7 Tips for Using Data to Maximize Content

A few years ago, I wrote a column for ClickZ titled, “If Content Is King, Then Context Is Queen,” and while I still believe the article applies today, it got me to thinking about what else goes into the royal household and kingdom that can help King Content be more relevant and actionable. OK, I have watched one too many episodes of Sophia the First with my three young daughters, so bear with me on the analogy.

While Queen Context is often glamorized and her outward appearance is often noted, King Content is often the voice of the kingdom. However, in order to have good content, a viable strategy is required and that strategy must come from the king’s trusted advisors. These trusted advisors have areas of expertise or specific skill sets that allow them to come together and provide counsel to the king. Together, these trusted advisors help to formulate the voice of the kingdom – or a strategy for the content.

It is imperative to recognize data fuels insights that should be leveraged across many aspects of the business; however, data alone does not give you the insights, and insights alone do not equal a strategy. They are all pieces of a puzzle that need to come together to create the framework of a solid strategy. And unlike anything else in this day of evolution and change, good strategy must have elements that include continually evaluating data to bring these insights to life in parallel.

Below are some valuable research and data sources that we can use to glean insights to fuel a solid content strategy across all platforms and communication channels:

1. Research

Companies typically invest in research, and oftentimes within different areas of the organization – not just marketing. While marketing often houses much of the research in regards to the brand and customers, it is imperative to trail breadcrumbs of how this data is used by different departments, as often this will unveil other key data sources connecting to the brand and customers, such as keyword (organic and paid) reporting, usability testing, surveys, ethnography, and interviews, to name a few.

2. Website Analytics

Based on everything that is happening on-site in terms of user content consumption, bounce rates, time spend, pages per session, etc., can tell you what users already love or hate in terms of the content on the site. Also, areas such as site search, FAQ, and referral sources also indicate what users are (or have been) looking for in relationship to your website.

3. Customers

There is nowhere better to start to engage customers than with the data you already have on customer habits, patterns, and preferences for both online and offline behaviors. Some of this is wrapped up in research and analytics noted above, but including things such as backed sales consumption data, email campaign performance and triggers, call center logs, etc., are all great sources for content.

4. Social Platforms

Since social platforms really do have the power to shape news and trends, paying attention to social interaction within your brand’s managed presence is an easy way to test engagement levels for content and see what does (and does not) gain traction. It is also important to monitor themes and trends for your brand, competitor’s brands, and the category across all social platforms. Not only is this often a channel for customer service, but also a real-time open forum to take a quick pulse on some of the latest trends and topics to know what is making buzz. Lastly, influencers often have a good idea trending content now and what a target audience would be interested in learning more about.

5. Competitive

It is important to know what is happening with you competitors via websites, marketing creative and media presence, social platform presence, press releases, white papers, webinars, conferences, or anything that can ensure you are armed with information to understand the main strategic pillars for their content strategy and how or why this may change over time. Then this understanding of their strategy can be applied against your company’s positioning against the competition.

6. Web Scraping

Automated or more manual, either method is a viable way to ensure no stone is left unturned. Now, this topic tends to be a controversial area in terms of legality and I am in no way a proponent of unethical scraping; however, the mere act of extracting information is a catch-all for anything that may be left behind.

7. Testing

No matter what your role is within an organization, embracing a culture of testing is necessary to allow your business to change and evolve with consumer preferences and advances in technology consumption/capabilities. Change is inevitable; the more an organization can be embraced rather than opposed, the more you have the ability to be responsive to the needs of consumers.

While an audit of content and research is often the first place we start for a content strategy, in an effort to ensure each pillar of the strategy continues on a viable path, allowing data and research to be a thread fueling insights for the strategy will mean a great deal for the King Content and allow Queen Context to be that much more appealing.

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