Content marketing is nothing new, but as many marketers already know- the rules just keep on changing.
In the early days, you could throw up a questionably written 300-word blog post with a few keywords sprinkled in and improve your rankings. But today, that strategy will get you nowhere.
That's because not only have search engines become more discerning, but so have people.
Today, consumers look for meaningful content that answers their questions, provides them with helpful resources, and is easy to understand. And it turns out, what matters to them may also be quite important to search engines. It’s long been speculated (yet unproven) that user behavior on your site may affect your SERP rankings.
But whether or not that holds true- creating high-quality content that keeps your users engaged will undoubtedly raise your rankings and drive new traffic to your site.
So how do you avoid churning out meaningless or unengaging content? With a solid strategy, backed by content research.
What is a Content Strategy?
A content strategy is focused on the planning, development, and management of your content. Its main goal is to ensure your content is useful for your audience, easily found, SEO-optimized, and in service of your business objectives.
It’s important to note- a content strategy is NOT simply creating pieces of content loosely linked to your company's goals. A true content strategy requires planning, effort, and a lot of questions- “Who is this content for?”, “What purpose will this content serve”, and “Why would a prospective customer want to read this?”
How Can I Develop a Great Content Strategy?
The best way to find out what content resonates with your audience is to simply ask!
While traffic and behavioral data gathered through Google Analytics can give you a basic understanding of the most (and least) popular pages on your site- it won’t tell you the full story.
Who exactly is viewing your content? What are their expectations? And what actions did your content inspire them to take?
If you want to answer these questions, you’ll have to go straight to the source. Content research is a simple want to do this, allowing you to directly survey the audience you're trying to target.
Using content research, you can discover the topics that matter most to your target audience, the trends they are currently following, and the questions they need answers to. By gathering their feedback and integrating it into your content strategy, you can more easily address your audience's needs in an engaging way.
The first step is to lay out the goals and objectives for your content research. Compile a list of all of the things you would want to know about your ideal audience. What subjects/topics are most important to them? What content formats do they prefer? How do they generally search for content like yours? Once you’ve got your list, pair it down to only the essentials. This will ensure your study is focused and won’t fatigue respondents.
Next, think about your target audience. How would you define them? If you’re a B2B company, you may want to consider job functions, seniority levels, company sizes, or industries. If you’re in the B2C space, consider demographics, interests, or buying habits. Use these indicators to develop screening questions at the beginning of your experiment. This will ensure you only receive data from those in your target population. You may want to consider asking questions like:
- Which of the following industries do you work in?
- Which of the following teams or departments are you a part of?
- What is your current position?
- What is the size of your company?
- Please select your age range below.
- Which of the following genders do you identify with?
- What is your annual household income?
- How often do you shop for [X]?
After that, your survey questions will depend entirely on your content research goals.
If you want to know the best social channels to distribute your content through, ask respondents which they use frequently. If you're looking to create a new content series, you may want to ask with format(s) your audience prefers to interact with.
Recently, we ran our own content study to find out what our target audience finds most useful and engaging. Below is a graph from the SightX platform showing their preferred content formats- as always, video wins big.
Simple Metrics to Track
While web analytics data may not be able to give you the in-depth insights that content research can, you can still use this data to track and benchmark your performance over time. This will help you to understand if you are indeed on the right track for meeting the expectations of your audience.
Depending on your ultimate objectives, there are a variety of KPIs that you may choose to track. If you're interested in increasing your reach and attracting new visitors to your website, you may consider monitoring:
- New Users: Simply, the number of new users that visited your website.
- Unique Pageviews: This metric aggregates pageviews that are generated by the same user during a single session. Meaning, if a person looked at the same page multiple times in one session, it would only be counted as a 1-pageview.
- Search Terms: Depending on the tools you use, you may be able to track the search terms people use to find your content. Keep a close eye on this data and adjust your keyword placement and strategy if you notice your blog isn’t getting the right kind of attention.
And, if you’re goals are to increase engagement, you might instead track
- Pages per Session: The average number of website pages visited during a single session.
- Time on Page: The average time users spend on each page.
- New vs Returning Users: The ratio of people returning to your website when compared to those entering for the first time (on that device).
Content Research Best Practices
- Set Goals & Objectives Early: Gather your team and any/all stakeholders for a (zoom) meeting to hash out the specific details of your content research project. During this meeting, make sure to get a clear understanding of what everyone is looking to get out of the study before it begins.
- Get Creative: Don’t shy away from trying something new. Once you have your first content research study under your belt, consider concept testing your content. Or, add heatmaps into the mix to uncover what users find most, and least, engaging.
- Test Frequently: To have the most up-to-date insights on your target audience, you'll need to test frequently. Circle back to your original sample, or reach out to an entirely new group of respondents to keep track of emerging trends or market changes.
Content Research with SightX
The SightX platform is the next generation of market research tools: a single, unified solution for consumer engagement, understanding, advanced analysis, and reporting. It allows marketers, content creators, and creative professionals in any field to deliver content that resonates with their audience.
Remove the guesswork from your current strategy by going directly to the source. Utilize a mix of quantitative and qualitative consumer insights to generate more engaging videos, articles, blogs, infographics, and more.
Request a demo to find out how.