How big data analytics can help your content marketing strategy
Big data analytics could be the nitroglycerin your business has been waiting for. Pour it into your content marketing strategy and suddenly you’ll be racing forwards with fire coming out your … well, with fire being involved.
Business intelligence in the form of real-time data can lead you to a better understanding of your target audience, a raft of actionable insights to create better content with, and a whole host of advanced analytics to measure success.
But in what ways, specifically, can you use data science in content marketing? We explore three steps on the digital content journey, and where big data fits into:
- Planning content
- Producing content
- Evaluating content
1. Planning content
To start, data analytics can provide visibility on the five Ws and H of a good content marketing strategy – who, what, why, where, when and how. This eliminates some guesswork when you first start, and ensures you can answer important questions with “I know” instead of “I think”.
WHO is your ideal target audience, and who influences them?
Look into your business’ pre-existing sales and customer service data to find the types of people who have already bought your product (you’re more than 50 per cent more likely to sell to an existing customer than a new one, says Marketing Metrics). Identify age, profession, pain points, income, location, FAQs, needs/wants, and the ideal buyer’s journey.
With a customer-centric marketing strategy that includes these datapoints, you’re essentially guaranteeing that your content is relevant to your audience. This data can also help in omnichannel marketing, as user data influences social media setup, newsletter campaigns and every other arm of content!
- What about influencers? Get a hold of BuzzSumo. BuzzSumo can scan Twitter to determine which people are sharing posts based on particular topics (i.e. your industry), which helps you isolate big-ticket personalities in your space. You can then add these Twitter giants to an outreach list in order to engage with them at a later date.
WHAT are your customers talking about, and what do they engage with?
Use big data to figure out the content your audience is likely to read. Various tools can help you here, too:
- BuzzSumo can show you social media engagements based on topic, keyword and content type. It won’t break down audience demographics, but it’ll show you what content within your niche is engaging people. BuzzSumo can also tell you what content types are doing better than others, i.e. how-tos, infographics, videos etc.
- Google Trends tracks popular search terms (but doesn’t predict future popularity). It can tell you, historically, what terms are popular and at what times of year, which could help you plan content around certain recurring events (e.g. seasons, holidays, conferences).
- Google autocomplete (the drop-down suggestions list that appears when typing a search term) is based on vast numbers of real search queries. Create content that responds to these terms and you’ll know for sure that they’re topics people are interested in.
WHY are customers engaging the way they do?
The short answer is likely, “Because they believe the content they are reading is valuable.” You can learn more about determining content value by reading our article “This is how to do content marketing for SEO.”
“You need a blog to do well at SEO!”
“You won’t get traffic without content!”
“When was your website built, the stone age?!”
We walk you through the basics of how to do #contentmarketing for #SEO
— Castleford (@castlefordmedia) November 28, 2017
WHERE do your customers like to hang out online, and HOW can you target them there?
By understanding where and how, you can promote content in the right places. Here’s a quick step-by-step:
- Plug your SEO keywords (see video below) into Google and write down the domains that keep popping up time and again – the more common the domains are, the more likely other traffic has seen them as well. If you don’t want to do this manually, use a tool like Moz Pro or SEMRush to create reports on your behalf.
- Now start identifying what websites are also similar to those. Google “(Domain name) versus…” and see what suggestions pop up. SEMRush and SimilarWeb can also help you here. For example, “JB Hi-Fi versus … (Harvey Norman pops up as a suggestion, so we’ll add it to our list)”.
- Do the same for social media using BuzzSumo – what platforms get consistently higher engagements in your industry than others? E.g. Facebook versus LinkedIn.
- Now you know where people hang out. Are there opportunities in those domains and social platforms for advertising, guest blogging or influencer marketing? All three options can give your content a boost in the right location.
A note about structured and unstructured data
In the big data world, there are two types of data:
- Structured: Data that fits into a tidy organisational system, like Google Analytics metrics.
- Unstructured: Data that is unorganised. Think customer chats, emails, Tweets and suchlike – everything your customers are saying is good data, but hard to track.
We bring it up because, for the most part, you’ll be working with structured data. Even BuzzSumo, which analyses social posts, only looks at the structured metrics of these – shares, engagements, etc.
But unstructured data could be a supremely powerful tool for content marketing. It helps marketers understand customer motivations better by analysing what they are saying and how they must be feeling. It’s more emotionally aware.
- Consider this: If you know that your customers are feeling confused, angry or unhappy with a certain topic, your next pieces of content could target these feelings and try to offer explanations, advice, and reassuring words.
So how to unlock unstructured data for marketing?
