If like us, the casual use of the clichéd phrase ‘content is king’ brings you out in a cold sweat and makes you want to punch yourself full on in your face, then chances are that other over-used ‘fashionable’ marketing buzz-words will have a similar effect.
Big Data. Brand journalists. Storyscaping. Content Strategy. They’re all just words made-up by someone working in a graffitied office in Brick Lane, wearing oversized spectacles and slip-on shoes with no socks, aren’t they? They have no place in a real, proper place of work, do they?
Well actually yes, they do. Or at least content strategy does (storyscaping is definitely a made up one) because for any company having, or planning to have any type of content that will be consumed by customers (or potential customers) you absolutely, definitely, unquestionably MUST have a strategy for this.
Creating and distributing brand content without a strategy is like driving at car at night, with no lights on, blindfolded, with your hands tied behind you, and your kids in the back asking repeatedly whether you’re nearly there yet. You get the picture. It’s a scary and confusing place to be.
And yet, in spite of the many thousands of talks, books, articles and videos produced warning brands of the danger of failing to arm themselves with a robust content strategy, we are still amazed by the number of blindfolded drivers there are out there in our digital highways – clogging up our fast lanes with meaningless, directionless content produced for the sake of it.
Content strategies don’t need to be complicated or arduous. In fact, they’re infinitely better if they’re not. However, they do need to cover the basics.
So without further ado, here are 8 things your content strategy absolutely must include:
What do you want to achieve with the content you produce, and how will you know whether the content you’ve produced has been successful in achieving your goals?
If you want to create kick-ass content that will help convert causal site visitors into repeat customers that spend lots of money with you, then say that. If you want to create content that will make people laugh their socks off and therefore come back again and again, then say that too.
Knowing this stuff in advance helps you quickly dismiss the production of anything that won’t help you achieve these goals. What’s the point in producing a 20-page eBook to sit within your site that you’ll do nothing else with, when you’ve identified that brand awareness is a major goal for your business? Why throw all your efforts into building a huge social media presence when search visibility and increased organic traffic is your goal?
Set yourself two or three overarching goals and then stick to them!
Did you know that 91% of smartphone users turn to their smartphone for ideas when doing a given task? Google refers to these moments as ‘I-Want-To’ moments and informs us that all the best and most successful brands are building strategies around these mini windows of opportunity. Most of us encounter these moments several times throughout the day, and rather than ask friends or read a book to find the answer (like we did in the olden’ days) we turn to our digital devices to provide the info.
These moments include:
But how do you even begin to identify what ‘I-want-to’ questions your customers are asking? Well, to start with you need to know who your customers are (fast forward to point 3 – personas) but you then need to add an extra layer of detail to these. What are their pain-points? What are they currently struggling to do or find?
The answer to these questions will get you well on your way to figuring out the content they need.
Keyword research will help you out a lot, and my esteemed colleague explains how to do this in much more detail than I ever could here
You’ll also find lots of really useful by having a general search around the data in SEM Rush – look at the organic search terms for you and your top 2/3 competitors. Don’t focus on those big traffic terms here, this about getting a general feel for the questions people are asking – and here’s a heads-up, they’ll ask the same question in a variety of different ways.
Google are also awfully decent people, and regularly release new and useful information via their ‘Think With Google’ pages. If you haven’t already signed up for their newsletter then I urge you to do so immediately.
Developing a deep and intimate knowledge of the customers who will be buying your products or services is an absolute must.
It’s easy for brands to say: “We don’t want to pigeon-hole our customers” for fear of alienating an important purchaser. But by avoiding this important task and trying to target everyone you’ll quickly find yourself in a content black hole.
Knowing your buyers inside out allows you to create the content they want and need (remember those micro-moments?)
Social data, namely the wealth of information available through Facebook audience insights, can provide you with enough information to pull together two or three data driven personas.
You can add to this a raft of information freely available through YouGov Profiles – a tool that allows you to search for any brand, person or thing, and providing they have enough data, you’ll be able to see what is particularly true of people who like XXX compared to the general population.
It’s a well-known fact that everything’s a remix, and there is no shame whatsoever in taking a sneaky peak at what your key competitors are doing. Evaluate what’s working well for them, and what should be avoided. Look at their blogs, on page content and product descriptions, email newsletters and social pages. Ask yourself how their tone of voice and approach differs to yours – are they targeting a different audience, or are you missing a trick?
SEM Rush is another valuable tool for analysing competitor content. It allows you to establish the organic keywords they’re currently ranking for, and establish the volume of traffic asking that particular question – you also have a snapshot into the landing pages for the content.
Cross reference this information against your own site and make an informed decision about how you can start to properly compete with them using content as your weapon of choice!
If you wrote every word on your site, you are probably not the right person to do this step!
Ask someone who’s not emotionally connected to your content to perform an honest review of your on site content. Check for the following:
The book ‘Content Strategy for the web’ by Kristina Halvorsen and Melissa Rach contains an amazingly comprehensive chapter on carrying out a web content audit. If you’re serious about content strategies then I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
Here’s one of those woolly points, but it’s vitally important nonetheless.
Creativity has been described as the art of breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way, and this is never truer than when creating a comprehensive strategy that will allow you to compete with the 1 billion+ other websites currently in existence.
Whilst the core of what you create should answer those ‘long tail’ questions and help people during their micro-moments of need, your content strategy should intrinsically link with your marketing plans; and good marketing needs creativity.
Turning the simplest of ideas into something people talk about and remember is the advertising professionals bread and butter, and you need to recreate this in a digital space.
Here at Zazzle Media we call this ‘big bang content’ and realise that all good content strategies and plans need a flow of content that includes at least one ‘big bang’ to get people sitting up and taking notice.
You see, that’s the beauty of digital; it allows big and small brands to compete on the same stage – it’s all about the idea. Make sure your content strategy includes a couple of ‘big bangers’ that will set the web on fire.
You’ve done most of the hard work; you now know what you need to do, who you’re doing it for, and what you need to do to get there. But, do you know how long it’s going to take to achieve your ambition?
Creating a road map will allow you to set realistic goals for your strategy and ensure you’re spending time evaluating whether what you’re doing is working (or not!) It’s not a detailed editorial calendar - this comes later. This is an easy-to-use reference that should be shared across your business to ensure you’re all on the same page.
Your strategic roadmap should include the following:
The final part of your content strategy is the implantation of a content governance framework and detailed editorial calendar.
Content governance is described as: The day-to-day detailed management of content delivery and style.
Whilst it’s important you encourage as many people as possible from within your business to contribute to the content you produce, this doesn’t mean accepting and publishing absolutely everything.
Before publishing anything, ask yourself the very same questions you asked during the content audit phase. If it doesn’t tick every one of these boxes, then it doesn’t get published.
The final part of the strategy process is the creation of a detailed editorial calendar. This should spell out the content you plan to create and execute for the next few months – titles, topics and content type. It should detail who will be creating it, how long it will take, in addition to seasonal or marketing events you will (or should be) talking about.
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