The Power of Data: Creating Compelling Content for Your Audience
Content and data? Yep, content and data. Despite how these may seem—at first—to be at odds, data-driven research is a great way to customize your content to your audience further and drive your SEO straight through the roof.
There are already a lot of articles out there on data-driven content. Many give you "5 pieces of data you need to know…” before starting a content marketing campaign. While we support doing pre-campaign research, there is also a strong possibility of you falling into a data rabbit hole and being unable to extricate yourself.
Rather than that format, we will give you an outline: a framework to follow to help you sort through the myriad of data sources. The idea is for you to be able to confidently use the data your platforms and marketing tools make available to inform your content decisions going forward. Integrating data into your strategy can improve conversion rates, increase ROI, and see read rates higher than you thought possible. Let's get started.
Data use starts before you write a single word...
When you're building a strong, compelling content marketing campaign and beginning to brainstorm exciting topics and how to use them, what are you basing your process on?
The days when pen, paper, and intuition were enough to generate content your audience wanted to read are behind us. In the early 21st century, data is behind nearly every good content decision. And the reason is simple: your audience has already told you what they want to see. The question is, were you listening?
Start by setting SMART goals for your content. These goals should include thorough research into your target audience, ideal company profile, and buyer personas (may differ from, or be a segment of, your regular target demographic). Use data collected from your contact database, click-through rates on appropriate landing pages, comments on blog posts, and conversion rate A/B tests (we hope you're running those). Combined, this data will provide a wealth of information on who you should target and what topics they want to read about.
...and continues through the distribution of your content
According to the CMI, only 43% of B2C content marketers have clarity on their successes.
That means well over half of content marketers have no idea what works and what doesn't. Are your competitors in that camp?
Having clearly defined KPIs and knowing what metrics to measure is critical here. Engagement, the value provided to your audience, and brand awareness are somewhat nebulous concepts to attempt to measure, but there are tangible metrics you can use to get close:
Traffic: Just how far does your reach extend? How many eyeballs are seeing your content daily, week, or month? Which content is getting the most exposure?
Engagement: What does that exposure look like? Clicks, comments, likes, shares, and so on. All of these complex numbers add up to give an accurate idea of your audience's engagement with your content.
Conversions: The most tangible and probably important metric for ROI. Conversions reveal how many of those eyeballs are turning into happy customers.
Establishing these metrics early in a campaign can mean the difference between success and failure. They enable you to quickly get the pulse of the campaign, telling you how your readers respond, if they like the direction you decided to take the content, and what they say about it on the various outlets you're posting to.
Content data: where to find it
There are a plethora of sources you can mine for valuable data to drive your content marketing strategy. Starting with pre-creation data research sources like:
Audience research: If you only remember one fact from this article, let it be this—audience matters. More than anything else, you need to know your target audience backward and forward; you need to know them better than they know themselves if you want your content to land.
Keyword research: Having a firm grasp on the searches your audience is conducting is crucial, especially with the rising popularity of voice search via Google, Siri, Alexa, etc. Choosing the right keywords and researching semantic search phrases is vital—in other words, finding the actual words people are speaking on their mobile devices to initiate a search.
Competitor research: Next to your audience, the second most essential data you can mine is what your competitors are up to. Use some of the tools below to explain their writing, their social media conversations, and what people say about them.
And continuing through post-distribution data sources such as:
Google Analytics: The single best resource on the web for collecting data on what pages are getting the most traffic, what demographic is doing the clicking, and what it is they like.
On-site analytics: Looking at your site through the eyes of a hotspot mapper can tell you exactly where eyeballs are resting, click-through numbers tell you which CTAs are hitting it home, and general traffic numbers tell you which posts are drawing the most reads.
Additional suggestions for making good use of data
Blog. Often. More often than you think, you need to post. This generates all that data goodness mentioned above and will only help you further zero in your targeting.
Evergreen content is your secret weapon. Evergreen content is like data mining gold when collecting data on views, links, and reads. As you see new data from fresh posts, you can use your learning to update your evergreen content to draw new eyes to it. This keeps your content relevant, increases your site's overall SEO pull, and further endears you to your readers since they can see the care and attention you're giving these informative pages to ensure they're current.
65% of the general public are visual learners. Why is this listed under suggestions? Because you can use it to your advantage by producing infographics on crucial topics, your data tells you what people want to see. Infographics are phenomenal content marketing tools as they allow you to convey your message concisely, simply, and visually, drawing in and engaging all those visual learners out there who, until now, have only been skimming your wordier content.
Data is a HUGE topic. Not only as in "big data," as you hear about on the news, but even here in the content marketing world, people are talking. Advances in the data sciences, artificial intelligence, and analytics mean more data has never been available to more people at the simple click of a mouse. Every content marketer should be learning how to put this data to work for you to help craft strategy and cultivate your online presence.