Succeeding With Data-Driven Content Marketing  

Content marketers deploy their creativity to build brand awareness, attract customers and help the business. But it’s not the only tool they have. When executives wonder what prospects want or how to reach them, data-driven content marketing is a powerful way to respond.

The right data signals the online behaviors of your target audience, including what they’re searching for and what they want from your company’s brand, products and services. Combine that with great content, and your business is on its way to smarter targeting and better results. Explore how data-driven content marketing can improve your connection with customers and drive business outcomes.

What Is Data-Driven Content Marketing?

Great content marketing is a combination of creativity and data. Data gives you a window into your ideal customer’s behavior — how they make important decisions, where they congregate online and how they ask questions on Google.

The goal of a data-driven approach is to enhance the performance of your content and how it’s received positively by your target audience. Data informs creativity by providing insights that personalize content and form a deeper connection with prospects and existing customers.

Where Do I Find My Data?

Data-driven content marketers don’t just quote statistics. They collect and use data to decide what kind of content to create and when.

The first step is acquiring data. According to a 2022 report from the Content Marketing Institute, analytics tools (83%) and social publishing/analytics (80%) are the leading technologies B2B organizations use to assist with content marketing.

There’s no shortage of places to gather data from, and those sources will differ depending on the type of content you’re publishing. For example, if you are writing a blog post, you would conduct keyword research to improve its performance in search engine results.

If you are new to creating a data-driven content strategy, start with your sales and marketing teams. Sales teams often collect valuable data that offers helpful marketing insights, especially regarding customer behavior.

Other places you can collect data include:

  • From your website. Google Analytics is a powerful tool that can give you insight into how customers and potential customers behave on your site. Information like Google ranking, website visitors, social media shares and click-through rates tell you how your existing content is doing and what resonates with your audience.
  • From keyword research. Keyword research with Google Analytics or Semrush gives insights into how your ideal customer researches products or services within your industry. You can also compare your performance against your competitors to discover opportunities to create high-ranking SEO content.
  • From your email service. Your email service can provide data on email opens, click-throughs and bounce rates from your sent emails.

Once you’ve determined where you’ll collect your data, go get it! Explore Google Analytics beyond the main dashboard. Explore Semrush and other data-gathering tools. Use all of your email provider’s data capabilities. You’ll be surprised how much data you’ll be able to collect in a very short period.

What Do I Do With the Data?

Once you’ve gathered data from reliable sources, you need to analyze the data and apply your findings at every step of the content journey: strategy, planning, creative production, distribution and promotion.

Develop a Data-Driven Framework

How will you incorporate data analysis into your creative process? Your data needs a purpose if it’s to inform your marketing strategy.

The first question you need to ask: What is my goal? Determine why your content exists, what you want your audience to do after consuming your content and the value you expect your audience’s actions to provide for your company. Each goal should have an appropriate key performance indicator (KPI) to track its performance.

KPIs help you stay focused while producing content and detect patterns in performance after publishing. If your KPIs indicate the content has performed well against the business-relevant goals, you now have data to confirm your approach and inform next steps. Maybe the follow-up is doubling down on that type of content or targeting anther point in the buyer journey.

If the KPIs indicate a lack of success, at least you have data encouraging you to try another tactic. Either way, the data is working in tandem with your strategy.

Create Buyer Personas

Great content marketers keep the audience in mind for everything they do, and data can inform this approach in sophisticated ways, including buyer personas.

Buyer personas are based on research and allow you to develop semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers. You get to know your target audience and who they are ⁠— their likes and dislikes, what they need, what they fear and how they behave online. Rather than relying on anecdotal evidence, your personas are informed by brand awareness data that can improve where and how you communicate with customers and potential clients.

By better understanding your ideal audience, you can more accurately choose the types of content and the marketing channels that will most likely resonate with your audience.

Map Your Content

I may be dating myself here, but before GPS, maps were how you safely charted a route from your starting point to your destination.

