Sharon Hurley Hall Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional freelance writer and blogger. Her career has spanned more than 20 years, including stints as a journalist, academic writer, university lecturer and ghost writer. Connect with her on Twitter @SHurleyHall.
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Content is everywhere, which is why you have to raise the bar. There is an insane amount of information generated every second, so the content you produce can easily get lost. To stop this from happening, says Sonja Jobson, your content needs to be more than accurate and relevant - it must also be actionable and relatable. This process starts by establishing what's already working for your readers. Indeed, identifying the best content for your audience is one of the most important tasks you must do. Here are 5 steps to getting it right.
Step 1: Meet and understand your audience
Before you get started with content creation, it's essential to know your audience really, really well so that you understand what kind of content will appeal to them. One of the best ways to do this is through Google Analytics’ demographic reports. Here's how it works: Login to Google Analytics, and navigate to Audience > Demographics > Overview. This will show you the breakdown of your audience by age and gender.
Targeting males aged 25-34 would be a good idea for this website owner. And you can get even more insight by navigating to Audience > Interests > Overview. This shows affinity categories, in-market segments, and other categories for your web visitors.
This information can help with your content planning. For example, if you know that most of your audience is interested in TV and movies, then content that links your key topic to a popular TV show or movie is likely to do well. It's also helpful to interact with your customers to find out, in detail, the type of content they like. You can do this in a variety of ways including:
  • In-person or online networking events
  • Customer surveys
  • Focus groups or discussions (Google Hangouts is a good tool for this)
  • Forums and social media discussions
  • Polls and surveys
Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group, says:
"When the problem is how to generate effective content for any stage of the customer buying experience, of course the answer is going to be to go out and talk to your customers."
Never miss an opportunity to talk to your readers. It's one of the best ways to figure out what they actually want.
Step 2: Find your best site content
Talking to readers is always a smart idea, but it's not the only way to gain insight into your top performing content. You can also find this info by identifying what your audience is already reading and sharing, actively and of their own accord. Three tools for doing this are Google Analytics, Buzzsumo, and Ahrefs.
How to find your best content with Google Analytics
After logging into Google Analytics, adjust the date range at the top right of the page. If you're interested in pinpointing which content is consistently popular, set a long time period, as in the example below (about a year). If you want more recent data, then adjust the time to a suitable range.
By default, Google Analytics lists content by page views, but you can click on the column headings to view content by time on page, bounce rate, exit rate, and more. You can also find some of your most popular social media content by navigating to Acquisition > Channels > Social, and adding a secondary dimension of ‘Landing Pages.’
How to find your best content with Buzzsumo and Ahrefs
An even easier way to identify your best shareable content is through Buzzsumo and Ahrefs. Both sites aggregate social shares across a variety of platforms. To use Buzzsumo, plug your site name into the search box on the homepage, and press enter (you don't even have to login or sign up). There you will see the links with the highest number of shares, with some restrictions that only paying members can bypass.
You can sort these by time period, content type, domain, and the platform most important to you. This is useful if you're assessing content popularity on certain social media sites. To use Ahrefs, you'll need to create a free account. Once that’s done, log in, and navigate to the Content Explorer tool. There, type your domain name into the search box, and get a list of your most shared content.
Filter and sort this however you’d like. Additionally, both sites offer supplementary data for those who really want to drill down on their content’s popularity. With a Buzzsumo Pro account, you can get additional information on backlinks and the people sharing your content. (The same data is available for free on Ahrefs, though the free account is restricted to the first five results.) Another way to find your top content is through Content Forest’s Content Spy tool. Just type your domain name into the search box, wait a few seconds, and get a list of the most shared content on your site. You can change this to view the most linked content as well.
Social media is an excellent way to build brand awareness, connect with readers and customers, and build a community around your brand. That's why it's important to know how your content performs there. Luckily, it's easy to find out, as all the major social media sites provide content analytics. Many also provide demographics to help with content targeting.
To use Twitter analytics, visit or click on your profile image and select "Analytics" from the dropdown. Click "view all tweet activity" to see a page with impressions, engagement, and engagement rate for the content you’ve shared.
On Facebook, login to your business page, and click “Insights.” This will give you an overview of popular content you’ve shared, including reach, clicks, and other engagement metrics.
On LinkedIn, go to your Company Page and click the analytics tab at the top of the page. Note: you must be a Company Page administrator to view. Here you will see how engaging your posts are, identify trends across key metrics, learn more about your page traffic and activities, and understand more about your follower demographics and sources.
Pinterest analytics (available for business accounts only) provides information on pin impressions, repins, clicks, likes, and pin type over the past 30 days. Click the gear menu, then “Analytics” for a breakdown on your profile, audience, and website.
If you want to save time tracking your social media content performance, it's a good idea to use a social media dashboard to schedule and analyze your updates all in one place. There are multiple tools for this, but here's a nice selection to get you started:
  • Buffer is a social media update scheduler that also provides analytics. Free analytics data is limited, but you can get more with upgraded plans.
  • Sprout Social allows businesses to schedule, publish, and analyze social media updates.
  • Quintly is an enterprise-level social media tool with analytics included.
  • SumAll is an analytics aggregator that lets you look at your stats in one place.
  • Cyfe is an alternative.
Step 4: Discover high performing content beyond your brand
Another way to find high performing content for your audience is to look beyond your own content. See what else is getting attention on the web. Look into what’s working well for others, including your competitors. Here are some options for doing this:
  • Look at what content is trending on social media
  • Type in your niche keywords on Buzzsumo to see the most popular content for that topic
  • Check the trends page on Social Mention or visit Google Trends
  • See what's popular on aggregation sites like and
  • Visit Quora to see what people are interested in and actively searching for
  • Browse discussions on LinkedIn, Facebook, and various forums relevant to your industry
These sites will help you find out what's popular and performs well, so you can use it as a starting point for your own content.
Step 5: Do your research
There's a lot of research out there that can help you find the best content for any audience. Blogs like Kissmetrics, HubSpot, QuickSprout, and yours truly regularly publish data on social media, content marketing, and more. Here are some recent posts to help with content strategy: Learning what has driven success for others will help you find and create high performing content of your own.
In summary, if you want to find the best performing content for your audience, you need to:
  • Understand audience demographics so you know what's likely to appeal to your readers.
  • Use online tools to identify the most appealing content you’ve published.
  • Check out social media analytics to see how people have responded to the content you’ve shared.
  • See what's popular beyond your own site and social media profiles.
  • Read studies and research that show what people are likely to look at and share online.
Use the information you collect to create a list of your best content and a secondary list of ideas that are likely to do well with your readers. Then start creating, sharing, and tracking your data to see if you got it right and what you can do to improve.
Step 3: Check your social media stats
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How To Find The Best Content For Your Target Audience
Sharon Hurley Hall
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