Content strategy should not be confused with content marketing. Although both of them refer to the content on one’s website, the former defines the planning of content development and delivery, while the latter refers to the actual distribution of content for advertising purposes.
When planning the marketing strategy for a new website, the content strategist starts by defining what type of content will be published on that website, and for what purposes.
Let’s say you have a website and want to add a blog, for better visibility and online promotion. The content strategy will guide the content development process telling the writers what types of content to create and publish in order to link the target audience with the business, what topics to approach and what keywords to target, how to integrate these keywords for search engine optimization, how often to post (this involves the development of an editorial calendar), what tone to maintain throughout the articles and even what content management system to use in order to ensure a great workflow.
The content strategy provides guidelines for the creative team and helps them see the big picture, so as to create meaningful content that serves the business’ goals. A complete content strategy answers three main questions:
1. What type of content should we create?
2. What is the purpose of the content we create?
3. Who is responsible for creating and maintaining the content?
I’ll address the first two questions here, and discuss the third one is another article that will show you how to create the editorial calendar, as part of your content strategy.
1. How to determine the best type of content for your website
When determining the best type of content for your business, you should consider both the onsite and offsite content, as these work together in building your online reputation, attracting visitors and generating qualified leads.
The onsite content includes all the written, visual and audio materials you publish: your website’s copy, blog articles, e-books, white papers, infographics, videos, podcasts and so on. You can find some good articles on the types of content that engage best on Jeff Bullas’ blog and on SingleGrain.com.
However, keep in mind that what works for some doesn’t work for others, so it may take some testing until you figure out which type of content is the best for your audience. To make this process easier, take the time to research the niche, your competitors and your customers. Industry-related forums and Q&A websites can be really helpful in this direction, as you may discover common questions your potential customers have, and those questions can be used for developing great pieces of content.
To stand out from your competitors, try to approach different types of content than they do; if your main competitor uses only blog articles and infographics, you can create video guides or webinaries for example, or you can try to differentiate your brand by providing more in-depth information and content that looks better. Researching the niche and competition will give you a list of topics and keywords to write about.
Offsite content refers to all the written, visual and audio materials you publishe on other websites and blogs, so as to redirect traffic to your page. This action can create valuable inbound links for your website, so it’s definitely worth to invest your time and energy into creating meaningful content outside of your webpage as well.
Publishing on websites like Answers.com, guest blogging on industry-related blogs, posting original (branded) videos on YouTube or using tools like HubSpot for inbound marketing are only some of the offsite content strategies you can use for attracting visitors to your page.
If you’re not sure what type of content to produce, the Content Matrix below should be helpful.
2. How to set goals for an efficient content strategy
All the pieces of content you publish on your website should work together for a larger goal, such as driving more traffic, increasing sales or generating more subscribers. To achieve such goals you need to write your content in a way that will make people share, comment, subscribe, or buy from you. To generate more traffic for example you can focus on pieces of content that are proven to get more shares, as this way you’ll be able to reach a larger audience. So once you decide what the bigger goals are, write down the steps you need to take for achieving those goals.
Here are some examples: for increasing brand awareness, you will have to create content that illustrates your expertise and is helpful for people, clients or not. Such content includes not only blog articles but also case studies, tutorials, white papers, infographics, client stories.
If your goal is to drive more traffic to your website, then you should focus on content that is likely to be searched and shared. SEO blog articles are only one piece of the puzzle; you can also do guest posts, create email newsletters, use paid social media ads, create video interviews, SlideShare presentations and so on. Webinars and contests may be useful as well. The purpose is for these pieces of content to link back to your website and help people find you.
Finally, to increase signups or determine people to buy your products, you can use product videos and demos, testimonials, influencer content and articles published in major publications, tutorials and paid social media ads. You can also organize contests and giveaways, or do live product presentations. White papers and guides presenting the product and its benefits may also help.
Smaller and precise goals, such as increasing the Twitter or Facebook sharing or likes by 10% are easier to achieve than general but unspecific goals, like “increasing brand awareness”. You cannot measure the “increase in brand awareness” from one month to another but you can count the number of mentions, shares, likes, comments and other such metrics. For this reason your goals should always be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound (SMART).
Here’s how to tell if your goals are SMART:
- Specific goals answer the five “W” questions: who, what, where, why, which.
- Measurable goals can be measured, you know precisely when you have achieved your goal.
- Attainable goals are realistic.
- Relevant goals impact your business and marketing objectives.
- Time-bound goals have deadlines.
A good example of a SMART goal for bloggers: “I want to get 1,000 visitors on this blog article by August 31, because the blog is my main source of viable leads”.
Basic steps for developing your content strategy plan
The ultimate purpose of content marketing is to determine the customers to take actions that are profitable for your company or website, so the role of the content strategy plan is to enable this process, to make it easy for potential clients to find your website and services / products, and to make it easy for them to convert (buy, subscribe or perform other desired actions).
Your content strategy plan should follow these steps:
1. Who will take the action? Build buyer personas to determine the audience, their questions, needs and reasons for taking action. You may need to develop more than one profile for your ideal clients, and each of these personas will require a different approach.
2. What action will they take? Set immediate, measurable goals like downloading a book, buying a product or subscribing to a newsletter.
3. Where can I find those people? Identify the best places to distribute the content by connecting the buyer personas with your business goals. If you sell sport clothes, you’re likely to find customers on a dedicated forum, as well as in themed social media groups and communities.
Keep in mind that there might be contextual issues that may affect your clients’ decision of buying, such as seasonality for example. Some products should be marketed more during summer months, while others perform better in the cold season. This is why it’s important to build an editorial calendar for your website.
4. How do I reach them? Decide who, when and how will distribute the content. Use the editorial calendar, a content management system (CMS) and content marketing tools for this.
5. Finally, decide who will create the content and how the results will be measured. Tracking and analytics tools will help with the latter.
Now that you have a better understanding of what content strategy is (the “why and how” of online marketing), it’s time to put these recommendations into practice by creating your own content strategy. If you need help, don’t hesitate to comment below or to use the contact form here.