What’s more important, data or content? This is a continuing question in the marketing world – especially when it comes to spending the budget, or allocating time and other resources. What matters most? What helps out the most? What gives the most ROI. Even this year, people are still wondering which deserves to be king.

The best answer is, of course, that both are important! Even as content and data shift due to new technology or changing habits, they remain important to each other, and work together as a cohesive unit. So as you decide how much weight to give them in your future campaigns, here are several things worth remembering about how data and content work together – and what’s new to the table.

Data Must Drive Content

Aimless content doesn’t fare well in today’s vast world wide web. Marketing teams need to know what kind of content to use, what length of content, where to target it, the best subject matter, and more…all before they even start creating the content! That information, of course, comes from good data and audience analysis. So the foundation of creating content rests in data, and a good content strategy uses data as a blueprint for content, before beginning to create it.

This is one of the easiest ways to improve your content strategy if you find that the content planning process is a little hazy. Don’t just create what feels good: Study what customers respond to first. Make and examine customer personas. See where your web traffic comes from – and how it goes. Look at what works in your industry!

Content Must Provide Value

Pure, internal marketing data can’t provide any value to your audience. None at all. You can provide all the web traffic and keyword analysis results you want, and your customers will not care one bit. That data can’t take the place of content. It’s content’s job to provide the value – the real information and connection to your audience that’s the whole point of a content marketing strategy.

This makes it much easier to decide how to create your content: Just keep asking, “How does this give value to the customer? How does this benefit them?” These are basic marketing questions, but they will help keep your content grounded and effective. In the past, we’ve seen what happens when data has too much direct control over the content: You get keyword stuffing, cheap directory links, bot-created and spammed content, and other tactics that now get your website banned or severely punished for using. Today’s content is a lot healthier, mostly because brands were taught to let content focus on value, instead of being “written” by the data itself.

Data Influences Content’s Direction

We talked about how data is the foundation of creating content. But data is also vital for making changes and updates to your content strategy, showing you where your industry is headed and what new forms of content are getting results. We love to tell everyone to include more video in their content because, for the past several years, video has excelled at getting attention and responses online, especially on social media. We know that video is a good direction to go because shifts in the data showed it!

Likewise, data can show you what new trends are actually proving to be effective, and are worth your time. Data shows when you should consider a chatbot, why you shouldn’t be using Vine, why email still works, and how Instagram is becoming more important as a marketing channel.

Remember to consult the research before making strategic decisions about your content. If you just stick with the same old content plan all the time, you’ll miss out on key shifts in the marketing world.

The good news is that this kind of strategic data can become useful content, too. Content that captures and explains strategic data has high value and is great for your audience, so feel free to pass this type of data along.

Content Creates the Data to Analyze

Where does data come from? Well, a majority comes from the content itself! Everything from web traffic numbers to social signals is how people respond to existing content. Without putting content online, you can’t harvest internal data to see what channels and types of content are effective!

This cycle that leads content to create data can also be challenging, especially for smaller companies. What kind of content do you put out to gather actionable data? In these cases, we suggest you consult with an expert about your particularly industry, and commit to starting somewhere, even if you are unsure of the results. 

Content is Becoming More Important for SEO Ranking

Here’s a way that content continues to change: Pure content is affecting SEO ranking much more than it once did, and that shows no signs of slowing. This is primarily because Google is committed to making online content 1)as natural as possible and 2)valuable to viewers. Today’s advanced algorithms will reward you for content that flows well, includes lots of information, and shows signs of expertise or authority. Make sure your content creators understand this!

Also remember that how content is delivered is important. Your content will be ranked higher if it’s mobile-friendly, for example.

Data is Becoming More Important In Managing Certain Types of Content

Data, meanwhile, is taking on new roles when it comes to more advanced technology, and how content is delivered along those channels. We’re seeing a lot of this with chatbots, voice assistants, and other types of automated responses, where the data – and resulting algorithms – take more of a direct role in creating content. The challenge here will be to create natural-sounding content, even if its parsed and delivered by an AI, which is an exciting new field with plenty of possibilities!