There’s an old adage in the marketing world, “content is king.” This has been true for as long as SEO has been around, and probably goes back further into the general marketing realm.
But the adage is simple, but leaves a lot of room for interpretation, i.e. what content?
In those early SEO days, that meant identifying your keywords and cramming them into any page that would fit.
But modern digital marketers are smarter (not to mention the strategy doesn’t work anymore).
Today, successful content starts with a digitally-backed plan, a data-driven content strategy, if you will.
But what exactly does this mean?
In simple terms, this means developing content using methods based on user information. This can include demographics, survey answers, consumer preferences, and more.
You probably don’t need to be told why this matters, but to make sure there’s no doubt, let’s be clear: Using a data-driven content strategy can help you decide where to spend your time, effort, and money.
In other words, your resources are limited. You don’t want to waste them on people who are unlikely to convert.
A data-driven content strategy allows you to tailor your marketing campaigns to generate the best ROI.
For search engine and PPC experts, it can help you decide which keywords to use, making sure you’re targeting the right audience.
Sounds easy, right? All you need to do is turn on your content research tools and look for commonalities, right? Sorry to break your bubble, but there is more to do.
But fear not, this is why you are here.
In this helpful guide, we’ll give you a step-by-step approach to developing, implementing, and optimizing your own data-driven content strategy.
Ready to get started?
1. Set Your Content Goals
The first thing you need to decide is what you want to accomplish. You can’t be everything to everyone, so you need to make some choices.
Do you want to increase traffic? Are you looking to make a sale? Do you want more leads?
Determine what your content goals are and identify the channels that are best suited to achieve them. Once this is done, you can establish key performance indicators (KPIs).
Be sure to keep this in mind when creating content.
Everything you add to your website or campaign should have a purpose. If you’re not sure what it’s doing, neither will your audience.
2. Define your target audience
Now that you know what you’re trying to achieve, it’s time to figure out who to pursue to achieve it.
Comb through the demographics and other information you have access to. Discover commonalities that appear in many or some of the goals.
Many marketers find it helpful to create customer personas. Using your data, imagine typical people for each of the different roles you’re targeting.
For example, you might have a lead role, a lead role, a buyer role, and a repeating role.
Put yourself in the shoes of these imaginary people.
What kind of language resonates with them? What is their highest education? Do they want professionalism or individuality? Why do they appear on your website? What do they hope to accomplish with your help? Be as detailed as possible.
Many marketers even give them names. For example, if you were creating a role for a plumbing supply company, you might have:
Lead Larry – 45 years old
A mid-career plumber, Lead Larry has his own one-man business. He makes $75,000 a year. He went to a trade school and his work car is 6 years old. He was looking for a way to reduce overhead and find cheaper parts than local supply companies. He values hard work, honesty and professionalism.
Feel free to be as creative and detailed as you want, remember this is not a fiction writing exercise. You’re creating characters based on your typical goals, so keep your characters aligned with who they actually are.
3. View competitor content and conduct feature research
Now is the time to see what the competition is doing. Maybe they’re just standing there, but they’re probably putting some effort into their campaign as well.
Review what they’re doing and look for what seems to be working.
For example, if they’re blogging, they might have a view counter on the page. If so, which type of blog works best?
Find trends in your industry. What are you all talking about? Is there a big trade show? Or an upcoming new technology?
Find out who you’re competing with for clicks, not only to see what’s working for them, but also to see what your own content thinks. Start listing what you want to cover.
If you have influencers in your niche, this is also a good time to check in and see what they are posting.
4. Do keyword research
Once you’ve figured out what your content should be, it’s time to perform the old SEO staple: keyword research.
Use tools like Google Analytics, Semrush, or platform-specific tools like YouTube’s Search Insights to find out what language your content needs to be in.
This will not only help you with SEO.
Use keywords in your content to show your audience that you speak the same language they speak. This doesn’t mean English, it means using nomenclature that everyone in the niche will understand.
Going back to our pipe supply example, this means referring to the product as a “three-quarter full bore threaded ball valve” rather than a “metal fitting”.
Well, it’s a ridiculous example, but you get the idea.
The good news is that you probably already have a job, if not expertise.
5. Create content that aligns with your goals
If you recall, the first step in creating a data-driven content plan is to identify your goals.
Now, armed with everything you’ve done since then, it’s time to create content that addresses those concerns.
Don’t be intimidated. You don’t have to be F. Scott Fitzgerald to write the kind of content your audience wants. And you’ve done a lot of groundwork – now it’s time to put everything together.
Your content can take almost any form, video, blog post, infographic, case study or white paper.
If you’re not used to doing this yourself, finding writers or videographers in your area or extended network should be fairly easy. Just ask your contacts for advice.
If you’re still not confident in your ability to deliver, or you can’t afford to hire someone, don’t worry. We have an excellent article that walks you through everything you need to know about content creation.
6. Promote your content on the right channels
You have created a masterpiece of related content. Now is the time to share it with the world. But how do you do it? Did you just post it on your company blog and wait for Google to index it?
You can take that passive approach, but this is awesome stuff you just made. Everyone in your niche wants to consume it. To make sure you get the attention you want, it’s time to promote it.
But pause for a minute before you link on Facebook, Digg, LinkedIn, and every other social media platform and aggregator you can think of.
When you develop your user persona, you want to receive some data about your target’s online residence.
Are they regular Twitter users? Do they haunt industry-specific forums? Are you connecting to them via Slack or another instant messaging app?
Find out where they hang out and post. In most cases, if you’re not sure whether your target uses the platform, you should go ahead and publish.
On some sites, you can get slammed for unpopular content (like Reddit), but most of the time, it doesn’t hurt.
This is also the time to start thinking about how to repurpose new content.
Do you have the opportunity to publish a guest blog post on another website? Or, will your new infographic fit perfectly into your next investor presentation?
If your data-driven content is built on the solid principles we’ve discussed, it will gain engagement.
7. Use analytics to measure results
After your content goes live, you can start measuring your ROI to see where you’re doing well, where you’re falling short, and what you can optimize to improve performance.
This is where the KPIs discussed in the first step come into play.
Some of them are easier to track than others.
If increasing sales or conversions is your goal, then you should have data that supports performance. Likewise, if you plan to improve your website’s traffic, you should have analytics to track it.
Things like brand awareness can be a little tricky.
Whatever you use to determine success, you should find the data you need to track performance in Google Analytics.
For a detailed walkthrough of this process, we provide information on how to accurately measure content marketing success.
A data-driven content strategy is a winning strategy
Data is a marketer’s best friend. It will tell you exactly what works, what doesn’t, and generally why.
In today’s competitive business and SEO environment, a data-driven content strategy is critical to success.
Use the tools at your disposal to collect data – that’s why they exist.
Learn to recognize what numbers are telling you and use them to help you craft content that not only attracts views, but also gets shares and achieves goals.
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