Content strategy has been a trending word for the last several years, entering the mainstream lexicon in about 2012. Most businesses now have lots of content assets; these are web pages, your products and services, landing pages, blogs, articles, photographs and video content.
Since the advent of social media and web publishing, we all self-publish. We are publishing more and more content, in increasing frequency. This means that many businesses now have lots of content to manage; making sure it’s fresh, accurate, up-to-date, that there are no technical glitches or URL issues. It can be a very big task. That’s why you need to create a content strategy.
What defines “content”?
Content can be anything, really. Your content will be specific to your business, product or venture. Content usually begins with the information on your website, then may extend to other types of content, such as blog posts, videos and even the content in your products and services, for example, if you’re a personal trainer, you might have eating plans or exercise sequences that you have created – this is content too.
Intellectual property is nothing new; people have been aiming to maintain ownership of their unique work since the beginning of written history. Cartographers even used to insert “paper towns” into maps to ensure that their work was not copied. Content marketing has been around for a very long time.
Put simply, content is information. Content is what you publish. Content is what your audience/customers see about you. Here are over 40 definitions of what content “is” but I think you’ll find that they all say practically the same thing. Content can be anything.
What is content marketing?
Let’s start by thinking how we search for information these days. Do you get out the phonebook? Nope. Today the majority of people search for the information they want online, via a search bar. Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) will then display the information that is most relevant to your search, based on what you typed in, and in some cases, where you are located.
“Without content,” explains Moz, “SEOs would have nothing to optimise for search engines. The metadata they add to posts is an attempt to help robots like Google and Facebook wrap their digital heads around the complexities of the content they’re indexing. Every link earned by every marketer points to a piece of content, and the keywords that people type into search engines are an attempt to find—yep—content.”
Your content, and how well it is optimised to be “found” by SERPs, is how your customers/audience will find you, outside of your other marketing efforts such as online ads, word-of-mouth, direct referrals and even “bricks and mortar” metrics such as foot traffic.
What is a content strategy?
Timeframe: Now that we agree on the importance of content, the next step is to create a content strategy. Many people are confused as to what this is, but put simply, it’s your roadmap for the next agreed period, usually 12 months.
Platform: This content strategy plan is where you will decide how you will manage your content needs over the year, usually broken down by platform. What will your main website need that’s new? What content on your main site will need to be refreshed and updated? Do you post on social media? If so, how often?
Creation: How do you create your content? Do you write/video/text/photograph it yourself, or do you work with an agency or a professional? What’s your content budget for the year? A content plan is something you should be working on as part of your broader content strategy.
Seasonality: Consider also seasonality. What are your peak seasons, when are your downtimes? Is there a particular time of year associated with your products and services? What times of the year are busiest for you and can you have your content already planned in advance?
Assessment: How did your content perform in the last 12 months? How can this be improved? What should the next 12 months look like? Do you use tools to assess your website’s traffic, click-through rate and bounce rate? Do you keep an eye on what your competitors are doing?
Data: What sort of data do you collect on how your content performs? Do you look at social shares, engagement or linkbuilding? How will you be able to tell what content is working for you? Do you track keywords and their performance over time? Have you checked out your website’s domain authority? Check out What is Domain Authority (DA) & How To Raise Your Website’s Authority & Google Rank.
How long should a content strategy plan be?
This question comes up a lot and there are no hard and fast answers. Best advice is to make it as snappy and short as possible, usually a few pages is ample. Waffly, lengthy content strategies will not get read and reviewed as often as they should. Make the document succinct and readable. Here’s how to put together a good content marketing plan.
Strategic content is something that can make all the difference to a business. Check out a few content marketing blogs to get you started. Check out HubSpot, Moz, King Content and make sure you check your local agencies too.
What is the format of a content strategy plan?
Brand mission statement
Begin with your brand’s mission statement. Make this succinct as well, preferably only a sentence or two, perhaps a short paragraph. What do you do? What do you represent? This may be clear or it may be murky for you – either way, spend some time crystallising this thought. Here are some great mission statements to inspire you.
Lay out the measurement metrics
Again, this will be unique to your business. What does success look like? More website traffic? More referrals? Growth of a blog audience, book or course sales? Lay out exactly how you will measure your success and consider adding “targets” to reach to keep your goals on track. These could be set monthly, weekly or as you see fit. A good website content strategy is composed of several elements.
Content vision – next 12 months
Now it’s time to get creative. How will you grow your current content assets? Will you make more videos? Do you need to create new products and services? How will you be positioning yourself in the market and how has this changed from the last 12 months? Do people know your brand, products and services as well as they should?
State of play + competitor analysis
Assess where you fit in the market and take a look at your competitors. What sort of content are they producing? Is it better than yours? Could you take one of their ideas and better it? Have a look at how they present their content too and see how your mix compares? Do you need a Facebook page, Twitter account or blog? Would a YouTube channel help you gain customers? What’s your industry like at the moment? Who is failing and who is succeeding?
Look at where you house and promote your content. Make a list of everything you have and set out realistic timeframes for posting/uploading/checking/engagement. If you have a blog, how often do you post? If you have a website with products, how often do you need to audit? If you post to social media, how long does this take you every week? Include all this in your content strategy.
Schedule and timings
Breakdown your content (by channel) in your content strategy. Make sure you “hit” all the times in the year when your content will be most received, for example, Valentine’s Day for a florist, swimsuit season for a personal trainer or the holiday period for a counsellor. Will you create content with the same frequency throughout the year? Or will you have peak/down times?
Calendar + budgeting
The last part of your content strategy will include your budget and your calendar. Break it down month by month, or week by week, even quarter by quarter – whatever makes most sense for your business. Having a hard schedule is not ideal for a content strategy, as content can often be needed “on demand” due to news trends and response to the market. Have a plan but make sure there is wiggle room.
Who needs to see my content strategy?
Once you are happy with your content strategy is a good idea to share it with your stakeholders. These will vary, depending on your business, product or service.
“Companies who spend a lot on marketing are able to grow their markets faster than companies who don’t spend as much,” explains Kissmetrics. “You get what you pay for. If you want results with content marketing, you need to spend enough money to make a difference.”
A content strategy will usually be shared with your manager, your direct report, or your marketing manager. You might want to share elements of it with any content producers you work with, such as freelancers or videographers, removing budgeting details or anything sensitive. The content plan is usually owned and managed by the content strategist.
Most importantly, your content strategy should be a document or planning sheet that you revisit often, and review constantly. Circulate the document before finalising it to gather any feedback prior to publishing it. You might consider publishing a locked version of it online as well, so it can be accessed from anywhere.
A final word on your content marketing strategy
Content is more important to your business today than it ever was. If you’d like to learn more about content marketing, now is the time! The power of amazing content can transform a brand from zero to hero in only a few short weeks. Alyce Vayle is a content strategist from Sydney, Australia. If you need advice on content strategy for your business or website, contact Alyce Vayle here. Per hour or per project rates, to your preference.