your material and to spot hot leads right away. From reading time, to scroll depth, to click rates — you get all the insights you need

Continually optimize to get readers to do what you want

Use the data-driven insights you collect to fine tune your content and guide your leads on to the next desired action

Get attribution right and see the contribution of your assets to bottom-line results

Using hosted content instead of PDFs removes that massive blind spot in your customer journey and lets you really understand your content's ROI.

Get the contact info of everyone with whom your assets are shared 

This is a big deal.

Online interactive assets don't need landing pages. The lead gen form can be embedded in the content itself. This means that if your leads share your content with others, they'll encounter the form too. 



In modern organizations, everything marketers do should be measurable and produce clear, demonstrable business value. 

Your extra-website content, just like your website itself, must be carefully evaluated, rigorously tested, and continually optimized. Otherwise, it will fail to attract, engage, and guide your leads. 

That’s why many progressive brands are already switching away from PDF to interactive web-based content that help them generate hassle-free SQLs, and better understand their contribution to overall ROI.

Sean Filidis

Sean is a B2B content strategist specialized in streamlining customer journeys, creating sales and marketing alignment, and producing personalized content experiences that resonate with modern buyers. LinkedIn profile

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