What is a content strategy? To some it may sound like just another impenetrable marketing buzzword, but the definition is actually fairly straightforward – it simply refers to how you plan, produce and manage your web content.
Having a robust strategy in place gives you focus, with each and every new page serving a distinct purpose within your site (as well as living up to the quality standards set out by search engines). It also gives you a process to follow (so new team members can quickly get to grips with your way of working) and helps you review your level of success over a long term period.
Here’s a basic introduction on how to create an effective content strategy for your company’s web presence. Let’s get started with the most important element…
Decide on your objectives
Many small businesses make the mistake of just starting up a blog without taking the time to decide what they want to get out of it. Instead, they end up posting articles for the sake of it, with the vague hope that it will help their business, somehow…
Content can serve many different purposes; it can help you target and rank for certain keywords to bring in more search traffic, build stronger relationships with your existing users, boost your brand exposure or directly persuade readers to convert into paying customers. You’re welcome to have more than one overarching objective, but avoid cramming too many goals into each piece – instead, plan out different types of content for different purposes.
For example, you might produce long-form whitepapers to highlight your expertise and generate leads, while your blog posts might be there to engage with your regular visitors and increase their loyalty to your brand.
Research your audience
Another common mistake of content production is to produce everything solely for the benefit of your business, without considering the customer. It’s easy to fall into this trap if you’re a lesser known brand and you’re eager to introduce yourself to a world that doesn’t know who you are – unfortunately, you’ll likely put off potential buyers with self-conceited waffle which doesn’t serve them in any way.
You should hopefully already have an idea of the kinds of customers you’re looking to target; now you just need to plan content which will be highly relevant for them. What problems do they need to solve? What kinds of subjects interest them? What devices are they using to view your content? What can you offer that they can’t get anywhere else?
Keep in mind, not every piece of content will appeal to everyone, so it’s a good idea to segment your audience and plan targeting each segment individually with different material. (As for reaching those segments, we’ll talk more about how to share and promote your content later in the article.)
Pick out valuable keywords to focus on
Even if SEO isn’t the primary function of your content, it’s smart to have some target keywords in mind so that your overall search optimisation strategy remains streamlined, and you don’t end up with different pages of your site fighting over the same positions. It also helps to give each new page more focus, and more of a sense of place within your site.
Remember, generally speaking, it’s better to focus on long-tail keywords – you’ll face less competition from other businesses, and while you’ll bring in less traffic than shorter, broader keywords, the traffic you drive in will be more engaged and more likely to convert from the start.
Of course, if your keywords are too obscure and receive fewer searches, you’ll be putting a lot of effort into optimising your content for little reward, so be sure to take search numbers into account when picking out potential search terms.
Set out a schedule
It’s important to keep your site topped up with fresh material on a regular basis, for a number of reasons. It helps you earn good search rankings (as recently updated sites often provide better search results than old, abandoned ones), helps you feed your social presence, and gives your visitors and followers a reason to keep coming back (which increases the chances of them becoming paying customers).
How regularly should you be posting new content? The simple answer is: the more often you can post, the better – however, the more frequently you’re posting, the higher the strain on your time and resources, and the more likely the quality of your material will suffer.
However you choose to arrange your posting schedule, it needs to be sustainable for you. Posting every day is an unrealistic (and often unnecessary) target for most small companies, whereas posting on a weekly basis is more manageable.
Whatever you do, don’t let the wheels grind to a halt. Make sure you have enough ideas and time in your work schedule to commit to your content strategy. You should not only consider how long it takes to write each piece, but also how much time you’ll need to devote to research; especially if you’re covering current affairs and emerging issues in your industry.
If your posting schedule ends up on the back burner, Google and your users alike will wonder where you’ve gone. If there’s no activity or communications from you, you run the risk of disappearing off their radar.
Find places to promote and share
What’s your next move after a particular piece of content has been released? It can’t just languish on your site – otherwise the only people who are likely to see it are your existing visitors. As we’ve already established, creating great content takes time and effort, so make sure you get a great return on your investment by sharing it out to the world.
Where’s the best place to share your content pages? Again, it depends on the context – what you’re trying to achieve, who you’re targeting, what kind of content you’re promoting and et cetera. If you’re looking to get your pages ranking, reach out to other companies and site owners and see if you can build some links. If you’re looking to generate social media buzz, reel them into your site with a link to the piece within a post that leaves them wanting more.
Think about how you can translate and adapt your content for different platforms, so it can get more exposure. For example, if it’s a how-to article, perhaps it can be converted into a video how-to guide. Other pieces may be able to be condensed into a series of tweets, or even expanded into a larger campaign.
What about your audience? Where can you promote your content so that they’ll see it? Think about what sites they use, what groups and discussions they partake in, and who influences them. Don’t forget to push each piece of content out to the individual segment of your audience which will find it relevant to them – many social platforms offer built-in and third-party segmentation tools to give you more control over who sees what.
What about your old content? To avoid overstuffing your site and have it streamlined, build a once-a-year review into your strategy so you can go through all the pages you already have and either throw them out, revamp them, or keep them as they are.
An old page with outdated info can still be worth keeping, especially if it’s ranking well and accumulating backlinks from credible sources. (Take a look at our guide for dealing with old content for more tips.)
Track and review your strategy
So you’ve implemented your brand new strategy and you’re publishing new content pages on a regular basis – but how do you know if it’s working?
This is where tracking and analytics come in. With analytics software, you can get a good indication of how well your pages are performing by examining various metrics – for example, the average time on page will tell you if readers are staying to read the whole page, or are leaving early.
Be sure to compare the metrics against different demographics, and be prepared to be surprised. You might find your posts are popular with a different segment of your audience – or a different audience altogether – than you anticipated.
If particular subjects are proving popular, think about how you can cover them in a different way for future pieces. If others aren’t doing so well, investigate why, and decide whether or not to focus on them again.