If you’re struggling to understand what a content strategy is and why you need one, we’ve put together this article including 5 reasons why content strategy is more important than ever and 5 actionable steps you can follow to develop your own.
What is a content strategy?
As a business owner with an online presence, you may have asked questions such as ‘how can I leverage my website to increase revenue?’ or ‘how can I connect better with my customers?’. Well, developing an effective content strategy is one of the many tactics that can be employed to achieve these ends.
Content can come in many forms, with some of the most popular being written, video, audio, images and infographics. No matter the type of content you think may be useful in promoting your brand or business, it’s important that you consider how that content should be created and presented to your audience.
Simply put – a content strategy is a plan of action for creating, publishing and improving content in line with some stated goals or objectives.
For many businesses their content strategy amounts to the occasional blog post, which is often written on a topic chosen almost at random. But to those who invest the appropriate resources, a content strategy can be instrumental in building customer trust and long-term traffic growth.
Why content strategy is important?
It’s not often that you’ll find a business these days that’s succeeding online without a concerted effort to publish quality content on a consistent basis. Below, you’ll find 5 of the biggest benefits that can be realised with the implementation of a sound content strategy.
Understanding your customers and their queries
The evolving interests of your market are reflected in the kinds of content your audience is consuming. These interests are likely to change over time, and without a strategy dedicated to understanding them you’re likely to fall behind competitors who do.
A great content strategy not only gives you direction in your content creation mission, but also reveals the interests of your visitors and how they pursue these interests via search engines.
By nailing down which search engine queries are gaining traction and how content engagement trends are changing over time, you’ll be developing a deeper understanding of market shifts and customer desires than those who aren’t developing their own content strategy.
Every business understands the value of simplicity; the less complicated something is, the easier it typically is to complete or accomplish. A dedicated content strategy might be complex to develop initially, but really begins to pay off in the long run by giving you a clear direction of travel.
The last thing you want is a marketing department who are constantly stumped, trying to brainstorm their latest blog post at the eleventh hour. With a strategy in place, clear deadlines can be set, briefs can be generated and targets can be hit. An agreed upon strategy provides clarity which leads to simplicity.
Tracking & progress
As with any business goal, it’s important to regularly review your progress and take stock of how far you’ve moved towards (or away from) what you’re trying to achieve. A content strategy allows you to set realistic KPIs relating to the performance of your content. Without taking the time to understand what metrics you should be tracking and what performance to expect, it’s impossible to use this data for continuous improvement.
Content marketing is a time-consuming effort, especially when you’re trying to guess your way to increased traffic or more leads. By electing to create a detailed content marketing strategy, you’ll have the understanding you need to generate the content that your audience wants to see. Ultimately, you’ll be spending less time and money developing content pieces that are likely to fail in achieving your objectives.
Growing your business – content that converts
Probably the benefit that most businesses are keenest to realise is the increased rate of conversion from your content. Ever wondered why the products or services you link to or promote in your content aren’t seeing any increase in uptake or sales? Without a content marketing strategy that is based on a solid understanding of your audience and sound content creation principles, you’re going to struggle to get it converting into revenue.
Content Strategy in Practise
Here are our top 5 tips for implementing your own content strategy. You can always add additional stages to this process if you think it will add value, but these are the ones that you certainly shouldn’t skip if you want an actionable strategy.
1. Target audience & buyer personas
Every content marketing strategy starts with this crucial question – who do I want to attract to my website?
By pondering this all-important question, you’re trying to understand not only who your core customers are, but what really drives them in their search and content engagement behaviour.
When considering our target audience, we’re taking a bird’s-eye view of the groups of people who may be interested in what we have to offer. Demographics are key here – age, gender, nationality and race are some of the most popular factors to take note of. How might these characteristics impact how they consume or look for content?
We can go further in this audience exploration by creating buyer personas, enabling us to take a slightly closer look at our typical buyer. A buyer persona is distinct from the target audience due to its more focused nature – you can create an imaginary individual including their name, job title, background, goals and challenges.
This process should give you a good understanding of who you are creating your content for, allowing you to use a style that mirrors their preferences and include material that addresses their possible concerns.
2. Content audit
Assessing your current content library is an often-overlooked part of many content strategies. Too frequently do strategies focus on the development of new content, while neglecting existing material.
By performing an audit, you’ll be able to see which content has performed below your expectations and which has performed above. Use this information to guide future content efforts, in addition to drawing up a list of content that can be improved, discarded or even integrated into other content (such as by combining two written pieces into one).
This process will also help outline which topics you’re yet to cover, thus highlighting some useful gaps when it comes to planning content for future campaigns.
3. Production plan
Arguably one of the most prominent elements of your content strategy, this is where you’ll consider how to align your target audience and persona qualities with your content. At this stage, you’re aiming to establish content genre, format and subject matter.
If it’s a written piece of work, this is also where you would use common SEO techniques, such as keyword research, to help inform your production plan.
Unless you plan on creating and publishing your content all at once, it’s likely that you’ll want to establish an editorial calendar with specific briefs and deadlines. This can be one of the most difficult things to implement properly, as it’s often the case that other work (such as client work) takes priority and briefs begin to get rushed or abandoned. Nothing will hinder the implementation of your content strategy more than this.
5. Channel & distribution plan
With a multitude of platforms available to share every kind of content, you’ll want to consider how best to deploy your content for maximum effect. Popular options include:
- A webpage or blog
- Social media
- Email marketing
- Video sharing websites
- Offline – print media, letters, adverts, etc
It’s often most effective to use a single platform to host the original content, with secondary channels used to drive indirect traffic. For example, publishing a YouTube video which can be embedded on a webpage and shared via social media.
Things to keep in mind…
Long-term strategies require long-term dedication
It’s important to remember that implementation of a content strategy occurs over a long period of time. Unless you have an army of writers with unlimited time on their hands, it’s likely that you’ll be creating, publishing and evaluating content according to your strategy over a period of weeks and months. Do not get disappointed when your first few pieces of content fail to see huge traffic numbers or get immediate first page SERP results.
A well-considered content strategy will aim to build a topical authority within a specific niche. Your goal is to offer your readers no reason to leave your site, as they know they can find everything they need in one place – your website. Reaching this point will take a long time.
Be consistent – stick with your editorial calendar
Whether you’ve decided to create 3 pieces per month or 10, it’s important that you keep up with your editorial calendar. Nothing will set you back or derail your content strategy like missed deadlines. It becomes easier to justify skipping pieces when you’re already behind on your planned publishing dates, and nothing will negatively impact you more than an abandoned strategy.
Never sacrifice quality just to publish.
While it’s important to ensure you keep with your editorial calendar, it’s equally as important to ensure you’re not simply publishing for publishing’s sake. We’ve all been there – deadlines are looming and word counts seem daunting; keep quality at the forefront of your mind.
EEAT is a term normally used when discussing written content within the context of SEO and Google’s quality guidelines, but that doesn’t mean you can’t embody these principles within all your work to ensure quality is maintained.
- Experience – ensure the content reflects the fact that you have first-hand experience with the subject matter.
- Expertise – display your expertise within the given field. Remember, if your website is dedicated to a particular niche or you’re being paid to work in a particular field, you should be looking to demonstrate that fact through expert knowledge and understanding of the subject matter.
- Authority – you should be framing yourself as a qualified individual and source whose guidance is accurate and consistently correct.
- Trustworthiness – search engines and people don’t like websites or content that look like spam or scams. Look to create content that can be trusted by virtue of its quality, sources, and structure.