A few weeks ago, ScrappingBee published a data-driven article analyzing how many of the startups launched in Product Hunt had since shut down.
It immediately blew up in Hacker News, a community for tech people, getting almost 200 upvotes and 100+ comments.
This also got ScrappingBee +150 backlinks from 50+ referring domains, some with high authority, like Crunchbase.
And while I don’t have the numbers, I’m sure that at least a small percentage of all this traffic they received converted into customers.
What’s the lesson here? Data-driven content gets social media shares, attracts backlinks, and can bring customers.
What is Data-Centric Content?
Data-centric content (or data-driven content) focuses on factual information generated from research, experiments, surveys, and testing.
You know it’s data-centric content when it includes numbers, stats, and rankings. ScrappingBee’s article, for example, includes various stats like: “22% of products now produce some form of error”.
Data can be presented in lots of different ways, being the most common ones graphs, infographics, and interactive dashboards. ScrappingBee’s article, for example, includes lots of line, pie, and column charts backing their statements.
Why do Data-Centric Blog Posts Work?
The main reason is that people enjoy reading data. r/dataisbeautiful is a subreddit where users post data visualizations. It’s not surprising that it is Reddit’s 37th most-subscribed sub beating subreddits like r/personalfinance and r/technology.
Not only do people enjoy reading data, but it seems like they also enjoy sharing it. Data-centric content outperforms other types of content both in backlinks and social media shares obtained. A survey conducted on 628 SEOs concluded that using data and research was the best way to build backlinks (see how I’m sharing data?).
Furthermore, it seems like data generates trust with the reader, which can improve conversion rates. We associate data in charts, graphs, and dashboards with science, and we naturally consider science trustworthy.
For all these reasons it’s why data-centric articles work so well in getting shares, backlinks, and clicks.
How to Create a Data-Driven Article?
1) Find a Data-Centric Content Idea
Not all topic ideas are a good fit with data-centric content. Here are 3 strategies to find data-centric content ideas.
3 Strategies to Find Data-Centric Content Ideas
1) Analyze Competition
Search in competitors’ blogs and niche websites for their content with the most backlinks and social media shares, which will generally be data-centric content, if they have published any.
You can find which pages in a website have the most backlinks using Ahrefs. If you pay for the tool (you can get access for 7 days for $7), search for your competitor in “Site Explorer” and go to Pages > “Best by links”.
If you don’t have the tool, go to their free Backlink Checker, paste your competitor’s URL and click on “Top 5 pages”. This is what I see when I enter Failory’s domain.
The second most-linked page, titled “Startup Failure Rate: How Many Startups Fail and Why?”, is a perfect data-centric content idea.
For finding the pages on a website with the biggest number of social media shares, you can use Buzzsumo’s free Content Analyzer or Ahrefs’ Content Explorer. This is what I see when searching “site:failory.com” in Ahrefs:
2nd, 3rd, and 4th pages are all good examples of data-centric content that a Failory competitor could be interested in writing about.
If you can’t afford to get Ahref’s or Buzzsumo’s trials, you can find your competitor’s data-centric articles by simply checking their blog (or all of their pages searching in Google “site:url.com”).
2) Industry Topic + Stats / Data
Create articles about stats or data related to different topics in your business’ industry or niche.
For example, for Failory I could create articles about “Startup Funding Stats” or “Startup Costs Stats”. When I search for these terms in Google, I see there’s a ton of data about it, so it’d simply be a matter of curating these stats in one blog post.
3) Stay on Top of Trends
Creating a data-centric piece of content focused on a hot trend or news can lead to immediate virality.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, people ran to supermarkets to stock their houses with toilet paper. In this context, Ben Sassoon and Sam Harris created a website called “How Much Toilet Paper?!”, which used data to calculate how many days would the toilet paper last you based on the rolls you had, the number of times you visited the toilet, the number of people in your house, etc.
