Business Marketing Writing

The Beginner’s Guide to Content Strategy

The Beginner’s Guide to Content Strategy
Written by MicroStartups

From organization to organization, content strategy can be approached in a variety of ways. Each industry has a different audience and they each travel to conversions in slightly different ways.

Each company must work with the internal resources they have, and so must adjust their strategy to best use those resources. To accomplish their goals, they need to find the most efficient route with their content strategy.

Nevertheless, developing a successful content strategy looks much the same no matter your industry or the size of your organization. There’s hope for all who want to find a great content strategy.

Let’s start at the beginning with the basic infrastructure.

Create a Structure For Success

Content Management

First things first. What CMS will you use?

It’s important that you choose a CMS that will make frequent usage easy and intuitive. If you have to wrestle with your CMS, you are less likely to use it. You might as well just mothball your content strategy plans, in that case.

The most used CMS in the world, WordPress, is a great choice. Highly functional and intuitive. Easily integrated with a variety of tools and plugins. And, given that it is an open source CMS, highly customizable to your needs.

Using a powerful CMS allows for a more successful implementation of your content strategy. With WordPress, you can set user roles that determine who can contribute and who can publish.

You can set guidelines for writers, such as word count, first draft due date, and topics to cover. Further, posts can be scheduled out to satisfy the editorial calendar and keep things appropriately spaced out.

Expectations and Consistency

From the outset, it’s important to create goals and expectations. This is the time to ask yourself a bunch of questions.

How often do you want to be posting? Be it on your blog, on social media, through email, whatever, you’ll want to know how often it will happen. Make sure that you are setting a goal that you can accomplish and stick to it. This is where an editorial calendar comes in handy, a document to keep you accountable.

What is your brand’s voice? By developing a style guide that defines your voice, you can know that no matter who is writing, they will have clear guide rails ensuring consistency across the brand.

With this in mind, who are your writers? Are you building content all from within? Are you accepting guest posts? Are you going to use a content writing platform (such as Upwork or Fiverr)? Or all of the above? Whatever you decide to do, make sure your style guide and expectations are known from the outset.

What types of content will you be developing?

You have a lot to choose from and you can do all or one. They all have their benefits and depending on your industry, their usability as lead magnets.

  • Blog posts – The most common piece of content and a powerful tool for developing search audiences and backlinks. These can be guides, listicles, how tos, templates, best ofs, awards, etc.
  • Case studies – The most powerful advertisement for your business is what you have done for your clients. Prospective customers can see themselves in these case studies and can at least push them to start a conversation.
  • Whitepapers – This is not a salesy document. It is a source of truth. Whitepapers serve to inform with a more sober tone and a clear problem and solution. These are almost always gated content, available with at least an email capture. Essentially, they are a brand of lead magnet.
  • Infographics – Information provided in a visual form is more effective at relaying ideas than text alone. Infographics are excellent for sharing statistics that support why your services are necessary and beneficial. They are also amazing for developing backlinks and referral traffic.
  • Social media posts – When used consistently, social media is the perfect medium to interact with your audience. The best intel for your business is that which your customers share with you.
  • Podcasts – With a particularly vocal team member, you can bring your brand to the ears of potential customers. Or offer up that team member to other podcasts to get your name out there.
  • Videos – Again, visual content has more of a draw than text. Videos can be great assets to share on social media, drawing users further and further into your pitch. Adding subtitles to your videos is a must, as it allows everyone to take in the content whether they are on the train, at work, or at the cafe.
  • Ebooks – A longer well-structured piece of content, usually gated by email capture. While an ebook is great as a lead magnet, it is also an amazing resource for repurposing—as several blog posts, snippets in social media, turned into video or podcast content.

Figure out the Who and the Why

With a basic structure in place (which you will be continually grooming), it is time to get to the essence of the thing. The big questions.

The Who

When running a business, it is important to know who your product is for. This is the most basic tenet of commerce. Without someone to buy your product or service, there is no business. That archetypal person for whom you created your product, that’s your audience.

Now, of course, it is a little more complex than that. Usually, there is more than one persona that make up your audience. Nevertheless, defining these personas is key to understanding for whom you will be writing.

Once developed, these personas can guide your content creation decisions. You will know:

  • What social media platforms they use most often
  • What kind of sites they visit
  • What their pain points are
  • Their age, gender, location, device, etc.

With this, you will have a lot more information with which to research and come up with content ideas. From that, you can start asking yourself what information they need and what answers you can provide them.

The Why

For each individual piece of content, you’ll want to have an idea of what purpose it serves ultimately. This is where the funnel comes in.

If you look up “content marketing funnel” or “sales funnel”, you’ll find a variety of funnel shaped graphs with 3-5 phases of a variety of names. But, the general idea is consistent across every one of them.

The first phase is Awareness (or Attract or Discovery), the point at which your brand first becomes visible to a potential customer.

This is the Top of the Funnel, or TOFU. This is the most important part of the funnel as it is where you pull in the greatest number of users from which your eventual converters will emerge. The purpose here is to show your brand as an authority, impressing visitors with comprehensive blog posts, webinars, infographics, or tools. Give them a reason to remember you.

Then, on to the next phase, Consideration (or Interest). They already know about you, so pull them in further. You are a potential solution to their problem, so they want to know more. Case studies, whitepapers, how tos, demo videos, emails, and social media will help them determine whether you are the solution they need.

