How You Can Optimize Your Content Marketing in 3 Data-Driven Steps


Today’s article is a guest post by David Cheng of ShareBloc.

Maintaining a steady blog publishing routine is hard to do. At ShareBloc, we try to blog at least two times a week, either on our blog or syndicated elsewhere. We’re a small team so an aggressive schedule can be overwhelming.

To get enough content to keep up the pace, we used data to help us figure out which topics would be most interesting to our readers. Here are the three data-driven steps we took that you also may want to consider.

1. Crowdsource Your Blog Topics

Some of the most prolific blogs have two or three posts a day. We realized that, like any great artist, we could “borrow” from these blogs. We scraped 300 blog titles from some of the leading blogs in our space to see which key words or phrases were most popular.

The blogs we chose were KISSmetrics, Marketo, HubSpot, Social Media Today, Content Marketing Institute, and the leading posts from ShareBloc’s sales and marketing bloc. We used popular scraping tool ScrapingHub to get our titles.

To set up your ScrapingHub spider, select the website you’d like the spider to start scraping and input patterns to follow, along with any other special parameters you may have. In this case, we are asking the spider to start with the most recent posts, and include page two, three, etc.

We want the spider to go only one layer deep to get the post title. So, in the spider setting, I’ve set the depth limit to 1, in order to prevent the spider from entering a loop.

Next, you have to set up the item you want scraped. In this case, we want to scrape only the title.

After you set up your parameters, you can review the pages that have been spidered in the “Pages Spidered” section. From there, add a template to a page that you want to scrape. Identify the item you are scraping and visually pick out what you want scraped. In this case, we are scraping the titles of the posts, identified here by the thin red line.

Afterward, run the spider one more time. Export the scraped items to CSV. Then, remove scraped items that aren’t appropriate, such as those containing “navbar” and “user.” You’ll be left with the URLs and titles that you want.

Once we got our list of blog titles, we used WriteWords to get a download of our words by frequency. After stripping out some of the more common words like “to” and “the,” and grouping words like “marketing” and “marketer” together, some interesting insights were revealed. Here are some of the most popular words:

Here is the raw data (without our edits) in graphical format, courtesy of Wordle.

It comes as no surprise that “content marketing” leads the pack, followed by “social media.” However, it is surprising that “Google” placed so highly. In fact, compared with the other major companies, Google, with 20 mentions, beat out Twitter (10), Pinterest (8), Facebook (7), LinkedIn (2), YouTube (1), and Snapchat (1).

Email remains a popular topic, with 18 mentions, beating out some new trending words like infographic (15), data (12), and inbound (8), as well as stalwarts like automation (10), analytics (10), and SEO (9).

We were surprised we didn’t see a bigger showing for the terms “big data” (2) or “growth hack” (1). But, then again, I suspect that, being from San Francisco, we have a bit of an echo chamber. While it’s possible that these terms can be more mainstream, Frisco may be a little ahead of the rest of the market.

The data also shows that our bloggers are fans of link-bait terms like strategy (18), tips (11), new (10), guide (7), and free (6). Taking all of this into account, we found a few popular posts that highlight some of the more popular terms:

Content Marketing:

Social Media:


Looking at the data, one thing is clear: no one is original. The market is continuing to trend with “how-to guides,” “numbered lists,” and “ultimate strategies.” The topics are tiresome, with more posts about content marketing, social media, Google products, email, and analytics.

One positive step we’ve seen is the increasing prevalence of mash-ups of popular topics, using non-traditional tactics or different platforms. For example, in a recent ShareBloc post, we summarized 8 takeaways from the Reddit and AMAs with Moz founder Rand Fishkin. We used a popular blog structure (“numbered list”) and leveraged original content (the Reddit AMA) to create a wholly original post.

2. Identify the Influencers and News Makers

One of the most popular tactics for creating original content in your interest area is to identify the influencers and create content around them. We had early success with this in our open-beta launch contest, The Top 50 Content Marketing Posts of 2013, so we took the extra step and broadened our search to 100 total influential Twitter accounts.

