You publish posts regularly. You post the links on your social media accounts. Then you pray to the traffic Gods. One day, you hope to get blessed and see hoards of traffic flourish on your website. So you wait for that day. But… 65.4 million new posts are published on WordPress alone every month. And 75% of failed posts get zero external links. You need to analyze your customer behavior and use big data content marketing.
Why? What can you achieve with big data?
You don’t need to be intimidated by the word ‘big’. I’ll break down how this data helps in personalizing your customer experiences and cultivating brand loyalty. You’ll also see how most businesses fail to generate insights from their small data.
Ready to make your business more effective and efficient with a data-driven marketing strategy?
Then, let’s begin with understanding big data.
What is big data and how can it increase your business growth?
Every photo you upload on Facebook, every update you like on Twitter, every purchase you make, and every tap on your smartphone app.
They contribute to the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created everyday.
It gets logged in (mostly) an unstructured format and is lying around in data centers around the world. And it consists of powerful insights about your behaviour, your likes and your preferences.
Think of the value you can derive by harnessing this data. Let me help you:
- Find the most loved subjects and content formats of your target audience,
- Grab the attention of your audience and earn more engagement on every post you publish,
- Personalize your communications based on user preferences and deepen your relationship with your audience and close more sales,
- Effectively engage your first-time customers and make them your brand evangelists for life.
Now let me quickly address the two possible objections you might be having right now:
1. Analyzing long yielded tables of unstructured data is EXCLUSIVELY for the BIG guys
If you’re not relying on data, then your business decisions are based off intuition. While intuition has its place in running a business, data can be your great friend for helping your bottom line.
Now, analyzing huge databases might require buying expensive technology and hiring proficient data scientists. But you don’t need to get fancy and derive tons of customer insights.
Define your business goals and identify the relevant pieces of information that will help you achieve them.
For instance, the number of Facebook likes and the reach of your posts are vanity metrics for a Facebook Marketing campaign. Forget conversions, these metrics don’t even indicate the number of people that clicked through to your website. And shouldn’t be a part of your key performance indicators (KPI).
As a small business owner, you deal with specific problems. So just break down the big data into bite-sized insights that help you take action towards your objectives. Author Martin Lindstrom has coined a special term for this kind of data – “small data.”
Later in the article, I’ll show you how small data can transform your marketing.
2. Content is creative pursuit and big data makes it methodical, thereby ruining its art
And so we come back to the long standing church-state journalistic debate.
- Suppose you want to write against content marketing. But data shows that the opposite viewpoint will attract more viewership.
- Suppose you want to write a post on social media marketing. But data shows that designing a visual infographic will fare better with your audience.
So which side should you take?
Firstly, understand that both the editorial and marketing are on the same team hooting for the success of your business. If you obsesses over data, then you lose the humanness. You should not romanticize the ideology of a starving artist that creates work from heart, but fails to build an audience.
Aim to strike a balance. Create a content calendar and hold the creative people accountable for meeting the deadlines. Then use data to tweak your strategy at a high-level. But allow creative freedom to the editorial team for experimenting with the ideas.
Remember that your intuition will allow you to come up with unique and original ideas. So even if they are controversial, occasionally you need to unleash your inner creative genius (without worrying about the data).
A great example is Mark Schaefer’s post on content shock. It created ripples in the content marketing industry receiving mentions from over 750 domains.
5 easy steps to implement a data-driven content marketing strategy
By now, I hope you’re motivated to create a data-driven marketing strategy. Here’s the first step you need to take for creating a data-backed framework for your business.
1. Set goals, metrics and budget for your content marketing strategy
What are the metrics you’ll use for judging the performance of your content marketing efforts?
It will depend on your business goals.
As per the 2017 Content Marketing Institute report, B2B organizations have the following goals.
And here are the metrics and the businesses plan to use for measuring their results.
Content Marketing ROI isn’t simply measured at the top of the funnel. Organizations have spread measuring the ROI to all the phases of the buyer’s journey.
I would recommend setting S.M.A.R.T. objectives to have a clear and focused mindset.
Next, you’ll need to set a budget for your big data content marketing. To give you an estimate, organizations are keeping aside an average of 29% of their marketing budget for content.
