Content marketing in its current avatar is not considered very scientific. It works on perception, experience, sometimes even guesswork, and mostly estimation.
Data driven content marketing on the other hand, can be more precise and more scientific. Data, as they say, does not lie.
What is data driven content marketing?
What do you understand by data? Data is information in the form of numbers. If you say that out of every 100 visitors that come to your website 2 buy from you, that is data.
If you know that out of every 500 visitors to your website every day, 245 enter your website via your services web page and out of these 245, 10 do business with you, and then you try to create content to replicate the success of your services web page and then try to promote that content to the sort of people that enter through your services web page, that’s data driven content marketing.
When you depend on data to create content and distribute it, you are no longer guessing.
Data driven content marketing means knowing exactly what your audience is looking for using all the available web analytics tools, and then tailoring, formatting, and timing your content accordingly.
The easiest real-world example that comes to my mind is the way modern email marketing services allow you to create segments based on the behavior of your email recipients.
One day you send an email campaign to all your recipients.
Then you wait for a week. MailChimp (I use MailChimp, you might be using another service) tells you how many people opened your message from your entire mailing list.
You send a new message to only those people who opened your previous message, the new message completely tailored according to the previous message read by them.
This is data driven marketing.
How to use data driven content marketing to grow your business
Before we proceed, let me be clear: data in itself means nothing. Data in itself is just a collection of numbers.
It is when you analyze the data and draw intelligence out of fit, it begins to have some meaning for you.
So, basically, the actual form of content marketing that you should be focusing on is, intelligence-driven content marketing, but, since all this intelligence is derived from data, let’s just stick to data driven content marketing.
Data is everywhere. Google Search Console gives you a treasure trove of data. Twitter gives lots of data. You can get good data from LinkedIn. Facebook, sure. Most of the contemporary email marketing services. There are numerous third-party tools that can go through your existing content and tell you what sort of people are mostly consuming your content.
So, how does data driven content marketing help you grow your business better than the usual, haphazard content marketing?
Data driven content marketing helps you channelize your efforts and cost towards a more productive and meaningful exercise.
Creating and publishing quality content takes effort and money, right? Wouldn’t it be great if you knew exactly what content to publish rather than simply go on publishing whatever comes to your mind and then hoping that some of it will generate business for you?
You feel bad that you publish 50 blog posts and only 5 of them get you the results that you seek.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you become stingy when publishing content. You cannot start gathering data from the word go. It may take you many months before you have some decent data to analyze. And, this data cannot be gathered if you don’t have enough content to analyze.
Initially, you will have to depend on your intuition, on guesswork, on research that is not data-based, but, as you publish greater amount of content and as that content generates greater amount of user feedback, you will have plenty of data to play around with.
Data driven content marketing isn’t as “nerdy” as it may seem initially. In its simplest form, it means using the intelligence that you can derive out of the data that you have, to create, publish, and distribute your content.
Why publish content for people who are never going to appreciate it?
Why not publish lots of content for people who have a use for it, who are looking for it, or who may need it in the near future without even realizing it? And the good thing is, you have access to that needed intelligence.
Even if you are simply using Google analytics you can get lots of information about the people who search for your content on Google and social networking platforms.
The Google Search Console also tells you what sort of devices people use to access your content and where most of your visitors are situated.
Data driven content marketing primarily has two stages:
- Post-publishing-distribution content effectiveness metrics/data
- Publishing-distribution of new content based on the metrics/data gathered above
Gathering and analyzing data after you have published and distributed content
How do you know the effectiveness of your content?
To know the effectiveness of your content you need to have a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve.
Suppose you have published a new case study on your website. You want people to download your case study. Since it contains valuable, useful information, you want people to first sign up for your newsletter and then download the case study.
Many people sign up for your newsletter and then download your case study.
What was the purpose of publishing the case study? Was it to encourage more people to sign up for your newsletter updates? Or was it to convince people into doing business with you?
Sometimes businesses publish e-books and case studies just to use them as an incentive for their email subscription.
If this is not the case and you have published the case study to reach out to more people and explain how you deliver your product or service, you can try something else.
After a couple of months, you allow people to download your case study directly without having to sign up for your newsletter.
What do you observe after two months?
Are lesser number of people subscribing to your email updates? Are more people downloading your case study? Are more people contacting you for work than previously?
The data will tell you and then accordingly you can publish your subsequent case studies and decide whether you want to offer your next case study as an incentive for email subscription or you directly want to allow people to download it.
A sidenote observation by the way: I discourage my clients from using an incentive for subscription. People should download your case study, e-book or white paper simply because they want to access the information. In the same vein, people should subscribe to your updates not because they want to download your case study, e-book or white paper but simply for the valuable information that you will be giving them.
Coming back to the topic, you can use a keyword research tool to know whether the keywords and search terms you are trying to target are actually used by your target audience or not.
Often my clients demand content for which there is no demand. They waste time, money and effort on chasing shadows.
Even if you don’t want to use a third-party tool, you can use the Google Search Console to know which keywords and search terms are driving traffic to your website or blog the most, and then tailor your content accordingly.
The study and data analytics of your existing content can tell you about:
- How many people visit your blog or website?
- What is your bounce rate?
- How much time on an average your visitors spend on your individual blog posts and web pages?
- How many comments do your blog posts attract?
- How many times people share your content on their social networking profiles?
- How many inbound links your content attracts?
- How many leads content generates within a particular time frame?
- What is its conversion rate?
Publishing and distributing content according to the data you have been able to gather and analyze so far
Remember the key to a successful content marketing strategy is providing the right content to the right audience at the right time using the right channel. Yes, lots of “right”.
Your data will be able to tell you what content your audience prefers.
It tells you what format is most suitable to the needs of your audience.
The data will tell you on which days of the week your content is accessed the most.
The data will also tell you through what channels (your blog, search engines, website, external websites, social networking platforms, mobile apps) people access your content the most.
For example, my content analytics tell me that most of my traffic comes from search engines with occasional spikes from LinkedIn. Almost zero traffic from Twitter and Facebook.
Does it mean I should try harder to improve my search engine rankings further and create more visibility on LinkedIn, or should I ignore these channels and focus more on Twitter and Facebook from where my traction is almost nil?
Depends on what I want to achieve, but this bit of information can certainly help me decide and carry on my content marketing accordingly.
What sort of data you should pay attention to for a successful data driven content marketing strategy?
Here are a few things you can look out for when trying to figure out what sort of content you should publish and how you should market it.
- How do customers react to your existing content?
- What format of content – blog posts, web pages, case studies, newsletter updates, images, videos, white papers, e-books, social media updates – is preferred by your target audience?
- How do people mostly discover your content?
- What keywords and search terms people use when they are able to find the content that you have? Or the content you are planning to publish?
- What sort of content your competitors are publishing and what is the degree of success?
- How does your content perform vis-à-vis generating leads and more business?
- What changes do you notice when you alter the way you publish your content?
- Does your audience prefer long content or short content?
- Particularly for your business, does quantity work or quality?
- Do people access your content mostly on desktop or mobile?
- Should you focus more on paid media, owned media or earned media?
Frankly, these are just random questions that come to my mind when I’m writing this. Every business has its own unique data and user behavior patter.
It’s not that suddenly you have to change your content marketing strategy and start worrying about data. If you pay close attention to a few metrics and then try to create content accordingly, you are already using data driven content marketing for your business. If not, you should perhaps, from now onwards, start paying close attention to at least the Google Analytics data to know what sort of traffic your content is attracting.