Are your marketing and SEO advisors saying things like “content is king”, and “what’s the content strategy behind our core objectives?”.
Content is the words, images, and multimedia you post on your website; it’s stuff to fill a blog section with, stuff to post on social media, stuff to populate and publicise all of your digital channels, and so on.
You Can’t Ignore Content in 2019
Content exists for three reasons:
- Web pages, ecommerce sites, social media channels and so on would look pretty empty if you didn’t have anything to put on them.
- Good content, from thought-provoking and helpful blogs to arresting images to entertaining videos, is what grabs an audience’s attention online and engages them with your brand. So content is what gives potential customers a reason to give you a second thought.
- Google, Bing and other search engines judge the quality of the content on your web pages and use that to determine search engine rankings. In other words, developing content is now as much about content quality as it is keywords, if not more so. You can read more about the importance of quality content in this previous post.
Put it this way – every business nowadays wants a website to reach customers online, every business wants to be visible in search results so people can find its site. Every business also wants to stand out from the crowd and give consumers and clients a reason to pick them over all the many competitors that are equally accessible online.
None of this can be achieved with empty web pages and dormant social media accounts. You need something to say, something to start conversations and spark interest. You need content.
Investing in Quality Content: Why?
Before rushing into the planning stages, remember the point about quality, because it really cannot be overstated.
People are inundated with choice in terms of what they choose to engage with online in 2019. We also know that they are very quick in forming a judgement about what is on a page they visit – the standard model is the ‘15 second rule’, which amounts to the time you have to grab someone’s attention before they leave, although there are suggestions that many web users spend even less time than that per page.
In other words, people will leave if your content lacks quality, i.e. it:
- isn’t engaging enough
- doesn’t look appealing
- doesn’t immediately signal its relevance
- doesn’t capture their imagination
- bores them from the off.
And that’s without going any further into why quality matters for SEO purposes, which is a whole other article.
Additionally, creating content for your digital channels is not a one-off thing. It is a continuous obligation which, if you take the digital health of your business seriously, has to become part and parcel of your operational fabric. The quality needs to remain consistent every day, week, and month that you publish.
The need for an ongoing drip-drip of fresh content is all about SEO. As well as deciding rankings based on the quality of content, search engines will determine when a site was last updated, prioritising the most recent.
New content also creates more opportunities for search engine indexing, it can increase the frequency of keywords on your site, and it gives you more ammunition for things like social campaigns.
This is a main reason why every business worth its salt has a blog.
Regardless of what you already have on your site in terms of content, now is always a good time to be thinking about your next steps, about how you can improve the quality of your content and ensure it is kept up to date.
So now we move onto planning your business content.
1. Carry out a Content Audit
The first thing to consider is how effective the content you already have online is.
The idea of carrying out a content audit can sound daunting, but all it really means is carrying out a thorough review of what you have online to identify strengths and weaknesses.
That way, you start with a good idea on what you need to focus on content-wise in order to support your plans going forward.
Again, evaluating quality is paramount – you can read more about auditing the quality of your content here. There are many different ways to judge quality of content, but some of the key things to focus on include:
- Mistakes, glitches, general readability and appearance. Simple errors like typos and spelling mistakes should be changed straightaway, but anything you feel doesn’t reflect the high standards of your brand should be removed or refreshed.
- Age of the content. If you haven’t updated your static web page content in a couple of years, it is probably time to prioritise a refresh.
- Frequency of updates. If you notice your blog or news feed has lapsed into only being updated every couple of months, put kickstarting your blogging activities high on your list of priorities. (Yep — guilty as charged!)
- Relevance and usefulness. Don’t blog for the sake of it. Avoid blogging about things your audience doesn’t care about, even if you do. Look at your planning and production to ensure that your time is wisely invested.
- Meeting broader business and marketing objectives. What is it you are trying to achieve with your online channels? If your focus is to provide useful self-help resources to supplement your customer service, then you should be thinking carefully about what kinds of queries your content answers, how to index them so they can be found easily, and how you can effectively deploy a blend of blogs, FAQs, wikis and forums to best serve customer’s needs. If you want to drive traffic and enquiries, you should be developing assets that support each stage within your funnel.
This is a useful guide to the practicalities of carrying out a content audit.
2. Content Strategy vs. Content Marketing Strategy
Once you start asking questions about the purpose of your content, you are moving into the realm of shaping a content strategy. Let’s attempt a useful distinction between this and a content marketing strategy:
Content marketing is more top-level, setting out what you want to achieve with your blogs, product pages, newsletters, ebooks and so. If you carry out a thorough content audit, and then have someone come along and suggest ‘hey, have you thought about your content marketing strategy?’, you may find yourself going over the same ground.
While it can be helpful to get clear in your mind how you intend to use content to drive traffic, increase customer engagement, boost visibility in search and so on, these are also things you should be considering as you critically evaluate existing content.
