You’ve heard the phrase, ‘content is king’, probably too much. So how can you reign supreme over your competitors when it comes to content? Nowadays, everyone does their research online before they buy anything, so understanding the customer journey and building your content strategy around this is how to win more attention.
There are a million articles online about how to develop an effective content strategy, so this one will keep it simple. No technical jargon, no awkward processes. What you will need though are some organisational tools, most of which are available for free.
The Best Tools For A Content Strategy
Like any good strategy it’s good to write stuff down and visualise your end goal. If you work with a team, you’ll also want to use collaborative tools so that everyone can get involved. These tools are perfect for whatever level of content or marketing strategy you’re developing.
Google Docs & Sheets
Google’s answer to the Microsoft Office suite, and free too! If you don’t already use Google Docs, Google Sheets or Google Slides then this is essential. Totally free, fully collaborative and endlessly customisable…
For managing workloads, it’s always good to have something that allows you to keep track of processes and tasks. Trello is a great free option which can be upgraded to premium features once you need them. Create your own workflow, add tasks, colour code them and assign them to team members.
This nifty plugin for Google Chrome and Firefox is an indispensable content strategy tool. It allows you to see search volume and cost per click for any keyword on most of the major search platforms including Google, Amazon, YouTube, Bing and more. It costs $10 for 100,000 keywords, which will probably last you a long time. Invest.
Totally free, this is a superb tool to dig deep into those search terms and come up with plenty of content strategy ideas.
The guys at Moz have built their reputation by creating tools to understand Google’s ranking algorithm. This is where the term ‘domain authority’ came from, which we’ll cover shortly. They offer ten free link explorer analysis searches per month, which when you’re starting out can be super useful. There is limited functionality with the free option, of course, but if you like it you can upgrade.
Another option is Ubersuggest, which also offers some insight into backlinks and content suggestions. Ubersuggest is free for up to 5 websites, you’ll need to pay to add more.
Google’s Research Tools
The big boys of search give you plenty of tools to plan your content. These include Keyword Planner, Google Trends and Analytics. Although a lot of these are built for those managing PPC campaigns, they’re also pretty useful for SEO if you want a high level understanding of keyword volumes and lists of similar queries.
Social media schedulers
There are several that offer free packages, including Hootsuite, Twitter and Tweetdeck. There are even a variety of useful WordPress plugins to help you manage your social media strategy.
If you don’t have a lot of free time to manage your social media, then a scheduler can be key to regular social posts.
How to Develop A Content Strategy
1: Identify your content goal
The first thing to do in any content strategy is to identify your end goal. Of course, you want to sell more of your service/product, but what is your content strategy aiming to fulfil?
Do you want to be seen as a specialist in your industry (thought leadership)? Or are you hoping to build a strong social media following? Perhaps you’re aiming to showcase your expertise with some excellent podcasts, or maybe you just want to have a solid blog that answers all the questions your potential clients might have.
Once you understand this, you can move on to…
2: Understand your customer journey
One of the most important things to understand in any content strategy. This might sound obvious, but so many people just market blind without really visualising their customer’s journey.
Make a roadmap that shows the journey your customer is going to take, from awareness to purchase to repeat customer. What are they looking for? What is the problem they’re looking to solve? How are they researching their options and what are they likely to run across online before they come to you? What search terms are they using?
From this you’ll likely start to see a lot of ideas take shape. So, write them down!
3: Assign time to manage content (or assign someone to do it)
Who is managing your content? Don’t assume that sitting down and writing a blog post a week is something you can do in your sleep. There is a whole lot to take into consideration, from keyword research, search engine optimisation (SEO), sharing content on social channels, proof-reading, sourcing images and writing the damn thing in the first place!
In short, content management is a big job, not something you can knock out between your first coffee of the day and lunch. If you’re running a business you probably want someone to handle this for you. It might be an employee, a freelancer, or it might be an external content marketing agency. Whoever you choose, make sure they understand your goals and your business.
4: Plan ahead (and be reactive too)
It’s a good idea to assemble a spreadsheet with at least three months worth of content planned out on it. This might be one post a week, it might be one a month. Having these posts planned out means you don’t have to think too much about it closer to the time.
However… It’s always worth keeping an eye on the news and being ready to create something reactive as soon as possible so you can get your content into the ‘trending’ subjects.
5: Write Consistently
It’s best to post regularly, whether that’s daily, weekly, or monthly, depending on how in-depth and long your posts are. So long as you have an active blog or content stream, you’ll give people something to come back to, and the search engine crawlers will like that your site is updated regularly.
Short posts of 500-700 words are often enough to keep updated. However if you’re competing in a complex industry such as financial, technological or healthcare, you’ll likely need to be creating long and well-researched pieces of content regularly. These will probably need to be over 1000 words each, with references and data.
An understanding of search engine optimisation (SEO) is useful, but not always essential if you’re writing for the purpose of ranking your website.
6: Keep promoting after publishing
Just because you’ve published your article, podcast or video it doesn’t mean you’re done. Yes, you should also pop it on social media on the day, but make sure to post it again regularly.
Use scheduling tools such as Hootsuite or another whichever social media scheduler to fill up the coming week with posts old and new.
7: Update your old content
Just because you published something six months ago, or even 5 years ago, doesn’t mean it’s can’t now be edited. It’s good practise to go back and update old posts with current information, rewrite bits, optimise them for search engines, tweak alt-tags or images or whatever else you think might make a difference.
Articles that are supposed to be ‘cornerstone content’, that is central pieces of information that best reflect your content strategy, should be updated at least once a year. Quarterly is even better…
The sign off
So, that is content strategy in a nutshell. Yes, it can be a lot more complex than this. But, so long as you follow these steps you’ll have a decent content foundation on which to build.
One more thing… Do you need to have multi-format content? So, do you need blogs, video and podcasts? Just one of these is quite technical and labour intensive, so it’s best to focus on one until you’ve got that down. You can always scale up later.
Whatever is the norm in your industry, focus on making the best content you can with whatever you’ve got.
Don’t be afraid to hire a freelance content expert or agency if you need, as these can often be more cost effective than spending time on your own content strategy.