Data-Driven Blogging – Own a Topic, Not a Word


The 500-word blog post everyone is writing

In this modern world of data-driven blogging, everybody and their grandmother is writing 500-word essays to answer a specific question (a.k.a. satisfy a keyword) that a search user has typed in. This blogging strategy is no longer enough to rank for terms. The goal that every content team should strive for is owning a topic, not just a keyword. When you write, you should write in and around a whole topic, covering and educating on what search user needs to know about that particular topic.

Google knows what you are going to search for before you even search for it. For example, if you are going to cook some slow-cooked BBQ for the first time, you probably have a lot of questions. You are likely going to google everything from:

  • The type of wood you should use
  • The temperature you should get the fire to
  • How long it will take to cook
  • What the finished product should look like
  • How close to the fire it should be
  • What kind of spice rub to use
  • What kind of sauce to make
  • Different flavor profiles
  • How the meat should be cut or how long it should rest


Google Knows All

That’s a lot of questions, and you may need answers to ALL of them. After you search the first 1-2 words, Google knows what you will type next. Google also knows you are probably going to ask at least half of those questions, so it might as well cut to the chase and give you a piece of content that is geared to solve the whole problem or fully educate you, the search user! As a content writer, it is time to own a topic, not a keyword.

So, how do you get there? In this post, we will explore the top-to-bottom process for data-driven blogging. Sections include:

  • Content Selection Process
  • Keyword Research
  • Writing
    • The Post
    • Content Upgrade
    • Transitional Nurtures
    • Video & Data Driven Blogging
  • Authority
  • Internal Linking & Website Structure
  • Measurement


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Data-Driven Content Selection Process Tips

Content selection is the most important activity your content team needs to nail in its general content writing strategy. The simple act of writing content with intent is the difference between success and failure.  

Organize Your Thoughts & Team

First, you should be leveraging a project and task management software to collect thoughts and monitor the status of your content. Personally, I have been fond of Trello. This should give you an “ideas pile” with plenty of options to choose from.

Data Data Data Data

Next, you will want to attach a set of data to each idea in your pile to help you select topics to write about. The data fosters those ideas to help you determine whether it makes sense to write a blog post or not.

Collect and analyze the following data before ANY content is written:

  • Assigned User Persona – The target user profile that will read the content.
  • Persona benefit – How your user persona will benefit from reading the content.
  • Target Keywords – The terms you wish to target.
  • Estimated Traffic – Based on traffic of target words and estimated CTR, how many users are likely to see your content?
  • Estimated Volume of Goal Completions – Based on the volume of estimated traffic and conversion rate, how many users are likely to complete a goal? An example goal could be an email acquisition based on gated content.
  • Content Upgrade – Is there a piece of content that the user may be willing to give you an email address for? Checklists, guides, infographics, and videos are good examples.
  • Nurture Series – The nurture funnel that the target user will be placed into.

Why are you writing this again?

You must make a business case as to WHY you are writing the content you wish to write. The data you collected can act as a litmus test for content creation: if it fits the qualifications, you can write it. From an SEO standpoint, your goals will change as you acquire more search power and become a deeper authority on a particular topic. At first, you may be focused on improving your SEO ranking on your topic. Your next goal may be increasing traffic, then getting results, conversions, or email collection and so on. 

Keyword Research

There are a wide variety of tools you can use to analyze target terms (We use SEMrush). When you’re working under the philosophy of owning a topic, not a keyword, you will find plenty of terms that you can target for a single comprehensive blog post. You will want to collect:

  • Keywords (a list of phrases you will target)
  • Monthly search volume for each keyword
  • Cost per click (for determining value)
  • Difficulty rating (to ensure you are not being too aggressive in your targeting). This metric has various names in different platforms, such as keyword difficulty or paid difficulty.


Ideally, your keyword research should provide not only terms you can use within your writing but also the content required for subsections within your document. In other words, your keyword research should yield the content required for a table of contents and related topics you can discuss throughout the post. 

4 Core Writing Assets for all Data Driven Blogging Posts

When you write a post, always plan to write four distinct pieces of content:

  • The Post – Your core content. This is purposeful content designed to be consumed by one of your personas to fulfill a specific need that they want to read about.
  • Content Upgrade – A piece of content related to the post for which a prospective user would be willing to provide an email address to access.
  • Video – Video related to the content you are writing. People learn via both video content and readable content.  Explaining your key points in two different ways will increase your content consumption rate.
  • Transitional Nurture – Upon collecting an email address from a blog post, instead of placing them straight into a nurture funnel, write a specific email that ties the content of the article and content upgrade to the nurture series they are about to receive. It increases your open rates in subsequent email nurtures.


