For the love of data: where content marketers are going wrong
Is data the underdog of the content world? For The Drum's Content Marketing Deep Dive, Hallam's Siobhan Congreve defends the lost art of data-led content with a human touch.
When it comes to data-led and humanized content, we needn't sacrifice one for the other / Bjorn Pierre via Unsplash
From the dawn of search engine optimization (SEO) and the first use of the phrase ‘content is king’, data has sat at the heart of every content marketer's agenda. Many of us have been around long enough to remember the days of keyword stuffing and simply reporting on page views and session durations. It didn’t matter that your content made practically no sense to human readers. If Google 'knew' what you were talking about and rewarded you for it, that was enough.
Since then, there has been a gradual but noticeable shift toward content focused on driving engagement from humans. We've been asking ourselves more about how content can be re-purposed across social media and if a journalist would be interested in covering it in the press.
We still want to appease the search gods, but in a different way. Or rather, in a way that isn’t just there to make Google happy, but consumers, too.
This year, another step was taken when Google announced the helpful content update that de-prioritizes SEO-first content built to climb search engine results pages and up-ranks human-centric content that is original and high-quality.
Where is the middle ground?
With all the focus being on creating human-centric content, we may have forgotten what was once so important to us: data.
From search data to industry data, content and data are inherently linked. However, the focus has been lost and we could be missing out on a whole load of exciting, engaging content because we aren’t utilizing both human-first and data-first content at the same time. Instead, we're keeping them siloed for different purposes (even using the phrases ‘human-first’ and ‘data-first’ is slightly contradictory to the point of this article).
When you step back and think about how much we need data when creating content, there's a touchpoint every step of the way: starting with the story we’re telling (and why) through to what format it’s presented in and how it’s being communicated across platforms. At each step, we can see if it's successful or not with the data at our fingertips.
Data’s the old friend you hardly ever talk to, the one you rarely message but know is always there for you if you need them. Sure, you might like each other's Instagram stories every now and again, but you don’t need to be in constant contact with each other to know they’re there. Well, it’s time data had its time in the limelight once again.
When data-driven and human-centric content don’t just co-exist, but triumph
Thinking about what topics to cover? Look at keyword research and hashtag data. Wondering about statistics to prove your point? Look at data from existing studies and reports. Can’t decide which format will best suit your content? Look at the variation in engagement rates. Not sure when the best time to post your content is? Look at your Google Analytics data.
Whether you work in SEO, paid media, creative, or content marketing, data-driven (or data-inclusive) content that resonates with humans should be at the forefront of your strategy. Data is there to help you. When you use it right, it helps your content fly. And the internet is not short of data.
Even if you look a little closer to home, whether you're in-house or working at an agency, first-party data is gold, especially when it comes to creating content. It’s the only way for you to truly understand your customers as humans and use that information to provide a more tailored experience, whether through the ads they are served or the content they find on your website and social media channels.
Human-centric, data-driven content isn’t something new, bold, and exciting that is going to take the marketing world by storm. But it is a way of working that is going to help elevate your content marketing to the next level. It will help inform your content creation and content amplification strategies to a point where you won’t be worried about whether or not something should be done, because the data is already in place to answer your question.
When it comes to storytelling with data, it’s about pulling out the interesting points for your audience - not inundating them with facts and figures but using the information you have to bring your story to life.
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