I’ve spent years creating content.
Some of it achieved great results; much more I wish I could have re-done, promoted differently, or simply not done at all. As an example, here’s a graph showing how some Curata content has done from a social media perspective.
Many content types are included in here (e.g., blog posts, webinars, eBooks, and case studies) across owned, earned and paid media channels.
Many content pieces were quite successful from a social media perspective. However, much more of it simply didn’t perform well. What’s more important is that social shares (or even pageviews) are insufficient to measure the impact of this content on marketing and sales pipeline, and in particular, revenue.
I’d like to say our earlier successes in content creation and curation were part of a well thought-out strategy that tapped into the power of metrics to inform our decision-making process.
However, I can confidently say that I, and our marketing team here at Curata, learned a lot from our content marketing experiences; and we have moved beyond the days of spray and pray content efforts—mostly.
We now take a more strategic approach to producing and distributing our content, including using metrics to inform our decision-making process.
In this post, I’ll provide examples of how Curata is using data along different parts of the content pipeline, from strategy to production to promotion.
It All Begins With Strategy
Many tasks go into creating a successful content marketing strategy, such as identifying:
- Buyer stages
- Keywords and topics
- Existing content and performance
- Content formats
Although data is helpful in all these areas, it is particularly helpful in keyword and topic selection.
The first place to start in the selection process is understanding your corporate objectives and marketing team’s supporting themes.
These corporate objectives and marketing themes then guide planning for content campaigns.
At Curata, we use content marketing “pyramids” to plan and execute our content campaigns. At a high level, a Content Marketing Pyramid™ is a strategic framework enabling the execution of a content program, assuring optimal content consumption, reuse and reach.
It involves creating a “gated” piece of content based upon primary and/or secondary research at the top of the pyramid, and then atomizing that content into smaller, more digestible pieces for the remainder of the pyramid.
A deeper exploration of the content marketing pyramid is here.
Here comes the data part for keyword and topic selection. It’s important to understand the most searched for keywords and the topics of greatest interest to a target audience.
Fortunately, there are many great tools to help with this process. Some examples include:
Google Keyword Planner: Gives you the approximate number of monthly searches for terms of interest, as well as offering ideas for similar terms. This helps identify where to focus your content creation and curation efforts, and indicates how difficult it may be to get great search results with a topic.
In this example, a search of “network security threats” provides the average number of searches per month (i.e., 590) as well as an indicator of how competitive this term is in Google search (i.e., “Competition” and “Suggested bid”). Network security threats may be a good phrase to target for a content marketer at a software security company. “IT security” has higher search volume, but it may be too broad a term to reach the target audience. If competition is “High” for a term of interest, it may be too difficult for me to get content to show up in a Google search in the top first spots of a search engine results page (SERP).
Buzzsumo: Helps determine the hottest, trending topics for the area you want your company to own from a thought leadership perspective.
I’ve used “network security threats” again as the phrase of interest in this example. The top content piece is the hottest trending according to Facebook shares. Analyzing this title and its content will offer insight into what is of greatest interest to your target audience, and may also provide ideas for newsjacking.
Selecting a Content Format
Once we’ve established a content marketing pyramid, we decide which format the content will be presented in. We want to achieve the highest possible ROI from our content, and data is a powerful ally in determining which format will achieve the best ROI.
Historically, we focused on frequent short-form posts every week for Curata’s Content Marketing Forum blog.
This seemed like a reasonable strategy: providing constant content to keep our audience engaged on a regular basis. However, after examining the data we came to a different conclusion.
Curata’s long form blog posts versus the short form posts resulted in three times as many shares, eight times as many page views, and nine times as many leads generated.
As a result of this data analysis, we now publish a higher percentage of long form versus short form blog posts.
Production Decisions Driven by Data
Once the content strategy has been determined, there are many decisions required to execute the plan. For example:
- Which individuals or teams (internal or external) should create the content?
- When are the best times to publish different types of content?
- How much content should be created as part of each content campaign?
Selecting Content Creators
Seventy-four percent of original content is created in-house, with the remainder outsourced to agencies, freelancers, and other writing services.
Identifying who within a company will write content has historically been a judgment call with little reliance on data. The emergence of new sales and marketing automation software now enables marketers to better tap into data to make these decisions.
For example, at Curata, we regularly analyze the return delivered by our writers in terms of awareness building and demand generation. More specifically, we analyze social shares, pageviews, and leads and opportunities delivered by our writers’ content to help decide which writers should be assigned to specific topics.
The below chart shows how well our internal writers did in comparison to freelancers and guest bloggers. We also examine things like type of content and persona, since these factors can have a significant influence on who we select for production. We’ve identified that our guest bloggers have been highly effective in driving social shares, so for articles we want to ‘pop’ more than worrying about say, leads generated, that’s who we’ll go for.
Promotion of Content
The decision points for publishing and promoting content are even greater than in the production phase. One challenge we encountered was determining what to promote in our weekly newsletter.
Since we decided to focus on fewer pieces of long-form content versus many pieces of short-form content, we needed to ensure there were enough stories for our weekly newsletter.
We decided to add more curated content, and also include our most popular evergreen content. Data provides insight into the best content for this effort.
We looked for content popular with our existing audience (i.e., through “Leads Touched”), as well as content doing well in terms of consumption, such as page views. This was the content we would recycle and promote to our audience.
Developing Your Own Data-Driven Strategy
Here are a few ways to create similar results for your own content marketing program:
- Develop a content strategy, no matter how simple it is in its initial stages.
- Create an editorial calendar (e.g., 12 must-have fields).
- Start measuring basic analytics, beginning with Google Analytics.
- Build a content measurement dashboard that combines your calendar and your stats together.
- Tap into the power of technology and the emerging content marketing platform to facilitate this entire process.