Last year 56% of marketers were embarking upon content marketing without a plan. As any blogger who has floundered down this path will tell you – this way madness lies. Creating decent content for your blog is not an easy thing.
You know as well as I do that it can sometimes take up hours of your time as you carefully piece together something that you are sure is absolutely brilliant, only to find that once published it actually attracts very little engagement, shares, likes, traffic, and/or leads. This can indeed be rather discouraging, and can often make you wonder if there’s much use in what you’re trying so hard to do at all.
Blogs need to do and be a lot of things. They need to be current, they need to contain actionable information, they need to be inspiring, relevant to your industry, unique, original, fact-filled, shareable, and lots more besides. It really is quite a tough game to keep winning at – and you make the task a whole lot more difficult for yourself if you don’t dedicate a little time each week and each month exercising a little forethought and planning.
3 steps of Content Strategy:
- Know Your Audience
- Fill Your Editorial Calendar with Great Titles
- Measure Your Results And Take Action Accordingly
What Is A Content Strategy?
Good question. Importantly, a content strategy is distinct from a social media strategy, though the two of course are dependant upon one another. Your social media strategy is about the practicalities, the nuts and bolts of getting your content out there. It concerns your scheduling, your methods for increasing your following, your customer engagement, your promotions.
Your content strategy, however, is about just that and nothing else – i.e. your content.
Let’s put social media completely aside for the moment. You will of course use it in order to promote your blogs once they’re written, but for now we are just going to focus on how you come up with a content plan for the weeks that follow.
Essentially, developing an effective content strategy can be boiled down to 3 important elements, and they all require a little research:
- You need to know unequivocally exactly what topics your audience and customers like to talk about, and from there you need to find a way to create blogs that will further ignite those conversations and be ready to join in with them.
- Once you’ve got your topics, you now need to come up with a list of enticing and very clickable titles from which your blogs will be inspired, and then you will create an editorial calendar and stick to it.
- Finally you need to measure your results, and use these to create even more insightful content strategies going forward.
1. Know Your Audience
‘Content is king’ is now an old adage. So too is the one that goes: ‘Create content for readers, not for search engines.’ Both of these essentially amount to the same thing – know your audience and create for them – and the best content strategists know this better than most.
These are the people who actually pay real attention to exactly who the people are that make up their audience. And perhaps that word itself – ‘audience’ – is what creates so much abstraction for a lot of marketers. Just as your brand might be a somewhat faceless entity to a marketer’s audience, so too is the audience itself to the marketer.
But the trick is to really get to know them. Study their conversations on social media, find out what other brands aside from yours they follow, make notes, and begin to create for yourself a real picture of exactly what it is that sets them off. If you’re a blogger then you’re a writer, and writers know that it’s much easier to write for a small group of real people, rather than it is for a large, disparate and abstract thing that we call an ‘audience’.
Matthew Woodward managed to create a blog that entered into the top 100 business blogs in less than a year. And he did it because to he took the time to figure out exactly what his audience wanted.
“I saw the same common problems coming up over and over. With my notes in hand I created possible tutorial titles and then bullet pointed the areas each tutorial should include. So I knew what my audience wanted and how I could help them. No PPC, no link building, no SEO, no media buys, no spending money – just good old-fashioned human interaction.”
This is truly sage advice. What Woodward essentially was able to do was create something of true value for his audience. He got to know them, found out what they were lacking, and filled that gap. As a result, his blog went viral – an excellent example of content strategy by an excellent content strategist.
2. Fill Your Editorial Calendar with Great Titles
Coming up with titles can actually be one of the trickiest parts of content creation. And, if you’re doing it off the cuff with no real direction or focus, then it can cause you a lot of stress indeed.
As many bloggers will tell you, once you’ve got a title, the actual writing of the blog becomes a lot easier. The title gives you focus. It presents to you a hypothesis or a question that you will then explore and answer.
So, what if you managed to create for yourself a whole series of titles that in turn lead you to answer a lot of questions in a lot of depth? Now, wouldn’t that not only be something really valuable for your readers, but also something very exciting to explore and answer yourself in the process of the creation? You now know exactly what sort of information your audience lacks, so now you must go about creating a plan for providing that information in the days, weeks and months that follow.
What’s so great about this approach is that you can start to build a real buzz around your future posts way before you even write let alone publish them. What you are doing is making promises to your audience – that you are here for them, that you are working behind the scenes and researching to provide for them the answers to the problems that they are facing on a daily basis. If you are tapping into the right things, then you will literally be able to watch the excitement grow and grow as your audience anticipates your next blog. And the next one. And the next, and the next…
3. Measure Your Results And Take Action Accordingly
A great content strategy can take a bit of trial and error to refine. This is ok. In fact, unless you get really lucky at the outset, it’s almost an inevitable part of the process. But, you can shorten the time it takes for you to hit onto that all-important winner by paying close attention to your analytics.
You will want to be measuring exactly which of your topics gains the most traction in terms of engagement with your following – and that includes comments, social shares and likes. It might take a few months to get a really clear picture of what works best and what doesn’t, but it will be worth the wait, for the intelligence that you will glean will be invaluable to your future content strategies.
Indeed, measuring your results is an extremely important endeavour for all effective content marketing, and so often it is mostly ignored. It’s not good enough to simply take a glance every once in a while at the graphs and give yourself a little pat on the back each time you see a spike. You need to get into the meaning of the data – what was so good about that particular blog that created so much commotion, or, perhaps even more importantly, why didn’t your other blogs garner so much attention? Figure this out, and write fewer blogs that nobody cares about, and more and more and more and more of the ones that they do.
Got any more content strategy tips that you’d like to share? Please do so in the comments below.