A common issue I see with clients is the lack of strategy. You might wonder why you need a content strategy for your website and even how to build a content marketing plan for your business.
Many of our content strategy clients publish a seemingly endless amount of content without an overarching plan, Key performance indicators (KPIs), or even a way to track success. It’s one of the top reasons many give up on blogging or try the next magic bullet.
- Why you need a content strategy
- What a good content strategy looks like
- How to set and measure KPIs
Why you need a content strategy
Let’s start with the basics. Creating content could mean a range of things. For some, this means writing blog posts, others record a podcast, while some film a video. Regardless of the medium, creating content is important for every business.
As I deal with businesses that create written content, that will be our focus. But these tips and ideas work across all types of mediums.
What is strategy?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines strategy as:
A detailed plan for achieving success in situations such as war, politics, business, industry, or sport, or the skill of planning for such situations.
I like this description as clearly sets out that strategy is a long-term, detailed plan for reaching a goal.
What is content strategy?
If we try to expand this to include content, we might define a content strategy as:
A detailed plan for producing written content that continues to rank in search and converts visitors to customers.
Now, of course, this is my definition but one that encapsulates what a content strategy is.
Why should you have a content strategy?
Without a plan, you’re likely to fail. I’d also argue that failure to keep checking and updating your plan will make success harder.
Imagine going for a drive to a friend’s new home. You might have studied the map before leaving and have a good idea of the route. However, you probably will stop along the route to check the directions and the map to ensure you’re on the right track.
Without checking the route or the clock, you might get lost or be late. So it’s critical to have a detailed plan and continually monitor it. The same is true for business. It’s why you need a content strategy.
What a good content strategy looks like
Even if you’re just starting your first business, you’ll know that slow and consistent wins the race. Most business blogs die quickly because their owner ramps up content production without a solid strategy.
As a firm believer in the power of one, your sole goal is to drive revenue using content marketing. It’s not to write daily, trend hop, or pray that each article gets shared thousands of times.
So, a good content strategy focuses on this one aim while ignoring all else (including the latest vanity metric). Let’s look at the pieces that make for a winning content strategy.
How often will you publish new content while being consistent? If you’re a solopreneur, you might only be able to blog once or twice a month. That’s great, just make sure you write in your calendar that you need to create a piece of content a few days before releasing it.
By setting the expectations upfront, you’ll give yourself more time to get writing and editing without missing the deadline as you didn’t include it in your weekly list of tasks to complete.
Again the name of the game is consistency.
If you’re part of a marketing team, you might be able to write a weekly article as part of your job or hire a freelance writer. Other team members will focus on their area of expertise, keeping the business marketed and new clients queuing up.
You might even be lucky enough to be able to block a day or two per month and write a few articles at once, allowing you to schedule posts in advance. Doing this should help you market the new articles better and get them ranking sooner.
With a sensible publishing frequency set, we can turn our attention to what we should write about. Most people get this wrong, and so see poor results.
Being brutally honest: your readers don’t care about the office dog (although I do), the latest person you’ve hired, or a social event that you used to raise funds for the local animal shelter.
Of course, all of these humanize your business but should be posted on social media, not on your blog. Unless you’ve hired someone will an exceptional person brand, no one will be searching for them. The same is true about your office pet.
If you’re fundraising for a local charity, which is a great idea, chances are no one searching for their brand name will be looking for a service that you offer. So you’re wasting time, effort, and money writing an article about them. So again, post on social media.
Instead, you want to target keywords that are easy to rank for and that some people are actually searching for.
Keyword research is easy and I’ve detailed my top favorite method in 1 Simple tip on how to generate content ideas. In our course, I discuss 10 ways to find keywords, and how to organize content ideas.
As a topic for another day, your content strategy should deal with length. Before writing anything, I think about what questions I’ll try and answer in the piece and estimate a rough word count.
Doing so helps me estimate the time it’ll take to produce the piece of content. I’ll need to allow time for researching, first draft, and final edit.
As your reader wants variety, by estimating a piece’s word count you can ensure you’re keeping the reader interested. You don’t want to bore them by always writing a similar length of content.
The biggest mistake I see by miles is what’s known in the trade as the “publish and pray approach”. You can’t hit the publish button and think your job is done. Sorry, but there’s still work to do.
Writing a new piece of content is only half of the process. Next, you must promote it. Again your content strategy should include a promotion plan.
You could share it to social media, create an image for Pinterest, add it to your monthly email newsletter, or reach out to other blogs with a similar piece and ask for a backlink or if they’d want to republish your post.
Another key element of content promotion is building internal links from existing posts that are indexed and ranking to these newer articles. As search engines crawl your website, they look for new links and follow them.
So, if you don’t add internal links to the latest pieces, how will they be found? If they can’t be found, you won’t rank, and no new customers will find your business. It only takes a few seconds to create an internal link.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
If you’re not tracking what you’re doing, how will you know if it’s successful or not? You won’t. So we need to set some performance indicators to measure our outcomes.
How to pick the right KPIs
The problem with website KPIs is that most content marketers don’t know which one to set and when to measure them. There’s plenty you can measure but what are the important elements?
When thinking about writing this article, I remembered listening to a talk by Rebecca Rosenfelt who is Growth Product Manager, Airbnb, that still available on YouTube. She talked about deciding on growing the brand in France as the first place outside the USA.
Rather than trying to measure 20 different things, they decided to track new vendor sign-ups. For the team, proof of concept was getting at least 100 new sign-ups. So they got on a plane and talked to locals in the south of France and signed people up manually.
Now, they could have measured revenue, conversion rate (e.g. potential vendors who signed up), meetings, marketing cost, etc. But they focused on one single thing.
So when thinking about setting KPIs for your content marketing, keep it simple. Can you measure: visitors, revenue, and revenue per visitor? Gathering this data daily should take less than 5 minutes. Instead, you could measure: forms completed and time on website.
Pick two or three things you can measure daily or weekly to ensure you’re on track. I measure revenue, traffic, and revenue per visitor daily. Each week, I measure the percentage of keywords ranking in the top 3 positions. Thankfully, Rank Tracker makes monitoring this easy.
To reach my revenue goal, I need to hit a certain amount of daily visitors, each producing a certain amount of revenue. My model requires that at least 50% of my keywords rank in the top 3 to drive enough traffic to my website.
If I don’t hit my traffic goal, it’s likely, I won’t hit my revenue goal.
Pick your KPIs carefully and track your progress often. Over time, you can adjust your strategy to make reaching your goals even more possible. Again, to win, you need KPIs and a solid plan that’s reviewed and tweaked regularly.
Best starting point
As you have a better idea of why you need a content strategy and how to build one, you can start to improve your business’s blog now. With a plan in place, take a week or two to sort out your current content marketing activities.
During this time, don’t publish any new content as this will compound your issues. Instead, revisit old articles and tweak them so that they rank better and help you reach your KPIs.
With your blog up to date and in a better shape, you can start to publish and market new content. You will see much better results as you’re working from a solid foundation.
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