Content maps serve a similar purpose — guiding marketers safely through each customer journey stage. Each piece of content you create should align with a stage of the customer journey.

That’s why you should create a customer journey map showing each of the five stages of your sales funnel — awareness, engagement, evaluation, purchase and post-purchase. Then, start matching your data to the relevant stage of the customer journey. For example, a prospective customer in the awareness part of the funnel might search for your company with different terms than a customer further along in the process.

Matching data to each stage of the customer journey will help your team evaluate what type of content works best to move prospects further down the sales funnel.

Create Content Based on Data

Data influences the content creation process in different ways, depending on what you’re making and what data you have.

For example, if you are writing long-form thought leadership content, you might tap Google Analytics for information on existing content and consult internal sales and marketing data to help you understand ideal prospects. You’d also perform keyword research to pinpoint what keywords should be prioritized.

Keyword research is where you explore what topics are trending, what topics your competitors are ranking for and the best opportunities to rank for search engine results.

When you are writing your content based off those findings, you can continue to optimize your ranking potential by including ancillary keywords. Well-written articles with the right formatting and a strong collection of keywords are more likely to be viewed as authoritative by search engine algorithms. That means a greater likelihood that your content will rank well in search results.

Tap Into Influencer Channels

Influencers are everywhere, and finding the right match in your industry or niche can amplify your content and reach new audiences. For example, if you’re partnering with an expert to present a webinar, ask them to promote it on their channels.

Data can help you identify industry influencers who are likely to resonate with your audience and whose own audience is valuable to reach. Simple keyword searches on social media networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can uncover influencers based on connections, level of engagement and the types of conversations they have about your industry.

Online tools like BuzzSumo and Followerwonk empower users to compare influencers by reach, social authority, engagement and more. Semrush is also a great way to vet potential influencers who may approach you for endorsements or backlinks by determining whether their audience overlaps with yours and whether their authority within your industry is valid.

A word of caution — don’t mistake reach for influence. Someone’s follower count doesn’t necessarily mean they have industry influence. Instead, look at engagement metrics. How many people interacted with their most popular posts? Are those posts industry-relevant, or do they feel spammy? Do they rank on Google for relevant industry keywords?

Evaluate influencer relationships like any other tactic — does the data suggest they are helping your brand?

Tie Data-Driven Content Marketing to Business Outcomes

The best part of data-driven content marketing is that you can provide data to back up your marketing strategy. The data you collect creates discussion points to determine what went right and how to replicate that success, or what went wrong and how to avoid making the same mistakes again.

Make sure you can correlate your content marketing efforts to data that illustrates sales numbers and inquiries. How many new prospects were brought into the customer pipeline? How many products or services were sold? Match that data with metrics such as how many email campaigns were launched, how many new contacts were made by new marketing campaigns and how many customers were touched by your thought leadership strategy.

By tying data-driven content marketing to business outcomes, you position sales and marketing teams to continue building profitable relationships with customers.

Create Your Own Data-Driven Content Marketing

Many teams don’t have to start from scratch with data-driven content marketing. Chances are, you’ve got elements that we’ve already discussed in this article — buyer personas, content strategy, KPIs.

The trick is to let your data guide your marketing strategy. Incorporate data analysis into your existing procedures and let it tell you what type of content is effective, what topics resonate with your audience and how to capitalize on opportunities left open by your competitors.

Data-driven content marketing helps focus your team’s creativity, produce better content and drive business outcomes. Make it part of your marketing strategy today.

Emma James-Wilson
Emma translates high-level content strategy into high-impact content marketing assets. A recovering journalist, her superpowers include pinpointing the heart of content marketing campaigns and spotting typos from a mile away. She holds an M.S. in Mass Communications from the University of Southern Mississippi and a B.A. in Communications from Southeastern Louisiana University. She currently lives in South Louisiana with her wife, three cats, and a parakeet.

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