Content Marketing Masters Berlin 2015 > Using Data to Create Unbeatable Content Marketing Campaigns

Stuart Shaw 5 years ago

Our Head of Search & Data recently spoke at the Content Marketing Masters over in Berlin, Germany. We've compiled his presentation along with his transcript to help give you a better understanding of how to use data to create unbeatable content marketing campaigns. A must read if you're trying to take your digital marketing to the next level.

The Slides


The Transcript

Hey guys!

To give you a bit of background about myself; my name is James Perrott and I’m the Head of Strategy at Zazzle Media. This is a wide ranging role, but long story cut short, I use data to create informed strategies that get our clients to where they need to be – whether that is through social, content, SEO, digital PR or anything else!

Content marketing, that’s why we’re all here. Everyone is still doing content marketing, even though a lot of the traditional ways have been done to death.

So… why should you still do it?

The answer is simple, you need to be visible to your customers and potential customers when they need you most.

Everyone has those “I-WANT-TO-BUY or “I-WANT-TO-DO” moments when they jump on the Internet to find out more information about something they want to purchase, take part in or learn how to do about.

Both of those “I-WANT-TO” moments are ‘moments of need’ when a user, with no brand affinity, is looking for informative content to help them make a decision.

For example – here are some of the top home-related how-to searches:

‘How to unclog a toilet’.

We’ve all been there, when the toilet won’t flush and we’re need advice from someone else on the Internet who has been there. Be there for that person in this time of need and you are successfully nailing content marketing!

Here is what returns for that exact search now.

As you can see, Google answer box is returning for it, but the piece of content is not in the top 3 positions of Google. The way this is being done at present is through manual input. Quality reviewers at Google are manually reviewing the content on page one for the most informative content that follows a certain structure, and most importantly, answers the question.

As shown by Google consumer data, you can see that 91% of smartphone users (everyone) turn to their smartphone for ideas while doing a given task – be there when they’re doing this! These stats alone show you how important content marketing is; it does work.

The main difference between a good and bad campaign? A good campaign gains positive brand affinity, high number of social shares, and a high number of links and referring domains.

The problem facing us now is that because brands want all of those things at low cost and on an ever more occurring basis, blindly created content marketing campaigns without any data insight are spamming the web. This results in bad content marketing campaigns that don’t work, nor do they attract any of the positive outcomes that make a good campaign, good!

There are a few tough questions that you need to ask yourself, or the agency doing this on your behalf, before a campaign can be executed:

  • What is the content?
  • How is it helping your audience/potential new customers?
  • Be original, or make an already existing piece different or much better
  • Is it a good time to release? Seasonality, other priorities etc.
  • Ensure it’s aligned to brand guidelines; style/voice etc.
  • How good is it?
  • Are there any barriers? What are you trying to get your audience to do? Do you have anything preventing them from doing exactly that? Make it easy!

Another thing that is vital to define is what success looks like before measurement of a content marketing campaign. This has to be done at brief stage to ensure that the piece will deliver.

Good content marketing campaigns are fuelled by data and answering those difficult questions; there is no guesswork in good content marketing campaigns. You should not be entering the campaign blind.

To ensure this success, harness data! Doing this will unlock the potential of your campaign and allow it to succeed. The biggest fear is ‘big data’ and how scary that is… it’s not.

Data completely removes the guesswork and informs all of the stages within the process required to turn a good idea into reality. Those stages are:

  1. What platform are you creating content for? Mobile? Desktop? Wrong! It has to be responsive.
  2. Who are your audience? What platform are they using to digest content?
  3. The content creation phase
  4. The content distribution phase

Stage 1 – who are your audience and how are they consuming content?

To determine this, there’s an infinite amount of data on your doorstep. It’s about where to look, instead of trying to mine data, that isn’t there to be mined.

Google Analytics is your first stop. The quite new feature Affinity Categories is a great first resort, find this by going to Audience > Interests > Affinity Categories. This area shows how your audience breaks down into type – for example music lovers, TV lovers, Technophiles, News Junkies, and Gamers etc. This then allows you to drill down into the audience type and see which convert the most and who spends the most money with you – this is invaluable.

