A Guide on How to Develop Your Very First Content Strategy
A content strategy is a plan of action for the creation and management of any media that you own and present to the world. A strong strategy will drive relevant traffic in your direction, strengthen your bond with your audience, and enhance your reputation.
We know that the online world can be an intimidating place, one that makes you question how you’ll ever be seen by your target customer, but creating a solid strategy is a key way to ensure that you stand out from the competition.
So many companies fail to get even the basics right, but we’re here to help make sure that you’re not one of them. Here’s what you need to do to get started.
Set Your Goals
Since you’re reading this article, it’s likely that you’ve already decided to work on your first content strategy. But why?
Unless you know specifically what you’re aiming for, you won’t be able to work out where you need to go, and you won’t have any meaningful way to judge the success of any steps you take.
Start at the end; what result are you hoping to achieve? A raised conversion rate? Increased engagement? An expanded pool of contacts? Focusing on what you want to get out of your content strategy will keep you from getting derailed early on.
Once you have your objectives locked, keep them in mind for every campaign that you run.
Try to set goals that are S.M.A.R.T – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.
Know Your Audience
Which people are you trying to reach? What motivates them? Where do they go for their online and offline interactions? What drives them to share content? Don’t spend any time thinking about the kind of content you would like to read; remember that it is ALL about your audience.
The questions you need to ask are:
- What is my audience?
- What are their needs?
- What types of content do they consume?
Now comes the really big question: how can you best match your unique expertise with the unique needs of your audience? Once you have the answer, you can start creating relevant content and campaigns, using the right channels, that will help you achieve your goals.
Some competitor analysis can help here. What do other businesses in similar fields do well when it comes to creating content for their audiences?
Use Eye-Catching Visuals
However you slice it, visuals are now an integral part of any content strategy. Whether it involves stock photos, original images, GIFS, or displays of data such as infographics, visual content is worth serious consideration.
It’s no longer enough to just add a couple of striking pictures to your written articles. Visual storytelling, through social media or your site, is a proven way of grabbing the ever-decreasing attention spans of your audience.
Make sure you think about video content here too. From vlogs to webinars, there are great ways to achieve your goals through the use of video.
Be aware of the growing importance of visual search platforms. It won’t be long before it becomes a key consideration for any content strategy.
Now that you have a deep understanding of your audience’s requirements, it’s time to augment that knowledge with an awareness of keywords.
With your specific campaigns and topics in mind, what keywords can you target in order to maximize the effect of your content? SEO still matters!
A thorough understanding of everything from long tail search terms to negative keywords will mean that you can sit comfortably within your niche, knowing that you’re promoting yourself to the right people.
Though there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to keyword research, there are some free tools that can make it easier: SpyFu, Moz and KWFinder to name just three.
Get The Most Out Of Your Work
A blog isn’t just a blog – it can be broken down into a series of social media posts. Similarly, if you’re writing e-books or white papers, they can be serialized through shorter posts and/or turned into infographics, and given much longer lifespans as a result.
If you’re approaching your content in the right way, you’re putting a lot of effort into making it great; that’s why it’s so important that you get the most out of it.
The average lifespan of a tweet is 15-18 minutes. For a Facebook post, it’s 5-6 hours. You don’t want to be overly repetitive, but it is okay to repurpose content knowing that it is likely to be engaging fresh eyes each time.
When it comes to making the most of your content from a commercial perspective, it’s best to operate in a multichannel environment. Rather than operating in content silos, go for an online store that’s also built to be a blog, and a blog that’s also an online store. You want to be making the most out of every post and update and integrate them with your larger sales strategy.
Again, start with the end in mind. When you’re creating long-form copy, think about how you can use it across all your channels.
Test, Then Test Again
The very first step was to define your goals. But how do you know whether your strategy is helping you move towards them? The answer is testing.
Rather than aimlessly firing into the dark, use the analytical tools at your disposal to shed some light on where things are working and where they’re not. Metrics are your benchmarks.
By measuring everything from impressions to time on site, you’ll have knowledge on reach, engagement, perception, conversions and advocacy. In short, you’ll know where your strategy is hitting the mark and where it needs refinement.
It’s not enough to only test at the start. Tastes and trends change, so a continuing commitment to understanding the data will mean that your goals and the needs of your audience won’t slowly drift apart.
Be Aware Of Common Mistakes
As important as it is to know about the best practices, it’s also worth familiarizing yourself with some of the areas in which other content strategies fail:
- Make sure the decision makers sign-off your plan. Don’t fall at the first hurdle.
- When managing your time, allocate enough to properly implement the strategy. Don’t see it as an afterthought; make it an integral part of each day’s work.
- Consider the reason for every piece of content. Is it helping you achieve your goal?
- The scattergun approach is a mistake. Be consistent and targeted.
- Most importantly, don’t preach to your audience. Try to spark conversation.
Since time will always be a major factor, a simple and focused approach will always work better than a sprawling ad-hoc approach. Create a content calendar that is realistic.
Condense Your Strategy to One Page
Boiling everything we’ve discussed down to a one-page plan is a great way to help you stay focused and remind you that your first content strategy is supposed to be relatively simple.
Consider the vital elements – your goals, your audience, your action points and how you’ll know whether you are hitting your targets. There you have it; that’s the core of your plan.
Keeping things clearly stated will also grant you an advantage over many of your competitors, with research showing that only 40% of B2C and 37% of B2B marketers have their plans written down.
Now print that plan out and make sure that everyone who needs a copy has it pinned up where they can see it.
Don’t be scared; it’s always daunting to stare at a blank page, but follow these steps and you’ll have the foundations of a great first-time content strategy. Use a tool like CoSchedule to help you structure your editorial calendar and put your plan in action.
You already have the knowledge, and the tools you need are all out there. If you remember that your strategy is about meeting the needs of your audience, there’s nothing that can stop you.
So what are you waiting for? Get going!
Victoria Greene is an ecommerce marketing expert and freelance writer who loves seeing great content get the attention it deserves. You can read more of her work on her blog Victoria Ecommerce.