Effective content marketing starts with a content strategy. The content strategy is the stage where you research and plan before taking action to develop your content. It is where you address the big questions such as why and who. To develop an effective content strategy you need insights and to develop insights you require data. Actually to quote Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute you need data, data and more data.

Why your content strategy needs data and insights

The first step in content strategy is defining your business objective and being clear on who are you targeting. This will typically involve developing buyer personas so you understand who you’re creating content for and their needs. Thus you need insights into what content your buyers engage with.

The need for insights was reinforced recently by Michael Brenner who argues that “brands need data and insights to create effective content. This includes social listening, data integration and reporting that defines where customers are consuming content, which content works and what topics are interesting to your customers.” Michael expands on this argument in his recent post how big data Is driving content marketing strategies.

Content insights create competitive advantage

According to Gartner Vice President information and insights are becoming the competitive assets that drive business advantage and this applies equally to content strategies.

There is no shortage of information in the world today. It is insights that will provide the source of your competitive advantage. For example, you can develop a much more effective content strategy if you know:

  • Who is engaging with your content and why

  • Who is engaging with your competitor content and why

  • What content is getting the most engagement in your topic area or industry

  • What content formats are working best and across which networks

Tools that help create content insights

No tool gives you all the answers to the questions above but there are tools that provide data and information in a format which allows you to gain competitive insights. The types of tools you can use include:

  • Website analytics – what content on your site is driving your conversions and lead page completions

  • Google trends – to track trending search terms are for a particular topic and related keywords

  • Topsy or TwazzUp – to search for the most recent Tweets for any topic area and see what is being discussed

  • BuzzSumo – to search for the most shared content in a topic area, your most shared content or your competitors most shared content

A Case Study – Gamification

Let’s say you are an education company looking that is using gamification to build better training and you want to develop a content strategy. You could start your data collection by typing Gamification into Google trends.

We can instantly see it is a growing search term. With Google trends we can filter by country and we can also see related search terms and rising search terms. In the image below the top related search terms are on the left and top rising search terms are on the right.

We can therefore see that people are currently searching for gamification examples. We might want to tap into this interest by providing gamification case studies or examples.

We can see there is also a distinction between those searching for education gamification and business gamification. We might be interested to explore business gamification as it is the top rising search term.

With BuzzSumo we can take this a stage further and look at the most shared articles on business gamification.

In addition to analysing the most shared content across the networks we can filter by content types such as articles, infographics and videos. In this way we can see what content, what headlines and what formats users are engaging with.

We can dive further with BuzzSumo to see who shared each article. We can also search for influencers in gamification as shown below.

We can see that Mike Martoccia is a key influencer in this area and take a look at the links he shares as shown below.

The content Mike shares the most is from gamification.co. What is it about their content that makes it so engaging? We can have a look at the most shared content on gamification.co and draw some conclusions by typing the domain into BuzzSumo, which produces the results below:

We can then take this analysis a step further by reviewing who is sharing these articles and on which networks they are being shared; and use these insights to inform our own content strategy.

You can supplement your data analysis by asking people directly what they liked about an article and why they shared it. With the ‘View Sharers’ feature on BuzzSumo you can see who shared a popular article and filter them by reach, authority, blogger, journalist etc., to find the right people to reach out and ask.


Effective content marketing starts with a content strategy and the best content strategies draw on competitive insights based on hard data. If you want to improve your content strategy it is time to start collecting and analysing the right data.

I would love to hear about the tools you use to gather data and create insights and your thoughts on creating insights.