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5 Fantastic Data Sources to Inform Your Content Marketing Strategy

big dataBig data is all the rage right now. Marketers are scrambling to extract value from the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data that are being created each and every day. This data can lead to insights about buyer intent, customer engagement, content marketing effectiveness, and more. In fact, in my last post for Content Marketing Institute I offered 3 ideas on how content marketers can use big data to improve or enhance their content marketing efforts.

But it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all of the possibilities and data at hand. Once you have your goals in mind, how do you uncover the best insights for informing your content marketing strategy without being bogged down by the data deluge? 

Here’s a look at the best of the usual suspects — as well as some sources you may not have considered yet — to better inform your content marketing program: 

Web traffic analytics

Chances are you are tracking your web traffic with a tool like Google Analytics or Omniture. To inform my decisions about what content to create next, I will often review the content consumption statistics these tools offer. This shows which of our current topics have garnered the most page views and are, therefore, more likely to engage our audiences.

Take a look at Lattice’s top 10 posts:

Lattice's top 10 posts

From this, we can see that the infographics format is one of our bigger traffic drivers, so if we were looking to boost awareness, this content type seems to work well. Similarly, we can easily see the topical areas that are driving the most traffic. For us, cold calling, big data as it relates to sales and marketing, lead generation, and data-driven insights are popular topics among our readers.


Yes, you can uncover a lot of search-related information as part of your web analytics research, but I am teasing this out as a separate category to ensure that we cover everything.

Take a look at both paid and organic keywords (they may be different) to see which ones are driving the best traffic. If you are interested in driving demand, you can take a look at which ads are generating the most conversions and build your editorial calendar around those topical ideas.

You can also use resources like Google’s Keyword Tool to uncover which keywords are turning up most frequently in relevant searches, and then compare those results to the level of competition for each keyword to determine the best ones to integrate into your editorial plan, from an SEO standpoint.

google keyword tool listing

Social media

If you are just getting started and looking to build awareness, tracking vanity metrics from social media can provide some crucial basic insights. Monitoring the number of followers your brand has on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, SlideShare, etc., can be a good gauge on how on target your content strategy is. Tracking the number of social mentions or shares is also essential when your content strategy goals are focused on awareness (as oppose to demand generation goals).

There are myriad tools available to help track social statistics; in fact, Social Media Today recently released a list of 50 tools to help you cut through the clutter (my favorites are HootSuite, Mention, and Google Alerts).

I create a log of our content that has been shared most widely, taking particular note of the following:

  • What the topic was
  • What the headline/message was
  • Who created the content
  • Whether any influencers were mentioned
  • Who/how many people shared the content, etc.

These factors help me determine what is working, and how we can replicate the success we achieve for future content efforts.


Quality backlinks are important to help improve SEO rankings over time. If you don’t have an existing tool to track backlinks, you can access this data for your site using — the free version will show your five most important backlinks (you can also sign up for a free trial to see a more complete list).

Here’s a peek at the top 10 backlinks listed on Alexa for Lattice, to give you an idea of the data you can expect to see.

backlinks for Lattice-alexa

I’d recommend tracking the total number over time, as well as the number of backlinks your business receives from larger content assets like eBooks, reports, or infographics. 

Marketing automation/CRM

Marketing automation tools like HubSpot, Marketo, Eloqua, or Salesforce can put a wealth of data reports at your fingertips. When measuring the success of a content strategy, I am generally most interested in viewing reports that help show which content formats and topics are best engaging our audience.

As an example, on a weekly basis we review the number of times our gated content assets have been downloaded, so that we can see which pieces are driving the most conversions. We also review web traffic activity from our target prospect companies. In addition, tracking engagement metrics like open rates, click-through rates, and total downloads through your marketing automation tool provides valuable information, as does an analysis of which pieces of content your sales team sends out most often. 

I am certain that I am leaving some metrics or tools off this list. Please chime in with your favorite tools in the comments!

Join Amanda Maksymiw as she presents at Content Marketing World 2013, September 9–11, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Cover image by Andrew Moir