If successful at convincing them, they move onto Conversion (or Close). This is the last little nudge that pushes them to convert. The heavy lifting is over. They just need to read some reviews, check product sheets, look at testimonials. And purchase. You’ve done it!

But you don’t leave them there. There is a final stage, post-conversion, that is essential to driving revenue upward. Retention (or Delight) is the stage where you keep them coming back. You can do this by giving great customer support, delivering useful email campaigns, engaging on social media, extending special offers, or throwing giveaways and contests.

Start Developing Ideas

OK, now you know generally what sort of content you want to make and for whom you are making it. But, what do you write about?

Audit What You Already Got

If you aren’t starting with a blank slate, look at what content you already have. Blog posts, internal knowledge base articles, onboarding documents, whatever.

What do you already rank for? Using something like Ahrefs, Moz, or SEMrush, you can see all the keywords that your site is ranking for. These are a great foothold.

Pull the higher volume keywords and start researching to broaden them out into new content. Or repurpose the existing content into longer and more comprehensive posts. The idea is to develop content that can rank for a lot of high-volume keywords, thus expanding your organic search audience.

Also, does everything on your blog represent the voice and purpose you’ve come up with? Don’t be afraid to cull posts as needed. You can always use the existing content to develop new posts or infographics. And, it isn’t a bad idea to trim the fat if you’ve got a lot of old posts.

Lastly, if you have big content assets or internal knowledge base articles, spin them out into other types of content. You can break out a piece of a long asset for a blog post or a snippet for a social post. You don’t always have to create new content as long as you have old content to repurpose.

Developing New Content

But, you still do need to create new content. Creating new stuff is daunting and exciting. Luckily, you already have a basic framework in place. Now to start figuring out what to write. And how to structure it.

There are a few ways to get ideas for new content.

  • Check out what your competitors are doing. The best starting point for content ideation is looking at what’s being written in your industry. While you can always take their post ideas and replicate them, this is also an opportunity to list out the major topics and questions that you can use in creating new posts. At least at first, start high level.
  • Mine social media. If you’ve got a following on social media, you’ve got a sounding board for ideas. Ask your followers what they want to see on your blog. What are their burning questions?
  • Keyword and topic research. Using a service like Ahrefs, Google Keyword Planner, or the like, you can build out keywords, topics, and questions that are popular in your industry. These can form clear outlines for new posts. With the proper schema in place, they can even end up in Google’s knowledge graph (the boxes that precede regular organic results).
  • Quora. Yep, that site. Literally just a bunch of people asking questions on a variety of topics. And, lucky for you, it is all tagged and easily searchable. Look for your keywords and start hoarding questions to use as ideas for future posts. This same tactic can be used in Google Search within the “People also ask” box that appears for many queries just above the fold.

Structure and internal linking are super important too. Make your blog easy to navigate for users and easy to crawl for Google. Hubspot came up with their excellent strategy of topic clustering, which helps drive users across a site and relates pages on a site by their topics and keywords.

Measure, Measure, Measure

Cool. You have it all figured out. Now you have to make sure your work pays off and learn from what you find.

What You Need

If you aren’t already using Google Analytics, get on it. This free service can show you nearly all the metrics you need to understand how your content strategy is performing. Connect your Google Ads, Google Tag Manager, and Google Search Console to take full advantage of the data.

With Google Tag Manager, you can add tracking tags on any number of events on your site. Newsletter signups, contact form fills, gated content form fills, phone number clicks, individual link clicks, and more.

Google Search Console hooks right in as well, delivering information about specific queries, landing page search result impressions, landing page average search position, device usage, and more. It may be more than you can handle, but it is there for you.

An SEO service—like Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Moz—is a powerful tool for understanding how your content is doing on search engines and what sort of links you are picking up with it.

Traffic & Conversions

With your measuring tools all set up, you can see your content strategy unfold over time.

With your SEO tool(s), you can easily track where you are ranking for your ideal keywords and how many backlinks are pointing to your site. Further, you can develop new ideas with the keyword research tools and content analysis features built in.

In Google Analytics, you’ll be able to see:

  • Which content is pulling in the most amount of visitors
  • How long visitors are sticking around on your site (or bouncing from it)
  • Which pages lead to conversions (ecommerce and otherwise)
  • Which channels (social, direct, organic, referral, paid, etc.) bring in the most traffic
  • Which channels bring in the most converters
  • Multi-channel conversion paths (because there are multiple touchpoints on the road to conversion)
  • And so much more

Then you can start asking yourself some more questions (this is a theme in marketing).

What are your top pages and why? Which pages have high bounce rates? Which have low bounce rates? What is the difference between them? Why are certain pages leading to conversions? What channels are pulling in the most converters and how do you amplify that?

This is your time to refine and focus your efforts on what works best. As you move forward with your content strategy, it can become more efficient and yield better results.

As you learn more from the data, you can better inform the structure you put in place at the beginning of this process. Because nothing is set in stone, especially online. Rinse and repeat.

Content helps you to rank in search engines and drive traffic to your website, broadening your customer base and increasing revenue for your business. Whatever your industry, the steps I’ve outlined in this article will help you to create, implement, and develop a great content strategy. So get started now!

Author Bio: Sean Flannigan is the Marketing Strategist at VerifyWP, an assessment platform created to make hiring WordPress developers easier and more effective. You can find him on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

 

 

About the author

MicroStartups

A team of writers and marketers, MicroStartups was founded to inspire the entrepreneurial and business community to give back. We believe in business growth through giving and supporting the local community.

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