SEO: 5 steps to writing data-driven content that ranks well

September 14, 2021

written by
Andrew Levine

With so many marketing topics and buzzwords bandied about these days, it is difficult to know which ones deserve your attention. “Data-driven Content Strategy” is one such phrase and I am here to tell you to pay attention… and to offer you a step-by-step process to incorporate it into your existing SEO content writing strategy. And if you don’t have an existing strategy, well this will serve as a guide to how to start an effective one.


What does Data-Driven Content Strategy mean?

Let’s break it down. “Content” – for this particular discussion – is the text that is included on your website, blog, social media or other online presence. Therefore, “content strategy” is a means to plan, to write, and to manage such content. Now what does “data-driven” actually mean? It means that you are making decisions based on data analysis. So, putting it all together – “data-driven content strategy” is when your writing is guided on what conclusive information has been gathered about your intended audience. If that sounds scientific, that’s because it is scientific – and what better way to approach marketing than with sound science?

Data-Driven Content Strategy Process

step 1: what is the goal of your content?

Data does not necessarily have to be the driving force behind identifying the purpose of why you are writing content in the first place. Clearly, you want some kind of audience to read your content. What are your expectations of that audience once they are reading or have read your content? Sometimes the goal is as simple as introducing them to your brand or services. Maybe you’re trying to have them complete some conversion point: a phone call, a lead form submission or even e-commerce. Maybe it is some combination of these. Whatever your objectives are, they need to be identified from the get-go. This is the purpose behind your whole strategy and will help guide you through your data research.


step 2: who is your audience?

Consider your data sources here. Does your website have some kind of analytics gathering data on your visitors? Google Analytics, Google Search Console and Google Ads – for instance – offer you a vague peak under the hood, and can show you some general information about your audience’s demography, employment, income level, and buying habits. Do you already collect voluntary data about your audience using questionnaires, surveys or other forms? Do you maintain a customer relationship management database (CRM) of some kind? These are all great places to find data that you may already have about your audience. And if you are looking to collect new data, consider exploring online forums of topics that interest your audience. Gather intel on what these people are talking about so you know what they want to read. And finally, research your competition – find out how they communicate with their audience.


step 3: what are you writing about?

There is a choice you have to make here. And both choices are valid. Do you want to write about a topic so obscure or niche that ranking well for it won’t be terribly difficult? Or do you want to write about a very popular subject where there will be lots of competition for the top ranks of organic search results? Ideally, you want to write about something that is both popular but where there isn’t much competition. To help you choose the right topic, you are going to need to do some research. I bet you knew I was going to advise you that because 1) this post is about data-driven content writing and 2) you are brilliant. Ostensibly at this point, you know the goal of your writing and what your audience is interested in. So in many ways, you’ve already done the research for this step. However, there are few easy resources to help validate and even narrow down your topic. Of course there are a lot of fancy SEO tools that can help identify popular topics (many of which I use), but sometimes it is as easy as posing a question to Google. For instance, for this article, I could have very well begun my topic research by querying Google: What is data-driven content?

In the results, I would not only see what other top-ranking sites have written about the subject, but Google might also offer me “People also ask” and related searches to explore. So rather quickly, I have a lot of data about what people are actually searching for. I know which questions they are asking and I can see what Google’s AI currently “thinks” are the best answers to those questions.

Another tool to check out – one which emulates Google’s autocomplete functionality and delivers to you Google’s data in one shot is Keyword Tool Dominator.


step 4: which keywords should i use for SEO?

Now that you know what you are writing about, you will want to be sure to include keyword phrases that are relevant to your topic and highly sought by your audience. And yes, these selections ought to be data-driven too. As with topic research, there are lots of fancy tools out there which help identify the optimal keyword phrases to use (check out Moz’s Keyword Explorer and SEMRush’s Keyword Magic Tool, for instance), but once again simple Google queries are a great place to begin. Start typing in what you think is a typical keyword query for your audience on the topic and Google will start to suggest popular searches. Once you perform a search, pay attention to the related search suggestions as those are based on relevancy and popularity too. Other easy sources to research include your Google Analytics, Google Ads and Google Search Console. With these, you can see which keyword phrases people are already using to find your site and even how you are ranking in Google for them. If you are looking for new SEO keyword phrases, consider the Keyword Planner tool (if you have an active Google Ads account). Once again, type in the phrase or phrases you think your audience might be searching for and see what the Keyword Planner tool suggests. Pay particular attention to the average monthly search volume figures; this data will help you know how popular a search phrase is. For the latest analysis of popular search topics in various regions, consider Google Trends. And finally, you should analyze your competitive landscape – which keyword phrases are your competitors using in articles about similar topics.


step 5: write data-driven content that ranks well

Now that you have your goal, you know your audience, what you are writing about and which keyword phrases you are going to use, all that’s left to do is write your data-driven content. 


Some basic guidelines for writing good SEO content:

  1. Use your keyword phrases in prominent places. This means in headers, toward the top of the content, and/or emphasized somehow (larger font, bold, italics).
  2. Use your keyword phrases in your HTML Page Title element, but be cognizant of the length of your title. The MOZ Title Tag Tool is a great resource to preview when the length of your title tag may get truncated in Google’s search engine results page.
  3. Use your keyword phrases in your Meta Description, but keep the overall length of your description at or below 150 characters (including spaces). Most word processors have a character count tool, but in case you cannot find yours, here is a web-based character counting application.

Data Never Rests

Once you’ve published your content, data should continue to play a role as you need to monitor and assess your content’s traffic. Use analytics software to track your success. How well did the content achieve your goal? Did you get a lot of new introductions to your brand and services? Did you get a lot of form fills? E-commerce conversions? Is your audience staying long enough to read your content? Also, check over time to see the kind of traffic your content is attracting. Is it the audience you targeted or something else? Are people finding your content using your chosen SEO keyword phrases? Which sources are they using to get to your content?


Before you write your next piece of content, consider following the 5 steps I have outlined in order to get the most out of your efforts. Simply put, the data-driven content strategy process is to use available data to: 1) Identify your goals 2) Get to know your audience 3) Choose a topic they want to read 4) Find SEO keyword phrases and 5) Write data-driven, optimized content. Investing your pre-writing time into research will pay off… and you will have the data you need to prove it.

Happy writing!