A content strategy, on the other hand, is much more about the hands on stuff – what type of content am I going to focus on, why, when and where will I create/publish it, how will I publicise/promote it, how will I measure success. Your formulation of a content strategy is when you should ask questions like what will I do inhouse and what should I outsource to a specialist, what is my budget, how will I get best value and maximise my ROI.
Your content strategy, and indeed your approach to content marketing, must form part of and be framed by your broader marketing and brand objectives. You cannot, for example, formulate a successful content strategy without a clear picture of who your audience is and what it is you want to get them to do, or the brand identity you want to convey and build.
Read our guide on how to create a content strategy here.
3. Mixing Different Types of Content
One of the biggest decisions to make when putting together your content strategy is the types of content to use. As you can see from this article, there are plenty to choose from, but the main ones most businesses make use of routinely are:
- Text, images and perhaps video for static web pages
- News articles (usually focusing on happenings with your company, brand or products)
- How-to guides
- E-books (and other longer form publications like reports and white papers)
- Case studies
- Video (including ‘video logs’ or vlogs)
Avoid the temptation to use lots of different types of content purely for novelty value. Have a clear thought process about how content X will lead to outcome Y.
For example, these are the content choices you might want to consider if your main motivations are as follows:
- To encourage engagement with key audiences and boost search with a constant drip-drip of new content: Blogs are ideal for this purpose because they are quick and inexpensive to turn around, as well as flexible with regards to the form they take and subjects they cover. News articles can work in a similar way, as can podcasts and vlogs, but bear in mind you might need additional resources to produce the latter.
- To inform your readership and position yourself as an authoritative voice in your industry: Again, blogs focusing on thought leadership topics are an easy win, while infographics offer an accessible way to present statistical data. Longer form ebooks, in-depth reports and white papers should also be considered as part of the mix to add extra ‘weight’ to your campaigns.
- To persuade more customers to buy into your brand / convert leads into sales: Newsletters are a popular vehicle for building customer databases and strengthening relationships over time. Regular news about products and services has clear promotional advantages, but the key is not to overdo it and go too hard on the sell. You also need obvious calls to action that make sense for people to follow. The quality of your product or service landing pages when people follow call-to-action links is essential for driving conversions. Case studies also make great resources for demonstrating why potential customers should choose you.
- To build brand awareness: Used in the right way and in the right combinations, most types of content can help to build brand awareness over time. The key here is to be entertaining and / or informative, i.e. to give people a reason to remember the name and want to keep coming back. Content that proves popular with your target audiences is also a great asset on social media, as it encourages people to share and re-post and therefore helps to spread the word organically.
- To provide assistance and self-service resources: One of the most powerful things you can do with all online content is to answer people’s questions, whether it be about a particular product, a concept or a topic relevant to your brand. How-to guides, which can range from step-by-step instructions to more general advice pieces, are very popular in this regard. Other options include FAQs, setting up and running a user forum, or perhaps hosting livestream events where an appropriate ‘expert’ takes Q and As from the audience.
4. Develop Your Content
Once you have carried out an audit of your current, made a note of what needs to be updated and upgraded, and decided on what else you can do to support your wider strategic objectives, it is time to make a start on actually developing some content.
This process will inevitably throw up more questions. The more thorough you can be with your content strategy, the more of these questions you are likely to anticipate, which will mean you are all set with answers when they arise.
Who is Going to Create All of This Content?
Many businesses carry out as many functions as possible themselves and therefore decide to write blogs, manage social media accounts, and create reports in-house, often because it’s seen as being cheaper.
But it’s a false economy if:
- You have people writing blog posts who are badly needed in their regular roles
- The people writing content don’t enjoy it, so it takes them a long time
- The content you get at the end is lacking accessibility
- Everything needs to be run through another person for rewrites or style issues.
Unless you hire a content strategist, it’s often better to outsource writing tasks, just as you’d outsource any other task that you don’t have the in-house skills for. Assigning non-writers to content production often just means you progress slowly and have to make lots of compromises.
How Will All of This Content Pay for Itself?
Like everything in business, digital content must be subject to the cost-to-benefit ratio.
Content doesn’t give you a rapid and direct return on your investment. However, the maxim ‘you get what you pay for’ still applies. Whether it is a blog post or an in-depth industry report, a podcast script or an animation, digital content requires specialist skills and knowledge.
Finding a writer in your niche is a sensible way to proceed. And we’re not just saying this to drum up business. It’s usually cheaper than trying to muddle through yourself, and it should mean you reach that break-even point more quickly.
We hope you’ll find these tips useful when looking at your future content plans, because online content really is a continuous demand. For SEO purposes, for supporting your digital marketing campaigns and for building and maintaining relationships with customers, good content is no longer ‘nice-to-have’. By evaluating and then planning content production in line with broader marketing and business objectives, you will fine you are in a better place to streamline your efforts, focus investment on what really works and increase the results you get.
Want to know more? Feel free to get in touch to sound us out with your ideas and queries.
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