Editors note: This blog post was originally published in June 2016 but has since been updated for optimal accuracy and relevance.
What’s the most important ingredient in your content marketing mix? Your way with words, your eye for design, perhaps, or your turn of phrase? Or, is it your marketing data?
A data-driven content strategy is a powerful one; informed by what your ideal customers really want and need.
Data is an invaluable tool for inbound marketers - but you have to know both how to collect it and put it to good use.
From the number of views on your blog, to how many people downloaded your latest eBook, to how many marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) you have at any given time: there are numerous metrics you can track. These figures can then be used to influence your future content decisions – for the better.
Writing for HubSpot, Rob Lons says: "Content marketers don't just write, they write with purpose." But you can only achieve this if you understand why some approaches work while others sputter to a halt. And the best way to acquire this knowledge is to get measuring.
It’s easy to spend hours writing, editing and optimising your posts - and then to send them out into the stratosphere and, well, forget about them. Instead, put aside some time on a regular basis to review your blog’s performance.
To start with: how many views do you have and which posts are the most read? Your findings will help you to identify which topics are proving popular with your audience. You can then delve further. How are these posts formatted? What types of headlines have you used? How did your audience find and/or share your posts? Which keywords have you included?
This last question is particularly important - your best performing keywords should be used not just on your blog, but throughout your website. In competitive industries - marketing, for example - some of the most searched-for keywords are highly competitive, which means it can be difficult to get any traction for your content. Consider how your audience is searching for the things they are interested: creating a specialised focus will help you to connect with more of the right people.
All of this information can then be used to determine your future content calendar. If the data is showing a positive picture, then you know to continue in the same vein - while always looking for new opportunities to form long-lasting business relationships. Similarly, if the results are not as great as you would like, you can reassess and consider how better to hit the mark. Perhaps you need to review your buyer personas, or maybe you need to address different topic areas.
The impact and ROI for video is measurable. How many people have stumbled across your video, either paid or unpaid? How many people have viewed your video, and for more than just a few seconds?
You can learn a lot from the comments section too. Any comments will give you a good insight into how engaged people are with your videos and how valuable they find them. Likewise, are people sharing your video? These insights can help inform what video content you create next.
Beyond the quality and value of your video, you can measure the play rate, i.e. the percentage of visitors that clicked play to watch your video. This can tell you several things: the strength of the copy and optimisation around your video, the allure of the topic itself, and whether the channel you're promoting it on is suitable. This will offer some useful direction for how you should be promoting your video content.
Comparing content formats
A blog may form the foundation of your content strategy, but video, podcasting, and infographics are now even more important than they have ever been before. However, just because one content format works brilliantly in one sector doesn't mean it will for all sectors. In some industries, buyers might find a detailed white paper far more valuable than a brief and snappy infographic. It's important to identify the best-performing content type for your business. Though it's often a case of trial and error to find out what works best for you.
Remember, you don't have to start from scratch when venturing into new territory. It's perfectly acceptable - in fact, it's strongly advisable - to repurpose content. So if you've got a great eBook in your archive, why not create a series of podcasts based on its content? That way, you can focus on the process of actually recording the podcast, without worrying about what you're going to talk about. Just remember to measure its performance...
Your content may be eloquently phrased and completely captivating but, whatever its literary merits, it ultimately has one purpose: to win you more customers. Therefore, the copy you create for your conversion paths is just as important as that found in your blog posts and eBooks. It needs to truly persuade and convince people to act; to engage with your organisation. After all, if a potential lead is turned off by your call-to-action (CTA) button or landing page, then they’ll never get to read that eBook you spent hours perfecting.
So it’s important to review your conversion path data. What’s the click-through rate on CTA buttons and where are these located (for example: on your main website; in a blog post; or email newsletter)? What is the conversion rate on your landing pages? Are people liking what you say and acting on the offers you're promoting? How many people interact with secondary CTAs (for instance: on thank you pages)?
If the statistics are not looking good, it’s time to act - and fast. Are you really doing everything you can to convince people to continue along their buyer's journey: to move from visitor to lead; and from lead to customer?
Writing for Unbounce, Graeme Keeton suggests thinking like a fiction writer - that is, telling your readers a story; taking them on a journey in which they are the protagonist. Your audience needs to recognise themselves in the narrative you are weaving; this is their specific issue and you are the right organisation to help them overcome it.
With CTAs and landing pages, it’s also important to only promote a single action - whether that’s downloading an eBook or signing up for a consultation. This should be a clear exchange: the prospect's contact details in return for one thing from you. So you should keep your copy brief and to the point - reams of words risk driving readers away before they give you their valuable personal details.
A data-driven content strategy is a strong one that is directly derived from your audience's specific needs. By delving into the right figures, you can make better-informed decisions about your content. Whether you discover that you need to address different topics, try out a new content medium, or pack more of a punch on your landing pages, data can guide you in the right content direction, and inform your path towards long-lasting connections with the right people.