Through careful development and smart distribution, even the smallest companies can make a big splash in a saturated market with content. But the lower bar to entry doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easier.
Quite the opposite in fact.
That very saturation makes it increasingly hard to get the topic, timing, layout, and distribution of content just right – to hit the perfect point at which everything comes together and a blog post or video hits critical mass.
Fortunately, the recent push toward inbound marketing strategies has created a new market for tools that help with this. From tools that help generate buzz-generating blog post topics to analytics tools that scour the web for hot articles based on your topic search, you can make better informed decisions than ever before planning your campaigns.
Here are three tactics I currently use to ensure the content being developed will resonate as strongly as possible with our target audience.

1. Use Content Exploration Tools

Buzz Sumo has quickly become one of the most powerful research tools in my library for content development. The full version of the software does a LOT of cool stuff, but the most basic feature is its “Top Content” search. Here’s how that looks:
In the above I typed in “board games” to see which articles are being shared most on the topic of board games. By far and away, the December article about the Green Bay Packers’ obsession with Catan took the “Share” crown. Further down, we find various quizzes, a Lifehacker flow chart, and an odd article about Ouija. This data isn’t exactly conclusive, but if I dig deeper to more realistic share counts here’s what I find:
These are more up my alley. When I produce my board game podcast, this is the kind of data I’m looking for – insights into what people are reading and sharing in the hobby.
Buzz Sumo isn’t the only tool out there that offers this. AHREFs.com does the same thing along with its powerful backlink analysis tools – so if you’re managing SEO/SEM for your organization, it may be a better fit, but for straight content creation Buzz Sumo is a must.

2. Place Heat Maps on Your Content

The easiest metric for analyzing the effectiveness of any one website page is the bounce rate. The higher your bounce rate the less effectively your content captures the attention of your audience. There are other factors of course. Poor design, bad mobile experience, broken links, or unrelated images can all have negative effects on bounce rate as well, but in the end content is king.
To help improve bounce rate and get a better sense of what works and what doesn’t, we use heat mapping tools, specifically Crazy Egg. Here’s what that looks like:
For as little as $10/month you can see where people click, where they move their mouse, and where they move before they leave the site. The more hits your content gets, the more effectively this software helps analyze performance, so it’s not ideal for sites with low traffic, but if you get 1,500 hits/month or more it can help you determine what changes are needed.

3. Search Traffic to Specific Posts and Titles

This was a lot easier five years ago. Google no longer provides search data in their analytics for 92% of searches, so it’s left to creative marketers to reverse engineer the specific search that brought someone to a website.
What we DO know however is:

  • Volume of organic search traffic
  • The landing pages people find when searching
  • Rankings for specific keywords across the site

With these three data sets we can work backwards and get a general sense of what people are searching for when they find specific pages or posts on our websites. Here’s what that data looks like for boardgamersanonymous.com:
As you can see, 94% of searches are “(not provided)”. The rest is such a small breakdown as to be useless. However, if we include a Secondary Dimension for Destination Pages we can dig a bit deeper:
Now we’re getting somewhere. We can see that 13% of our search traffic is going to “Kemet vs. Cyclades”, an episode we produced in August of last year comparing these two games. Our next three highest ranking pages are:

  • King of Tokyo vs. King of New York
  • Tokaido vs. Takenoko
  • Naruto Shippuden vs Street Fighter Deck Building Game

The bounce rates are high, but 31% of our total search traffic is going to four pages that all have the same feature type in them – that’s a lot of very GOOD data.
Working backwards from there, I dropped the URL for Kemet vs. Cyclades and 6 keywords into whatsmyserp.com to see what we’re currently ranking for:
Now I can see which terms we’re ranking for to determine where the majority of that traffic is coming from. It’s not the kind of granularity Google once provided, but this kind of intelligence is exactly what I need to know so I can boost my efforts in creating content that continues to pull this kind of traffic.

Using Data When Creating Content

One of the most interesting things about the sites I just showed you is that, other than Google Analytics, all of these sites can pull data from your competitors. So even if you don’t have enough traffic yet to gather this kind of data from your own content, you can look to see what works and what doesn’t for your competitors.
As an expert in your field there are thousands of things you could write about, but only a select few will hit the mark. Use the tools above to help narrow the field and optimize the time you spend developing new content pieces. If done right, you’ll get more results out of a larger number of pieces on a regular basis.