Understand the current device usage on your website by looking at the split between mobile and desktop in your audience. This will instantly resonate and highlight how your audience is viewing your website. To go even more granular, look at current content that your producing and do this split on that URL – this shows you how users are digesting specific content.

The way users are digesting information online is changing and, as a direct result, the power of mobile in content marketing has become huge. You need to create content in a mobile-friendly way to ensure all your audience are able to consume it.

Because mobile usage is massively up, this results in there being more mobile devices than humans on the planet. This is a powerful stat and the fact that on average, every human now possesses 3 devices means you have to consider an average of ~3 devices when creating content - not just desktop or one specific mobile.

To highlight the importance of mobile, Google has just recently released a mobile specific algorithm. I recently took part in a SEMrush webinar about the update dubbed ‘mobilegeddon’ by the general news. However, the clear outcome is that it didn’t impact too many websites due to Google’s prior announcement about the impending update.

We believe Google publically announced this because having a mobile friendly website is not a way of manipulating the search engine. A website does not gain much from having a mobile friendly site; it being a small ranking signal has minimal impact on rankings. However, Panda and Penguin is targeting specific websites that are trying to manipulate Google’s rankings and webmaster quality guidelines. Between the time of Google announcing the update and it actually releasing the update, a huge volume of websites became mobile-friendly. We had historic clients contacting us about the update, just due to the amount of publicity this particular received.

Mobile usage for content consumption is increasing. A lot of research is done via mobile, whilst on-the-go, but the conversion on a website is done in a calmer environment and more likely on a desktop device.

‘Think with Google’ allows you to see how important organic search is, as an influencer for people looking to buy a product. The further along the scale to the right, the closer to the ‘last interaction’ it is. With this tool, you’re able to put in a set of pre-selected industries, sizes and regions to see how important it is for your industry.

The next set of free data to look into is Google Search Console (webmaster tools), recently renamed Google Search Console. Its search analytics report has been updated and it provides a great dataset to see queries, impressions, landing page metrics and data comparison. This is normally backdated 2-3 days and is only available up to 90 days, so it’s not 100% fresh, but it’s a gold mine of free data.

We have now determined how your audience consumes content, but we have to determine who your audience is also…

Facebook’s data is best and you’re able to use your own social dataset, if your audience is large enough. If not, you’re able to use a large competitor. To give you an example of what you’re able to pull from Facebook insights, we’re able to see how your social audience breaks down in regards to gender, age, interests, their relationship status, place of work, location, other pages they like and how active they are on Facebook and online in general by seeing how many pages they like a week. This data is invaluable in your content creation as it really breaks down your audience and allows you to create accurate personas for both creation and distribution.

The persona creation process is important to follow to ensure your content is always aligned to your audience.

This is Zazzle’s persona creation process and some example personas to show you the detail that you’re able to extract from these various sources. They have been so accurate before that clients have accused us of seeing their own personas. That’s just how good this data is!

For a more granular approach, or for clients that you aren’t able to collate data for, a UK website called YouGov has a persona creation tool that gives some broad information about customers of brands.

This persona creation then allows you to get an understanding of the audience that is currently on your website (by your own data) and who your potential audience is by looking at larger brands’ Facebook data. This then gives you the power to create human-interest angles for each of these personas.

By developing these human-interest angles for your identified personas, this means you shouldn’t be following the crowd by regurgitating already over used ideas.

Stage 2 – What is your content going to be?

It’s pivotal to choose the right type of content for your audience. If this piece of research isn’t done, the type of content you create could not be relevant to what your audience digests and means that your content marketing will fail. The idea becomes redundant at this stage.

There are a whole host of different content types for you to choose from. This graph shows the ‘Delaney quartz curve’, which suggests that successful content length ranges between 500 and 800 words. However in digital this is different, you need to ensure you create a mixture of content lengths to create ‘content flow’ and pace, therefore you should also include a variation of short form snappy content and longer form content too (1,000 words plus).

The first one we’re going to discuss is long form content, a content type that has risen from the depths of journalism coming over to digital…

Useful guides are always a strong content type and one that should be factored into any content marketing campaign and content strategy in general. This can be an evergreen campaign, one that you continually add too. These guides really help those users that are in that “I-WANT-TO-DO” or “I-WANT-TO-BUY” frame of mind.

