Published On: Sat, Jul 28th, 2012

10 Tips to Take a Data Driven Approach to Content

Using Data to Create Great ContentSeveral weeks back, I wrote about (and hopefully made the case) why you must take a data driven approach to content. As a follow-up, I’ve penned some actionable steps to ensure your content has the greatest chance of resonating with its audience and hits the elusive content sweetspot.

Before we start, I should state that I recognise a fantastic and creative content idea can come from anywhere. But, one of the undeniable strengths of digital marketing is the wealth of data, analytics and insights available which enable you to monitor, evaluate and optimise activity effectively.

In fact, I believe it would be remiss not to utilise this rich information. To my mind, taking a data driven approach to content helps you back a winner.

Equally, whilst the creative process is something to be enjoyed, admired and respected, it has to guided by insights gleaned from quantitative and qualitative data, as a result of primary and secondary research.

Finding the balance between logic, creativity and pragmatism ensures that brainstorms and the subsequent content strategy retain the correct foundation, parameters and focus.

Here’s some thoughts on taking a data driven approach to content.

1. Analyse the online conversation
Conversations are markets, right? Subsequently, before undertaking a content creation project you need to analyse the online conversation. This will enable you to identify topics which both resonate and the audience is passionate about; enabling the brand to begin authentically engaging to drive awareness, interest and demand. It could be independent travel, live music or sustainability – but you need to hit the content sweetspot by identifying themes which are focused, yet have broad enough audience appeal.

2. Utilise search data
Check out Google Insights for Search to understand what people are searching for online. This fantastic tool helps you to identify what topics are popular, make comparisons and see if there is a need that your content could meet. You should see which potential content themes or products are proving popular and factor this in when creating content. There is also a ‘Forescast’ feature which looks at how certain terms are expected to perform in the future which aids content planning further.

3. Research closed networks
Although, much of the web is searchable and this task is made easy thanks to fantastic monitoring tools like Sysomos, Radian6 and Brandwatch, the fact remains a lot of social networks are closed and require membership. You should search for great content and interesting conversation in relevant groups across LinkedIn, Facebook, Quora, as well as keeping an eye out for niche social networks to identify if there are opportunities to collaborate, share, syndicate or source content.

4. Audit existing content
Next up, scour Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and whatever sources of data you can lay your hands on to audit the success of existing content. Look at the numbers behind top performing content and analyse what made it successful. Did a guest blog post, Q&A or ‘top 10 list’ generate the most engagement? What has link bait potential? Are there any themes or commonalities between top performing content? This data will enhance content planning greatly.

5. Ask your audience
It might seem obvious, but it’s surprising how few brands actually take the time to ask their fans what type of content they would like to see and be happy to engage with. It could be in the form of a questionnaire, focus group or Facebook status update, but there is really is no substitute for asking the audience what content they want.

6. Study website analytics
All good website analytic tools show what terms people are using to arrive at your website. You should study the keywords and questions people are typing into search engines. Are there terms people are using which could be potential content opportunities? If people are searching for certain product information is the information available online, easy to find and upto date? Use this data to help inform your content strategy.

7. Look at the people who influence your audience
This is more difficult, but if you can understand the people who influence your audience, in particular the  idea starters, amplifiers or adapters you will be at a distinct advantage (check out ‘The Fire Hose, Ideas, and ‘Topology of Influence’ for more information on influence). For instance, if you identify somebody who is popular with your audience you could look to nurture a mutually beneficial relationship and explore opportunities for content co-creation.

8. See who ‘owns’ a topic/competitor research
There may be cases where a potential content theme ticks all the right boxes, but is already ‘owned’ by another organisation. Competitors, somewhat understandably may be positioning themselves along the same lines as your client, so you need to understand what the competitive landscape looks like, who ‘owns’ what area and where the possible gaps are. This will highlight gaps that your client can fill.

9. Take an A/B approach
It’s important to have an understanding that there must be a certain amount of testing when planning content. You should approach activity with an A/B testing mindset so you can monitor, evaluate and optimise content. Another way to think about it is failing quicker and smarter. Content themes that fail to resonate should be phased out quickly and new themes explored.

10. Make the most of existing research
Finally, I’ve mentioned numerous techniques to create primary research, but it would be foolish not to mention the fantastic secondary research available. Indeed, there are many publications which produce outstanding research on content, such as Edelman Trust Barometer, Forrester, Econsultancy, e-marketer, ComScore, Buddy Media,, HubSpot and PSFK – all of which can help you take a data driven approach to guide content creation.

About the Author

- Marketing Manager with a passion for inbound at HubSpot, Founder of Growth Hack Talks, Blogger at and Chief Quaffer at .

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  1. […] deadline and need to develop some exciting new streams of content. I’ve previously written about how and why you must take a data driven approach to content, so here’s some very practical ideas to […]

  2. […] that content must be guided by insights gleaned from data and research. There’s lots of rich data ready to be mined that can shape your content topics. For example, search trends, web analytics, online conversation […]

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