Remember that content marketing is a long-term game. Results will only start to surface in 12-18 months.
Want a complete breakdown of the costs in the first year?
Then read Caya’s breakdown of how Slidebean made $200k after investing $70k on content.
Pro Tip: I also recommend you to create a buyer’s persona to tailor your writing based on the needs and characteristics of your audience. You can use the makemypersona tool by HubSpot!2. Audit your existing content and analyze where you stand currently
Now, you’ve fresh content marketing goals. But if you’re like most businesses, you’ll mostly be pursuing content marketing for a while.
So excavate your Google Analytics(GA) and Google Webmaster Tools data to find out the kind of content that’s resonating with your audience. Also, double down your efforts on the social media that’s driving the highest number of conversions.
If you want, you can also perform a deeper on-site SEO analysis by scraping your blog URLs through Screaming Frog.
Essentially, you want to look at the metrics identified in step 1. Pageviews might be a vanity metric if you’re after building an engaged audience that converts. Whereas if brand awareness is also a goal, then you should also note the content that got the most views.
Understand the characteristics of content that has had the most success for you in search engines and the ones getting shared most on social media. In their audit of 595 posts, Buffer found that their 2500+ word posts get the most shares.After analysis, let me show you 3 kinds of steps you might need to follow:
a. Spring cleanup posts and update keywords – Find out the keywords and content pieces that are bringing traffic to your website. You’ll find posts that are getting ranked for keywords that you didn’t target. So you’ll need to update their content as per intent.
And for the keywords you already rank, let me show you Neil Patel’s sweet strategy to extract more traffic.
Neil found that he’s ranking for the following keywords relevant to his business.
So he used “Google auto-suggest” and “searches related to” at the bottom of search results to find the long-tail variations of these keywords.
Now he inserted these keywords in his articles naturally. Remember maintaining the readability of the content is extremely important.
The result was an increase in organic traffic from 120,465 visitors to 174,496 visitors within a year.
b. Delete posts – In their audit, Ahrefs found that many of their old posts didn’t get any hits in the last 30 days. So they filtered them out by extracting data from their GA.
They deleted 266 posts from their blog.
Obviously, they 301 redirected the URLs to relevant blog posts or the homepage for preserving their link equity.
Now I know, it’s hard to shut off your creative work. But you’ll feel inspired to take a data-driven approach after hearing the result of this experiment.
In 3 months…
Ahrefs saw 89% growth in their organic traffic.
c. Update your golden gooses with relevant offers – Are you sure the lead magnets you’re currently offering in your high-traffic posts are relevant?
HubSpot found that 92% of their leads came from old posts.So they committed to a keyword-based optimization for their posts. For instance, they updated their post’s offer on press releases by trying to understand the intent of the search engine visitors. The keyword the visitors were using included “press release template” and “how to write a press release.”
Guess what happened when they updated the offer?
240% increase in conversions.
Following this approach helped HubSpot in doubling the leads generated from 12 of their top posts.
If you want more insights on content audit, than SEO Overflow have written on the subject in great detail at Moz.
3. Setup tools/resources to understand your audience and organize your marketing efforts
Up till now, I assumed you’re already measuring your marketing efforts with tools. Hence I showed you how to perform a content audit.
If you aren’t tracking your data, here’s a list of tools to guide you along in your content marketing journey:
Hands down the best analytics tools to explore your top-performing content, traffic channels, visitor behaviour and much more. You can also setup goals inside GA based on your campaign objectives.
And I did I forget to mention that they are…
Social media marketing is essential to amplify your content’s reach, but it can become a serious distraction. Buffer will help you schedule your updates and also offer you handy analytics to understand your audience likes. It also tells you the best times to post after analyzing your followers.
Are you aware of your competitor’s most linked and shared content?
Instead of reinventing the wheel, you can simply reverse engineer the kind of content that’s working in your industry. Then create a more epic piece. And reach out to the webmasters that are linking, sharing and offering guest posting opportunities.
In their $179/month plan, Ahrefs allow you to most of the stuff I mentioned. You might need to top it with Buzzsumo if you’re particularly gunning for social media in your content marketing strategy.