How-to content has been done to death recently and this is very annoying as it is perfect in helping those people in need of information. The problem with the how-to search queries is the amount of people looking for it, it’s easy long tail traffic to pick up with the right piece of content. Because of this exploitation, Google has recently released an update, which targeted a lot of thin and not very useful how-to content. This has breathed some fresh air into this type of content as good how-to guides are now being rewarded.

Infographics…. I have read a few articles on why ‘infographics are dead’ and I completely disagree. If the topic is relevant and the data is interesting enough to capture the eyeballs of your potential audience, an infographic will still succeed. They used to be seen as an easy win for links, but this has changed and now they’re a form of useful content and one that will attract links if the distribution is done correctly. People will not embed your infographics, nor will they link to them if they’re in irrelevant places.

Interactive content is the type of content that has the most legs in regards to virality. There are a whole host of great examples online for this type of content and I highly recommend looking at the Trainline festival finder, the vinyl and ipod comparison and the history of music in relation to travel. They are all brilliant examples and executed in different ways, but all have a common theme – they’re interactive. However, this type of content requires a larger amount of investment and research – each stage of this process, which I’m running you through has to be absolutely nailed for it to succeed. But, if it does, the rewards are normally much larger.

Interacting with your audience directly through an innovative quiz or challenge is a way of gaining high numbers of instant responses and interactions, especially with a prize up for grabs. This also reduces the amount of man-hours you have to invest in the campaign, as the majority of content production is done by the people taking part. If you gather the right type of people, a challenge or quiz has the potential to reap high rewards for minimal investment and effort. With the explosion of vloggers and YouTube, it is definitely worth engaging with this audience with their large communities, as the opportunities are endless.

Functional content . . . .above the line topics and calculators form a large part of this. Topics such as ‘mortgage calculator’ are huge areas online that can be targeted through content marketing campaigns.

My personal favorite; leveraging your brand identity. The upcoming film, Entourage, is due to come out this summer and the renowned character from the film Ari Golf, played by Jeremy Piven, was used by the film production company to attend interviews – genius. Lots of noise was created around the film as a direct result because of Ari Gold’s very ‘honest’ character.

There are so many different content types now that choosing the right one is important for any campaign to succeed.

Choosing the right one is easy…

If you are already executing content marketing campaigns, measure the success and failure of current campaigns. This will give you an instant gauge of what does and what doesn’t work with your audience. This can be easily assessed via Google Analytics by looking at important user experience metrics such as; average time on page, bounce rates and if the users clicked through to other areas of the website after visiting your content.

We’ve all had that moment when we’ve seen a competitor’s piece of content go live and gone, “that’s brilliant”, or “I wish I had thought of that!” Don’t just develop a huge amount of jealousy, look at the different types of content that are perceived to have done well from both a brand affinity perspective and link/social metrics perspective.

Ahrefs is a brilliant tool and it has recently released a lot of updates specifically designed to look at content measurement. One new tool it released is called ‘content explorer’ and allows you to type in a keyword you’re trying to rank for through your content marketing and see what already exists; whether that be a functional bit of content on a static page, an infographic, a homepage, a piece of interactive content etc. It’s really useful to highlight what is already out there and what your competition looks like.

Ahref’s other tool allows us to look directly at a competitor’s website and pull their best pieces of content, or content marketing. It decides what the best piece of content is through looking at social sharing statistics and how many links that piece of content has acquired. This is VERY useful as it gives you a good foundation to measure their content.

SEMrush has so many great uses and one of its best, in regards to content measurement, is its organic rankings area. You are able to quickly see what keywords any website ranks in the top 20 positions in Google for. The tool pulls through search volume and the associated click-through rate percentage for the position it is in the SERPs. You are then presented with some statistics for a websites traffic % through specific keywords.

How we use this for content is to export the ranking data, or simply filter the results within SEMrush to only show rankings that reside within the content area of the website. These typical areas are /blog and /news for example. However, keep your eyes open for pieces of content that a website may have sat at the root domain to ensure the flow of link equity from both the domain to the content or vice versa is shared more easily.

Another great use of SEMrush is to enable the domain vs. domain tool and see how many keywords a website ranks for compared to another and how many are ‘in common’. What you are able to quickly do from this data is export the ones in common and apply a simple rule to highlight the domain that ranks best for each keyword. If you’re interested in what keywords a website ranks for, that another doesn’t, you can export that also.

