Effectively Using Data in your Content Strategy

Communications, Content Strategy, Marketing

Content Marketing has been an important part of the overall communications and marketing mix for more than a decade, but it continues to evolve and mature.  Content plays a significant role in attracting prospects and delivering the information they need to advance in their journey from consideration to decision.

However, a content strategy which is not based on clear business goals and driven by data will simply fall short of those goals. There are a ton of great educational resources and models out there but one thing that is lacking in many of the tips and articles is the use of data to offer additional insights in your content planning.

Before developing the content strategy, we need to outline the fundamentals:       

What are your business goals?

What are successful outcomes that you want to achieve?

How are you defining the core messages that differentiate you in the marketplace?

What does customer research tell you about where your targets spend time?

What channels make sense for content to reach your specific audience?      

If you are not clear on these elements, stop here. Without these answers, you are likely to waste time and money hoping for results. A great friend/mentor of mine, Bob Aronson, often said “If communications is not your top priority, then all your other priorities are at risk.” This is spot on. If you cannot effectively answer the questions above with confidence, it’s important to pause in order to define those to ensure your strategies will truly align to drive your desired results.

Assuming the fundamentals are in place, organizations typically dive in with creating content they think will hit the mark.Yet, data driven insights allow so much more than just taking a smart, educated guess as to how to deliver valuable content to meet the needs of the market. It’s an ongoing challenge that has been exacerbated in the last couple of years with more focus on the credibility of online results with Google continually looking to help users understand why they get the results they see.

With several great tools available, there is more that can be done to create an effective content plan. So, what should be considered?

Search Behavior Research

This is an extension of basic keyword research where you try to understand search intent. Of course, taking keywords into consideration should still be a part of the process but it also must be done in context. This is of critical importance. We want to deliver the right information to meet the needs of the person searching, not simply leveraging keywords and saying a prayer that somehow you wind up on page one of search results. Those days are long gone and never really worked all that well anyway.

Attention to the problem you’re trying to solve for a user should be the focus in all planning efforts. As a marketer, you must deliver the content that is meaningful to the audience. That’s the win-win for everyone. Readers want to find what actually addresses their needs, and you want to reach people who are seeking your content. Every page you are working on should have a specific purpose and advance the reader further into your marketing funnel by either addressing their questions or providing critical information. Thinking through the questions that will get a user to your site as well as every step through your content pathways once there, including effective calls to action, should be modeled as part of your plan. In the example to the right, the volume provides the obvious guide on if the topic is actively being searched online. Understanding the current interest in specific terms is the minimum to consider in capturing those readers and allowing you to begin to formulate ideas around topics.

Most Shared and Engaging Content

Another area that I believe is under-utilized is analyzing the content most shared for your industry or topic. This data is readily available and can provide extremely specific insights that help in understanding how your audience is engaging with content.

Conventional wisdom has said that shorter-form content is what most readers want. We’re busy right? You can hear it now- “There’s too much going on, I don’t have time to read lengthy articles” or even seeing how often people share articles and clearly have not read beyond the headline. But surprise, sometimes the most helpful content can be very heavy, lengthy pieces.

It varies of course, but if you don’t look you won’t know what is happening in real world scenarios. While personas and assumptions are better than nothing, you may be leaving opportunity on the table without doing this research.

In the table above, the data displays which articles are being shared most widely based on the initial research. To the left, I’ve included the column that corresponds to the length of that highly-shared content. You can see that longer articles are performing very well. Many of the top-shared articles are several thousand words. While many short content pieces do well for a lot of topics, you can see that some of the most highly shared articles feature deep, rich content. For new or potentially complex topics, many readers seem to appreciate the added detail versus quick-hit copy. This level of content planning simply allows smarter outcomes that are more likely to succeed.

Get Ready for Content Success in 2022

This time of year, many companies begin the process of planning for the year ahead and wouldn’t think of ignoring real-world customer or prospect data garnered from the sales team or industry voices but don’t fully leverage data available online. If you want to learn more about effective content planning, and ensure you’re turning over every stone to help meet your goals, please reach out for a discussion on opportunities to enhance your strategic content efforts in 2022.

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