5 Keys to a Winning Content Strategy
Posted June 5, 2011on:
If you work with content online, you need a strategy. A content strategy is straight forward, but not easy, so here are 5 tips to help.
What the Hell is a Content Strategy?
Too often, marketers and the rest of humanity stick content online half-hazard, and, frankly, this doesn’t encourage sales or get people to sign up to your newsletter. It frustrates them. It makes it hard to find what they want, and people are not patient. They will leave your sight quickly. This is what a good content strategy avoids.
The Key Elements of a Content Strategy
There are a few elements that must be in your strategy. Kristina Halvorson goes into great depth about them in her book Content Strategy for the Web. Here’s my distilled understanding:
- 1. Less Is More
Some SEO “experts” suggest loading your website down with content. Please ignore them. Too much content will confuse you and your audience.
Keep in mind that content has two purposes to fulfill: either a business objective or customer service. If your content is just cool, fun, or pretty, axe it. It will drain your resources when it comes time to update everything.
- 2. Know What You’ve Got
This part is tough but necessary. You don’t want to reinvent the wheel, so know what you already have on your website and use that – or get rid of it if it isn’t doing anything.
The only way to know what you have is to look. Don’t estimate. Truly know, in detail, what kind of content is currently living on your website. In general there are two types of audits. The quantitative audit is a list of content you have online and how it’s all related. It tells you who published what, who is responsible for what, and what the content contains. A qualitative audit is more judgmental. You have to read the content and decide how well it is achieving its goals, what those goals are, and if it needs any work. You really have to do both types of audits, but a quantitative audit is probably the place to start.
- 3. Shut Up and Listen
There are several people involved in content creation. If certain individuals in that group balk at taking up an idea, it dies. You have to know who those people are.
Just as with any group of people, everyone has their roles. There are people who request content. Know why they want the content, what they want it to do, and when they need the content by. Then there are people who source the information that goes into content. These are what Halvorson calls “providers.” You have to know how they go about sourcing content and how they judge what they find. There are also creators who, well, create the content using what providers have given them. Really listen to these folks. Know how long they need to finish a project and what kinds of materials they need to do a good job. Reviewers are the people who fact-check content. Closely related are approvers, who give that coveted stamp of approval. The key thing to know about these groups is what they are looking for. How do they judge the work they see? And finally there are the publishers. They are responsible for making sure that content goes live. They have a technical position, so a content strategist must know how they need the materials (pdf, Word doc, or email text?) in order to make work go quickly.
- 4. Give Someone a Crown
With this stable of participants to pull from, the content strategist must know whom to crown king. Someone needs to own the content, be the editor-in-chief. This is actually much harder than it seems, since usually no one wants that responsibility; they have to manage that rag-tag bunch I just described.
But no matter what you think, you are in the content publishing biz, and so you should mimic how the traditional publishers work. Crown someone King. Maybe it’s you. Maybe it’s the project manager. This is a key part to developing a workflow, a how-to process for your content. If you don’t have this, you’ll have a lovely list of goals and ideas, and no one to do them. You need to make a project road map for how to manage the content you are making.
- 5. Don’t Let It Become a Zombie
Perhaps one of the biggest lessons Halvorson teaches in her book is that content doesn’t go away. Once published, it doesn’t disappear. It does die, however, and turn into what could possibly be called a content zombie- a monster of old content that keeps attacking but no longer lives.
Keep content zombies at bay by monitoring your content once it is published. Is it up-to-date? Is it accurate? Or is it a zombie, misleading your customers and damaging your reputation? Monitor your content with any one of the numerous analytics programs, such as Google Analytics. Ask questions about how people are using your content. See how people are sharing your content on social networks. Most importantly, make sure it is updated.
Not Easy But Worth It
Content is a big beast. Like an elephant. As with the proverbial blind men, there are definitely different ways of seeing this creature. But if you are going to tame the beast, you have to see it from all angles.
Know how much content you need to produce. Be aware of what type of content you have and what it is supposed to do. Be on top of the people element – who is involved in the content. Get a good grip on how the content is produced. And finally know what it is doing after you’ve released it on the web.
If you can do these things, you’re content strategy will have good legs to stand on. Maybe even elephant legs.