URL Profiler has content readability metrics, which show you how legible, and readable a piece of content is according to certain metrics. Please run this on your own content to ensure it’s not too complex for the average user to understand.

So we’ve assessed the different content types and looked at other websites for inspiration; make sure you analyse this data to ensure your content marketing campaign has ‘legs’. For a lot of our clients, this is the full process, as we often springboard ideas of the back of other successful campaigns either ran by the client already, or from competitors.

An important aspect to look at, in order to analyse how a content marketing campaign has become successful, is the distribution techniques used by the website. Has it seeded the content via its social channels, posted guest posts on a variety of different blogs, posted advertorials on news outlets or used Digital PR to get the content in front of the media or on websites such as the Huffington Post for example. Analysing how they’ve done this is vital in assuring the same success from your piece of content.

You cannot simply stick the piece of content on your website and expect it to fly… that simply does not happen.

It’s important to be data lead in the piece of content you create; a piece of content marketing should not be seen as a quick win, if done correctly you can leverage it to rank for a competitive keyword for a very long time due to the high number of social shares and links acquired through the correct idea and distribution methods.

So, to understand the title of the content that you’re going to create, you’ll need to carry out keyword research through using a number of different tools:

  • Google Adwords Keyword Planner
  • io
  • Google autosuggest
  • SEMrush

These tools will allow you to initially create a set of vanity keywords (high volume) and another set of long tail keywords, which are becoming increasingly important as users search for those I-WANT-TO-BUY and I-WANT-TO-DO moments – they’re long tail searches and very targeted/specific.

Once the title has been decided, mapping the piece of content out from a creation and distribution perspective is important. Storyboard the creative and pull together a technical brief. This allows the right people to see the technicalities behind the content and give you the thumbs up or thumbs down as to whether or not it’s feasible. The other thing that this does is determine the time required to create it and budget.

STAGE 3 – Where are you going to distribute your content?

We have already lightly touched on distribution and identifying what methods were used for successful pieces. This is important as it allows you to see what seeding techniques work well with your potential audience.

The first thing to do is create distribution personas. These are formed from all of the previous research carried out. This is important as without it, you’ll have a great piece of content, but it won’t be distributed correctly. You need to approach the websites you want to host it in the right manner and ensure it’s actually what they’re after.

To identify those websites, we’ve got the research carried out from competitor pieces, but to really show you where to place this content, you need to identify where your audience hangs out. If you find that out, it’s a 99% guaranteed success. But how do you find out where your audience goes online?

Social insight! Through looking at other pages your audience likes, you are instantly given an idea of what other websites they use in their spare time. They don’t just visit your website 100% of the time; sad I know!

From this data, find relevant websites to those that they hang out on to broaden your reach. SEMrush is good for this; enter the website into the main tool and click on competitors, that gives you a large list of websites that rank for a lot of the same keywords. Create a huge list of these websites and use your distribution personas to talk to them.

Another great resource for sharing content is forums and blogs; websites such as Reddit and other popular forums including Mumsnet, Money Saving Expert etc. have a large relevant audience for a number of different verticals. Searching through their forums by using a Google search tool “content idea” – you’re given a list of highly relevant forums to your content. Place the content here or find the relevant sub-form/reddit and post there.

One of the last things to consider when distributing your content is: Is it relevant to the website and do they need it? You will already be liaising with a large number of these websites, I’m sure, but you need to find their content schedule and see where your content can fit in. If they’re posting something similar at the time you approach them, the likelihood of them posting your content is very slim.

Supporting paid services such as Outbrain and Taboola can drive instant eyeballs to your content, as well as targeted paid social ads – both of these can be massive traffic drivers to a brand new piece of content.

Ask: Are the websites identified through the distribution process in a different language? If so, does the content need translating? All of these things need considering as part of the content marketing campaign creation process. No stone can be left unturned.

If the stages are followed and all is done correctly, you’ll create brand champions/evangelists. It’s a win/win scenario as you gain quality customers.

It’s important that once you’ve done all of this research for a piece of content marketing, that it translates through to your website as well. You need to approach this holistically and one without the other will let the overall campaign down.

Thanks for listening and I hope this step-by-step guide helped!!

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