Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What is Content Strategy & How It Works For You?

Content strategy is more important than a lot of people think, but that’s mainly because of the hype that surrounds SEO. Don’t get me wrong, SEO is super important for your entire site, but content is the oxygen that keeps your site alive.

Think about a piece of paper that is shredded into a thousand little pieces, these pieces represent each page on your site. To help those pieces be more understandable, we’ll have to pour on some glue to mend them back together – that’s our SEO. But sometimes things get messy and we realize that we don’t actually need or want all of those thousands of pieces, because people don’t really like the dull, ugly pieces. So, we cut out the ugly pieces and we’re left with a beautiful, bright and shiny collage that even a child would appreciate (this analogy has gone too far). The point is that, that beautiful, bright and shiny collage is your content strategy. Of course there’s a lot more to it, but the results typically pay off for you and your readers/customers.

How do we make a beautiful, bright and shiny collage, a.k.a. Content Strategy?

Content InventoryOur Digital Strategy Group starts every content strategy with a full list of the existing content on a site. When this list is created it is then sorted, dissected and sectioned off into manageable tabs. I’ve done content inventory for sites with thousands, upon thousands of pages. Believe me, it’s easiest to sort content by error free content, content type and content with errors; e.g. 404 error pages and 301 redirects. Content inventory is really just the beginning of the content strategy process and shows what content currently exists on a site. Without content inventory, we couldn’t move on to the other necessary stages of content strategy.
Stakeholder InterviewsThese interviews involve key people at a company, potential/existing clients, people that may refer business to the company or people that are invested in the company in some way or another. Basically, as a content strategist, we need to know how the company operates, how they would like to operate, what their clients think about the company, why people refer business to the company (or why they don’t) and how people view the company. What the company thinks about itself is typically very, very different from what the clients and investors think about it.
In a nut shell, we need to understand the company’s brand message and brand promise from their point of view and an outsider’s point of view.
Keyword Research & Analytics ReviewKeyword research shows us common themes in things that people are searching for that surrounds a company and competing companies, and an analytics review can show us exactly how people interact with the current content on the site. Putting all of this information together begins to show us a pretty good roadmap of how the site should be laid out.
Scrumming it UpThat’s a big fancy word for an internal meet-and-greet. I’m sure there are content strategist out there that feel confident enough to take a stab at a content strategy without involving everyone on the web design team, but here at Bridgeline we like to scrum – that is, meet with the entire team that’s involved with the project so we can all look at the overall direction we think the site should go. This group meeting typically includes project managers, digital strategists, designers, developers, analysts… I know I’m forgetting someone here.
Content Analysis & TaxonomyContent analysis is the process of organizing all of those little pieces of paper. It’s finding the focus of the site, discovering how content could be grouped, what content can be deleted or compiled and making suggestions on new content. I’ve seen websites with over 20,000 pages get consolidated down to 800 pages. That may sound crazy – I mean, who gets rid of content like that – but what ends up happening is a better user experience is created and conversion rates increase.
Taxonomy takes the content analysis one step further and makes suggestions on the navigation of the site. It helps show areas of the site that should remain and opportunities for new sections – this is where keyword research is used rather heavily.
Voice DefinitionNow it’s time to understand what the company’s voice is – the brand voice. It should be consistent across the entire site and help the company discover how the content should come across to visitors of the site. We try to help the company think through all of the different personality styles that could represent their brand, but also speaks in a human voice that’s understandable to clients.
Editorial CalendarIt’s great to analyze existing content, and even better to define what it means in the future, but without a publishing process (or editorial calendar) content typically begins to go stale rather quickly. An editorial calendar can be as simple as who’s writing what and when, to as advanced as setting up monthly themes and promoting annual events.
Inbound Marketing & Social MediaOnce the content is published it needs to do more than just sit on a site unnoticed. SEO really helps with promoting content in the search engines, but companies can get faster results by leveraging inbound marketing techniques (such as email marketing and guest posting) or social media. Our team typically ends the content strategy with teaching our clients techniques on inbound marketing and social media that can help promote the content that is being created. It’s time for syndication and aggregation.

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

Before hitting publish, give your content some time to breathe. When we write our own personal blog posts out there, we typically don’t have a team of people to bounce our ideas off of and to help us edit our content, but here at Bridgeline we have a slew of people to help edit content before it goes live on our site. I’m not just saying for grammar mistakes, but for consistency, voice, additions, deletions, etc. There are blog posts and whitepapers written that never make it to the blog, but that’s because they needed more work. Getting constructive criticism is never a bad thing. Pass the content around to a team of editors or experts in the company and get different opinions. Or sleep on it and read it the next day to make sure it still makes sense. There’s a big difference between content written for SEO sake, and quality content that brings in qualified leads.
Lastly, monitoring results is important. Between managing analytics internally, or from a group of experts like our Digital Strategy Group, content management should include website analytics, social media analytics and keyword analytics.
For more information on content strategy, which includes 10 Steps to a Successful Content Marketing Strategy, visit our Digital Strategy pages.
Written By: Kasy Allen SourceBridgeLineDigital.com