Before we break a few myths and do some soul searching, let us understand what content strategy means. As far as a content goes, I am sure most webmasters are of the opinion that
Putting together a few articles to begin with and one post a week will get them indexed on search engines and probably increasing the frequency will help get them up on search engine indices.
- Get a few articles written, sprinkle keywords and distribute them across the internet with hyperlinked keywords pointing to relevant pages on the website, will get them across the search engine hurdles.
- Participate in forums and open blogs with hyperlinked keywords to drive traffic, the more the traffic, more the business since conversion is more or less a constant percentage.
This standard practice that many webmasters follow and SEO guys strongly recommend, works for bots. However, the new question is – “Is Google a bot?” or has it evolved into Artificial Intelligence as far as internet marketing goes?
Well, many webmasters have been there and done that as above, the result – zero, zilch… traffic to website – yes, however relevant traffic – ? Rankings? Best not to speak of them.
Is relevant traffic, the traffic that takes action, otherwise not?
Well, I am yet to meet a webmaster who can answer that. I am also yet to meet a webmaster who has and follows a “content strategy”.
Ok, coming to the point – there are four steps to getting results, yes, getting results from a content marketing strategy.
Step 1: Creating the strategy
It is obvious that your content marketing strategy should be aligned with your organisational goals, and if you are a webmaster, the website goals. I do hope, as a webmaster, you have documented goals for each of your websites failing which; you will still be groping in the dark to organize your customers and business despite getting encouraging results.
Content marketing is not a sharp science that you can master given the variables of search engine algorithmic changes and niche dependent differences. In fact, it is more of an art, considering that writers are considered artists rather than scientists. So, there cannot be a template for a perfect content marketing strategy. It has to be different for each website, depending on its objectives and actionable(s).
So, the only guides we can go by are mission and goals (we need to create these), as we may have for any organisation. To create an effective content marketing strategy, it is imperative that both these variables are defined and frozen. They should not change, period. Let us look at each website as a business in its own, so it will have its own mission and goals. Before we go further, let us understand what these mean and how they should be defined.
Mission: The mission of a website should have the following considerations:
Who are the target audience?
- Who of them are you going to help?
- What is it that you are delivering to the said audience?
- What is the benefit accrued to them?
I spoke to a few webmasters while looking for ways to create a content marketing strategy, and surprisingly almost all of them believe that their deliverables will help almost everyone on the planet. If you feel the same way, you or your website will get nowhere. It is important to define your audience with as many specifics as possible and focus on them. Answer all the above questions after requisite thought and define it as objectively as possible.
Once you have nailed the mission, you need to define each piece of content and think about how it will fit into the larger picture of the mission. Without this, your content is lost without a purpose. And, if your content is not purpose-driven, there is no point in adding pages.
Goals: While mission is the larger picture, goals are the smaller objectives that fit into achieving the mission of your website. Many webmasters I spoke to want to create content for its sake or for search engines sake, however, Google has already claimed through its string of algorithmic changes that if the content is not visitor-specific, there is no point in actually indexing it for indexing sake. Though, it does index, it will not come out tops despite the volumes that your pour in.
I have heard many webmasters claim – “I rank X for aaaaaa keyword and Y for zzzzzzz keyword”. Think, is ranking a goal for your website? Ok your website ranks #1 for a given keyword, but is it helping business, are you getting as many sales or whatever the mission is as you want? If you are, good for you, but, I don’t think you are. If ranking is not the objective, define your content marketing goals accurately. Some goals could be:
Raising brand awareness
- List building
- Customer retention
- Lead generation
Goals can be anything that fit into your mission statement or help achieve it. So again you will need to tie in your content goals with your business objectives. Sorry to say but most content marketers or even internet marketers miss the point completely at this juncture.
The mission and goals should be completely imprinted on the minds of the business owners or webmasters, so much so that they should look at each piece of content with them in mind and ascertain what that piece of content will achieve for them.
For me, while writing this and publishing it on Content Opus, I am thinking:
Will it help me build my brand as a content strategy consultancy in the mind of my audience?
- Will it enlighten more webmasters and convince them to speak to me in order to avail my services?
Step 2: Having the right channel plan
Once you have on paper, the kind of content you want created, the next step would be to have the right channel plan. What is the point of having content when it cannot be channelized to reach the right audience at the right time?
Now, this part is highly niche dependent. Look back at the audience and product/ service/ objective definition you have created in the mission. Find out where the audience you need hangs out in the virtual world. If you are looking at customer service or brand building, FaceBook could be your best bet. But, if you think your audience is professional, you will need to find out ways of leveraging your content on LinkedIn.
There are many methods of using these channels – social or just plain PPC advertising. For free advertising, you may not need to bother too much on reach, but if you are paying for these services, it is very important that you need to keep track of your services through the use of good analytics. Free or paid, you will need to calculate your ROI on these and revisit to tweak and fine tune your content marketing strategy regularly. This will help you with a good bottom-line in addition to helping you keep on top of the channel offers and updates.
Step 3: Objective topics and themes
Now that you have your mission, goals and channels finalized, it is time to find out and underline the themes and topics that your content should and will have. Once you these frozen, they will not only play the role of a guidance system for your content creation but will also help your content to become more findable.
Time and again, you will need to give a holistic revision to your content under each theme and find out if it still finds appeal with the audience. This is very important and will help you chalk out the nuances of what needs changing. Also, it will give you an opportunity to tweak the themes and topics to include the latest trends and interest areas for your audience. Finally, the objective here is to enhance your content so that it creates more interest and traction with the audience.
This again, should be cohesive team effort from everyone on the team, failing which the resulting Brownian motion could drown the efforts.
Step 4: How to leverage and maintain a successful content marketing strategy
Time and again, revisiting each of the above aspects of the strategy is of extreme importance. Revisiting not for the sake of it, but to make the whole process leaner and better. The only to better an existing strategy is to study the analytics through whichever tool you may prefer and find out which of the aspects are working and which are not. If all are working, which are giving you the best results in terms of ROI and actionable(s).
Put them in an order and make changes to your strategy so that you give more weight to those practices that are working well for you and check if you can boot those areas that are lacking, or to drop them out totally.
I know, many webmasters would be pissed with my opinions presented here. You may be an exception, but most out there are going round in circles trying to get that online business rake in ROI. Believe me, when I say content strategy is not about pages and pages of content, it is about quality content that involves and entices the audience to mature and avail your services again and again.
You can talk to me on email @ [email protected] I guarantee a 24 hour reply that can make you a more effective marketer. Write with all details and queries and I will give you a free opinion once. I offer content marketing consulting and can chalk out a full strategy for you after getting your inputs.
Looking forward to ideas and opinions. Everyone is welcome to comment and make this post more informative.