“If planning content is such an essential part of making a website easier to find, then why do so few businesses seem to follow a content strategy?”
Honestly, I wonder.
Blocking out time for yet another initiative isn’t always easy. Compared to a busy work week, pausing to formulate a content strategy just seems less urgent, doesn’t it?
Take a look around your office. Your product and marketing folks probably handle a constant stream of tasks each day. And if leadership doesn’t see value in content strategy, then you’re pushing a heavy boulder up the hill.
But remember, the average conversion rate for organizations with a process is more than 2x those that don’t. And a targeted content strategy will help your staff execute tasks faster and more easily going forward.
Most important though, a content strategy will help boost organic search rankings for key pages on your site. It can dramatically boost the chance customers will be able to find your business online.
Pair your content strategy with sharp SEO research and high-quality content — and even small- or medium- sized business can compete against entrenched giants.
“B2B marketers with a documented strategy are more effective than those without one.” —Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute
How to generate a powerful content strategy for your business:
1. Perform a SWOT Review of Your Analytics Results
The better you understand Google Analytics, the better positioned you are to make good business decisions. If Google Analytics is new to you, begin by focusing on the three most important areas in your results: Audience, Acquisition, and Behavior.
In the Organic Search section, you’ll find the top Keywords used to arrive at your site. In the Behavior section, you’ll see which pages are visited most and how long visitors spent on each. Think about how this information can help improve your content strategy!
As you explore and review this data, draw up a simple list of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. That may sound like a very basic marketing exercise. But it helps you think about your content planning strategically.
“Your customer is the focal point of your content marketing strategy. You need a substantial, deep, and comprehensive understanding of who she is.” —Damian Farnsworth, Copyblogger
2. Outline Your Business Strategy On One Page
Honestly, there’s no reason to work through the rest of this exercise if you’re not going to state what “success” would look like. What minimum threshold must your plan meet to be seen as a win? Conversely, what is the best case result you’re looking for?
“Consider the end-goal first. Defining what a lead means to you will help make your testing and analytics goals clearer.” —kissmetrics
Map out an orderly plan that’s aligned with your company’s top-line business goals. What’s the ultimate high-level mission? What are the long-term and short-term goals? What ideas do you want visitors to take away from your site? What action would you like them to take? Weigh expected costs and time investments against potential returns.
3. Draw Up Main Goals for the Year
Want to grow your business? Most of us do. But that’s too general. Focus one or two levels below that. Need to improve sales? Increase brand awareness? Nurture existing prospect leads? Boost the average total for each sale?
Perhaps you want to generate an increased number of high-quality leads. Or convert higher-caliber clients. Create a short-list of specific goals that seem ambitious, yet reasonable.
4. Select Topics Based on Research
Company priorities, industry experience, and insights from analytics will help you identify the main topics to include in your content strategy. Think about topics related to your most successful posts. Don’t rule out items you simply haven’t had time to cover yet.
If your organization offers a wide range of products (or solutions), select three to focus on first. Again, the topics you choose can be based on items you believe are more likely to give you traction in the market.
Targeted stories help you attract interest, build awareness, and encourage sharing. But well-researched, outstanding content can help boost sales, referrals, and brand loyalty. Remember, sometimes just a handful of posts will generate most of your traffic.
Researching and prioritizing topics will help you develop a simple content strategy that supports your high-level business goals. You don’t necessarily need to research an entire year’s worth of SEO keywords ahead-of-time. That can be addressed as you follow your content strategy in the coming weeks and months.
“It really does pay off to focus on fewer high-quality content projects, rather than trying to bang something new out constantly.” —Inc.
5. Reassess Which Channels Are Best
Let’s say you’ve promoted your content mainly via Twitter and email newsletters thus far. Based on your analytics, can you tell which platform truly drove higher-quality traffic? Would you reprioritize your time on either platform based on those results?
Consider stretching; How much more work would it take to fit another platform like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram into your plans? Certainly you want to test a social media platform that make sense for your business. But, testing a new channel enables you to gather more intelligence on your prospects and customers.
