James Perrin

A Guide to Data-Driven Content Marketing

26th Feb 2013 Content Marketing Blog, SEO Blog 9 minutes to read

Data-driven content marketingThe world of Content Marketing has come a long way since the days of old-hat techniques; we’re very much in the age of creating exceptional, unique content that stands out and adds real value to your audience. One of the best ways to achieve this is with data-driven content. Here’s a guide to how it can be done.

So What Is Data-Driven Content?

It’s pretty much what it says on the tin, content that has been created off the back of data and research. Whether this is from market research, surveys, questionnaires, or even existing public data from various online resources, data-driven content must be part of your Content Marketing arsenal.

It’s a practice that has really been born out of what’s known as data-driven journalism, whereby a journalist would take a data set and turn this into a news item or story. The art of data-driven content comes with how you actually present the data, and turn this into something newsworthy, readable, sharable and so on. Great data does not always mean great content, this is where the art of storytelling comes into play. A strong storyteller can make even the worst data come to life; so imagine how powerful really unique data with a great storyteller could be?

Applying This Principle

For example, the Guardian have been way ahead of the game when it comes to this. A while back they put together an amazing resource of data driven posts on their Data Blog for the world to see and use. Click on any of the blog posts contained therein for an example of this type of content.

Whilst a lot of the items are news related, it does give you a great insight into the potential when it comes to creating data-driven content. Exactly how this can be achieved will be highlighted in this guide, along with commercial examples that may help inspire you, whether you’re working in-house or for an agency. The following steps will help when applying the principles of data-driven journalism to Content Marketing.

1. What Do You Want To Uncover?

  • Discovering a unique, uncovered area

The best place to start is to think about the industry you’re looking to create this data-driven content, and establish what has been created before and uncover any niche areas. This will also help you get a better idea of how to actually amass your data. For example, you may be looking into existing mobile phone trends amongst over 50s. If you do a bit of digging, you might find pre-existing research. If you can’t, or it’s not up-to-date, this could be a great area to revisit and update any research.

  • Asking the right questions

Think about what you want to get from the data. In our example of over 50s mobile phone usage, you might want to get a better idea of the following:

– How often they use their phones
– The type of manufacturer they use
– How much are they willing to spend per month
– Contract or pay as you go
– How often they use the internet
– How many apps do they download
– What type of apps they download

  • Adding the right data-sets

Once you’ve thought about the right questions to ask, you’ll start to paint a picture of the data sets and subsequent responses. Of course, you’ll never know exactly what they’ll say, but by thinking about the bigger picture you can start to understand what it is that you’ll be getting from your research. For example, the previous questions are centred around the following sets of data:

– Hours per day (phone)
– Manufacturer
– Cost
– Type of mobile phone plan
– Hours per day (internet)
– Number of Apps
– Type of Apps

And once you have your hands on this data, you’ll be able to draw correlations between data sets, and answer the following types of questions:

Is there a relationship between mobile phone manufacturer and the amount someone over 50 spends on their mobile phone each day?

Do the types of apps used relate to how much money someone over 50 is willing to spend each month?

As you can see, just by thinking about the industry and the types of findings you want, you’ll know exactly what to ask, and how to ask it.

2. Getting Your Data


Good data is not hard to find, you just have to be creative and resourceful. Now, depending on what type of data-driven content you are looking create, you should consider some of the following methods: (any could be applicable to our over 50s mobile phone example, it just depends what’s already out there, as well as your time and resources)

  • Surveys

Services like Survey Monkey, YouGov, OnePoll are excellent at creating surveys to gather data. Some of these services will even have the surveys completed for you as well; however, if you’re looking for targeted responses, you’re better off hosting a questionnaire or survey on your site instead.

  • Questionnaires

As mentioned, another way is to create a questionnaire and host this in your site. One way of doing this is to have the questionnaire hosted as a blog post, free for your website users to complete. Alternatively, you could host this as a survey for customers to complete after purchasing. By combining this with a prize draw, you’ll entice more customers to complete the questionnaire.

