The Content Imperative
The latest on content marketing strategy, insights and trends
Image source: Jennifer Boyer

How content and data go hand in hand

| 8 May 2015

They may seem like totally disparate concepts, but actually content and data are very complementary. Whilst content might seem like a subjective concept and data an objective and mathematical one, when combined the two are a magic formula for content marketers.

But how, you might ask? Content marketing has been around for a while and seemed to be working just fine without the use of data… Sadly, that is no longer the case; the content marketing profession has picked up some bad habits. Marketers have taken to generating copy filled with keywords that mean it ranks highly in search engine results pages (SERPs), but makes little sense for the consumer at the other end.

This has led Google to change how it ranks content and encourage marketers to create content that means something to consumers – insightful, engaging and interesting content that will inspire them to read on and take the next step.

The next bit, however – finding a way of creating content that satisfies the needs of everyone – is a bit trickier. It may seem impossible, but this is where data can save the day. There is an infinite supply of data available to marketers, and from search and social media interactions marketers can determine consumer intent and interests, allowing them to tailor content accordingly.

Utilising search-generated data.

For content marketers, looking at data generated from search terms can be a significant indicator of user intent. Armed with this knowledge, any marketer can create content adapted to the needs of the consumer, providing the basis for an informed and effective content strategy.

So, once a content marketer or marketing department has decided to use search data as a basis for their strategy, they then need to become adept at detecting a user need from the data. Analysis should focus on identifying what keywords are frequently used to drive traffic and content should be shaped around this, meaning the user is given exactly what they want.

But, that being said, content should always be produced with the user in mind, otherwise marketers could fall into the old trap of writing for search engines as opposed to genuine consumers. Working with data based on user intent can improve the effectiveness of content marketing exponentially; whilst keywords may help with the quality of traffic and SERP rankings, content marketers should always keep the information relevant for the consumer. Keywords should inform the content – not dominate it.

Utilising social-media-generated data.

This next data source is growing day by day, into what is now a veritable goldmine of information. Insights into a user and their preferences can be garnered from their online profiles, indicated interests, the hashtags they use and the content they share, ‘like’ or comment on. All the above give marketers a detailed analysis of the user and what subjects they could produce content on to increase the engagement levels of their content marketing strategy. Taking note of a user’s online contacts can also help increase brand exposure.

Recently, media giant Virgin began using social data to help create a well-rounded online content strategy; the company took a closer look at who and what their customers followed online, and used this information to create a detailed image of their audience – including what they want, their views, their inspiration and fears.

By using social data and tracking how optimised content performs on social sites, marketers can then begin to use the insights to alter how content appears on their main website or other non-social sites.

Research has shown that the power of social sharing can have a positive impact on a business, directly improving revenues.

Whilst it may seem like a no-brainer and despite the high-profile company Virgin deciding to take a chance on social data, using such information is still underutilised by many businesses.

Merging the two.

Whilst using either search or social data by itself will help marketers to improve engagement and the relevancy of their content strategy, using both sets of insights is the best way to stay on top of what is a constantly changing industry.

By using both search and social data, professionals in the industry will be able to use information from varying stages of the customer journey to strategically gain a competitive advantage. This means the content they produce will be the most relevant, engaging and insightful it can be – all traits that will hopefully usher the user through to the next stage of the customer journey.

Why Content Marketing’s Future Is Predictive.

As content marketing begins to take data into account, what does the future hold for the marriage of these two concepts? Just as the marketing and online worlds are evolving quicker than a flash, so too is technology – and this will help marketers looking to gain that aforementioned competitive advantage.

With better access to real-time updates on users’ wants and needs, content marketers will begin to create ever more personalised content that is directly targeted to the ideal audience – aka, predictive content marketing. This looks set to be a huge area of interest in the industry, utilising search and social data to inform each and every piece of content as, when and wherever it is produced.

Marketers must always keep in mind, however, to use consumers’ personal information discretely, without offending or annoying them.