By Ben Harper published March 30, 2014

How to Use Data to Improve Your Content Marketing Strategy

image-seo gadgetsWith 60 percent of B2C marketers planning to increase their content marketing spend over their previous year’s budget, now is the time to start thinking seriously about how data impacts your content marketing strategy.

There’s been a lot of talk about the role data plays in content marketing; however, much of this has been relatively limited to disciplines like keyword research and influencer identification. Let’s take a look at how to put data truly at the heart of your content marketing strategy, allowing you to implement real change this year. 

What data should we be studying? 

1. Your website content: At the heart of any content marketing strategy sits the editorial calendar, and this document should be driving the data that you choose to study. Everything in that editorial calendar should be subject to data interrogation — from types of content to blog titles, publication days/times, content categorization, authors, and more.

If you already have a calendar, then you have a great starting point for analyzing what data tells you about your content marketing strategy. If you don’t, the analysis process remains the same, though you may have less structured data with which to work.

Are you part of a larger enterprise? You may be lucky enough to have a data analyst or team of developers in-house. If so, request that they extract your blog’s content data in a structured way — ideally as a table showing each published post and its key info, along with your chosen key performance indicators (KPIs), such as site visits (e.g., from Google Analytics), engagement (social shares), and conversions (also from Google Analytics). 

Here’s an example of the kind of data you’re looking for at this stage:

chart-blog data

Having this data correctly formatted and ready can allow you to create valuable insight at the next step. 

2. Your competitors’ content: The great thing about analyzing your content like this is that you can also study your competitors in exactly the same way. Admittedly, this may take a little more manual effort, as you won’t be able to export their proprietary data; but going through their content to dissect the readily apparent components of their strategies can provide some really valuable insights.

By understanding what types of content your competitors create as part of their content marketing strategy — and how your performance measures up — you will be better able to identify opportunities to meet unmet needs, determine new topic areas to focus on, and generate other new content ideas.

3. Guest posts and external content: Like studying your competitors, tracking the content you publish on platforms other than your own website can require considerable effort on the part of your team. But, again, these efforts will be well worth your while.

Track exactly the same metrics as above in terms of post engagement/interactions, author, publishing times/dates, site visits (if the external content provider will share data), etc. If you’re also focusing on the SEO benefit of your content, it may be worth tracking additional metrics as well, including page rank, domain authority, and trust flow and citation flow of the domain (Majestic is among the many tools you can use to find this information). 

4. Social media content: Social data is hugely powerful for driving your content marketing strategy, as it can help you make a wide range of decisions, from what to create content about to the weighting of that content within your overall plan.

For example, you can pull key metrics from Facebook Insights on performance by post type, as well as see best performing posts, post reach, and engagement rates — all of which will help you understand how your content is being received.

Beyond performance analytics, social data can also reveal important insights about your audience. For example, using audience profiling tools like Optimal Social or Kred can help you gain a greater understanding of other kinds of content your readers are engaging with — rich data that can help you create new content topics and ideas with a high potential to interest your audience.

Other data to consider 

There are myriad other data collection resources you can access to inform your content marketing strategy, including:

  • Followerwonk, which can help you identify and rank influencers
  • Keyword Planner, Google’s tool that provides information on keyword search volume
  • Ubersuggest, which suggests semantically related keywords to consider in your content plan 

An example 

Once you’ve gathered all of your data, you can compile it into a report (like the example below), which provides a snapshot of information you can use to inform your content marketing strategy.

How to leverage this data 

The wealth of data you now have at your disposal can radically change the way you run your content marketing efforts. Use this data to refine key components of your strategy that could use a boost in performance, or even to completely revise your documented strategy if your results show that you may be moving in the wrong direction.

Having everything in a visual format can help you get to the bottom of issues that need resolving, as well as identify big opportunities you may be missing out on. For example, based on the data shown in the sample report above, you may conclude that you should:

  • Post more content on days like Monday and Friday — when engagement has typically been higher.
  • Get “Jenna” to write more content, or use her style to guide the efforts of your other content creators.
  • Increase your creation of technology-related blog posts.
  • Reduce Facebook status updates in favor of more photo posts.
  • Consider creating more content on e-commerce, as this seems to be a topic that brings in higher than average interactions, with less competition. 

This is a fairly simplified example, but even from data such as this you can start to draw out some insights that may make all of the difference in generating engagement from your content.

The results 

By constantly using data and adopting a data-led culture, you may be able to make a significant change for the better in your content marketing efforts. By scrutinizing every element of your content strategy and editorial calendar with data, you can create a robust plan that everyone can believe in. What’s more, by continuing to analyze your performance over time, you can constantly improve — drawing in more traffic, more engagements, and more conversions and customers.

Taking a data-led approach to your content marketing not only gives you a stronger strategy, but also allows you to identify new opportunities from your competitors’ activity, and your audiences’ preferences.

Want to get ahead? Now may be the time to think about investing in that content marketing data analyst you always wanted.

Want more insight on how your metrics data should be used to inform your content marketing strategy? Sign up for a free trial of our new Content Marketing Institute Online Training and Certification program. Access over 35 courses, created by experts from Google, Mashable, SAP, and more.  

Cover image via Bigstock 

Author: Ben Harper

Ben Harper is one of the co-founders of Datify, a data-driven marketing company based in the UK. Datify specialises in insight-led strategies focused on driving ROI for a range of clients across the social, search & content marketing arenas.

Other posts by Ben Harper

  • Roger C. Parker

    Dear Ben:
    Remarkably comprehensive; great term, “data interrogation.”

    • Ben Harper

      Thanks Roger – that ones comes from the data analyst background :-)

  • http://twitter.com/geugeniocontent Gene Eugenio

    Great point regarding competitor analysis. By showing their social media stats, your competitors might be showing you how to improve on their strengths and avoid their weaknesses.

  • http://www.krishtechnolabs.com/ Krish TechnoLabs

    You should use H1 and H2 styles in your content headlines because they are weighted heavily in the latest Panda algorithm at Google

  • http://the-media-image.com Warren Kings

    Thanks for this Ben, I especially appreciated the way you broke down the takeaways of your examples in those bullets. May seem obvious but it really underlined the lesson for me.

    • Ben Harper

      Thanks Warren! I hope you find this useful

  • http://lovable-marketing.com/ Maël Roth

    Very insightful Ben, thanks for the post ;)

    • Ben Harper

      Thanks!

  • tamccann

    Great post. If you want to automate much of this, especially the competitor analysis you can use http://www.rivaliq.com (I am a founder). We will also continue to track their content and alert you when they have “breakout” post which are getting higher than average engagement. We span across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, G+, Instagram and YouTube and even make it super easy to get PPT reports to show you boss or clients.

  • http://www.stylishwalks.com/ Nikky StylishWalks

    Great Post. Loved reading this, especially the 1st point where you’ve shown categorization of data is really cool. It helps me a lot in improving my site content strategy :)

    • Ben Harper

      Thanks, glad it was useful!

  • Carl Brandson

    @disqus_k2wmImlnHV:disqus you have shared a nice piece of work with us. I would really like to connect with you via Linkedin:
    http://www.linkedin.com/in/ozairakhtar

  • Mani Karthik

    Nice article Ben. I rely mostly on Google Analytics for data except for social shares. What I like most about Google Analytics is that I can customize reports and set custom emails to be sent to writers so they know which articles are doing good every week/month.

    • Ben Harper

      Hi Mani, thanks for the comment.

      GA is great, but it doesn’t give you everything especially for content marketing analysis – it’s well worth combining GA data with a few other data sources to get a richer view.

      Thanks