Content and SEO are equally as important… But which do you start with? We asked 60+ experts to share the strategy they prioritize—and why.
Content Marketing | Jun 25
Elise Dopson on March 3, 2020 (last modified on June 8, 2020) • 24 minute read
Businesses have tons of data they’re creating and generating every day–from new customer information to the activity happening on your website.
But what if we used that data to inform our content marketing strategy, too?
We wanted to find what businesses who do use data actually do with it from a marketing standpoint. So, we asked them. Their answers included:
*Editor’s note: It’s easy to get overwhelmed with data once you realize how much you have access to. Our range of marketing dashboards limit the noise, like our Google Analytics Content Analysis template. The goal? To help you to focus on your most important metrics or KPIs without distractions:
“One of our blog posts started converting like crazy, at around 10%, which is double the performance of our home page and landing pages,” says Hoppier‘s Cassy Aite.
“We looked into it and figured out that we can replicate some of that success by using the same content framework, and it inspired all of our content ever since. We realized how important it is to track crucial data for every piece of content you have because you never know when you can reveal some groundbreaking information.”
Ian Kelly of NuLeaf Naturals explains: “When the cost per lead of one content marketing campaign jumps off the screen in a good way, it’s an indicator to implement that approach again going forward.”
Jennifer Neylon of Supplement Warehouse adds: “For example, using Google Analytics to find traffic and conversion rates that may be down on certain products or pages can let you know which specific product listings or pages need to be improved.”
This doesn’t have to be specifically related to conversions, though. According to Jennifer Lux of LyntonWeb, “content is only valuable if it ultimately promotes revenue growth for your organization. Therefore, attribution reporting helps you understand which content assets promote closed/won deals.”
“A valuable data point that correlates with this idea is content attribution reports on closed-won deal records. The report documents which content assets customers engaged with along their path to purchase.”
Josue Ledesma explains that The Privacy Co “put out a daily newsletter that recaps recent and current events in the privacy space.”
“We noticed that a Q&A article on stalkerware received the vast majority of clicks by a significant amount. So that tells me our audience either a) likes Q&A articles or b) wants to know more about stalkerware or c) both. So that informs how we plan our content moving forward.”
“Our Article-Writing.co blog is a key content marketing resource that we promote via social media, and also use to help provide added content,” says David Tile. “However, we need to regularly look at the engagement of our posts and conversions we get off of it to see how to improve.”
“One example of this in practice is that earlier in the site’s lifespan, we were trying to put out a rapid-fire pace of smaller (500-600 word) blogs to populate the site, with the occasional longer piece (1000+).”
“While this worked early on, we found that as time progressed, engagement off of the smaller blogs was lower and lower. However, the longer pieces not only got more engagement at first but were also showing more evergreen quality. Realizing this, we shifted our strategy towards longer content and pillar pages.”
Tile adds: “Data showed us that creating more authoritative content was more important than quick content for our audience.”
“Data is behind all digital PR campaigns to some capacity, whether it be journalist contact details, unique client/brand data supplied from e.g. Google Analytics to create news stories or third party data to move a story along. Data is integral in everything we do,” writes Olivia Wiltshire of Builtvisible.com.
Just take a look at the Google News results for “recent survey found.” There are tons of news stories based almost entirely around data:
Dawes continues: “A recent campaign exploring the world’s most creative cities stemmed from already existing data, data points such as public funding per country, Nobel prizes per country and number of relevant university degrees per country was collated to identify the world’s most creative hubs.”
“Had it not been for that data, the campaign would cease to exist.”
Matt Desilet explains: “At Lola, we collect a lot of data around travel spend. We were able to use aggregated data to show travel managers how to set effective travel policies that would maximize savings without sacrificing employee comfort.”
“The idea behind this was to not only serve people traveling with Lola, but to deliver value to folks managing travel for their business. “
Katie Martel adds that Croft PR “worked with PureProfile to launch a study of 300 mums across Australia to survey the emotional impacts of breastfeeding for Medela – as part of the launch of its FreeStyle Flex campaign.”
“We share the data with key media like News.com.au and Mamamia, as well as Medela’s owned platforms to highlight the need for greater support for breastfeeding mums.”
The best part? You can still use this tactic even if you’re not the brand commissioning the survey.
