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How To Create a Perfect Data-Driven Content Strategy
This duo promises to show how to make analytics data the bedrock of a great content strategy, using tools you don’t need to be an analytics guru to master. Find out how data can help you reach your audience, maintain (and reality-check) your content strategy and define and achieve success online.
Speakers: Elizabeth McGuane, lead content strategist at LBi London, and Randall Snare, content strategy lead at iQ Content in Dublin
Quote marks indicate direct quotes. If there aren’t quote marks, it’s paraphrased.
I didn’t think it was possible to feel like more of a nerd at a word nerd conference, but having to sit in the very front row next to the projector because that was the only table space spot left has done the trick. This room is packed. Is it the session topic? Is it the popularity of Mapped, the content strategy blog these ladies co-write? Is it Randall’s cropped olive green jacket with red-and-white silk stripe lining, horizontal gray-and-black pinstriped skirt and black peeptoe kitten heels?
What they said
“The problem isn’t really getting the data. It’s knowing what to do with it,” Randall said. So, as Elizabeth said, “a big part of strategy is the understanding and application of content.” Context is the story behind the strategy. Data shows us a perspective of that story.
What is data?
- Analytics data: Keywords can help you understand what content people want to find on your site. Navigation summaries can help you see what information people actually find on your site. “Next page” can help you learn which content does not engage on your site.
- User testing data: User testing can show what effect your analytics data indicates. Consider videos that show how content frustrates them. User testing can show what people understand when they read. Consider a cloze test.
- Metadata: Metadata is a core part of content strategy. It gives content longevity, because it supports information architecture. It also has “extensibility” as it connects content to the semantic web. Metadata is more than a search tool—it needs to reflect the content, the business and accommodate future plans.
- My so-called data: Some of the struggles content strategists have are analyzing things that can be considered subjective. We can help make this part more scientific. For example, Kristina Halvorson created a tone chart.
- Useless data: Sometimes people cling to a piece of data because it’s safe. But you have to ease it out of their hands, and you do have to ignore it.
How do we incorporate data into our work?
“We have to be the advocate for the user, and we have to be the advocate for quality,” Elizabeth said. What questions do you ask when you’re starting a project? Where would you go to find the answers?
- Analytics: Look at search terms to see what topics people are looking for.
- Social data: Do a listening audit to see what the wider world is concerned about around your subject.
- User testing: Talk to real users of your site to see what’s missing and what’s valuable to them.
- Location-based data: Look at statistics in your area to focus your topics.
You have to put the data into context. “Data itself is not the answer. Insight is the answer,” Elizabeth said.
We have several years of data showing we have all of this bad content, but our UI department says we can’t test it. What do I do?: If you don’t need a budget to get the testing done, then go ahead and do cloze testing. Especially if you can tie it to the result: is the content helping users buy?
Can you talk about the page views and time on site and this idea that “stickiness” is a good thing? Because I think “stickiness” could indicate that the content is confusing. For page views, put the data in context. One extremely popular page may not be your audience. Where is the traffic coming from? Is it your audience? Look before and after the page views. For stickiness, look at the wider navigation summaries. Are they going to a page, but then going back to the home page and searching? That’s a clue the content they’re spending a lot of time on is confusing.
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