Why content marketers need to get their heads in the data game

rebecca merett

Rebecca Merrett – Content Editor

If you are a content marketer and don’t already have your head in the game when it comes to using data, then what are you doing?


Content marketers and producers no longer dictate what audiences read or consume – it’s the other way around. Your audience now holds unprecedented power to choose, and their preference directs content strategy for both brands and publishers.


And it always should have been this way – if only the data collection and analysis tools we have today were available years ago.


Deeper insights get you closer to the reader


Every click, tap, scroll and mouse movement says something about your audience. There’s a relationship between each URL a reader clicks on in a session, their journey across your site from beginning to end, and the links between your site and other data sources. Each of them says something about the information your visitors are trying to get. So are you giving them what they need or not?


Yes, it’s hard to reverse engineer a reader’s intentions through these types of data. Yes, it’s hard to pull disparate sources together into a comprehensive list of records to get richer insights. And yes, it can be even harder to properly measure these things over time.


Crop of hand business girl working with labtop on table


But you have every reason to try – analysing data is the only real way to measure and demonstrate return on investment. And the more you strive to find the patterns underlying readers’ behaviours, to analyse these trends for insight or to even find an algorithm that accurately calculates a reader’s next step, the closer you’ll get to anticipating their needs more effectively.


Be helpful, not invasive


While it’s valuable to ‘know’ your reader, it’s also imperative that you use this knowledge in their interests. Content that’s informed by data definitely has the power to help the consumer – I know that from my own experience as a reader, writer and editor. But there’s a difference between applying data-led insights and stalking your audience. They know that, and so should you.


It could be said that a click, tap, scroll or mouse movement is not creepy if it’s anonymous. But when a company steps too far into your space with personalised offers, it can be a bit of a turn-off (though you might marvel for a moment at how they were able to get so completely into your head).


Your readers are smart – like me, they probably prefer that just a little part of themselves remains a mystery, even to their most trusted brands. This is why it’s important for content marketers to respect their audiences. Strive to be close enough to your readers that they feel you are being helpful. But don’t get so close that they feel you’re trying to mess with their heads.


Go beyond Google Analytics


Please don’t focus on Google Analytics (GA) alone and think that’s enough to get you by. If you want to reach a higher level of personalisation, you need to stop thinking GA has all the answers.


Don’t get me wrong – Google collects a lot of data for you and has some cool add-on tools. And sifting through aggregates of data can be really useful for spotting trends and preferences. But your website or publishing platform doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The time your readers spend with your content is only a tiny part of their online life.


You could start by trying to find links between different data sources, such as establishing correlations between GA data and sentiment in online discussion forums that relate to your products and services, or industry sector, for example. You might be surprised by what you discover from analysing such data.


Above all, don’t be complacent. Being able to better use data for deeper insights may seem like a complex, costly and confusing exercise, but it’s the most effective way of realising a return on your efforts. And like content marketing itself, it’s not a race. There’s no end, so commit to finding ever-newer ways of learning about your readers and cater accordingly.


Go investigate!