Step 9 of a digital strategy: content strategy
A content strategy is a way a business can outline its identity and purpose through published assets, online and offline. It is a strategic marketing approach purely focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, engaging and consistent content.
Your content strategy should be aligned with the company’s vision and objectives because it outlines the how, why and what content is being created, managed and distributed. Distribution could be through websites, email marketing, social media platforms, websites or launch kits, just to name a few.
From the very start, it is also important to make sure every piece of content is created with your customer at the forefront. Creating a piece of content that is inherently valuable to your defined audience can help change their perception of your products, services or brand – ultimately influencing them to choose you over your competitors.
So, what can content do for your business?
An effective content strategy allows your business to increase engagement with your target audience while also raising brand awareness and enables your business to be recognised as the authority in your particular field of expertise. Well-perceived content also allows you to build a valuable database through lead generation, with the goal of creating lead conversions.
In many cases, a content strategy will help close the gap between your business and its customers while forming a trusting relationship. Though, for a content strategy to have a positive effect on your business, it needs to be relevant and valuable to your target audience, while touching and solving their pain points.
Here’s how you can ensure your content strategy reaches its full potential:
Develop an understanding of your target audience and tone of voice
Knowing the audience to target is important as it can determine the success of each piece of content, as well as the possibility of generating new clients or customers. As explained in our previous blog, to define your target audience, you need to analyse your most up-to-date customer database, as well as the services and products your business currently offers.
Clearly understanding the target audience for your business offering allows you to then develop personas for each business segment. A persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on the research and data already surrounding your existing customers.
Once you have clearly defined whom the audience is you wish to target, you then need to determine the tone of voice for your content. The tone of voice is how the content comes across when read or heard, leaving an impression on the individual.
When deciding on the right tone of voice for the content, ensure it echoes your company’s current positioning and the tone of voice already presented to customers. Though, in some cases, businesses make the decision to change their tone of voice to make it less corporate and edgier where necessary. Deciding the tone of voice is critical because it needs to be consistent throughout the content and digital strategy.
By determining your audience, as well as your tone of voice, it will allow you to resonate with the right individuals for your business from an early stage. This then makes it easier for you to build a relationship with them and form a sense of trust between them and your brand.
Use different types of content
Using a variety of content as part of the strategy is important to keep your audience engaged over a period of time. When creating content, there are a number of formats that can be produced:
- Blog posts;
- Guest blogs;
- Research papers;
- Email campaigns;
- Case studies.
Overall, the most popular distributed content are blogs and videos. When it comes to blogs, there are two types that can be produced, short-form and long-form. Short-form blogs are considered to consist of less than 1000 words, whereas long-form blogs are commonly ranging between 2000 and 5000 words.
When deciding which form to use, you need to be aware of what phase of the sales funnel the individual may be in and how educated they may be on the spoken topic. You must also keep all written content relevant to the topic and the reader, rather than aim for a set word count.
It has also become important for businesses to produce video content after reports found an average person watches three hours of video each day with 72% saying they rather learn about a service via video. Hubspot also reports that 97% of marketers insist video has helped their audience understand their offerings, while 76% say it has increased their overall sales.
While many businesses lean towards distributing across one or two formats of content, it is important to mix it up throughout the overall strategy. By producing a range of content formats, it keeps your audience engaged with the product and your business.
Make your content keyword and SEO friendly
To help generate content ideas for your business, you should perform thorough keyword research using tools such as Google Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest and SEMrush. These tools will help you filter keywords related to your business offerings and services while highlighting terms your audience is searching and gaps in the market.
The keywords discovered during your research can prompt ideas and topics. While the keywords outline what your content is about and what your audience potentially want, they also work within your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy. SEO is critical to a content strategy as it can increase the quantity and quality of traffic to your content through organic search engine results.
Create a content and distribution calendar
Content calendars are an important step of the content strategy as it allows you and the business’ stakeholders to be across what content is being created and when and how it will be distributed to your audience. It also allows the marketing team to book in content to align with their broader marketing activity, supporting product pushes, promotional activity and new product development (NPD).
While content calendars differ from business to business, it is a common practice to have the layout as a spreadsheet. Your calendar should include the content type and title, along with publishing date, distribution platforms and social media copy. A more defined calendar also includes the person responsible, progress status and due date, as well as the target audience, focused keywords, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Call to Actions (CTAs).
During this stage, also develop a tagging system that groups all your like-minded content online. By implementing tagging, it improves the UX of your website while engaging the audience and encouraging them to stay on your site for longer. This will then influence them to form a connection, not only to your content but also to your business.
Perform regular content audits and reports
A content audit should be performed before implementing a content strategy. It should be done on all pre-existing content. When performing a performance audit, you need to review all content that has been distributed through digital platforms in-depth.
To effectively report on all content produced by the business:
- Record all existing content: Using tools such as Screaming Frog you can pull the URLs of existing content from your website and collate it into a list.
- Organise and tag content: Organise all the content and break them out by:
- Topic (what is the content piece about);
- Length and type (How long is the content, how many words is it, what type of content is it?);
- Tone of voice (Is it serious, professional, funny?);
- Relevance (Is it directly aligned with the business?);
- Datedness (Can this content be reused, is it still relevant?);
- Features (is there a video, infographic, downloadable content, is it SEO positive?).
- Research analytics: Break down the data of each content piece by using tools such as Google Analytics. This step should be done monthly and annually for all content. In a master spreadsheet, highlight the contents:
- Time on page;
- Bounce rates;
- Social shares;
- Assisted conversions;
- Heatmaps and recordings.
- Analyse for patterns and gaps: Review the data and generate a high-level analysis. This will showcase what topics worked, those that didn’t and what can be expanded moving forward.
- Make changes where needed: Once the gaps and opportunities have been determined, it allows you to leverage and create content based around topics and styles that resonate with your audience to generate a higher engagement.
Along with regular audits, monthly content reporting should also be conducted with the above steps in mind. By doing this, it allows you to keep track of not only the performance of each content piece but also the effectiveness of your search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy. Tools such as SEMrush will allow you to check who’s linking to your website and content, while also demonstrating who your main competitors are and their back-linking score.
To ensure your content strategy is a success and produces quality outcomes for the business, spend some time researching your current market and audience, as well as any keywords, gaps and opportunities. This is essential because while one topic may be of interest to you and your business, it may not be to those you are trying to influence.
Once you have developed an understanding of your audience and the areas you wish to play in, execute your content strategy with quality content that varies in formats, is SEO friendly and well-documented internally. Remember, the key to success with content is keeping your audience at the forefront.
Always keep your customer front-of-mind when you are brainstorming ideas and producing all ranges of content. They are the ones who are going to read, engage and form a sense of trust with your content, which then reflects back to the overall business.
Though remember, a content strategy is not an element of a digital strategy that you set and forget. Regular auditing, reporting and changes need to be made to the content strategy to ensure the best possible outcome, while also attracting an audience that can then be nurtured into leads.