First, we identified the key industry leaders with a Google search and Google Keyword Planner. For example, “content marketing” yields CMI and Joe Pulizzi, and “inbound marketing” yields HubSpot and Jon Miller. We used the keyword planner to find similar search phrases to get a wide breadth of coverage.

With Google, we built a list of 50 of the leading influencers in sales and marketing, including executives like Hiten Shah, companies like HubSpot, and popular blogs like Content Marketing Institute.

To add the additional 50, we used FollowerWonk to find followers of our influencers, and then the others they follow. We ran the analysis three times to get our desired results. Here is one of our FollowerWonk reports:

The analysis helped us uncover interesting people like Anita Campbell and John Doherty. But, building a list of influencers and newsmakers is not enough. We took three additional steps to start creating content around these Twitter accounts.

  1. Follow them on Twitter. This is obvious. By following them on Twitter, you are beginning to build relationships with some of the influencers. There also is an ancillary benefit. Many Twitter bots are triggered by daisy-chained following. So, if I follow Hiten Shah and Rand Fishkin, for example, it may trigger others to follow me.
  2. Add their RSS. Most of these Twitter accounts have corresponding blogs. Add them to your RSS to keep updated on what your influencers and newsmakers are writing. It’s a great way to get a feel for what they care about and to get ideas of your own.
  3. Create a Rolling List of Targets. Many of your influencers are approachable, but some are out of reach. We created a list of targets to focus on over a course of four weeks. Once a target is reached, you can move him or her off the list and pull another influencer off the bench. By having a disciplined outreach schedule, you are never in the lurch while waiting for someone to respond.

After you have your list set up, it’s time to create content around your influencers. Here is a list of some of the things you can do to get your influencer engaged:

  • Interview: Set up an interview with your influencer on a topic that’s dear to them. The great thing about this approach is that it’s an original content asset and your influencer will help you distribute it.
  • News Jack: Find a breaking and trending news item with a limited shelf life and create original content around it. One of the best ways to do this is through AMAs from Reddit, which are Mashable and Buzzfeed mainstays.
  • “Best of” List: Since you’re following your influencers and reading through their blogs, it’s easy to create a “best of” list out of their content. To add value, try adding your own commentary or organizing the content around a central thesis. We did this with our own Top 50 Content Marketing Posts of 2013 contest and posted our results on Marketo.

3. Work around a Schedule

Another variation of a news jack is to write content around an event. We started building a list of the top events in sales and marketing.

Like targeting influencers, there a few different ways to create content around an event:

  • Interview: Find speakers, sponsors, or even attendees, and set up an interview. Many of these individuals would welcome free press leading up to the event, especially if they’re a non-keynote speaker.
  • Mine the Agenda for Topics: Most conferences will have the agenda up 2-3 months before the event, along with the speakers or panelists. An easy way to generate content is to blog about the sessions at the event, including your thoughts on the topic, why they chose the panelists, etc.
  • Attend: Obviously, if you can attend the conference, it’s a great opportunity to create original content, through live-blogs or post-mortems, on your experience. Go to the event with an agenda, whether that means finding interview candidates, following the correct tracks, etc.

We’re actually running a campaign around Marketo’s upcoming conference, The Marketing Nation Summit in April, with a series of posts and a content contest, similar to the one we launched in December 2013. Through early business development, we’ve engaged Marketo partners like LeadMD to sponsor free tickets to the event. The contest will begin in March so check out ShareBloc for updates.


There’s an art and science to blogging, and here’s our contribution to the science. We intend to run this analysis every quarter to get the most updated list of trending terms.

Of course, you can’t just auto-generate a blog based on data; that would be silly and add to the content shock we’re experiencing. This is why we will continue to post wholly original content that sometimes may be a little out of the norm. This will allow us some breathing room to be creative in our content and perhaps start a trend of our own.

About the Author: David Cheng is the CEO and co-founder at ShareBloc, a Reddit-like platform for professionals to share, curate, and discuss business content that matters. ShareBloc launched into open beta in December 2013 for the sales and marketing community, and has added thousands of sales and marketing professionals since launch. You can find Cheng’s writing about content marketing, social media, and growth hacking on the ShareBloc blog.

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.

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