Article by Patrick Kuehn and Lou Amodeo published in Target Marketing

Too few brands use a data-driven content marketing strategy, which is a shame considering that, at a cost that’s 62 percent less than outbound marketing, content marketing generates triple the number of leads. With more than 2 million articles published on the web every day, it’s essential to know how to leverage data to create content that’s relevant and accessible to your consumers. Does your content simply look nice, or does it leads to engagement and conversions?

Using the following three steps to set clear goals and make data your guide will ensure you’re developing the right type of content, getting it in front of the right audiences, and understanding its impact in a way that lets you continually optimize your strategy.

Step 1: Understand the Context

Understanding your target consumers is the first step toward creating data-informed content. By gathering data on consumers’ online and offline search and purchase behaviors, it’s possible to establish the context of each interaction.

Another aspect of context is being aware of your competitors’ content, and where they are placing it. If one channel is already saturated by competitor content, you can move to a different platform to distinguish your own brand in the mind of your consumers.

These context-informing tools can help you understand your consumers’ behavior:

  1. Google AdWord’s Keyword Planner looks at search volume and helps you gain insight into information consumers are actively seeking.
  2. Google Trends identifies popular topics and gauges interest in search queries over time, bringing rising trends such as seasonality to bear on your marketing efforts.
  3. Buzzsumo researches specific topics and identifies which content within these topics is performing most strongly. It also identifies influencers and charts social shares by platform.

An informed approach to gathering data will allow you to create more relevant, timely and differentiated content that will inform and convert consumer searches.

Step 2: Make Connections With Your Target Audience

Once you’ve gathered relevant data, you will be better able to develop content targeting your optimal audience. Now you need to connect with them by distributing it through the right channels — just posting the content on your blog may not reach them.

To our surprise, after all that work developing context-informed content, many marketers leave distribution as an afterthought. Sitting on your content and waiting is not an option — its success depends on successfully syndicating it.

Here are three ways you can connect your content to your target audience:

  1. Paid Media. Starting with paid search ads, display ads, paid social media and traditional media, marketers can move toward native advertising, or advertorial content — i.e., published online material that resembles the outlet’s editorial content but is paid for by an advertiser and promotes their product.
  2. Organic and Owned Media. Syndicating content on your own brand’s website, newsletter, blog, and organic social media platforms offers direct control over your content, but it shouldn’t be the only outlet. And here especially, your content needs to be consistent and enticing enough to draw in consumers.
  3. Earned Media. When an opinion leader who is seen as a neutral authority promotes your product, the influence can push consumers to view your brand as reliable and trustworthy and to seek out your content to inform their decisions. These individuals can reach and influence other consumers on a global scale in a matter of nanoseconds through social media mentions, shares and reposts.

Strategic distribution methods move your content into the limelight, targeting your desired consumers at their most receptive moments.

Step 3: Gain Clarity About Your Content’s Performance

This final step uses data to evaluate the success of your content, and cycles back through the first two phases of your strategy to understand the return on your investment.

Going back to data, you can use it to map your content to different stages in the consumer’s journey. What information are consumers interacting with and using to inform their decisions? If you can tie online and offline activity to a unique ID for each consumer in your CRM, for example, then you make connections to all their activity with your brand, including exposure to specific pieces of content. This gives you a better view of which content helps influence conversion, allowing you to pinpoint the most successful strategy, focus on those efforts, and eliminate wasted spend.

Conclusion

Content marketing campaigns don’t succeed by chance. With a wealth of data at their disposal, marketers can use these three steps to make best and most adaptive use of this information. Taking this approach can spell the difference between developing nice-looking content that sits on your website and implementing a strategy that gets your content out there, leading to engagement and conversions.

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