Combining data with a hot trend earned the website a mention in Jimmy Fallon’s TV show and the New York Post.
Your content will probably not be about such a general and hot topic like the COVID-19, but it can be about an important industry event, or a new business practice, or a change in regulations, just to name a few common hot topics.
Data-Centric Content Idea + SEO?
It’s a good practice to optimize your data-centric content idea for SEO. This means finding keywords that your data-centric content can rank for. In that way, you don’t depend just on social media shares and backlinks for getting traffic.
To do this, search the topic idea you’ve come up with in Google and look for patterns in the titles and URLs of the pages covering a similar topic. You can also use Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer to search for your topic and find “Related Terms” or a “Parent Topic”.
For example, in the example mentioned above about Failory’s Startup Failure Rate report, I first came up with the idea of creating an article about the “Percentage of Startups that Fail”. However, when I checked the term in Ahrefs, I identified that the ranking pages were instead targeting the keywords “Startup Failure Rate” and “How Many Startups Fail”, so I re-oriented the piece to these two terms.
However, it’s fine if you can’t find any keywords that fit your data-centric content idea - it can still bring a lot of traffic from social media shares and backlinks on other websites.
ScrappingBee’s article about Product Hunt’s failed businesses ranks #1st for “Product Hunt Cemetery” but few people, if none zero, search for that term. Yet, they have got thousands of visitors in just a few days, which would have taken an article ranking for a competitive term in Google many months.
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2) Decide the Type of Content
There are three types of data-centric content. With types, I’m not referring to how you display the data but to the structure of the article
1) Studies & Reports
Studies and reports involve data collection, analysis, and presentation made by the article’s author or business, and generally offer a story about why and how the data was collected.
Our article about Startup Mistakes is a good example of a report. After interviewing 80+ failed startup founders on our website and asking them what was the main cause of failure of their startup, we collected all the data, cleaned and grouped it, and found insights about the common reasons for startup failure.
In the article, we explain the process we followed to gather the data and provide information about each of the failure causes as well as a section analyzing the lessons we can get from these 80+ stories.
Studies and reports work the best when you have or can build a set of data, as they allow you to explain how you’ve arrived to the numbers and stats found, as well as dig deep into each of the insights discovered.
As the data is new, this type of data-centric content tends to get a lot of backlinks and shares. However, they take a long time to produce.
2) Surveys & Expert Round-Ups
Surveys and expert round-ups involve collecting data and insights from others and presenting it in an easy-reading way.
GrowthBadger ran an experiment with 1,500 people to find out the importance of having a .com domain, versus 7 other TLDs, mainly focused on the trustiness and memorability differences.
In their article, they not only analyze the people’s answers, but they also explain their methodology for surveying and formatting the questions, and include experts’ thoughts on the insights discovered.
Surveys and expert round-ups are ideal when you don’t have any data or there is no data about the topic you want to create a piece of content about.
It can be really time-consuming to distribute the survey or to contact the experts, but you’ll end up with completely new data, which will help you gain more social shares and backlinks. Besides that, some of the experts who participate in your content might be willing to share your article with their audience, leading to another traffic source.
3) Data Dumps
Data dumps are the listicles of data-centric content. They include a lot of stats and insights about a specific topic, generally curated from different reports, studies and surveys.
Embroker has collected 106 statistics about startups into one article, divided by sub-topics, like funding, costs and teams. All of the stats were published by other websites before; they didn’t have to do any data collection and analysis.
The article ranks for +3k keywords, including some high-volume ones like “Startup Statistics”.
Data dumps are ideal when you don’t have or can’t build a data set, but there’re plenty of stats online.
This type of content is the easiest to create, but it only works for topics where there already is data. They don’t attract many backlinks generally, as the other websites will generally link to the original source of the data (anyway, Embroker’s article has 1k+ backlinks). However, people will still be willing to share the article on social networks.