These four pieces of content work together to give the user a comprehensive answer to their question along with a helpful piece of content they can use on the go, and ultimately ease them into a nurturing process that ties directly to the piece of content that they read. This process will provide the most value out of your content creation efforts.

The Post

Now it’s time to write your post. These days, 500-word essays don’t work. We recommend you write roughly 2,000-word posts that are keyword-rich and comprehensive to own a topic, not just a specific keyword. 

  • Integrate images
  • Embed video
  • Leverage infographics if possible
  • Link related content
  • Embed a content upgrade into the content
  • Have a table of contents


Content Upgrades

A content upgrade is a gated piece of content that a user must provide some information, such as an email address, to access. In my experience, the content upgrade is usually designed to acquire an email address, plain and simple. Since the user is researching the topic that you are writing about, there is typically something that will lend itself to being a downloadable piece of content.  When performing keyword research under a data driven blogging strategy, you will find that users are looking for these types of downloadable pieces of content.  Some good upgrade examples are:

  • Checklists
  • Infographics
  • Guides / Books
  • White Papers
  • Case Studies


Video & Data Driven Blogging

People learn in many ways. Some folks want to see a video for that personal touch of someone verbally explaining the answer to their question. Others do want the text to read through. In short, to increase the percentage of people who stay on your site, you should have a video on every blog post. This keeps those audio/visual learners engaged while still including the supporting text for them to lean on.

Valuable video content can make blog posts much more comprehensive and complete. As a result, we see increased rankings and increased engagement with users. The key: this content must be valuable.

Incorporating video keyword research through the video production process is key to generating valuable content that search users will want to consume. Too many times have pricey videos been created only to be a fluffy sales piece that no one wants to read. Data can and should be integrated into every piece of content created.

Transitional Nurtures Continue the Established Narrative. 

Transitional nurtures are something I do not see a lot of people leveraging yet, but that I feel is good practice. This is not much different than writing a targeted email to a specific user. In short, everyone that downloads a piece of content has a few things in common:

  • Typed something in Google or went directly to your blog post to get the information they need.
  • Provided an email address to download a piece of content.
  • Read and used the content upgrade (hopefully – you can track if they downloaded it).
  • They are likely your target persona.
  • You have some research and insights into WHY they are reading what they are reading and WHY they gave you an email address.


With all of this information, could you write an email to a specific individual? Absolutely! So automate it in a transitional nurture.


Writing good content goes a long way. Unfortunately, if you are a new blog writer, it is not enough. You require authority within the topics you are writing about for the search engines to determine that you are not only a relevant source of information, but a trusted authority on the subject matter.

This gets into good old-fashioned marketing and link building. You need to show your content off, you need it to resonate with users, and you want users to share it. Leverage social media, other blogs, email marketing, and other means to get the word out. We leverage both paid and organic methods to get the word out.

Internal Linking & Website Structure

Your website structure is a big part of how Google determines how big of an expert you are on particular topics. Linking similar blog posts together along with other content from your site will help with this (products, case studies, resources, FAQs, videos, portfolio items, and essentially any relatable piece of content).

One common tactic is linking terms within the text so the user can read more about that term. The biggest benefit here is that taking related posts and linking them to a specific term helps to inform search engines that the hyperlinked word relates to the linked article. 

Another way is to relate content in a more structured way, such as in a navigation panel or at the bottom of a piece of content. You have many options for potentially related content: related posts, people, videos, case studies, products, services, events, webinars, and so on.

Measurement, know your results

This is my favorite part: measuring the fruits of your efforts after developing and earning rankings via data driven blogging. When it comes to writing for the purpose of inbound marketing, you need to pay attention to rankings. You will want to determine the value of your effort, calculated based on the terms you are ranking for and how much it would cost to purchase those terms on search engines every month. If you achieve rank #1 for a term that is searched 1000 times a month and expect a CTR of 25%, you can expect 250 clicks.  If the cost per click is $10, you can expect to pay $2,500/month.

The measurement takes different forms as a content team matures. When you are just getting started, you’re just seeing what sticks: how aggressive of a term can you rank for? As you get a bit more traction, you will look to rankings and CTR from the search engines to tell you how well you are doing. As the content funnel matures and you get conversions, collect emails, and generate leads, these goals become the guiding light for determining if the content created is generating the right type of traffic. 

What’s next?

This post focused on the infrastructure for what you need to approach data driven blogging.  Everything from keyword research through transitional nurtures are to give you the best shot at providing the user with great content and giving your organization the best shot at growth, all supported by data.  Remember to:

  • Own a topic, not a keyword.
  • Know who you are writing for and why
  • Depth of knowledge is key
  • Use several different types of content (images, video, text) to get your point across, we all learn differently
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