Eighty-six percent of online publishers believe they need to make better use of data to drive content marketing initiatives.

The Association of Online Publishers recently pointed to audience targeting across different platforms as primary focal point of the industry in the next 12 months in its Content and Trends Census. Businesses publishing original, branded content should take this as a cue to similarly focus on prospect targeting.

In recent years, online publishers have gathered substantial data on web behavior among different demographics.Content consumption information must be used to direct campaigns that will engage audiences of varying age groups and other subsets. While targeted content writing and creation are critical elements of content marketing, other factors, such as social sharing and SEO, are equally important to the success of any campaign – and both must consider consumer preferences to ensure branded content achieves maximum online visibility.

“The Content and Trends Census has emphasized the growing importance of data to publishers, an area all are actively involved in developing, with many currently in a period of learning and experimentation,” Tim Cain, head of research and insight at AOP, said in a release.

One thing most businesses already know is that they have make better use of the data they’ve amassed over the years. According to AOP’s study, 86 percent of respondents believe their organizations must improve the ways they leverage this data to develop strategy and guide critical decision making.

Once content topics and appropriate distribution channels for a given audience are determined, the concept of timeliness can be difficult for businesses turning to content marketing. While publishing a piece as soon as possible is critical to drawing relevant readership.

Marketers might find redistributing links to social users is important to attracting clicks. Brafton recently reported that companies may want to share links to content more than once as part of their social media strategy. Links posted to Facebook or Twitter will receive more clicks in the early stages of their publication. However, adding a link later in the day or the following day may allow potential readers to see something they missed.

Joe Meloni is Brafton's former Executive News and Content Writer. He studied journalism at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and has written for a number of print and web-based publications.