Is Data Actually Killing Content Marketing?

Ah, the old dichotomy of words versus numbers. The traditional ‘which do you hate more – English class or Math class’ has gotten a modern redux in the form of a content and analytics rivalry.

Marketing’s growing obsession with numbers is a contributor to this. Given that marketing has traditionally been considered a cost center (and an unpredictable one at that) it makes sense that marketers are holding onto the measurable aspects of digital marketing as tightly as possible.

Interestingly, the only other comparable source of buzz in the marketing industry is content marketing. That means that marketing’s most significant preoccupations are at odds with each other in many ways.  The notorious difficulty of measuring content marketing leaves those who only believe in numbers to interpret it as wasteful or ineffective.

When it is measured, content marketing unfortunately doesn’t always reflect success. In fact, many believe that content marketing is dead, isn’t working anymore, or, possibly, never really worked at all — even Content Marketing Institute has acknowledged this.

Some writers and content marketers reject analytics altogether for this reason. Furthermore, some of the more data-minded people at your organization (e.g., your CFO or CMO) might want to write off content marketing as a tactic that simply can’t prove that it’s worth the effort.

The investment in content marketing continues to rise, though. 2015 saw 71% of marketers creating more content than they did in 2014. (WordTracker)

This presents a problem. Nearly everything else in digital is easy to measure and if content practitioners continue to reject numbers and analytics gurus discredit content, this valuable marketing tactic will face potential death.

It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

Everything in marketing must be measured. This new standard isn’t going away anytime soon, but there is still good news for content marketers that are resistant to embracing the role of data.

There doesn’t have to be a war between content and analytics. In fact, those who are using content marketing and data correctly are allowing their content to evolve. Rather than stacking content marketing up against strict measures of numerical success, data can be used to help marketers glean insights on their audience through content. Ultimately, better audience communication is what lies at the intersection of data and content.

Data empowers content to be more than words on a page. It allows content to act as a litmus test for audience interest and engagement.


Striking a Balance Between Content and Data

Of course, rigorously measuring every aspect of content can be unhealthy. There are components of content that can’t and shouldn’t be measured. How do you discover the healthy balance between content and analytics? Read below for actionable tips.

Measure Analytics That Matter

The first step to making content and analytics work together is knowing where to look. Measuring too much or looking at the wrong metrics will lead to an incorrect picture of your content marketing success. You’ll primarily want to be looking at metrics that indicate engagement, such as:

  • Click through rate: This is a great metric to measure for email newsletters, as it shows not just that readers were interested enough to open your email, but they actually took an action to look further into your organization.
  • Shares: When a reader shares your content, it shows a vote of confidence in your brand. It also shows significant interest on the part of the sharer, who went out of his or her way to interact further with your content.
  • Likes: Similar to shares, likes indicate engagement and a willingness to publically show an affinity for a brand.
  • Comments: There are multiple insights you can gain from your comments section. The first being similar to the metrics above—the expression of public interest in a brand. The beauty of comments, though, is that they allow you to have a conversation with your audience and gain real-time feedback on your content efforts.
  • Time Spent on Page: While this metric doesn’t indicate a reader’s willingness to show public interest in content, it could be a more accurate reflection of content success. Many people share content without fully reading it—but those who stick around until the end of a page or article are  dedicated to learning more about your organization.

After keeping tabs on these metrics and establishing a baseline, adapt your strategy as needed based on what drives engagement.


Numbers only tell you half of the story, but they are a necessary half of the story. Once you begin measuring content and working with the resulting insights to further enhance your marketing efforts, you’ll find that the two add more to each other than they take away.


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Did you like this post? Let us know why (or why not) in the comments. In the meantime, check out our blog Facebook vs Google: Choosing Between Digital Advertising Giants to discover why Facebook advertising gives marketers a better bang for their buck.

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