3) Collect the Data for the Article
Once you have decided the type of content you’ll be creating, you have to collect the data. Each of the types require different kinds of data, which have different ways of being collected.
Below you can find the 3 most common ways of collecting this data.
3 Ways to Collect Data
1) Use your Own Data
Businesses collect a lot of data over time, particularly those with some sort of user-generated content (marketplaces, blogs, some SaaS). You can maybe use some of this data to create data-centric content.
BuiltWith is a tool that allows you to find the tech stack of 670M+ websites. With all their data, they have created pages ranking the popularity of CMS and eCommerce technologies.
2) Build your Own Data
On most occasions, you won’t have the data that you need to create data-centric content, but you can still build the data set.
Each case is different, but building the data generally consists of scrapping information that’s public and finding insights from it, or running a survey to collect data that’s not public.
For some types of data-centric content, you’ll be good enough by collecting others’ data in one place (I’ve talked above about Data Dumps). This data can generally be found in other websites or in APIs.
NomadList is an online community for digital nomads. Using information from different APIs about cities’ weather, safety, and cost of living, among others, and doing some maths, they order all of the cities in the world based on how good they are for digital nomads.
Data-Driven Content + Programmatic SEO
Another customer acquisition strategy I’ve written about in which data is essential is Programmatic SEO.
If you have collected a ton of data for a Programmatic SEO project, chances are that you can find an interesting idea for a data-centric piece of content.
For example, I’ve created a Programmatic SEO project about Unicorn companies. To do so, I had to collect a lot of information about each of the unicorns, including the year in which they started, the amount of money they have raised, their number of founders, etc.
I can easily extract lots of interesting stats about this data, such as “52% of Unicorns have 2 founders”, and create a data-centric article with all of these.
It’s always a good idea to repurpose content and data, considering the amount of work you have to put into it.
4) Create the Data-Driven Blog Post
You now have all the data. It’s time to turn it into a piece of content that readers can easily consume.
Below are some of the most common practices I’ve identified in over 30 data-centric pieces of content I’ve analyzed.
Stats at the Top
We’ve seen how people love reading stats. That’s why it’s a clever idea to put the stats you’ve found in the article’s title, summary, or introduction.
It’s true that by putting a stat in the article, it might not be clear enough what the article is about. However, it can lead to a higher CTR in Google and more clicks on social media. Here’s an example from Ahrefs:
Besides that, I encourage you to provide your key findings as higher on the page as possible. Backlinko does this really well in all of their data-centric articles:
The idea with putting the insights at the top is to provide value as fast as possible. The biggest amount of value in these data-driven pieces of content is in the stats and insights found.
If the users are interested in learning further about your findings, your thoughts about them, how you collected the data and whatever else the article has to say, they can read the whole post.
Visual content will 1) help you back your statements, 2) beef up your findings, and 3) help your readers understand the stats and insights.
Charts, infographics, and dynamic dashboards are some of the most common visual forms of content used in data-driven articles.
These visuals can be hard to build and design. I’ve outsourced their creation in the past (check FrontPage Data).
From a content promotion perspective, it’s important that you include visual content for two reasons:
Visuals can boost your social media shares. They make crafting a message for the social networks easier. Besides that, posts with visuals generally have higher engagement.
Visuals can boost the backlinks obtained. Some websites will display your visual in their website and add a source link to your piece of content.
Data-Driven Content + Engineering as Marketing
In some cases, the data you’ve found changes according to certain parameters. You can create calculators, quizzes, or apps (or other Engineering as Marketing projects) to allow the user to change these parameters to find the data that interests them.
Influencer Marketing Hub has a data-centric article about "How Much do YouTubers Make?". As this amount varies a lot depending on the Youtuber’s video views and engagement rate, among other factors, they have a calculator in the article that the user can use to find the data that fits their Youtube channel.
Promote your Business
Content doesn’t make much sense if it doesn’t convert a percentage of readers into your business’ customers.