The biggest falsehood I encounter/tell myself/see other people tell themselves is that content marketing creative strategy is separate from data and analytics. While content marketing is certainly a practice that requires creativity and outside-the-box thinking, it is also fueled by data. In fact, data is really at the core of all successful content marketing strategy.

One of the greatest assets to digital marketing online practices is that everything can be tracked. You can know how many people visit your website, how long they stay there, the exact terms they’re searching for, how they found your website, and so much more. Every last component of digital marketing is trackable, so why would content marketing be any different?

While the importance of using data may seem obvious for content marketing, a whopping 65% of marketers still aren’t able to determine which content is and is not effective. Check out these figures:

b2bcontentmarketers Data is the Core of Content Marketing: Here's How to Use it

Notice any similarities between some of the challenges on this list? Quite a few of them highlight the relationship between content performance and data. This explains why content marketers, despite knowing the importance of data, are still ignoring the necessity of it. We spend so much time trying to churn out new content and find the next angle that we never stop to analyze the existing pieces of content strategy. This is an issue, because without stopping to adequately analyze what has and hasn’t worked, your efforts could be blind or misguided.

The Future of Content Marketing is Data-Driven

As the internet becomes more saturated with content and information, data becomes increasingly important. Your content marketing can be creative-inspired, but should ultimately be data-driven. As the understanding and power of using data to drive creative strategy catches on, tracking the performance of your content becomes less of a suggestion than it is an outright necessity. Plus, if the top producers of content online are already using data to guide their strategy, then you’re already behind.

How to Get Started

Part of the problem is that adding another factor into the content marketing mix can be a pain, because you’re trying to juggle brainstorming, production, outreach, sharing, and everything else all at once. Another part of the problem is that some content marketers simply don’t know where to start. But integrating the use of data and analytics doesn’t have to be overly complicated or throw off the routines and practices you currently have in place. Below are a few good places to start paying attention to the analytics behind your blog or business website to make data a focal point of your strategy.

  • Monitor Engagements

Engagements are indicators of success, which is why tracking them with a critical eye is so important. On a topical level, you can see which content is performing the best based on how many users are engaging with it. You can then use that information to try and find similarities between content pieces that draw the most engagement. For example, maybe there’s a certain style of headline that your audience responds favorably to or a content format that always results in a high number of shares.

Compellingly, a study by Chartbeat revealed that users who spend at least 3 minutes viewing or reading content return to and recall the brand twice as often as users who spend one minute or less on the page. By tracking engagements thoroughly (shares, comments, time spent on page, etc.), you can use this metric to identify what makes top performing content resonate with users.

  • Measure Growth

It’s a rare and unlikely occurrence that a brand’s online presence blooms to full growth overnight without any notice. Most of the time, the growth of an audience and development of an online presence is deliberate, with special attention paid to measuring growth. Whether it’s weekly or monthly, measuring growth is a big part of using data to understand the performance and needs of your blog or website.

Growth charts can illustrate the momentum (or lack thereof) of your online presence so that you can set deliberate, well-researched goals that continue to advance your brand in a feasible, sustainable manner. Monitoring the growth of your brand in terms of something like followers or subscribers can also help you better track the aforementioned engagements. Ideally-and typically-your engagements and website growth will have a proportional relationship that helps you more clearly identify which parts of your content strategy work and which don’t.

  • Track Referral Sources

Understanding where your internet traffic comes from is essential to knowing how and where to reach and target your audience. Where your users are before they land on your website can reveal a lot about the behavior of your users as well as what the most effective outreach and advertising strategies are to get users in your funnel. And if you haven’t been paying attention to it already, finding a way to improve your referral traffic might be the missing piece of your content strategy.

Keeping an eye on your referral traffic in Google analytics illuminates the channels that are the best use of your time. Think of it like this: if you write a guest blog every week for another website and receive an insignificant amount of referral traffic from it, but comment on discussions on reddit or LinkedIn weekly and receive a lot of referral traffic from it, which is the better use of your time? If more of your traffic comes to your website from Facebook than it does Shopify, where should you spend the majority of your advertising dollars? Tracking your referral sources can save you time, energy, and money while helping you better achieve results.

Where to Find Your Website Data

All of this comes under the assumption that you have (or will have) a Google Analytics account. It’s the most widely used, free analytics service on the internet and will show you everything you need to know about your engagements, growth, referral sources, and more. While many brands and businesses have a Google Analytics account, not everyone uses it to the extent that they should. Don’t let your Google Analytics account sit dormant; instead, use that data to drive your content marketing strategy.