Many aspects of marketing have changed dramatically due to the ability to track and analyze online behavior. Data now dominates reporting, but this isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes, we miss the opportunity to use data to create the best marketing campaigns. It’s important to understand that data is of more value when you are planning and creating a campaign than it is when you are measuring the results.
Data can particularly benefit content generation. Marketers have created content based on product groups’ requests, their own opinions of what will work, and occasionally just doing what was done before because it was the easy option. This results in tired or ineffectual campaigns that perform less well than they should. However, this can easily be addressed by taking a data-driven approach to content generation. Here’s what we mean:
Deciding the Topic
The topic for content, particularly in B2B, is often driven by requests from product marketing teams who want to promote their product or service. Although product marketers should understand the market and therefore what is relevant, it’s not a great approach to content generation. That’s because they tend to focus solely on their product or service, rather than what the organization as a whole can provide as a complete solution. Product marketers often get their worldviews from customers and use the view of existing customers as the basis to attract new ones. The problem is, potential new customers often have a very different set of challenges and requirements than those already in the tent, so an appeal that is compelling to existing customers will not necessarily resonate with those who are considering your offering.
And this is where understanding and making good use of data applies. There are now many sources of data to help you understand what topics should be addressed with marketing content. Hopefully, you’re already using analytics data to determine what topics are drawing attention on your website. If so, that’s great, but this alone isn’t enough. You need to find out what problems your prospects want to solve before you offer a solution.
Sourcing the data
Google provides great information about search topics that are hot. By using a combination of keyword planner and Google trends, you can readily identify topics that people really care about.
Figure 1 shows the volumes for searches for the terms “Instagram advertising” and “TikTok advertising”. Not surprisingly, the Google data shows that although there has been a steady increase in the number of searches around TikTok advertising in the last five years interest in Instagram advertising is consistently higher, with more searches for the term.
Figure 1: USA Searches for Instagram Advertising (blue) and TikTok Advertising (Red)
Google will identify the number of pages containing a keyphrase. This gives an indication of the total amount of content on a topic. There are just over twice as many pages for “Instagram advertising” as there are for “TikTok advertising”. (There are many other tools that can provide even more detailed analysis.)
Using this data, it’s possible to decide on the topic on which to focus. For example, a marketing agency might look at the data in the graph above and determine that in the near future TikTok advertising is likely to drive more searches than Instagram, so to market their paid social activities they would probably choose to write about TikTok advertising.
The same approach works in any market with sufficient searches to warrant data collection from Google. For example, Figure 2 shows the data for searches about motor reliability and efficiency. If your company has just produced a reliable, efficient motor, based on the data gathered by Google, it would make sense to focus on content based on your new motor’s efficiency.
Figure 2: Google Search Trends in USA for “Motor Reliability” (blue) vs “Motor Efficiency” (red)
Of course, the search data from your site and Google Search console are other great sources of data about what interests your audience. However, be conscious about recognizing that there will be keywords for which your site is not optimized. They will therefore register fewer searches and clicks in the Search Console.
Deciding the Format
You probably produce content in a variety of formats, but we’re not going to recommend that you automatically start testing your most popular format. The aim is to test your audience’s level of interest in the topic as quickly as possible. Normally, a white paper or eBook is the easiest format to produce, so you should start with them. Blog posts are also easy to create, but it can be difficult to differentiate between the level of engagement from organic traffic vs traffic you drive to the content, making it more difficult to accurately measure performance.
PDF is the default format for many content offers. Although the format used will have little or no impact on registrations, it’s important to remember that PDFs provide no analysis of what the recipient read or how engaged they were.
On the other hand, modern marketing documents produced using platforms like Turtl provide detailed analysis of what pages the reader looked at and how long they spent reading them. Trust me, the cost of these platforms is paid for by the data they provide by ensuring you spend time on the topics that actually matter to your audience.
Promoting the Content
To understand the level of interest in your proposed content, you need to promote it. This will kick-start traffic to the gated landing page (or to soft-gated content). LinkedIn and paid-for search provide some of the easiest channels to promote and test B2B content. Other channels, such as organic social and display advertising, introduce too many uncertainties, which means that it can be difficult to get a clear assessment of the content’s performance.
I’d always recommend having a go-to way to promote content to test whether a topic resonates with an audience. If you are as consistent as possible in the format and approach that you use, you’ll accumulate data that will soon meaningfully compare with other data acquired from documents you’ve promoted using the same format.
Comparing Results with AB Testing
More important than comparing against disparate campaigns – where target audiences, keyword choices, and other factors might skew the performance of a document – is to AB test different titles. Without a compelling title, the content of a white paper or eBook will have virtually no impact on the conversion rate of a gated landing page. So the best practice is to create several titles. Then, AB test them to find out what resonates with your audience. You might also want to test different front cover designs, too.
Note that email is often a poor option for testing content. Rented email lists are expensive, but using your own data risks introducing bias to the data as you’ll primarily be talking to your existing fan base – i.e., your customers. It’s highly unlikely an existing customer will have the same preferences for content as a prospect. So make sure you test your prospects.
By the way, if you use soft gating, the audience will see the content before the form, so this will have an impact on conversion rates (although what follows the form will still have some impact, albeit negligible). While poor-quality content will not impact the conversion rate of that document, it can substantially reduce the likelihood of people wanting content from you in the future. Quality is still king. Compromising on it will cripple if not kill your future campaigns.
Analysing Reader Behaviour
A platform that allows you to determine what your audience viewed or read and, equally, what they ignored, is incredibly valuable. The first thing you should do is use the data you have gathered to optimize content. If no one is reading a section, take it out. You lose nothing and eliminate the frustration caused by readers having to skip forward to find the part of the document that interests them. If readers are leaving at a particular point, that’s probably an area that needs a little work!
When it Works, Double-Down
The 80-20 rule applies to many things, including content marketing. In fact, for many companies, it’s more like 5% of their content producing 95% of the results. So invest as much time as possible in generating content that works. Take that same content and repurpose it for a blog post, video, interview or podcast, etc.
And don’t be shy about creating similar content on the same topic or issue. If the data shows you’re your engagement is high, it means there is an interest in learning more. So don’t be afraid that you are doing too much about one topic. Instead, double down on making the best content on that topic available in any format. Additionally, use it to create smaller extracts and longer pieces. Different people have different needs and interests as well as different attention spans. Variety will ensure that you reach as broad an audience as possible.
An important consideration when repurposing content is to use data to inform your understanding of the most effective tactics and channels for that content. If your audience engages with videos, create more videos If they appear to like white papers, make sure there are several to choose from. Often the activities of organic site visitors can give you a great indication of the type of content favored by your audience.
And finally, when you create repurposed content, make sure you also use a range of promotions. Although some channels can be particularly effective, you will limit yourself if you don’t choose a range of channels. However, make sure that your primary investment is in the channel that has traditionally worked best for you.
Data: The Key to Great Content Marketing
Data ensures that you generate content on the right topics. Additionally, its content is exactly what the audience wants. Whether you’re using Google search information to identify topics or Turtl to understand what parts of your document are being read, designing your content strategy to generate data, and then acting on what that data tells you, can elevate your content marketing and deliver outstanding results.
Mike is the CEO of Napier, a B2B technology PR and marketing agency with offices in Europe and the USA.