Content marketing is to all intents and purposes become the holy grail of any marketing campaign. If you are unsure what content marketing is, you can brush up by reading this article, as well as checking out the benefits that content marketing can have for your business.
When people start creating content for marketing purposes, it is usual that they turn to creative people to help them create podcasts, blog articles, graphics, and all the other bits and pieces that form the core of content marketing. What they often neglect is looking at the data to inform them as to what content is best suited to their intended audience.
It must be stressed that as much as the content needs to be expertly produced, the value of data must be acknowledged. It is data that should both inform what kind of content needs to be created, as well as measuring the effectiveness of the content once it has been distributed. The data therefore should serve both as signposts as to what content is required and how engaging it is to the audience.
Data to Guide Content Creation
Before you even begin the process of creating content, you have to spend time analyzing the data that will inform what content has the potential to bring the best returns. Let’s look at the various pieces of data you need to gather and understand before you start.
- Who is the Target Audience?
The quickest way to waste your time and energy when creating content is to make assumptions as to who your audience is. There are three sources of data which you can use to determine your audience. These are Google Analytics, your CRM, and your sales teams.
There is much you can learn by studying Google Analytics. You will learn the exact audience demographics by investigating for instance your website metrics. These include clicks, contact requests, the number of pages visited, bounce rates, etc.)
Your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a potential goldmine of information. It should contain information about every inbound lead and every customer. A detailed CRM will reveal why a customer reached out and which content drove them to take action. Customers can provide a wealth of information when they interact with your business, such as location, age, gender, etc. Perhaps they completed surveys or signed up for certain services. Use this information to create a customer profile or buyer persona. You can add extra information to the buyer persona by conducting experiments, running surveys, and doing case studies and research.
If you have a sales team, it would be insightful to get anecdotal guidance from them about what audiences respond well to in their interactions with them. Perhaps they can draw on their experience during outbound calls or demos. Their insights into the pain points they encounter will be valuable and can guide content ideas.
- Evaluate Your Current Performance
If you have already created content, it is always a good idea to go back to it and assess what has been working so far and what has been less than successful. Your first port of call should be the analytics available within your website. Have a look at the data you can glean as to which of your blog articles have done the best in terms of number of clicks. Also look at sessions, unique sessions, session duration, pages per session, time on page and bounce rates to get a bigger picture.
Google Analytics is your friend and you should make sure you get as much data from this source as well.
If you have a podcast, then look at the number of listens and the average duration of listening time for each episode to give you a clearer understanding of where engagement is highest.
Do the same on social media. Have a look at your followers and connections, see who has interacted with your posts, check out their profiles, and investigate your paid campaigns to glean as much information as you can.
You will soon start forming an idea of which pieces of content have been getting the most traction. You will never be everything to everyone and you cannot please all the people all the time. Every consumer has different preferences which guide their buying behavior. This also means every single person has a different path to purchase.
When you can start tracking buyer journeys, you are increasing your chances of converting them into paying customers. This can be done by having a much more targeted approach with your content. By analyzing the data, you will be able to develop a snapshot of the buying habits of your customers. As soon as you have a clearer understanding of the media channels that are performing the best, you can start replicating those to increase your conversion rates.
- Develop a Clear Content Strategy
One of the biggest challenges you will have is making sense of the data. To make sense of it, you will have to become a sort of Sherlock Holmes, analyzing the clues and making educated deductions. Follow the evidence as far as it takes you, looking at each key performance indicator (KPI). Sometimes you will only get hints, while at other times the facts will be glaringly obvious.
You might for instance find that high pages per session seem to indicate a positive KPI, but when you look at the time spent on those pages, you may find the session duration is very short. You may deduce that the users are scanning the pages but not finding what they are looking for.
Perhaps the bounce rate on certain website pages are very high, which could give you a clue that the landing page or the FAQ pages aren’t covering the right topics.
Take as much time as you need to dig as deeply into the data as you can. Sometimes you will strike the pot of gold; at other times you might be like a dog barking at a tree in which there is no cat.
Always remember that quality beats quantity every time. Don’t try to Band-Aid a problem you identify when investigating data by throwing more content at it. One high quality piece of content is always preferable to a myriad of low quality ones.
- Know Your Keywords
To rank on page one of Google results is never a fluke. It only happens because keywords have been meticulously researched. This is true for both articles you write for your blog pages and your website landing pages. When you look at your own search behavior, you will notice that you most likely type in a question in the Google search bar. It therefore follows that your content should be answers to questions, influencing your keyword choice.