6. Create a Backlog of Tasks and Prioritize
Based on the work in the previous steps, create a list of tasks that must be completed. If you’re familiar with Agile development methodology, this is where you’d add tickets (discrete tasks) to the backlog (to do list).
Construct these phrases as actions. For example, here are a few tasks pulled from our content strategy backlog:
- “Compile the most popular topics from last year into one post based on analytics results”
- “Explain how to zero-in on prospects with a targeted lead magnet”
- “Show how to maximize marketing ROI with social media”
- “Demonstrate the value of content to upper management”
- “Offer tips on how to conquer a business writing project”
If you click on any of those links, you’ll see we published a post (ie: We executed that task). Hopefully, that gives you the idea. Generate a healthy list of tasks. Prioritize them into categories A-C and distribute them among key dates over the coming year.
“Once you thoroughly understand who your customer is, evaluate the content you already have.” —Damian Farnsworth, Copyblogger
Good content demonstrates. Though it requires more time and effort, high-quality content will serve you better.
The appropriate format can help reinforce your message. So go beyond simple blog posts when possible. Other formats include: case studies, white papers, eBooks, infographics, charts, graphs, presentations, webinars, survey results, quotes, podcasts, and press releases.
Readers like content that’s relevant to their challenges and interests. They may engage more with ideas presented in unique formats, too. Try to incorporate that into your overall content strategy.
8. Establish Guidelines for Your Content Team
Done right, a content strategy will guide your team on tasks, so you don’t have to micromanage their work. Set up an editorial calendar with main topics you want to cover. Apply milestone dates to the calendar for each item, and do your best to stick to them. A content strategy works best when everyone commits to the schedule. It maximizes momentum and prevents delays.
“Determine who will be involved in the content creation and review process. Having a process in place will make your entire program run smoother.” —Amanda Farmer, The Kapost Blog
Complement that editorial calendar with a list of KPIs. I realize we’re blurring the line between editorial and marketing, here. But, that’s how you strategically boost results. Establish a shrewd list of key performance indicators from the start so you can evaluate your efforts later.
9. Refine Your Approach to Each Piece of Content
As you take up each content assignment, cast assumptions aside and work strategically. Create a list of SEO focus keywords you’d expect to work for the article. Plug those into the Google Keyword planner and research similar hashtags with a tool like RiteTag.
Remember that the way you might phrase an idea may not be the way people will really search for it. So, double check yourself before finalizing each topic name, and weave your best SEO keywords into it.
Describe your target persona. Work to understand your audience. Who is this person? Put yourself in their shoes. What do they really want? Consider the “takeaway” they are looking for and make sure you deliver that.
Think like your prospective customer. How would they search for content you’ll be providing? If they found your content would they be satisfied?
10. Integrate New Ideas as You Go Along
Cover the basics, strive to learn more, and improve as you go. Observing best practices will give you an edge.
For example, make sure your site is responsive for mobile devices. Systematically improve existing content by re-scheduling important topics in your plan.
You’re bound to encounter new tactics as you work through each new assignment. Weave them into your content strategy as you move along the editorial calendar.
11. Promote Your Content Regularly
Producing high-quality content has become part of the basic “social media contract.” Share your content on those channels regularly. Consider a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer to help you do so. But, carve out time to engage on those platforms as well.
Bonus: Analyze, Manage, and Optimize
Once you’ve finished, this process starts all over again!
So, go back to step one. Review analytics. Evaluate the effectiveness of content across your site. That data should provoke questions — which should lead to tests, campaigns, custom reports, advanced views, and more insights! Strive to – once again – cover the full range of topics that will resonate with your customers throughout the year.
Honestly, you can go much deeper on the topic of content strategy. But prospects will find your business online more easily if you’re addressing the basics, above.
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Sources may include:
The Ten Commandments of an Awesome Lead-Generating Website, Sherice Jacob, KISSmetrics
The Definition of “Content Strategy” Holds the Key to Better Results, Amanda Farmer, The Kapost Blog
New B2B Content Marketing Research: Focus on Documenting Your Strategy, Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Insitute
What Is a Content Marketing Strategy?, Damian Farnsworth, Copyblogger