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One of the key parts of being a content marketer is having a content strategy. Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? Time consuming and something you don’t really need because there’s only you involved with your blog? And while that might be a little bit true, it is also a proven fact that creating a content strategy has lots of benefits versus a little time to create. So let’s take a look at what one is, how to create one and why you should bother.
Is content strategy different to content marketing?
Like lots of terms in this business, content marketing and content strategy are often used interchangeably but this isn’t an entirely accurate use of either term. According to MOZ:
- Content marketing is your editorial calendar, ideation and creation of content, curation of other people’s content and the promotion of both
- Content strategy is the internal guidelines and governance that is applied to those marketing efforts
- Content marketing strategy is the overlap that contains vision, goals, research into your audience, your brand voice and style and any external governance
In other words, strategy is about the vision for how you will create your content and what purpose will motivate it while the marketing is the actual creation and promotion side of the job. The two work together and overlap in the form of a content marketing strategy – a rule book that governs the two.
Elements of a content strategy
So now we know why we might want a content strategy and why it is different to our marketing efforts, what are the elements of a content strategy that we need to consider?
First up, there are lots of different ideas about what you should include in your strategy – Buffer has an amazing article on the top that is thousands of words long and comes with a free template to download that is 30 pages in length. It is amazing but it might be a little heavy duty if you, like me, are a one-person operation. So here are some of the elements that I’m including in my strategy, based on small bloggers or small businesses who want to blog.
Goal setting is a real pain for me as I never know what to put in them. But I realise they are also key to the whole process – after all, what are you working towards with your content, promotion and other tactics if not a goal?
Goals are the key motivator behind everything you do with your blog so they are also a key part of the content strategy. But what kind of goals can you set? Let’s start with some good solid metrics because these are easy to measure, time based and all that SMART goal stuff:
- Page views
- % new visitors versus returning visitors
- Email signups
- Affiliate links clicks
- Affiliate sales
- eBook downloads
- Course signups
Depending on what you do with your blog, any of these could make good metric to base your goals upon. Then what you need to do is insert the amount and time frame so:
- Reach 3,000 page views a month by December 2017
- Attract 500 new visitors, of which 50 sign up for email and 5 convert into customers for my content writing service
- Collect 250 new email signups, of which 5 buy my new course
2. Core message
Whether you call it your core message, your vision, your tagline or anything else, this is a statement that speaks to why you are blogging. It is the reason your blog is in existence and it is the ‘why’ behind your content creation. It is also a great way to make your business different from other bloggers or businesses in the same niche but it doesn’t need to be plastered everywhere on your website.
3. Reader persona
This is another one with multiple terms applied to it – avatar, ideal customer, idea reader and so forth. They are simply a fictional person that you use to guide what you do with your blog. Again, there are loads of different ideas about how to create them with differing levels of complexity. They are a bit of a work of fiction in some cases but they help you visualise the one person you are writing for – and you might find that person is a lot like yourself!
4. How are your producing content?
Your strategy should also document some technical stuff, starting with how you are producing content. So this might be once a week, twice a week or every day. You might want a blog post once a week, create a piece of video content for YouTube also once a week and maybe do a Facebook Live twice a month. So you should document the content types you will be creating, when you will be creating it and any other governing rules for the process.
You will also want to include the tools you might be using in the process to help clarify what you will be doing. For example, I store all of my content ideas in a database on Airtable. Each month, I decide what I want to write about and create a card on Trello with links included as well as a draft on CoSchedule with a rough title on. I then create the content on a Word document, add it to WordPress and use CoSchedule to create the social media campaign to go with it. That’s my process.
5. Sharing plan
Once you have created that content, we all know that we need to share it to get eyes on it. Sure, you can get some nice organic traffic but the best way to increase the piece’s profile is to share it and that means social media. So another part of your strategy is to document where and how often you will share your content.
For me, I share following CoSchedule’s plan for Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. That means across a 30-day period there are three shares with different captions to Facebook and LinkedIn and 15 shares to Twitter, using seven different captions. I also share to Instagram on the day of publish and to Pinterest. The Pin is then reshared to any other relevant boards and to group boards on a BoardBooster random campaign.
Finally, it is automatically shared to Google+ and Tumblr by WordPress as you just never know when these might prove useful!
Other elements to consider
In addition to these five essential elements for your content strategy toolkit, there are other elements you might want to consider, depending on where your blog or business is at in its lifespan.
Voice or brand voice is often something that just comes about naturally when you are your blog. It is often the way you naturally ‘talk’ in your content. But you can formalise this and add it to your strategy. This is helpful if you ever want to work with a content writer and have them write as much like you do as possible.
Another process to consider is a content audit. These can be easy or hard depending on how much content you have. It involves looking at what content you have, how successful it has been and if there is anything you can do to improve it. You can also highlight gaps in what you have created where a new piece of content will give a fuller picture for your readers.
Content strategy best practices
There are plenty of documents out there to help make a content strategy including that super long one I mentioned from Buffer. I’ve created my own simple version, aimed at solopreneurs who don’t have a team. There’s no set format and you can put it together any way you want, as long as it works for you.
The other thing to remember about a content strategy is that it can be flexible. While you might set out with five goals now, in 30 or 60 days you might realise one is unrealistic. Or you might have already hammered it and realised it was too easy. Then you can change your strategy accordingly. Don’t be afraid to fine tune any element of it as things happen.
Need some help to get your content strategy organised and some content created? I also offer content marketing packages to help you get the content your business needs to grow your online presence!
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