Marketing Best Practices

Selling Science to Artists: 5 Data-Focused Tips for Content Creators

Bill Fanning By Bill Fanning April 19, 2016

Over the last 8 years, I’ve worked with a lot of marketers, from mega-brands to startups. I’ve seen all kinds of interesting (and not so interesting) digital experiences created to attract and engage a target audience. The best ones strike a balance between three key activities:

  • Creation – building compelling content that engages its audience with a consistent and timely publishing process.
  • Promotion – an outbound and inbound plan to reach the target audience.
  • Measurement – a well-architected backend to measure and optimize performance.

Interesting content marketing programs that drive business value require the artist, the promoter, and the scientist to work in harmony with a shared purpose. None can be successful without the others.

The Balance of Art and Science in Marketing

Who fills the role of artist and scientist varies depending on company size:

  • At large brands with well funded publishing programs, each role can be managed by separate teams. The creative teams write and edit content, the promotions team distributes and optimizes the content, and the analytics team measures performance.
  • Small to mid-sized companies have the artist, the promoter, and the scientist all within the same small group.
  • In the startup world, however, there is usually one person who balances each discipline to make the program work.

My current company helps brands license existing content from bloggers, moving both the text and redirecting the traffic to the brand. We focus on already-performing content to help drive a sustainable target audience. This combined focus on content and performance constantly puts us on the fence between the creative side (content producers who care about digital experience) and the business side (marketers who care about promotion and measurement). The joke internally is that we often sell art to scientists and science to artists.

The struggle to build strong, creative content that meets the business needs is real, especially for creative types who have little experience on the performance and science side of the equation. Here are a few tips we often give to artists who need help with the science of marketing his or her content to drive business results.

Tip 1: Define the Purpose of Your Content

This can vary widely depending on your company, its offering, and your current audience participation and engagement. Decide whether you are creating content for the top or bottom of your demand funnel. Most inbound marketers use content marketing to attract a top-of-funnel audience. If your business is not philosophically aligned with engaging your audience at this stage and only wants to drive conversions, you’ll likely want to focus more on transactional content.

Tip 2: Understand Your Traffic

Traffic is a good leading indicator for showing performance, but with a little additional digging, you can get a more qualitative look at the source of traffic and its behavior. We strongly encourage getting familiar with the basics of your web analytics platform. If this is not something you’re willing to do (everyone is able), find someone within your organization who can help you test and answer questions about your site traffic.

Tip 3: Invest in Organic Traffic Growth

While promoting content to your community who opted in to hear from you (email subscription, social, etc.) is great, it tends to drive sporadic performance with traffic bumps after each content push. In addition, you’re limited to reaching folks who already know who you are. Don’t neglect building your organic traffic. This will help you build a long-lasting sustainable content program with consistently engaged readers who are visiting because they’ve searched on a topic relevant to your brand. You’ll tend to drive far more brand awareness from an audience who may not know of your business.

Tip 4: Dig into Engagement

Engagement can’t be measured in social shares alone. We recommend a few simple data points to better understand engagement: Time on site, pageviews per session, return visits, and goal completions (conversions). An interesting correlation we’ve found is that, as your search engine rankings improve, your bounce rate will usually increase as well. This is why we believe bounce rate by itself usually doesn’t tell you much.

Tip 5: Evaluate Your Entire Conversion Path

If you’re only judging an article’s value by number of conversions from that page (last click attribution), you’re missing most of the story.

In Summary

Some of these tips may be obvious to seasoned content marketers, but I’m constantly surprised by how often we need to reinforce them, even with experienced folks.

Now go forth and conquer, artists!

Bill Fanning is COO at Written, an Audience Licensing platform for Content Marketers. He has 20 years of experience leading business development and growth for various software and service companies. The last 8 years have been focused on serving major brand and retail marketers with content solutions.  

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