Anu Ramani of Isoline Communications says: “Survey data revealed that companies were most concerned about security when it came to rolling out Internet Of Things projects… so we created an rolled out a campaign addressing our client’s approach to IoT security, promoting it via publications and on social channels.
“Content marketing is all about adding value to people and getting their attention,” says Toni JV of JVT Media–who advises to “look at the user engagement in all your past content, find which posts did really well, and then figure out what the pattern is.”
“For example, in the past when I was working on a life coach’s personal brand I noticed that more emotional and inspiring content worked better on Instagram than more cerebral content.”
“After that, we focused more on emotional and inspiring content, and the numbers went up,” JV explains.
Andrea Travillian of Aspirify, Inc adds: “Before we even decide to write an article, we first research what customers are looking for. If they are not looking, we won’t write it! But that one data point is just the start. We continue to narrow down our focus based on data. We end up with a list of top priorities and down.”
“After six years of b2b content marketing, I realized that the easiest opportunities are usually the most overlooked ones,” Matteo Gasparello of Strategico.io writes.
“When I start working with a new client (and every 12 months), I analyze their analytics to discover content that could perform better. My trick is to discover content that is already ranking in Google, but that could bring more traffic if optimized.”
Gasparello explains: “To discover such content, I open Google Analytics, and I go to Acquisition –> Overview. Now I click “Organic Search” and I click on “Landing Page” as the Primary Dimension.”
“I now take some time to analyze a few pages from this list and take note of posts that:
Gasparello says: “Within 30 minutes of research, I can discover some excellent content opportunities that can quickly bring more traffic to my website.”
Jamie Steidle adds that Optimized Content used this tactic: “When using Google Search Console to see what keywords people were using to find our site, I discovered a trove of detailed keywords that were more on the periphery of our content strategy, but that seemed to be pulling in some traffic.”
“After some research, we created blogs related to these keywords and was able to pull in more traffic that was relevant to the nice audience.”
*Editor’s note: Keep track of how well your content performs with this dashboard: Blog Post Performance After SEO Update. You can pinpoint when your changes were made, and the impact your tweaks have had on your keyword rankings, goal completions, and organic traffic:
“At Arbeit, video is an integral part of our content marketing strategy,” says Tracy Montour. “We get over 2x the amount of engagement on video posts and seeing these data points inspires us to continue generating content that connects with our target audience.”
Clare Richards adds: “We’ve seen increasingly compelling data regarding video over the last several years. That data has led us to increase our strategic video efforts on behalf of [Leighton Interactive‘s] clients.”
“We used video to launch one brand, Badge Messenger, with a great deal of success as a result. 1 in every 6.5 users visiting the newly launched website engaged with the video. The video also reached several thousand viewers through social channel efforts.”
Ruben Ugarte adds that Practico Analytics “were working on understanding the impact of content on demos booked when we saw a connection to several case studies. Specifically, it was video-driven case studies (as opposed to just text) that were working quite well.”
“This led us to shift our resources to produce more video case studies and increase the overall number of demos.”
Data can help build buyer personas–documents that have a knock-on effect on the content you’re creating.
Alex Cascio of Vibrant Media Productions explains: “An example where we found an interesting datapoint insight that inspired a marketing campaign was the age within Google Analytics for our blog readers.”
“Once we saw that it was read my mostly 25-34-year-olds, we changed phrasing in the next similar segment and found far higher engagement. Write to your audience; this has been our biggest find in developing a successful content marketing campaign.”
Alexandra Zelenko of DDI Development agrees: “Based on the data gathered, you can choose the right content format.”
“For instance, if the data shows your target audience more focus on whitepapers, direct your efforts towards creating and delivering that type of content. Not only do you need to create precise and informative content, but also you should cover the topic in as much detail as possible, supporting your statements with reliable data.”
“We create lead generation software for auto dealers and have always been proud of the number of trade-in leads we are able to generate,” AutoVerify‘s Samantha Kohn says. “We also generate credit leads, but not nearly as many.”
“When we realized that our trade-in leads convert into appointments at 11% but our credit leads convert at 23%, we completely redesigned our product suite to guide all users towards completion of a credit lead and shifted our marketing messaging to an “All Roads Lead to Credit” focus.”
