Dear Bill, re: your question on what a content strategy really is

Updated: Mar 23, 2019

Dear Bill,


I told you the last time my sailboat sprung a leak that I would talk to you about something other than fishing. You told me to speak of content strategy, but all I could say back then was "Mayday, mayday".


I'd like to answer your question, which if I remember correctly was "what do you mean when you say content strategy?"


This is what a content strategy should be


Content marketing, or inbound marketing, is a long game. It takes weeks and even months sometimes before real results start to show.


You don't play a three hour football game without a strategy, you don't invest in retirement funds without a strategy, so why would you just throw whatever comes to your mind out there and wait for the accolades?


You need a content marketing strategy. It's as simple -- or complex, as that.


Why? Because throwing content spaghetti (gf) at the wall and hoping something sticks is going to leave your audience hangry. And when they're hangry for good content, they'll go to your competitors.


A content strategy should be a thorough document that you can show to anyone in and out of your company to give an immediate idea of what you're working towards, your style and voice, and how to best speak to and build trust with your users.


A good content strategy makes onboarding new team members much faster..


This content spaghetti is going to make your wall messy.

What should a content strategy have? A lot.


The thing is, a content marketing strategy comes in all shapes and sizes. And it's certainly different for each business. There's no reason that a cryptocurrency would look to attract the same kind of users as a travel blog. But no matter what yours looks like, here's what it should have:


What kind of content will be produced?

Go where your customers are, and speak to them in their language. Consider what point of the funnel they're in.


Early content might be:

- Blogs

- Infographics

- Explainer Videos

- Ebooks


Middle of the funnel:

- Case studies

- White papers

- Podcasts

- Newsletters


Bottom of the funnel:

- Webinars

- Technical papers

- Product videos


Here's a great list of over 100 different kinds of content


Customer profiles

Who are you communicating with? Trying to create content for everyone will only lead to content that's read by nobody. This section of the content strategy is important, because the only reason you're creating content is for your customers.


Make sure to understand at least these things about your users.


Pain points

Why are they even looking for answers in the first place? What problems can you help them solve?


Preferred influencers

It's important to know who your customers look to for guidance, ideas, and, well, influence. Look for trends like who they follow on twitter and who speaks at their industry conferences and analyze the output and weaknesses of those influencers.


Frequently visited sites

Not quite the same as keyword research and not quite influencers, favorite websites can include those unrelated to work, but still provide a more complete user profile.


Favorite channels

There's no point in shouting off a mountaintop if your people are at the beach. Understand where your users like to be - it's not just facebook anymore. If you're looking for engineers, you'll do better on github than twitter. If you're looking for crypto enthusiasts, steemit isn't something you do to broccoli, and telegram isn't something that was outdated by the telephone. Meet them where they are and learn to speak their language.


Keyword research

There's a lot that can go into keyword research, but it's honestly one of the most important things you can do for discovering unique insights and for SEO. What's that? SEO is related to all of this? Bill, SEO is content marketing in 2019.


If it's done properly, keyword research will show you how to answer the questions your users are asking - and some of those things might surprise you. No clickbait intended.


It will also show you where to best rank for SEO. Although we recommend a full SEO audit before beginning any content marketing, even a brief overview of good opportunities to rank is necessary for developing early funnel content.


Data analysis

This is arguably one of the most important parts of a content marketing strategy. Data shows you exactly what your users like and don't like. A thorough data analysis will show at least the following:


User flow

This is the Cotton Eyed Joe of data. Where did they come from and where did they go? Websites aren't linear experiences anymore - not everyone starts from the homepage. Knowing where your users come from and what they click on next helps identify the kind of content they're interested in.


Trends

A sudden spike in a specific metric -- bounce rate, hits, new users or even time on page can mean any number of things, but it's important to investigate. A significant new source of traffic may present a good opportunity to partner up with the referring website, or, if the traffic is largely spam/bots, it may signify the need for the more serious link disavowal process with Google. Either way, it's important to understand the trends so you can capitalize, convert and protect.


Gaps

Are certain pages not performing well, and others not performing at all? The reason may not just be bad or irrelevant content. It could be due to an errant nofollow command in the code so that Google doesn't know it exists -- or a high bounce rate could show that it just sucks. Thorough analysis will show what pages aren't getting the hits they deserve, and just how to fix that.


Causes for bouncing

While a high bounce rate isn't necessarily bad, it's usually better for your rankings and stats to have a lower one. Are your users bouncing because they aren't interested, or is it because you were so efficient they got the answer they needed right away?


It's not limited to that. A slow load time is a great reason for someone to hit the back button. Sometimes it's just a strange URL that doesn't match what they thought it would. Regardless of the reason, the sooner you know the cause, the sooner you can fix it.


Style guide

A content strategy is a great starting place for content marketing, but once you have one, you need to make it happen. That's a pretty tough job for just one person, and the fact of the matter is that you're already swamped as it is. So at some point, you're going to need to bring someone else in and that's often a freelancer.


There's just no expecting a freelancer to understand your company like you do. And while a good one will do a fair amount of research into your business, they won't know all the little details about how they should write.


A good style guide is something you can pass off to anyone who's getting involved in making content for you and your strategy. The document, although mundane at times, contains everything that goes into the voice, tone, images, logos, brand names, and grammar. If your logo isn't used in a certain color, this will say what colors. If you prefer the oxford comma in every blog, white paper, and webpage, then this style guide will say so.


Success metrics

What's the goal of putting the content out there? You really must understand that before you begin content marketing, because it drives at the heart of your business. Determine small goals like blog reading, and larger goals like e-mail signups or purchases. What your goals are will totally depend on your business, but I can guess that it's not the typical vanity stats like shares and likes.


Being able to measure the important things like market share, sales accepted leads and brand sentiment show you just how well your content marketing is doing.


Calendar

By this point in the content strategy, you should know what kind of content you need, why you need it, who's going to read it, what you want to do with it and what it should look like. All you need to do now is just make that happen.


A content calendar should lay out at least the next three months worth of content. That's because it takes more than just a day to ideate a blog title and outline, find an available freelancer, get the content, edit and post.


A content calendar also helps you manage the balance of different types of content for your difference audiences to give you a big picture idea of how you look in the long term.


Long story short, if you don't have a well thought out content calendar, you're probably not doing your content strategy properly.


Is that it?

No. This is just the basics and the beginnings of what your content strategy should have. How much should it cost to get here? That totally depends on your company and your goals, but here's a starting guide. Long story short, if you're going to commit to content marketing, and it is a commitment, then don't skimp. Make sure to understand what you're going to do, and then dedicate the necessary resources.


Mayday and Bail, Bill, Mayday and Bail.


Best,


4track Jack

jack@4trackcontent.com