Years ago, when the Internet was new, computers were slow, and an 8-pin black and white printer was cool, content strategies were pretty basic. Either you had one or you didn't. Today, however, content strategies are becoming more and more complex and have far more requirements than ever before.
You see, in the early years, you could publish a basic 'how to touch your toes' article and it would be one of only a few and Google would love it so long as it was plugged full of keywords. Today, however, you need new, fresh, and interesting content that matches your company, your target audience, your marketing plans, and society as a whole. In short, you need an expertly planned content creation program that's going to help your website meet your goals.
Defining A Goal
Never start by choosing the type of content you need; always define a goal and match everything to that. Are you wanting to generate traffic? Leads? Create a buzz on your favorite social media network? Maybe you just want to gain readers or get a certain number of sales for a particular product.
A few things to keep in mind when making goals for your content creation program:
- Goals have to be measurable. Otherwise, you'll have no way of knowing how well your content strategy is really doing or where you can improve.
- You have to have a deadline. Decide on a reasonable completion date to reach your goal and set up milestones to help you along the way. This way, if you fall behind, you know where you can place a bit more emphasis and get things going.
- Make sure the other departments in your business such as your marketing team are aware of your goals. This way, everyone can work together to achieve a common goal rather than having one of those situations where everyone is running in different directions and nothing gets accomplished.
Know Your Target Audience
This is really no big surprise, but you need to take a good hard look at who your customers really are. Get out a pen and paper (gasp!) and write up a detailed outline of your customers. Some things you'll want to know before doing anything with your content includes:
- Favorite things
- Main dislikes
- Biggest fears
- Dreams and goals
- Education level
- Speaking style (what makes them comfortable/uncomfortable)
- Family life
- Financial Status
- Common problems and issues
- Talents and skill sets
Wanna know a secret? When I'm having trouble answering these questions, I will literally find an example of the right target audience and use him or her as a reference point.
Define a Budget
I'd love to tell you to just forget this part and do whatever you need to in order to meet your goals, but this isn't always possible. Heck, even as a copywriter, I can't afford to spend all of the time I'd like to on my own content plan. But, there's always a way to get around things. If you'd like to save a bit of money without jeopardizing the quality of your content creation strategy, you can:
- Get guest bloggers
- Take turns with a complimentary company to create content (a web designer and a developer for example)
- Create the content yourself except for the pieces you either don't have time for, or are unsure about. (You're better off to cut a piece of content out of your strategy than to publish something that doesn't adequately reflect your business.)
- Consider alternative mediums such as video and audio.
- Hold a contest for your target audience that allows them to create the content.
- Repurpose content that isn't getting the attention that it should. (If you do a livestream session or a conference call, for example, publish them on your blog or website. Or, you can rewrite, update, and move old posts or articles.)
Create Content with Multiple Uses
The biggest crime I see around the web is content that fails to be optimized to its fullest potential. By using SEO and SMO, you can get a huge amount of life out of your content. This is also the best time to make sure you have everything you'll need in place (social media profiles, followings, etc.) before you start to publish anything. What do I mean when I say optimize your content?
- Use short headlines of 100 characters or less to make them easy for readers to share and remember.
- Include social media buttons and use social media friendly distribution sites.
- Make your press releases and industry news available to your readers so that they can keep up with what's going on.
- Make your content available in different formats such as PDF.
- RSS is wonderful. Use it on your blog, your articles, your press releases, and even your white papers.
Choose The Right Topics
The topics you choose will ultimately determine the kind of attention your content will get. If you're a dentist wanting to attract new patients, for example, you'll want content that focuses on the concerns, fears, and needs of potential patients. Answer their questions and get into their thoughts!
If you're a dental equipment supplier or an SEO company targeting dentists, you'll need content that focuses on dental practice marketing, business practices, and other issues that dentists want to know about.
If you want to generate traffic, you'll want to expand your reach and grab attention. A shocking topic or something that plays on the reader's emotions will work extremely well. You might also want to focus on what's popular and trendy, fun topics that will get you noticed.
Link building content strategies, on the other hand, are all about taking the work out of building links. To do this, the material has to hit the bulk of your market, but it also needs to target others in your industry and complimentary industries to get the most out of it because these groups are the ones who will use this type of content and information.