There are several online tools you can use to research keywords. Keywords Everywhere is a useful browser plugin, but there are many others that you can consider, both free and paid for. When deciding on which keywords to use, consider the following:
- Search volume: This shows you how many monthly searches there are for any specific keyword, whether they are long-tail or short-tail keywords. Short-tail-keywords are one or two words that people use for general search queries, while long-tail keywords consist of three to five, or even more, words.
- Difficulty: Each keyword will have a score that predicts how difficult it is to rank. The Quality Score will be based on location, search network, and search query. In essence, this score will tell you how well your keywords compare to those used by your competitors.
Ideally, you want to use keywords with a monthly search volume of 50 or more, and that have a mid-to-low difficulty score. The rule of thumb is to have the difficulty score 10 points or lower than your domain authority score. It will make more sense to use many keywords with lower monthly search volumes and lower difficulty scores than just using one highly competitive keyword that you will not stand a chance ranking for.
Why? Because if you are regularly ranking for keywords with low search volume, the chances are you will also rank for variations of those keywords. This gives you a higher probability of increased total search volumes when you are targeting a specific topic. Also take into account that when you regularly rank well for a keyword, even if it is low-volume, it will reverberate across your search presence. As soon as people can find your content on search, it means that there is a higher chance that those who are searching for those keywords will see your content.
Once that happens, your content becomes shareable on social media and linkable in other people’s content. You need these kinds of backlinks as it increases your page authority and therefore your domain authority. This will have a direct and positive influence on your overall search performance.
Your keywords should be built into all of your content, such as:
- Title tags: Keywords should be used in title tags. The earlier you use them, the better.
- Subheadings: Find a way to naturally integrate your keywords into at least one of your subheadings.
- Opening paragraph: Your keywords should show up early in your content. This ensures that you are getting down to the business at hand in as quick a way as possible.
- URLs: While you want to keep your URL structure as clean and concise as possible, build your keywords into it whenever you can.
- Images: Add your keywords into image files names and image alt text whenever possible.
- Develop Content Briefs
Take each of your researched keywords and use them to find the top-ranking websites, then do an analysis of what content has already been created for each keyword. By doing this, you will be able to get some guidance on what you need to do to also rank for that keyword. These include:
- Average word count: Look at different content pieces that rank for each keyword and do a word count for each and calculate an average. This will guide you as to the length your content should be;
- Main questions that need answering: Remember that people usually type in questions when they search? If you can identify the questions, this will clearly guide you towards the answers you need to supply;
- Secondary keywords: Apart from the main keywords, you need to decide which other keywords are most appropriate, so that you can include them in the text body;
- Major topics: Your content brief must include the major topics that you will need to cover and discuss in detail;
- Meta description: This is the text snippet that will appear on the search result or on social media when a link is shared. Have a look at the meta descriptions of other content and develop one that will guide the content creation in the development brief.
Most people leave SEO until after they have created the content. By doing your research first, you will be able to stop guessing what works and what does not. Develop content ideas based on a thorough understanding of what content already works and capitalize on that.
- Create the Content
The process outlined above is in essence reverse engineered content creation. You can only really start creating content when you have done your research. The engaging content you create will then be able to include logical funnels that cash in on relevant content of high quality.
Demonstrate your thought leadership with high-impact and high-value content. As data precedes any content creation, you will be able to generate results that are long-lasting. Remember too that evergreen content has a much longer shelf life than content that is time-bound. You want to create content that will still be relevant in the months and years to come. Content marketing is a long-term marketing strategy, so ensure your content is not only based on data, but that is of such a quality that it will generate lasting results.
- Measure Again
It can take three months or more for your content to ‘mature’ into its ranking. Don’t start tracking success too quickly. Give the content time before you start tracking the metrics. A podcast episode will build up listeners over time, so if you are looking for short-term results, you may be bitterly disappointed.
Define the metrics you are using to measure performance carefully and be precise when measuring it. You need to understand why some content has strong numbers and why others are weak. You want to repeat your successes and stay away from mistakes. In the long-term, you will be able to refine your content creation, as long as it is based on trackable data.
No More Working In the Dark
Once you start using data to drive decision-making concerning content, you will be able to know clearly where you want to be and be able to chart a course to get to your destination. You will no longer be guessing in the dark, but your decisions will be based on measurable metrics that will guide you along your journey. The content marketing journey will never end, and you will be assured of the milestones and ultimate destinations as long as your decisions are firmly based on data.
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