Using Data to Inform Your 2018 Content Calendar

Natalie Henley
by Natalie Henley 01 Dec, 2017
"Data-driven" has become a bit of a buzzword in the digital industry. While it may be an important ideal, when it comes down to it, how many content marketers actually spend any time digging through metrics to inform their editorial calendars?

Today's enterprises are continually under pressure to get more done with less budget, but turning data analysis into an expendable task on an ever-growing to-do list could end up being a serious mistake.

Knowing all marketers have the need to create top-performing content as quickly as possible, here are a few strategies to bring data analysis back into the content calendaring process without getting totally derailed.

So What Does "Data-Driven" Mean Anyway?

Being data-driven essentially means two things in the context of content marketing:

1. Using metrics to inform future content decisions based on the results from content already created;

2. Using tools that provide third-party data on trending topics to inform new content ideas.

Why is a Data-Driven Content Calendar So Important?

According to Marketing Profs, brands are spending anywhere from 25-43 percent of their marketing budgets on content and it is no secret those budgets are continuing to grow. As such, using data to inform content calendaring can be a crucial component of generating a higher return on a continually increasing investment. As an example, when Curata focused on executing a data-driven content marketing strategy, they saw 48 times more page views, 101 times more leads and 67 times more revenue.

Tools for Creating Data-Driven Content Calendars

Tools that provide third-party data and competitive analysis are crucial to the creative process. There are many powerful tools out there for content marketers looking to back up their content strategy with data, but the go-to platforms are popular for a reason. Analytics tools, for example, provide a large amount of website analysis, Google Search Console offers a viewpoint of the keywords and impressions content is earning and Mention can measure earned links for content.

These go-to tools alone can provide an overwhelming amount of data. To keep it simple, a short list of metrics to start with might include social shares, earned inbound links, organic impressions, visits, referral traffic and micro-conversions.

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Alongside metric analysis tools, marketers have a few other options to help with their creative process. Answer the Public, for example, aggregates lists of user search queries associated with a specified keyword or keyword phrase while BuzzSumo (which provides social engagement metrics on blog posts) reports on currently trending topics and how well a competitors' content is resonating with users. There is also Atomic Reach, which provides real-time, custom and predictive recommendations to create content with an audience in mind. Finally, if marketers have never explored the questions people are asking on Quora, now is the time to leverage the network.

How to Use All This Data to Create a Content Calendar

Data is great, but marketers need to put it to use by:

Establishing Goals

Before making decisions based on data, it is a good idea to understand the high-level goals of the enterprise (i.e., why is this being done in the first place). From there, marketers can establish the key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure those goals. Some examples include the numbers of leads or conversions, brand awareness (organic search impressions) or website visits resulting from content marketing.

Developing Topics

Many companies ascribe to the concept of creative brainstorming. Luckily, there is a way to easily incorporate data analysis while also keeping creativity.

Step 1: The Data -
Before the brainstorm, send out reports on how well the prior calendar performed against the KPIs. For example, if impressions were a top KPI, the report would include the top and bottom impression-gaining content. It is also good to include content standouts from the last 1-2 years.

Step 2: Individual Brainstorming -
Each brainstorm participant should then jot down a list of ideas individually, including a mix of data-influenced topic ideas, as well as ideas based on sheer creativity.

Step 3: Group Brainstorm -
Afterward, the group should meet in a structured setting and use the individual brainstorming lists as a jumping off point to bigger and better ideas.

Creating the Calendar

As the final step, the individual responsible for the calendar gets the outcome of the brainstorm organized. As they draft the content calendar, remember to include information for each concept including the topic, the working title, goals, KPIs, user personas, the assigned writer, the deadline and any other relevant notes.

Data-Driven Does Not Mean Data-Only

Although data can be a huge asset in marketing, it is important to strike a balance between an analytical approach and creativity. If a business is too data driven, creativity is stifled, making it nearly impossible for innovation to occur. Too much emphasis on creativity without examining data means work is created in a vacuum without being informed by the facts. The most successful content programs strike a balance.

Unlock the Power of Data

It can take tremendous effort to incorporate data in a content calendaring process. It is a challenge, but one worthy of being taken. If a marketer's current process is not data driven, start small with reviewing past analytics reports, trying a free third-party tool from the list above and attempting to work a couple of posts into the mix.

Sometimes nothing can be more transformative for a marketing team than seeing a few initial results from approaching things in a new way.

About the Author
Natalie Henley is the CEO of Volume Nine, which provides digital marketing services that increase organic traffic for their B2C and B2B clients.