You need a content strategy brush up.
No, really, even if you think your strategy is airtight, you are probably lacking in one primary area: you aren’t customer-centric enough.
What is Data-Driven Content?
Anyone who has worked with content in the last several years is probably well acquainted with the data-driven method of planning and creating blog posts, website content, articles, social media posts, etc.
Put simply, data-driven content strategy takes the following metrics into account:
- Demand for a certain topic (i.e. search volume as well as “difficulty”, in terms of competition, of a keyword)
- How users interact with your existing content (i.e. clicks that content generates from search and social media, backlinks it has attracted from other publishers and how many conversions it has triggered)
Tools to Create Data-Driven Content Strategy
Now that we have made it clear as to what kind of data we are looking for, let’s see which tools are able to provide that data. There are basically two groups those tools are falling into:
Keyword Research Tools
This group of tools is especially helpful for planning future content, i.e. when you are just entering a niche or when you are looking to tap into new concepts that haven’t yet been covered on your site. Basically, these tools help when you don’t have good enough access to your own data yet.
The tool I am using for keyword research is Serpstat because it offers a good selection of features giving insight into all the data I need, namely:
- Keyword suggestions that help expand my current keyword lists
- Keyword “difficulty” which shows how competitive each keyword is (and thus help me understand whether it’s worth spending time and resources on)
- Keyword intent: Serpstat shows which other search elements Google shows for each query. For example, if Google shows shopping results, this means it has found that most users searching for this phrases intend to buy something right away. On the other hand, if Google features “best answer” on top as a featured snippet, this signals of an informational intent of those searching for that keyword. These are my top picks for content marketing
- Keyword clustering, i.e. grouping keywords by relevancy. This feature is helpful for optimizing content for multiple keywords, rather than one. Read more on this here.
- Keyword discovery from a competitor’s page: Enter your competitor’s URL and the tool will generate a list of keywords it has been optimized for and allow to expand each phrase.
All that data is perfect for coming up with new content ideas to plan your editorial calendar.
Website Analytics Tools
This group helps you analyze your existing content to optimize it better or come up with more similar content to re-enforce your success. Within this group I recommend three tools:
Google Analytics: This is a pretty obvious choice. What I do with this tool is I create a custom report for every single content asset I am publishing. This allows me to monitor the performance of every article closely. Look for content performance signals:
Search and social media traffic
Bounce rate: A high bounce rate may mean that you got the keyword intent wrong or that your content quality must be improved.
Cyfe is a nice freemium tool that allows combining all those multiple mini-tracking Google Analytics dashboards within one easy-to-use dashboard. Just open it from time to time to check how your content is performing
Bonus: A good alternative to Google Analytics (especially if you are concerned with your data privacy and security) is Matomo (previously known as Piwik). It’s self-hosted, so all your data remains on your private server and is never used to help your competitors.
Finally, a less obvious tool for data insight I am going to recommend here is Bannersnack. This tool provides a valuable insight into how your visual content has performed. I am not sure if there’s an alternative (I am not aware of one) but their banner analytics works as a great addition to Google Analytics data.
It shows who, when and how to interact with your creatives on a daily basis and lets you adapt your visual strategy accordingly. Use the data to better understand what catches your users’ attention and what provokes action! Now that visual content is so important, this data is simply priceless.
The Problem With Data-Driven Content
Now, let’s make it clear right here: I am not advocating against data-driven content strategy here. It is the strategy of the new age and certainly should be taken into account. Data gives us the metrics we need to measure our success and make adjustments as needed.
The problem with data-driven content lies in its availability. Your competitors know too much of the same data as you do. They are using keyword research tools and target the same keywords. They can monitor your rankings and your social media channels and see which one of your content is performing better and which one is staggering.
Your competitors are using pretty much the same data as you are, so unless you do something else, apart from analyzing the data, you may be lacking your competitive advantage.
This is especially dangerous when your budget is not that impressive. Your competitors may be pouring more money into their content strategy and PPC and thus leave your behind.
The solution to that problem is using more metrics than just data, that is going to your actual (or your competitors’) customers, listening to them and giving them what they need.