LeadG2‘s Shaye Smith explains: “Based on form fills for a premium content piece (a checklist), we developed an online calculator to nurture the leads from the form fill, encouraging them to try the calculator to determine the revenue that could be produced from utilizing all aspects of the checklist.”
“We used it in our lead nurture workflows for this list of leads, and based on the leads that continued on to the calculator, it was beneficial, which we expected from the original data we analyzed on the checklist form.”
But with this data constantly changing, it’s important to regularly revisit your feedback to make informed content decisions. Over half of experts say they do this frequently:
Do you have a loyal, engaged social media following?
Gloria Lafont of Action Marketing explains how to use this to your advantage when planning new content ideas: “Many times we use social media to test the level of interest in a particular topic before creating an in-depth post.”
“Once the post is published, we evaluate the level of organic interaction, traffic, and conversions, and based on this, we move to a paid promotion of the post. This 3 step method provides higher ROI.”
“By understanding what your customers want you are able to produce content they will consumer rather than scroll past,” SMPerth‘s Meg Coffey summarizes.
“Hidden in Google Analytics is a function called ‘Site Terms,” says Candlefox‘s Olivia Blazevic. “This is accessed by navigating to Behaviour > Site Search > Search Terms”
“In here, you’ll find exactly what your users are looking for, and determine whether there are any gaps in your content strategy that require more exploring.”
“From here, you can produce all kinds of content you know will be well received, and satisfy exactly what your audience needs”–hence why Blazevic calls it “a gold mine for content marketers.”
Keith E. Bergstrom adds: “At Prestwick House, one of the ways that we support teachers is by providing free downloadable resources that support the classic novels that their schools are purchasing from us.”
“While reviewing our Google Webmaster Tools, we discovered that one of the most common search terms leading to our site was Book Title + Crossword, which lead to a sample page from a book we sold. We’ve been able to develop free downloadable crossword puzzles for over 65 different title based on search results driving over 35,000 new visitors over the last year.”
“Don’t look for one data point,” Murray Smith of Grip 6 Pty advises. “There is no silver bullet. You need to bring together several numbers to give you a story to tell.”
“For example, in my business understanding the numbers around the number of small to medium enterprises in Australia, their failure rate and the top statistical reason as to why they fail allowed me to bring together a cogent story about how my work can assist these types of businesses avoid the pain so frequently felt in that space.”
Elisa Doucette of Craft Your Content explains: “While I am a big fan of keyword research, and what it can teach you about traffic and trends, it only performs well if you are combining it with your understanding of your audience and their needs.”
“For example, there are a number of keywords that have huge traffic potential for freelance writers. Things like “making money writing online” or “freelance writing gigs.” While I could bring in a number of new readers and audience by chasing down these terms, many aren’t going to be targeted leads for our content management and brand content editing services.”
“It’s great for vanity metrics, as you have high traffic and possibly some good sharing and subscription. But if these are folks who will continuously want this free content, but never buy the core products and services…that’s not content marketing for sales,” Doucette adds.
“It’s writing online as a hobby. A few of those high-profile, but unrelated, keyword posts are great for bringing new eyes to the site. But writing content without considering your marketing funnel is basically having data, but not using it well.”
“One of my best examples of a data insight inspiring a successful content marketing campaign came at the end of 2018,” WakeupData‘s Ben Culpin explains. “We saw that Amazon was shortly going to launch their Web Services in Sweden, making it the first of its kind in the Nordics.”
“Based on this, we studied the data for organic searches and saw that queries around ‘Amazon in the Nordics/Scandinavia’ suddenly began spiking around this time. At the time, there were no specific articles addressing this new theme, and as an ecommerce tool in Scandinavia this was particularly relevant for us.”
“Over the next few months, we published a series of articles, videos and social media snippets that addressed the arrival of AWS and what it meant for both consumers, digital marketing agencies and online retailers.”
Culpin adds: “The results of this campaign were positive, with an immediate increase in traffic and signups to our feed marketing platform. In the long-term too, the content we created has continued to rank highly for the target keywords and still draws interest in 2020.”
Adam Lumb of Casino Professor agrees: “[Google Trends] provides data that cannot be found in many other SEO tools by telling you when a keyword is popular over the course of the year, rather than just focusing on volume.”
“If you work in a seasonal industry (and you might not know you do until you use this tool!), this can unlock loads of new content ideas and opportunities.”
