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What's Missing From Your Content Strategy Research?

Date published: February 02, 2015
Last updated: February 2, 2015

According to the 2014 CMI Content Marketing Survey, only 63 percent of marketers feel their content marketing is effective. I’ve spent the past 18 months with a team of skilled digital marketers getting to the root of this content marketing downfall. And (mostly) it’s not a problem of bad content; it’s a matter of not reaching the right audience – or even any audience at all.

We’ve found the key to successful content marketing is ensuring that a content strategy includes a promotion strategy and not just a creation strategy. The concept of a promotion strategy is easy enough to understand: Make a plan to get your content in front of your audience. But for many, this is way outside of the content marketing box. Heck, sometimes it even overlaps with the PR box.

Conducting Research for Content Strategy

As a content marketer, where do you start researching for a content strategy? How do you ensure your audience finds your content? Let’s take a look at the four research points each content strategy needs to effectively engage the target audience:

  • Audience: Will this content aid your audience along in the purchasing journey?
  • Competition: Does this content already exist? And if so, is it highly engaged?
  • Media: Where is your audience searching for content related to your products, services, and industry? Which influencers are they looking to? What online communities, forums, and social networks are they interacting with?
  • Trends: Once you’ve figured out where they are online, what are they talking about? What questions aren’t being answered? What are their pain points and concerns? How and why are they seeking information?

Content Strategy Research

Audience and Competition are likely already part of your content marketing strategy, but it’s possible that Media and Trends are not. Critically thinking about the media and the trends that your target audience are sharing, building and participating in will ensure your content strategy is promotable.

Media research uncovers publications your audience reads, experts your audience follows and social channels your audience engages with. These are all promotion opportunities. Get your content on these publications, shared by these experts and in front of active social users, and you’re significantly upping the chances that your content will get read.

Step One: Identify publications and experts

At DigitalRelevance, we create digital marketing strategies for enterprise companies. We understand we’re most successful when we work with clients who are searching for marketing partners to guide research, strategy, and execution. Our audience often has pain points such as:

  • Low engagement of content marketing campaigns
  • Aggressive lead generation goals
  • Lack of resources to thoroughly research and execute marketing campaigns

They’re all working through these pain points by consuming content, so we go where the content is:

  • Content Marketing Institute
  • Mashable
  • Moz
  • Other marketing publications specializing in resources content

And we look at influencers like Rand Fishkin, Jay Baer, Mark Schaefer and Ross Simmonds to see how they’re discussing and solving these pain points with content.

We identify the top shared and engaged content. We look at which influencers would be ideal to share our content. We look at which publications align with our audience perfectly. We look at social channels to know where to focus paid efforts, which hashtags to use and which communities to engage with.

Try using there free tools to navigate to these publications and influencers:


Identify top shared content for a particular topic area.

content-strategy-research-buzzsumoHashtag Scout

Find the hashtags your audience and their influencers are using.


Search twitter bios to identify influencers in your industry.

content-strategy-research-followerwonkAnd here’s what we come away with:

content-strategy-research-mediaStep Two: Identify content topics

Now that we’ve got the “where” and “who” to engage our audience, let’s look for the "what".

As you’re evaluating the top publications and influencers, extract highly shared and engaged articles. From here, perform a sentiment analysis, identifying the topics, pain points, and questions that are connecting with the influencers in your audience.

content-strategy-research-trendsThis process can be very time-consuming, but you’ll come away with insights that will help ensure your success. Use your findings to:

  • Drive the focus areas of the content you create.
  • Include influencers and experts in the content you create – quote them, invite to participate – and, if you’ve got the budget, commission them.
  • Pitch your content to the media to let relevant editors at top publications know about an asset you’ve created.
  • Have an expert from your company contribute to the publications you’ve identified as the top sites your audience reads.
  • Share your content on the communities and social media channels your audiences engages with most.
  • Use the hashtags your audience is using.

Integrating the media and trends insights from your research to capitalize on your findings will help ensure your content is optimized to reach the influencers that reach your audience. Go the extra mile to not only make content that connects with your audience, but to create content that your audience will actually find.

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