When content marketing first became the go-to strategy for garnering attention for your business online, data was a rather insignificant part of the equation. While Google Analytics was around back then, along with a more basic version of today’s robust Google AdWords Keyword Planner, only the most sophisticated content marketers really took data seriously, tying every decision to what the data proved to be effective.
Today, data is king, and the content marketing landscape revolves around it. Google Analytics is still one of the best tools available for website owners, but there are dozens of other analytics platforms and keyword-research tools that measure things you never knew were measurable.
More Than Just Keywords
Using data effectively is far more than just identifying a few useful keywords and placing them strategically throughout your content.
“Whether it's social media, Google Adwords or content on your site, you can see what type of topics, phrasing and content attract the most engagement from your audience,” says Kenny Kline, serial entrepreneur and founder of Slumber Sage, a mattress review site. You can test multiple iterations of a landing page, compare the effectiveness of different titles and define the call-to-action language that drives more conversions.
“Combining this knowledge across these channels and unifying how you communicate with your customers can be very powerful," Kline explains, "particularly for smaller businesses looking to stand out among many competitors.”
Big data has, essentially, leveled the playing field between small businesses and larger enterprises. With the availability of dozens of low-cost and no-cost analytics tools and data platforms, small-business owners have access to the same sophisticated resources their larger competitors use. That means they can create precisely targeted messages that engage audiences, build brand awareness and solidify their positions within their respective markets without million-dollar software investments.
Data is turning content creation into a defined, segmented and nearly scientific process. Predictive analytics, a recent development in the content marketing data space, uses massive amounts of data—aggregated from hundreds to thousands of sources—to predict the messaging, keywords and other metrics that will have the biggest impact on your audience, convert the most leads or achieve any of your other online marketing objectives.
Tom Liravongsa is the founder and CEO of InkDROP Media, a full-service marketing agency, and he's been working as an analyst and researcher in both the public and private sectors for more than five years. As an example of data at work, Liravongsa points to the success of Breakupgoods, an online retailer whose sales have exploded since its launch in 2010. (Full disclosure: Liravongsa is an investor in Breakupgoods.)
In the four years since its start, Breakupgoods has exceeded two million visits and is still growing rapidly, due in part to the viral nature of its service, which Liravongsa describes as “a mashup of Pinterest meets Google for used goods.” Where the company stands out is in its audience targeting, aiming to reach those with urgent needs, such as people who are selling goods because of a recent divorce or breakup, estate sales due to a death in the family, or sales due to a move or job loss.
“With most viral campaigns, being prepared to inter-operate data is the first step. Users who visit a website because of a viral campaign can be way outside of the spectrum of who a company thinks their clients are,” Liravongsa explains. “Due to the amount of data you can gather, you can quickly and efficiently start understanding who your clients are and how to start maximizing your revenue.”
When Breakupgoods first launched, the potential audience was wide open, Liravongsa says. But initial visits created patterns in visitor flow, enabling the company to identify the messaging and marketing tactics that generated the most revenue.
Liravongsa says visitor flow is a key data point for any website because it enables businesses to pinpoint the pages users land on most frequently and where they spend the bulk of their time. This information then allows you to focus your most effective marketing and sales strategies in those areas.
“Through data, we can see things people don’t think of. For example, we’ve learned that if a user spends more than 10 minutes on Breakupgoods, they fall in the 90th percentile of a paying conversion,” Liravongsa explains. “The question now as a marketing professional is to ask how can I get them to spend more than 10 minutes on the site, or can I shorten the time of conversion by 50 percent by understanding when their conversion happens? This is where data does its magic.”
Not sure where to start collecting data to improve your online marketing campaigns? Adria Saracino, head of content strategy for online marketing agency Distilled, offers a few tips that small businesses can use to gather content marketing data:
1. Run your customer lists through the application programming interface of a contact management software company, like Full Contact. “Then you can sort by people with large social followings and analyze what publishers they follow and the type of content they share using various social analytics tools,” Saracino says.
2. Set up a custom segment in Google Analytics. Doing so will help you identify where your existing content isn’t meeting your visitors’ needs. Not only will Google Analytics show you what content to create, but it provides a deeper understanding of your typical customer purchase journey.
3. Make CRO (conversion-rate optimization) your friend. Use "A/B" testing tools, like Optimizely and Unbounce, to identify your most effective marketing assets. Saracino also likes surveying tools, such as Qualaroo. “One of my favorite ways to do this is give [customers] a question once they've completed checkout and ask ‘What one thing almost made you not purchase today?’ ” Saracino says. “This information can be extremely helpful for user experience improvements.”
Content marketers already have more concrete information at their fingertips to empower smarter decision-making than they did just a few short years ago. If you’re not using readily-available data analytics tools for your business, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to compete with your most prominent competitors and carve out your own niche in the digital space.
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