Lumb continues: “As an example, we publish an article that rounds up any special offers for each month. Originally, we just used a generic title (such as Best Offers February 2020). However, after using Google Trends, we realized that many people searched for offers relating to specific events or holidays. So, the above was changed to Best Offers Valentine’s Day 2020, for example.”
“The result (which has been replicated over many months) was a big boost in traffic and conversion.”
We recently found that 90% of marketers find repurposing content to be more effective than creating new content from scratch.
Alistair Dodds explains how the team at Ever Increasing Circles did this: “We had a client in the football industry who had some old videos they wanted to publish. We keyword-optimized each video title and transcript and released them to see which video got both natural engagement and reasonable rankings with little to no promotional effort.”
“Once we saw that some videos we’re starting to receive some reasonable levels of ranking, traffic, and engagement, we created a content strategy plan and keyword clusters around which to develop additional video content.”
“Three years later and the videos remain key go-to reference points for certain football skills techniques. And that was all borne of recycling and repurposing some old content to develop a new content marketing campaign.”
Anna Kaine adds that ESM Inbound “noticed that our blog post about ‘Why you need an inbound marketing campaign’ was performing well – not only were people clicking on the blog post, but they were spending a long time on the page, staying engaged and clicking through.”
“So we built more posts on this topic into a full campaign, creating more website content of the topic, but also downloadable resources, such as a checklist and ebook that visitors could use to launch their first full inbound marketing campaign.”
“These resources, in turn, inspired pillar page content around blogging for business and creating pillar pages, which are now high-performing content for us,” Kaine says.
“Running your own primary research campaign can be a fantastic way to build credibility as a thought leader and the data will continue to give back value to your site,” says Joe Martin of CloudApp.
Yoav Helfman explains how they did this at Virtually: “We collected data through interviews and surveys trying to understand which groups of people are least satisfied with their work. We found new graduates in their first job to be particularly (>85%) dissatisfied in their work, so we started targeting them with our content marketing.”
Steve Ferris of iconik.io adds: “Our SaaS product was collecting a lot of data that we had not seen published in the media-tech industry, so we shared it.”
“In January 2020, we released the 1st edition of the iconik.io Media Stats. Showing how different industries use our media management platform has raised our website’s engagement rate. The average visitor to this data-based post is four minutes! Now that we have set up a process to collect this data, future editions will be much easier to publish.”
Paul Ronto adds that RunRepeat “were really interested in understanding the sport of ultra running. It’s a big leap for someone to take, going from a marathon to a 50 mile or 100-mile run. We wanted to see how many people were signing up for these races, and if the sport was growing or not.”
“The data led us on a journey that had many rabbit holes, and by the end the findings were amazing. We found that at extreme distances women are actually on average faster than their male counterparts and that the sport has actually seen over 1600% growth in the last 20+ years, even while participating in traditional distance races has been in decline recently.”
“Ultimately, our interest in the sport lead us to create the largest study ever done on ultra running with over 5M data points from over 15K races. The results have been great, the buzz is great, and it’s something our readers love.”
Ronto says: “I think this is a prime example of where data can take you to in your content strategy. It’s a lot of work but it pays off and it’s fun when the findings surprise you.”
Plus, Paige Arnof-Fenn of Mavens & Moguls adds that other bloggers can use your research since “clients often use survey data as a hook for a blog post or e-mail newsletter headlines such as ‘Top 3 hacks CEOs use to increase productivity’.”
“[Best Company‘s] paid media team used an algorithm to determine the keywords that would have the highest value for us to organically rank for them,” says Rochelle Burnside.
“These results were based on data points like the ratio of conversion value to cost, the search volume of the keyword, the Ahrefs difficulty rank, and so on.”
Burnside continues: “What landed in front of the content team was a spreadsheet with a list of high-value keywords that we wanted to improve our rank for. Now, we’re working on creating and optimizing content to rank highly for these keywords.”
“I had an automotive client that noticed a user behavior trend in their sales data,” says Portent‘s Travis McKnight.
“The sales team, online and at dealerships, saw an uptick in how many three-row SUVs people inquired about and eventually test drove or purchased. I used this data, alongside additional industry research, to write a blog post about the top 15 SUVs with third-row seats.”
