Introduction to Content Strategy
There are various definitions of what content strategy entails, but my favorite comes from Kristina Halvorson, founder of Brain Traffic and author of Content Strategy for the Web:
“Planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content.”
It’s very succinct and easy to wrap your head around if you are new to the game. The only possible clarification needed is the difference between “useful” and “usable.” The first meaning that the content has intrinsic value to the target audience. the latter means that they can access that value due to an easily navigable presentation.
While content marketers often preach the effectiveness of succinct, well organized, content to appeal to the ADD nature of web surfing, what goes into a thorough content strategy is anything but that.
Content is too valuable to simply be happy with a blog that reads well or a website that looks pretty. And that’s the point of content strategy. It would be like owning an NFL football team and putting your star players out on the field without a playbook. Your content are assets, stars if you will, that need direction to fully shine.
Market and Competitive Research
At the risk of beating a dead horse with my previous analogy, your football team wouldn’t play its next game without scouting the opponent on the other side of the field. So it only makes sense to embark on some competitive analysis in your industry.
- Who are your competitors and what (if any) content strategy are they employing?
- Is your marketing campaign strictly a local focus?
- Research what kind of industry-related content resonates with your target audience.
There is a never-ending list of tools you can use for evaluating your industry and competitors.
OpenSiteExplorer – Compare backlink data to your competitors.
SEMrush – See who your competitors are, what terms they are ranking for.
Socialcrawlytics.com – Social signals are important not just from an SEO perspective, but for developing an understanding of what your audience is most passionate about. See what pages on your competitor’s site are being shared the most and where (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc).
Topsy – As I mentioned in my previous blog, this is a great tool for sparking content ideas
Bottlenose’s visualization tool (Sonar) – Ditto, especially since you can visualize trending topics.
Followerwonk – Want to know who in your industry is garnering the most attention on Twitter? Well, here you go.
Content Gap Analysis – Once you get a firm grasp on what content your competitors are utilizing online, are there examples that appear really effective for them that you’re missing out on?
But it’s not just about mimicking your competition. Come up with content ideas they aren’t using that you could implement and establish an edge. How do you do this?
- If your business is predominantly or exclusively local, see what competitors outside your market are doing that your direct competition is not.
- What are you customers saying? There’s no better source than those who pay your bills.
It’s also not just about subject matter, but strategy. How and where are your competitors publishing content? Don’t just blindly mimic, make sure it makes sense for you to implement.
Define Your Audience
Who are your customers? What are they looking for? What are there concerns? What motivates them? Do demographic analysis for a better understanding of what makes them click. MyBestSegments is a nifty tool that groups people by various combinations of criteria (age, income, etc). This is particularly effective for local businesses. Type in your zip code and you get a list of segments most prevalent in your market. You can get a better picture of how your target market spends money, what their technology habits are, and so much more.
Purpose of Content
What is the content being created to do (the desired end result)? Once we define the target audience and what they are motivated by, we get a clearer picture of not only what needs to be communicated to them, but why.
Determine Types of Content to Create
Text – Blogs, white papers, off-site articles, etc.
Video – Vlogs or tutorials.
Graphics – How does your website design visually convey your message and image you want to project of your company? Infographics are still a great way to raise awareness for your business.
Audio – Speak to your audience in a very literal way. While it can be a significant investment of your time (depending on how regularly you publish), running a podcast is a great way to build an audience.
With a few exceptions, there is no one right answer for your content style. Consider the following:
Tone – Once the types of content to use are determined, how should it be written or presented? Formal or informal language? Some medical professionals prefer a very formal style, while others may be more conversational and even humorous. Maybe it’s a mix of both. It depends not only on your industry, but how you want to communicate and portray yourself.
Content Themes – Create a topic map to visualize themes and sub-themes. This can start with simply referencing your website’s navigation (assuming it has been set up properly).
Distribution & Marketing Strategy
Once you decide on what kind of content you want, and its style and tone, where will it reside? Most businesses should utilize content on their own site, third party content sites, social media channels, and in email. It’s mainly a matter of deciding which deserve the most concentration.
Create Editorial Calendar / Build Content Team
It’s easy to fall into a create-it-as-you-go routine, but planning ahead will save a lot of time and headaches. Plus, you will be more prone to creating successful content if you aren’t scrambling to get it done.
Come up with your topics and publishing schedule. Who will be involved in content creation? Know how and when you will allocate work to ahead of time.
Content approval process – If you aren’t the one who gives final approval on content, work out a process with the person who does, making sure expectations are clearly laid out. That means setting up a schedule and process for ongoing content approval.
Process Client Feedback and Results
If you are being hired to produce content for someone else, be proactive in eliciting feedback from them. While most clients will have opinions, you may be surprised at how many are completely out of their element and don’t really know what they want. Listen to what they have to say. In addition, evaluate your performance. Then return to your work for adjustment where necessary, including what you will be doing with future projects.
This is really just the tip of the iceberg. Depending on your time and resources, you can take a much deeper dive into the suggestions above and beyond.