You’ll need business analytics technology that has an unstructured component. Some systems offer semantics analytics and language processing (allowing you to glean insights from spoken words), or on a simpler level, word clouds and correlation matrices – which highlight commonly used words in a sea of data.
2. Producing content
For the most part, if you’re using target audience insights to create content tailored to their hangouts, interests and influencers, you’re already using big data to produce content.
But there’s even more you could be doing.
Create article ideas out of data
You should know your target keywords and audience by now, so next let’s build those into specific headline ideas.
- Recycle customer FAQs: Did common questions pop up in your sales and customer service data? Note those down in a content calendar. We’ll come back to them shortly.
- Scan the internet for more FAQs: Forums like Reddit, Quora, Yahoo Answers etc. are riddled with questions, some of which you could be answering. If you can find recent queries that match your business, note them down. BuzzSumo’s Question Analyser can speed this up.
- Scan Google for ideas: Use Google suggested terms and related terms to pick out search queries similar to your target keywords. You can also deploy Answer the Public, a free tool, to do this en masse.
- Match ideas to your keywords: Start matching topic ideas to the keywords you want to push, so you can prioritise content that will best work for your strategy. If you need to learn more about search volume (i.e. do people even look at these terms?) play around with HubSpot’s Content Strategy tool or Google AdWords Keyword Planner and find which terms you’re most likely to get high amounts of traffic from.
- Find the best content type: If you haven’t already, use BuzzSumo to figure out what content type to use. Maybe users are engaging with how-to posts for your first keyword, but infographics for your second. You could also scan the websites where your audience hangs out to figure out which content types do best for them, so you can replicate the success.
- Analyse your competition: Now go back to Google and see what’s ranking on page one for the terms you wish to compete on. You’re going to need to outdo these existing pieces of content, so swat up on your 10x and 2x tactics. You may also want to brush up on your video SEO, if you choose to go down this route.
— Castleford (@castlefordmedia) October 31, 2017
A/B test headlines
A/B testing headlines for both search and social media could lift your pageviews by as much as 28 per cent, and social shares by 75 per cent. This data comes from Priceonomics, which created a tool to compare headlines then used it on the business’ own content with great success.
While content is king, a good headline is its crown. Don’t just go with your first instinct – test alternatives and compare the data to ensure you are using the most objectively effective headline possible.
- Testing on search: Google allows multiple variations of the same article to exist without hindering its ranking, so long as the content owner specifies that the duplicates are temporary. WordPress plugins like Optimizely are designed to do this for you.
- Testing on social: Facebook ads are an effective way of A/B testing on social media – purchase two ads for an identical article, each with a different headline. Track which one gets a higher click-through rate, and if you have Facebook Pixel set up, track which headline gets more customer conversions, too.
3. Evaluating content
Finally, all content marketing must ultimately do one thing: drive your goals. That’s why we put so much work into understanding our audience and creating content tailored to such specifics – we want users to engage with our website or social channels and convert into customers.
Big data truly comes into its own when evaluating the successes of content marketing strategies. The raft of analytical tools available to marketers in Australasia is huge, with Google Analytics being a particular (and free) favourite.
How can big data help you evaluate your content?
- Use key metrics to determine engagement: With metrics like bounce rate, new sessions and session durations, you can determine how many people are entering your website through your content and clicking through to new pages, and how many people are just leaving again. This lets you hone in on underperforming content and spruce it up based on hard figures, not guesswork.
- Set goals in Google Analytics to track key actions: Goals in Google Analytics can help you track and measure how many users are performing actions, like downloading a whitepaper or signing up to a newsletter.
- Create reports to deliver to your boss: Need to report all these figures to the higher-ups? Google Analytics can create easy-to-read charts and sheets that lay out important metrics that even someone with limited data literacy can understand.
To find out more ways to use Google Analytics to see if your content marketing is successful, check out our interview with Castleford digital strategist Chas Lang.
— Castleford (@castlefordmedia) March 13, 2018
Big data analytics has a raft of useful applications in content marketing. It can help plan your strategy to target the right audience in the right place, and then create content that is measurably more effective than a non-data-driven marketing approach.
And the best part? Most of what you need to gather the right information is either already in your database, freely available, or inexpensive. BuzzSumo has free features available, while Google Adwords and Analytics are both totally free to use, despite being immensely powerful.
So the next time you’re struggling to make heads or tails of your content and its performance, take a deep breath, pull up this article, and start compiling a few new spreadsheets.
You can never have too many spreadsheets.*
*This is a joke – don’t drown yourself in spreadsheets. You’ll thank us later.