“We put link building and paid social behind the post, and within a few months, the article ranked in the top position on Google.”
McKnight explains: “The sales data allowed us to target the vehicles people were already searching for as part of our keyword strategy. We also used data on the common questions people asked about those vehicles to answer users’ needs in the article, further increasing its authority.”
“This strategy leads to the blog post ranking for more than 3,700 keywords, earning more than 100 backlinks and bringing in more than 16,000 organic visits per month.”
SmartBug Media‘s Christopher Hutchens adds: “Sales reps talk to prospects every day and know inside and out the questions and solutions they’re looking for, so it’s crucial to build up a library of content that your sales team can utilize on calls and when seeding prospects.”
Plus, Blackbaud‘s Joel Gutherie says: “I think the most common data point that inspires content creation is the win/loss field our sales team uses to track the “why’s” behind winning or losing a deal. If you can’t help facilitate the conversation earlier through the content you’re not setting your sales team up for success.”
“My secret tool that almost NOBODY uses is Google Dataset Search,” writes Brendan Hufford of SEO for the Rest of Us.
“It uncovers amazing data about any industry, especially if you’re doing client work in obscure industries. For example, this inspired some incredible content around construction for a construction software client, showing major projected trends in the industry.”
When planning your content strategy, David Adler of The Travel Secret advises to “use social listening technology to monitor relevant discussions that people are having online through social media.”
“What types of questions are people asking about your industry? What do they dislike about it? These data points will help you create content that is a direct response to their questions and concerns. Monitor the keywords they are using when they talk about your industry and use in your content to help ensure they see it.”
According to Beekeeper‘s Alexandra Zamolo, “it can be very advantageous to keep an eye on what happens to be ranking on your competitors’ websites. In doing so, you can make the educated guess that type of content will also rank well for you.”
“However, just be sure that what you create isn’t a cookie-cutter mimic. Rather, look at the idea, and then add to the overall topic. If they have five points, then make eight.”
Travis Price explains: “For example, I regularly look at people that are in the same industry as me that opt to create blog content that is largely at the same level as I am in order to find content that I know is going to at least show some traffic.”
“I used a keyword research tool to search another Life Insurance Agent’s website. I found that they had created a post about Insurance Memes that was one of their top traffic pages. I found that he was getting approximately 1,200 visits per month on his one post and was ranked number 1.”
“After reviewing the content, I found that he only put images on the post with minimum targeting for keywords.”
“I will often scour broad match search terms in my PPC account to find queries and related query groupings for keywords that are formed as questions,” writes Jake Beckstead of Bailey’s Moving & Storage.
“I will use those questions to create a landing page with the answer to that question and spin up a new PPC campaign specifically targeting it.”
“Google revealing the actual search terms that were used to match with your keywords is a goldmine of insight into customers’ questions are when they are searching for something related to your industry.”
Fathercraft‘s Paul Zalewski adds: “We sell online courses to prepare for parenting, and were working on keyword research for a bottom-of-funnel paid search campaign to support sales.”
“In doing that research, we stumbled upon a gold-mine of keywords that supported an entirely new content marketing campaign—the number of people searching for terms around “preparing for parenting”, “pregnancy checklist”, and the like was staggering. So much so that we paused efforts on the PPC campaign to focus exclusively on the content campaign.”
“The first few pieces have only been live for a few weeks and are already sending organic traffic to the site. It was a great example of research for one digital marketing discipline uncovering something in another!”
Courtney Keene says that MyRoofingPal “uses data to send out targeted emails to segmented lists. Specifically, we track how customers interact with our site, what form they use to sign up, and how they interact with each newsletter they’re sent.”
“We use heat mapping, time on site, where they exited, etc to paint a picture of what users are most interested in and where they’re getting stuck in the process.”
It can be disheartening to publish a new piece of content that you’re super excited about–only to see your website pageviews increase by two.
“After monitoring the content performance by day on my website, I realized the number of engagement to post is always on the high side on Wednesdays and Fridays,” says OMN‘s Carolyn Thompson. “This inspired me to get more articles posted on both days.”
With so much data available at your fingertips, you’d be crazy not to use it.
Not just because you can create content your audience truly loves, but you’ll beat your competition to it–especially since there’s a strong chance they’re not using data at all.
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