When it comes to creating a content strategy there’s a lot to think about. Whilst a See Step #5!, a poorly devised one will cause a world of pain and some tough last minute decisions; Basically the aim is to nail the organic content strategy first time to avoid a hefty headache later on! The following article takes an in-depth look at content strategy creation and lists a few ways to help ensure success when devising a content plan.
“I love it when a plan comes together”
– Colonel John ‘Hannibal’ Smith
Reasons for your content strategy
My role within a company (and the goals I’m set) will determin the reasons I need a content strategy. For example, whilst someone involved with organic search may care about link structures and mark-up, a ‘Social Media Manager’ role may be much more interested in sharability and interactivity. Although these are just two examples by ensuring I’ve catered for both I’m confident that most stakeholders will have sufficient information to sign-off the strategy.
A content strategy for social media
Social marketing is focused on interactivity, engagement and sharing. Demonstrating that the content strategy adheers to these fundamental rules will go a long way towards ticking the relevant social boxes. Considering the platforms that content will be best suited to, how the content can be made immersive and the reasons why someone would share each content asset are musts when developing a content strategy for social media.
A content strategy for search
Search marketing, whilst still interested in social, is additionally looking for how content would fare in Google’s result pages, how it affects the hosting domain and how well put-together content assets are. A typical content strategy for search marketing would include elements of mark-up (including social open graph information), an idea of link structures and release dates in order to give search engines sufficient time to index articles.
Ways to structure a content strategy
Once I’ve justified the reasons for developing a new content strategy I’m often presented with a problem. I have a load of individual content ideas and I’m not sure how to present them in an orderly manor (This is a great first step towards understanding taxonomy options, but more on that later!). There are a number of ways I might structure my content strategy depending on the environment I’m in and the most important factors to the company. (Honestly, it’s usually a mixture of all of the following).
Content by season
Documenting content by season (chronologically) is the most obvious way of structuring a content strategy, and that’s where I usually start. By considering each key period of the financial year ensures that I can tailor content accordingly.
Content by format
If seasonality isn’t important then considering content formats can be a good place to start. Listing a range of content types (video, infographic, article, game, etc) sometimes ignites a bunch of ideas which can then be shaped into a strategy.
Content by purpose
Purpose is always worth considering when categorising content. This comes back to the reasons for creating the strategy in the first place: Is the content for social benefit, to increase organic positions or to demonstrate subject authority?
Content by medium
A fourth option when structuring a content strategy document is to consider the way in which each content asset will be promoted. Different channels resonate with different audiences, so it stands to reason they’ll like different content, too.
As well as structuring how the content is presented within the strategy its important to define content into types. Using a small-medium-large scale is a really handy way of doing this as it allows me to quickly understand how much resource is going to have to be invested and how important the outcome will be on the overall strategy’s objective.
Small content assets
I consider small content assets to be blog posts, social campaigns and anything else that is predominently text focused. I also usually include images in the smallest of the three categories as the time and resource to capture them is usually relatively low.
Medium content assets
Medium sized content assets such as white papers, case studies static infographics (.jpgs) and in-depth articles are the bigger-brother of blog posts. They’re usually formed of 1500+ words, take significantly longer research and development time.
Large content assets
The largest of the three categories contains assets which take considerable time to produce. I consider most videos, interactive infographics and event-based content as large content assets. These take time to acheive but pack the biggest punch.
Consistently branded content
It’s also worth considering the uniformity of all content assets, despite their different formats, mediums and size. Being able to quickly identify each content asset as part of a singular brand extends beyond simply tagging a logo on, and can be tricky when working with significantly different sizes of content. Take video and blog posts, for example. Using similar language, colour schemes and tone can all go towards creating a larger content family that doesn’t feel disjointed and forced.
Reactive and timely content
Plan, plan, plan. And then plan some more. The best content plans always allow for reactive content. Blogs are always going to need to react to some industry news or commercial development, so ensuring that my content strategies always allow for that is something I sometimes overlook.
Create constant content alerts
Keep up to date! As simple as it sounds I quite often forget to check what’s happening within the industry. Once I know what’s going on, reacting quickly is key in order to capitalise on any media storm that’s about to begin. Pushing out relevant content at the right time is almost a sure-fire way of aclaiming some decent backlinks, especially if the news is being discussed on the websites of the news outlet giants (think BBC, Guardian, Independent, etc).
Reacting as quickly as required can be difficult if I’m stacked out with a dozen other peices of content to produce, so creating and scheduling content ahead of time is perfect for freeing up the room required to produce on-the-fly content. It’s an on-going process, but it gives a much wider degree of contingency if you’ve not got to hit next-week’s deadlines, but rather next quarter’s. Just be sure to keep on top of the schedule to make ensure appropiateness when they do get published.
Content meta-data strategy
Writing, drawing, photographing, filming (etc) is only half of the battle when it comes to creating a killer content strategy. It’s always important to ensure that each peice of content is going to reach it’s audience. This is acheived by strategising social and search cues, authoritative highlights and link strategy for each peice of content.
Social cues often come in the form of open graph metadata, and are used to define what content looks like when shared on social platforms.
Along a similar line to open graph data, Schema markup allows search engines like Google to understand what the content is all about.
In-depth articles are a perticular type of blog article, so ensuring that the right markup is used is important to being viewed as an in-depth peice.
Although this has become less popular with Google recently, associating content with a perticular author is a great way to build trust and subject authority.
Internal and external linking structures are an essential consideration with all content assets in order to efficiently pass equity between pages.
Remember the ways that we categorised content earlier? Keeping content categorised in a similar fashion makes finding related content much easier.
Content outreach strategy
I’ve structured my strategy, defined my content and annotated my metadata requirements. The final step within my content strategy is always to document how the content will be marketed. After all content marketing without marketing is just content!
There’s really a whole other peice on producing an outreach strategy, but effectively you need to know who you’re talking to, how you’re talking to them and why you’re talking to them. Different strategies approach this in different ways.
Identifying the right influencers is always top of my to-do list when defining outreach. It’s one thing to push content directly to an audience, but that strategy alone will alienate a large proportion of people who may be potential customers!
Finding a ‘hook’
I hear this a lot. ‘Finding a hook’ effectively means defining a reason why an influencer would want to share your content with their audience (‘being paid’ isn’t an answer). It also refers to why someone would want to share that content with their peers.
Creating ‘viral’ content
I hear this a lot, too. Creating ‘something viral’ isn’t really possible. You can have a good guess at what it takes to make something go viral (think anything with cats) but ultimately if it’s interesting and pitched to the right audience it has a good chance.