Our content messaging has always reiterated one or both of two things at different points:
- Data is key to any successful strategy and
- Every business should have a thought leadership strategy in place.
Discussing these in isolation is great, but we have done one better today.
We have covered some good ground on the place of thought leadership to any brand, how it drives sales, and how to do it right. We have also exposed insights into how data drives the force for us and the brands that trust us with their content marketing strategy.
In this piece, we marry both concepts together.
These are the data-backed approaches to take for a sustainable, improved thought leadership ROI.
1 Integrate Analytics
One of the tips for sustainable thought leadership is sharing your content across multiple platforms.
Of course, some research must have been done into what channels your target audience is spending their time on for a more seamless, clean content delivery process. This is bound to get overwhelming in the analytics department with time, though.
Maintaining a website, email list and social media accounts alone is a challenge. That, and we have not mentioned other unique channels for content delivery which you have identified for your audience.
Tracking the data across all of these channels can be herculean. The thought leadership team will have to isolate and identify all the data streams from all of their diverse channels, hoping to find a pattern.
This is why that approach is wrong:
All of your audience is not on one channel of content delivery. Furthermore, the reactions on different platforms will not be the same.
For example, it is much easier to get responses/ replies/ reactions to your content on social media than receive an email reply (when nurturing an email list). Thus, you would not be getting the full picture when you analyze only one content channel.
The fix to this is integrating your data sources on a single platform, allowing you to see everything as a single body of big data. Various companies and startups are offering impressive data aggregation tools of this sort.
Sisense is one of such, leveraging AI to help marketers make sense of all the data coming from various sources. Best still, you get to create custom analytics needs on services like this so that you never have to manually evaluate such data anymore.
2 Rank Content
We all look to search engine platforms to rank our content. But should we leave the work to them alone? Probably not.
While you must have done your due diligence to generate SEO-friendly, quality content, you should also check up on the progress of ALL the thought leadership content you are putting out.
Some of the metrics you want to look out for are:
User behavior – some content performs well for some time and it just seems like the audience is not going there anymore. This informs you that something must have changed and you need you to update the said content.
Sometimes, you might just have to pull it down – or create a new piece of content that seeks to address your stance on that thought leadership piece. User behavior will also tell you the bounce rate, the rate at which new and repeat visitors come in, etc. Armed with that data, you can keep every last one of your thought leadership content a top performer.
Engagement Levels – are you getting fewer shares than before? How many comments are you averaging per new visitor to the content? Are your social mentions boarding a rocket or taking a nosedive instead?
ROI – This entire piece is about the ROI of your thought leadership content. In this section, though, you also have to consider that. Check how much you are spending to send traffic to that piece of content, compared to what percentage of that traffic sticks.
A negative ticker on any of the above calls for a revised strategy. The earlier you find out the need for a change, the better.
PS. Let things breathe before you go in to make massive changes. Sometimes, seasonal traffic highs and lows occur. You should be able to spot these too so that you do not make a panic decision and ruin an already amazing piece of thought leadership content.
3 Internal Search
First, we ask that you rank your content. Now we are concerned about your internal search. Almost like we want to make you your own search engine provider.
All jokes asides though, the internal search parameters are something that most publishers do not look at.
When creating a piece of content, marketers are usually more interested in what their potential audience is interested in seeing. The keyword here is ‘potential’ since there is no guarantee of attracting such an audience anyway.
If such search data is deemed important, internal search data is even more important.
The readers on your website have already taken the first step into the door. What they search for (using your internal search engine) is indicative of what they want to see. This data could be the source of some amazing content creation for you.
The best part is that you would be creating content to meet the needs of your established audience. The keyword here is established.
Fortunately, you can get such data from the Google Analytics dashboard. Get the on-site search reports sent to you periodically, extract that data, and see how you can use it to advance your content.
4 Understand your SEO Strengths
Google is a very large company with highly intelligent workers and engineers behind the search engine algorithm. This algo is so effective these days, users are finding it unnecessary to scroll further down on even the first page to get what they need.
That means less traffic is even being sent to the publishers on the first page of content.
Still, you get traffic for keywords you are not ranking in the first place for. Those are the ones we want to target right now.
Explore your Google Search analytics dashboard for those keywords that send you traffic. Identify the keywords with a decent search volume that generates good traffic for you, even though you are not ranking in the top place for it.
The good news is that Google considers you an authority on the subject, enough to send that audience your way.
Leverage that trust Google has put in you to create targeted content around such keywords. That boosts your chances of ranking in the first place. After all, you were still doing decently well when you were not even targeting such keywords.
Note: you would notice that all references to search engines here go back to Google. As you know, that is not because Google is the only search engine out there. It is, however, because they remain the source for over 92% of all search traffic on the web.
5 Know Your Initial Analysis
Everyone seems to be focused on the data analytics from after you have published your thought leadership content. Whatever happened to the data analytics BEFORE that piece of content ever sees the light of day?
The bulk of the work comes before you hit the publish button. There is surely some more work afterwards, but nothing compared to what you have to do to hit the ground running.
When considering putting out a new piece of content, do these analytics and data checks first:
Content Analysis – it is not enough that you know what content you would like to put out. It is enough to know that your target audience would also like to see that piece of content. A part of your content analysis is determining what value you are passing on to the target audience. Search for trending news and topics in the niche for what you can add to your content. That also gives you an understanding of what has already been done so you can advance the discussion. Follow up on that with topic/ heading experiments. The right heading can make a huge difference in clicks. If you can, split test great headings before sticking to anyone.
Keyword Analysis – Now that you know that your audience wants the content, how are they seeking it out? What specific search queries are leading them to the content? Knowing that alone is not enough, either. You also have to know who you are going against with each of the keyword efforts that you are putting in. Starters should always seek out the low-hanging fruit while players who have been in the market for a while can go for medium to high difficulty keywords. As time goes on and authority is built around that topic/ niche, it becomes easier to rank faster for any kind of keyword you choose with minimal efforts.
Competition Analysis – What is your competitor doing right? What can they improve? You are not going to tell them that, of course. You are going to take that knowledge and use it to create a piece of thought leadership content way better than what they managed.
Website Analysis – When choosing keywords, do so with your website authority in mind. This score – which can be calculated with a series of free tools online – gives a fairly accurate report of your blog standing. Website analysis also comes in handy when determining who to link to/ from, what influencers to leverage, and where your guest content will get the most traction.
6 Target Branded Search
As time goes on, your target audience starts to search you out with branded queries. Instead of generic terms, they tell search engines that they are looking for you.
The Google Search Console is a great place to go for such data.
Another advantage of branded searches is that you see the negatives of your brand, if any, through the eyes of your audience. See the words associated with your brand in search queries and how frequently such searches come up. An understanding of that equips your strategy for how to deal with the negative press, perception, or ideas that might be in their minds.
The target audience could also be looking for reviews of your brand, thought leadership champion, etc. Take the opportunity to get some independent review content and social proof set up.
Stay the Course
Data did not tell us this, but we know that you have to stay the course to reap the long-term rewards of thought leadership. The long game is where all the juicy spoils are.
Leverage data the right way as discussed above and you will well be on the way to enjoying those spoils.
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