DIGITAL CONTENT IS THE LIFEBLOOD OF THE INTERNET
Content is the heart and soul of just about everything that happens online. Everywhere you click, it’s competing for eyeballs, building brand reputations and educating consumers.
Blogs, photos, posts, podcasts, newscasts, webcasts, videos, banner ads, user reviews, listicles, link pages and live chats…if it can be downloaded, distributed and delivered electronically, it’s in demand.
But great content doesn’t happen by accident. To move the needle for your brand, you need to start with a strong content strategy. Content is king; content strategy is the kingmaker.
WHY CONTENT STRATEGY IS SO IMPORTANT
If the sea of online content seems like chaos, it is. Too many content producers work without a strategy, writing random articles and hoping they make waves – publish and pray. While 82% of marketers actively use content marketing, only 57% have a documented content marketing strategy.1,2
Not only is this a highly inefficient use of time and talent, but you’ll most likely get more crickets than calls. Worse yet, you might attract the WRONG audience, wasting even more of your resources.
Aligning content, brand strategy, digital marketing and business goals with well-thought-out content marketing planning is the first step to offering real value and standing out from the crowd. That’s why 78% of brands that say they’re “successful” with content have that strategy in place.3
Tactically, a thorough strategy gives you a detailed map to follow, as well as milestones and benchmarks to measure progress. You can plan ahead, see what’s working, adjust when and where needed and make sure your content remains of high quality and high utility.
Strategically, a strategy also helps you:
HOW TO DEVELOP GOALS FOR YOUR CONTENT
Digital content is easy to identify. The strategy behind the content…not so much.
Just as there are many unique brand strategies, and an infinite number of content possibilities, there are many unique ways to plan, create and manage your content.
Content strategy goals can vary greatly. In a recent survey, the top three stated goals were increasing brand awareness (45% of respondents); increasing website traffic (37%); and generating leads (36%).2
If you’re after brand awareness, you might look at producing a consistent stream of shareable content. If you’re simply looking to drive site traffic, you might focus on thought leadership content that attracts crosslinking from other sites. Or if you want to generate leads and fill your sales pipeline, gated content that captures opt-in contact information might be your best strategy.
Content goals can also determine the model for how your content is distributed:
Starts with a larger comprehensive piece of content, like a guide, overview or class. This hub is supported by several smaller “pillar” pieces that dive deeper into related topics and link back to the main piece and each other – the cluster. Hubspot.com kills it with this model.
Focuses on getting keywords and phrases to the top of searches, designing content specifically to appeal to search algorithms. While cluster-pillar is one type of SEO strategy, it doesn’t have to involve thought leadership. Curated lists and retrospectives are perfect examples.
Subject matter expert: Like cluster-pillar, there’s a sense of thought leadership involved, but the emphasis is more on direct education and building useful tools than creating a connected library of content. Think webinars, podcasts, polls and interactive tools.
In the end, content marketing strategy is the set of guidelines that add measurability to content performance and brand engagement. It spells out what’s created and who it’s for, where it shows up and when, and most importantly, why you’re doing it in the first place.
WHAT A CONTENT STRATEGY PLAN LOOKS LIKE
You can save yourself a lot of frustration and wasted time with a detailed content plan. We can’t tell you what should be in your plan; it’s different for everyone. Creating a strategy that fits your brand and your organization starts before the first piece is even published.
A strong content strategy can clearly answer these questions:
WHO do you want to reach? Define your target audience. What do they need, what questions do they have, what words and terms are they searching on? Maybe consider doing some persona research.
WHY are you creating content? Define your goals. What do you want your audience to do: subscribe, read, join or buy? What problem will you be solving? What need are you filling?
HOW can you best engage? Know your audience. Choose a content setup that fits their mindset and preferences.
Frequency – daily, weekly, monthly (hourly?)
Format – text, video, images
Channels – website, blog, email, social media platforms, organic vs paid search
Role – entertain, educate, help, persuade
WHAT is your niche? Find your space in the conversation. What makes your content worthwhile and different? Start with a content audit of your own website (65% of successful brands do this),2 followed by a competitive audit, and you can see what’s working, what’s in demand and where the gaps and opportunities are.
WHEN should you publish? Plan ahead. Every good content plan needs an editorial calendar. Brainstorm loads of ideas in advance, be clear about roles and deadlines at every step of content production, and establish a realistic (yet steady) publishing pace.
Once your plan is in place, a content management system can help you keep it on track. The best programs help you create and publish the content, manage scheduling and measure results.
CONTENT STRATEGY BEST PRACTICES
You have a plan in place, content calendar in your pocket and you’re ready to churn out a never-ending stream of viral sensations. Here are some tips that can help keep the momentum rolling.
HOW DATA CAN IMPROVE YOUR CONTENT
Great content creation depends on your ability to predict what your audience will respond to. You could rely on gut feelings or popular trends or wild guesses. We recommend using data instead.
Without data, it’s difficult to know which pieces are most effective and why – not surprisingly, 31% of content marketers struggle to create content that resonates with their audience.2
But WITH data, you can focus on and understand your desired audience. You know what they want and like, who they listen to, what they care about. More data helps you become a better strategist and more effective content producer.
So hunt data relentlessly. Constantly test, experiment, stretch and refine your content approach. Study analytics like bounce rate, open rate, time on page, click through rates and click paths. Gather demographic information on your audience, as well as their preferences, needs and pain points.
With these data points and insights in hand, your content marketing strategy will only get stronger with time and experience.
HOW MADISON DOES CONTENT STRATEGY
At Madison Design, we help clients use research and data to define strategy, develop meaningful targets and test and refine content for maximum impact. Services include content strategy and planning, SEO, topic and keyword research, content gap analysis, A/B testing, brand personas, KPI alignment and customer journeys.
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1 HubSpot State of Marketing Report, 2021;
2 Semrush State of Content Marketing 2022 Global Report