Putting It All Together
When it comes time to actually constructing your content creation strategy, you have to put all of the pieces together very carefully. You need to create a balance. For example, you can plan the best strategy ever to hit the web, but if it doesn't include the best medium for your readers, or if you don't have enough money and time to see it through, it'll be a waste of time.
Social media driven content is also important, particularly types that are popular in the RIGHT networks. Forum content can be extremely powerful in these instances. If you choose sites such as Delicious, Digg, Twitter, or StumbleUpon, take time to find out what does very well in these sites in terms of format, topic, and writing style.
So, for example, lists tend to do well on Twitter and MySpace calls for short, informal, and fun content. For Delicious, you'll want to create posts or onsite articles that are more of a reference because they are something that your target audience will want to come back to.
To make it easy for you, let's look at a few different content formats and what kinds of benefits they have.
Press releases are great for link building when they're distributed wisely. But, to get the most out of them, make sure they are social media friendly and SEO optimized. In terms of topic, you'll want to be careful about what you choose. To attract investors, go with a set well optimized press releases based on your financial achievements and demonstrate your company's best strengths.
If you want to get the attention of your target market, however, you'll need a different plan. Use press releases for the biggest company news that your clients will be interested in. The rest of the topics you have in mind won't require as much attention. Therefore, you can skip them altogether, use a cheaper distribution plan, or use them to create a blog post or article.
Article marketing is quite valuable when it comes to building links, but I'm going to challenge you to step away from the crappy articles that fill distribution sites. Instead, create unique articles that will strike a chord with others and stand out from the rest.
You might even want to venture into articles that are a bit longer or make them in a series where each one can stand alone or work together. This will get you better quality links. Once the articles are up, don't be afraid to use them offsite in places like your Facebook page (either post the whole thing, or link to them. So long as you keep everything under your name, you'll do fine).
White papers, reports, and case studies make the ideal viral content. These formats take time, effort, and a little creativity, but the payoff is worth it. Why? Reports, white papers, and case studies demonstrate your expertise, elevate you as an authority, and make your company appear more transparent.
Blog posts or unique articles are also helpful, but remember your goals when you create them. If you want to build links, it would be in your best interest to publish less often, but make each post in-depth and unique. You'll find that you'll likely spend more time on research than on the actual writing of the post, but the links will be well worth it.
The other option is to be one of the first to report hot news items. However, this has a time factor as well because you'll not only have to keep an eye on what's going on around the web, but you'll also want to make certain that you fact check everything very carefully to avoid disaster. (This is often the reason why companies use a combination of news and in-depth, well researched posts…it helps you save time and constantly brings in a new audience.)
If you're going to use posts purely to generate traffic however, you're going to want to be very careful when setting up your strategy. Make sure that they cater to your chosen social networks in terms of usability. This could include one-click sharing, optimized summaries of the correct length, and network friendly tagging. SEO, keywords, and choices of anchor text are going to be vital. In terms of topic, don't be afraid to keep things fun, light, and informal. Engage your reader, play on their emotions, and you'll find that you'll build a great community.
Feature articles and guest posts on authority sites can be very, very powerful. First, there's the quality links that many website owners would give their eye teeth for. The traffic this medium generates and how it reflects back onto your company will also have a huge benefit. Again, the kind of results you get will depend on your topic. When it comes to choosing a style and format, you'll have to match the site you are submitting to or choose an authority site that matches the style you want to use.
Finally, consider alternative mediums and ideas such as YouTube videos, podcasts, tools, and applications to help you gain that extra bit of attention and set yourself apart.
Content creation strategies will take time to create and they'll likely need tweaking before you find the right formula, but once you do, you'll be amazed with the results. You'll also find that good content will help you hold onto your site ranking when Google gets the bright idea to change it's algos.
As always, let me know how it goes!
Angie Nikoleychuk (Haggstrom) is the Senior Copywriter and Consultant at Angie's Copywriting Services. She loves to create SEO Web copy and other types of online and offline content, but she figures SEO and Social Media is pretty great too. She likes to chat about business and marketing, find great links, and more. Oh, and you can find this copywriter on Twitter too.
Angie Haggstrom is the Senior Copywriter and Consultant at Angie's Copywriting Services, specializing in online and offline content including SEO web copy, brochures, and more. A Twitter and blogging fanatic, you'll find she chats about SEO, Social Media, business, marketing, and just about anything else she finds interesting along the way.