Do you know the most important aspects that determine the success of your content marketing?
- Finding interesting writing subjects,
- Create epic content,
- Finding out people that are likely to link/share your content,
- Performing an outreach.
The tools we’ve covered so far will help in the first 3 steps. Buzzstream takes care of the outreach. Ahrefs themselves rely on it for finding the email templates that work for them.
5. Plan your social media and editorial activities
Documenting your content marketing strategy will put you in a better position to achieve your goals. So I recommend using the social media calendar template and editorial calendar template by HubSpot.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. You can choose your suite of tools based on your business requirements.
Note: At this stage, you can also create a blog style guide. It will ensure that posts from in-house writers and guest writers is consistent, elegant and maintains your brand’s voice.
4. Customer data management: How to employ your ‘small data’ effectively?
So you’ve successfully implemented a data-driven content marketing. Your analytics will now contain insights about your customers.
But you know what?
Most businesses fail to extract value from their collected data.
Let me tell you 2 quick ways to leverage rich customer data:
1. Plot the data and share them transparently with your users
OkCupid did this after their 2013 experiment and their graphs contained useful insights.
Similarly, Kickstarter shared nuggets about their most popular fundraising month and their categories that got the most funded.
Data-driven storytelling is at the forefront of the industry. They are visually appealing, insightful and get widely shared on social media.
Brian Dean listed unique research and data among his ‘3 biggest traffic wins.’ His case study of 1 million search results attracted links from 485 domains and increases his organic traffic by 38.41%.
What if you don’t have access to such rich data?
Then you can always fall back to statistics and research from credible third-party websites. Writing data-backed posts helps in earning the trust of your audience and in establishing your brand’s authority.
2. Mine data with a purpose
Your data can offer tremendous insights. But you don’t want to overwhelm yourself. So stick with your key performance metrics that you identified in step 1 and only analyze them.
There are a couple of limitations of data that you should be aware of.
i. If your data is top-heavy, than the average will present a skewed picture. Let me illustrate my point with the eBook sales graph by Mark Coker.
So the solution is to opt for the median figure (where available).
ii. Data doesn’t tell you the why.
Sure you might see a smooth rise in traffic in your analytics. But what if your content is attracting the wrong kind of audience?
William Reed arrived in such a situation with his client. So they decided to deliberately lower the rankings and traffic of their client opting for only quality traffic.
This led to a whopping 50 to 60% increase in revenue.
5. Test, iterate and optimize your efforts
If you’re a native advertiser, you might be aware of our Titan automated optimization. We allow you to perform conversion optimization with CPA Optimizer and if you’re after pageviews, then we’ve the Page View Optimizer.
How do these features operate?
Essentially, they weed out the under-performing ads and traffic sources.
Similarly, by mining data, you can also make faster and accurate marketing decisions.
You can refine your content marketing and social media strategy. Suppose you jumped onto guest posting, the skyscraper technique or publishing infographics.
And you found that they don’t work as exquisitely as their proponents showed you. Because you know, every marketer jumped on the trend and made it ineffective.
Don’t lose hope. You can make tweaks to your existing content or experiment with a new strategy.
Renowned marketer Brian Dean tests profusely and always looks at his data to find out what’s working. Recently, he experimented with republishing old pieces of content that didn’t fare as per his expectations on his first try. And he experienced a 260% increase in page’s organic traffic in 14 days.
Foundr Magazine saw early success with Instagram. Their conversions and revenue from the platform were amusing.
So they decided to continue following the strategies that work for them and touched half a million followers within a year.
You can also read CoSchedule’s inspiring story. They used an agile marketing process to grow their page views by 434% and trial signups by 9,360%.
Overall, be testing and don’t fear trying new strategies.
An average B2B business uses 13 content marketing tactics.
If you’re just starting out, I would recommend you not to overwhelm yourself with too many content types. Rather, create a data-driven strategy as per the steps I mentioned in this article. And stick with textual content.
I hope you understood the importance of mining your analytics data and how it enables you to serve your customers better. Also be mindful of the limitations of data like I showed you in the article.
How do you leverage data in your content marketing? Let me know your results in the comments.