  • Public Data

Generating unique data is the best way to create really unique content, but you do not necessarily need to go to the trouble; there are resources of public data for you use. For example, there are a number of Market Research companies (Ipsos MORI for example) and Think Tanks across a number of different sectors, which provide a rich source of insightful data. Google even release some of their own data with Google Consumer Surveys, where you can also create surveys too.

  • Other resources

There are so many places to find data, all thanks to the Internet. Simply type into Google “[Keyword] market research”, “[Keyword] consumer research”, “[Keyword] data sets”, and any other variation. Additionally, there are other resources such as GapMinder, and other sites of this ilk.

3. How To Analyse Your Data


This is worthy of blog post in itself. Analysing data is an art and science, where you can find trends and insights hidden amongst all that raw data. You just need the right tools and skills to be able to extrapolate that data and draw up correlations. Two tools I have used are:

  • Excel

Using commands like VLOOKUP, as well as Pivot tables you’ll be able to make correlations between data sets. However for more sophisticated data analysis, I recommend using:

  • SPSS

This will allow you to compare multiple data sets, taking into account a variety of variables too. Using analysis from ANOVA, correlations, t-tests, and so much more you’ll be able to delve deeper into your raw data to find those standout findings.

4. Presenting Your Data and Storytelling

Human infographic vector illustration. World Map and Information

The way in which you visualise your data is key. I highly recommend using the expertise of a developer or designer, but if you don’t have access to this, use some of the following visualisation tools:

Jon Cooper over at Point Blank SEO has devised this extensive list of data visualisation tools.

Visualising your data is one thing, but creating well written content around it is something else. It’s all well and good giving your audience graphs and tables to read, but if you add content to it, it’ll make those facts and figures come to life. This is where good storytelling is key. Let’s look at some examples.

Whilst Ok Cupid is a bit of an overused example, there is a reason for this; they got their Content Marketing totally spot-on. Take this blog post about the best questions for a first date as an example. From the data that Ok Cupid receives from its customers, they are able to tell us some really interesting insights. But they don’t just present us with raw data; no, they frame it in such a way to make it incredibly useful. This will take a bit of imagination, creativity, and a fair bit of head scratching to calculate, but by doing so, you’ll be able to provide your reader with something they wouldn’t have necessarily seen anywhere before.

If we take out Mobile phone usage for the over 50s as an example, from the data we collated, we could potentially have really unique, compelling, attractable, sharable content. For example, from the correlations we wanted to figure out, we could potentially see the following titles for our content:

Is there a relationship between mobile phone manufacturer and the amount someone over 50 spends on their mobile phone each day?

“Grey Phone: iPhone is most popular smartphone for over 50s”

Do the types of apps used relate to how much money someone over 50 is willing to spend each month?

“Travel apps most popular amongst wealthy over 50s”

It is also recommended to make the data available, to add validity to your content. However, this is entirely up to you and your client.

5. Make The Most of What You’ve Got

After going to the trouble of sourcing all of this information, why not maximise its potential by creating several different types of content. Whilst it’s not wise to simply repeat or duplicate the content across several different types of content activities, depending on the amount of data you have, consider taking on different angles, or providing different data in each type of content. As an example, consider creating any of the following using your data:

  • Blog Post
  • Guest Post
  • Infographic
  • Whitepaper / User guide
  • Slides
  • Conduct a presentation
  • Social Media updates

6. Make sure it gets seen

There’s no point in creating such content for it to stagnate on your blog. So make sure you promote it using the following methods:

  • If you’ve used someone else’s data, tell them, show them what you’ve created using it and ask them to promote it using their social media channels, or even link to it on the website
  • Outreach to bloggers / journalists with exclusive insights into your niche area
  • Present your findings in a way that’ll attract the attention of specific industries, companies, demographics etc.

If we go back to our mobile phone example, from our findings it’s possible to outreach to tech bloggers, tabloid journalists, as well as over 50 specific sites and organisations with our content and findings. Ask them to promote your content on their sites, blogs, social media sites and so on.

So there you have it, my guide to creating data-driven content. I hope I have inspired you to get out there and gather as much data as you can. If you have any extra tips or tools to use throughout this process, please share your thoughts below.

Image Credits:

Graphs, charts, business table from BigStock

Human Infographic Vector Illustration from BigStock


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