What we should be focusing on is our customers and what they say they need. You would be amazed at what you can learn when you just take the time to listen.
Why Is Customer Centricity So Important
“Statistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business.”
~ Zig Ziglar via bqotd.com
The above quote is the perfect illustration of what I am talking about here: When your customers speak up, that’s your best business opportunity!
When you are making your content plans, whether it is a blog or a landing page, your marketing or your branding, your one on-one-engagement or your email drip campaigns, you have to keep your customers at the very forefront of your mind.
“But I already do that!” you may be thinking and I believe you. However, if you aren’t listening closely enough to what they need, then fulfilling that need, you aren’t reaching the full potential of what you produce.
Here are some stats that will show you just how important it is to make your efforts – in all areas – customer-centric:
- Companies that are customer driven are as much as 60% more effective and profitable.
- An astonishing 90% of marketers have listed individualize customer attention as one of their top priorities.
- Customers report that customer service agents are only answering their questions (aka fulfilling their needs) 50% of the time.
- Only 1 in 27 customers is likely to voice their dissatisfaction, leaving most brands in the dark about problems.
These statistics tell us two things that are helpful to know. First, we can see that focusing on the customer has a marked and obvious impact on the success of our campaigns, both in and out of content. Second, our customers aren’t going to come to us… we need to go to them.
How To Begin a Customer-Centric Content Strategy
It should be obvious by now that focusing on the customer is your clearest roadmap to further lead generation and conversions. Not to mention building brand loyalty, which given the retention versus new sales profit/cost ratio should be on all of our minds.
So what are some simple ways you can begin to implement that method in your content marketing this year?
The first step is an obvious one: you need to know what it is your customers need. There are a number of ways to do this, but it all comes down to looking, listening and analyzing.
One good place to start is through some basic reputation research. Social media is a goldmine for finding complaints, praise and general conversation related to your brand or industry.
For instance, let’s say you have a B2B invoicing platform and what to know what small businesses are looking for in an account management platform. You could go looking at competition and see what customers are saying about it. You can search sites like Quora for people asking for platform recommendations. Reviews sites are another great place to find out what customers are happy and unhappy within current platforms.
Another great source is the customers themselves. Customer surveys are the best way to find challenges that are facing customers, as well as get recommendations for changes.
Survey generators are a dime a dozen, so you can find plenty for free or a premium fee that meet your needs. However, make sure they are short, easy to fill out and quick. Customers will often abandon a survey if it is too long or complex.
If it takes more than a minute to complete, it is too long.
Try SurveyMonkey to set up a survey and send it to your customers (or link to it into your “Thank you for your order” email). Don’t forget “Offer your comment” field to encourage open-ended conversation. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll learn!
You can also make this process much less intrusive by simply encouraging your teams to record all questions your customers are asking using your current customer relationships management platform. I am using Salesmate for that and it’s just perfect:
You can also provide customer feedback or inquiry forms on your site or through your emails. Here’s a good selection of free forms to use. Make those easy to access and fill out, as well. Those forms can also be integrated into your customer relationships management platform. Here’s the list of available integrations available at Salesmate as an example.
Otherwise, you are going to be losing out on valuable criticism or tips from your primary user base/leads.
How to Combine Data with Customers’ Insights?
Let the two content strategies fuel one another. Neither of them is an obvious priority: They need to be fully integrated into one another.
For example, whenever you discover a potentially valuable keyword and want to focus your content around it, search your Salesmate database of questions to see if your customers ever asked anything related to that phrase.
Or, vice versa, if you have a question from your customer, run a quick keyword research to see what other phrases there are to cover in the content addressing that question.
Or, if you see your article performing exceptionally well in Google Analytics, put a form on it to invite your readers to suggest you more ideas for a solid follow-up.
Interact with your customers on a daily basis, whether it’s your team talking on the phone with them or you interacting with them on social media, keep your data in mind: “Is there a content opportunity there”
Measure and listen: Make both your content marketing fuel!
Jessy Troy is the editor-in-chief behind Social Media Sun. Connect with her on Twitter at @JessyTroy with any comments and feedback you may have!
Screenshots source: Authors own